Lee Wolfe Blum - Helping Women Develop a Hunger for Life
The ride up the elevator felt like a ride from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory. Surreal, as if I was being rocketed into a different world. I slowly stepped off the elevator breathing in the expansive space before me. The walls a dark grey and the Minneapolis night skyline picture perfect outside the expansive windows. The air felt different here with a sweet and fresh smell of hope.
My sweaty hands held my bio and headshot, knowing most people here had stacks of headshots and acting resumes to choose from at home. Resumes with star studded roles bolded and highlighted. I hadn’t pulled an acting resume together in forever and the headshot was a silly photo taken on an I-phone. I imagined the judges sitting at the table oohing and ahhing at the amazing actors before them. Pondering how would they choose from this sea of professional and unique talent, until they saw mine, with its silly local commercials and roles as an extra. And where was the stage experience? Absent. Unless you count college, which was, um well…over 20 years ago.
I hesitated as I scanned the fresh young talent around me. Pairs of tall legs, hip outfits with just the right amount of skin, and cool SoHo style heels. I was sporting the black turtleneck and what I thought were cool jeans. I looked like a mom fresh out of the PTO.
I was finally auditioning for the Guthrie Theatre. This was an enormous irony really, and a step in my journey that really needed to be done. Because many years ago as I looked like these young theatre hopefuls with stars in their eyes and big roles on their resumes, I drove to Minnesota for one prize.
The Guthrie. To act at the Guthrie. To perform on one of the most respected stages in the Midwest. A starry eyed Kansas girl in her white Toyota drove straight to downtown Minneapolis following the signs to the old Guthrie theater. I sat in my car with my new raw gift, hoping for a home at which to practice my craft.
Over nineteen years passed and I never stepped foot on that stage until this audition last summer.
I had a big dream. I was even in the town to pursue that dream. I loved acting. I loved the camaraderie of a show and the challenge of creating just the right character. Yet, I ended up living a five-minute drive away from the Guthrie, and I never made it there.
So what happened? When people have asked me I told them, “Life happened. I got married, had kids, and the lifestyle of a stage actress isn’t conducive to a family. I also struggled through depression and an eating disorder.”
That isn’t the truth. Not all of it.
The truth? Fear happened.
It wasn’t as if I didn’t work in the field. I did. I worked first at a casting agency and then as a model and talent agent. My job was to discover new talent. I frequented the theatre scene as an audience member. I kept saying I would try out, I would memorize a new monologue, and I would practice my craft.
But I didn’t.
I found myself stuck in the place of wanting something so desperately and being so afraid to pursue it.
I became comfortable in my discomfort. I didn’t put the time or the effort in. I left the dream in the clouds. As a twenty-two year old I had all the time in the world right? I would do it later. Later never really came.
So last summer when auditions came up for one of my favorite plays at the Guthrie, Pride and Prejudice, my husband encouraged me. “Do it! We support you 100%.”
So I took my 41-year-old body into that room and gave it a shot.
Until they made an announcement as we were sitting in the lobby, “This is a dance audition!” I almost ran out the door. (Since when did Pride and Prejudice have dancing in it?) Not to mention the guy teaching the dance sequence was some big wig from New York. I was in trouble. I am not a dancer. I learned that in my kitchen as a 13 year old when my sister kept trying to teach me the worm. My body does not know how to dance like a dancer. I can fake it with my jazz hands and stage smile, but that is as good as it gets.
That is exactly what I did. I stood in the line up (yes, exactly like they do in Chorus Line) and waved my hands frantically and smiled as wide as I could. I fumbled and faked it until the twenty-six count was over. Oh, and did I mention, everyone who was auditioning was also in the room watching. It was one step away from a disaster. Had I fallen, that would have been a disaster.
My name wasn’t called and I rode back down in that elevator with all of those who were cut. I started laughing, as I wasn’t sure what to do with all of us rejected actors packed into this fancy elevator. Some girls were crying and others just stared at me as I awkwardly giggled in the corner. I don’t know how to explain this moment of extreme awkwardness, except it was weird.
The issue for me wasn’t that I didn’t make it. I hadn’t paid my dues; I hadn’t worked hard taking any and every role I could get. I hadn’t done the work and I knew it. I knew I had talent, but that talent was honed and refined many years ago. Could it re-emerge? Sure…but it would take work, yes.
The issue was why did it take me so long?
Fear takes over. Fear steals dreams.
And if you don’t take a step out to pursue those dreams you will just sit on the sidelines and stare. You will say, I will try it later.
Later won’t come. Trust me in this.
My regret in all this isn’t gigantic, as I know I chose to pursue a different dream, to write a book, and that choice took me away from the stage. Little by little I chose not to do the work to pursue that dream. My choice to not clock the hours and instead leave the dream in my head. It is easier to sit by the sidelines and talk about your dream instead of taking action.
Take that next right step. My end goal was the Guthrie. I wanted to start at the Guthrie. Life doesn’t work that way. If your end goal is a book, you don’t start there. You start with a few words on a page. And you get up every day and you sit in that chair and write more. Take that dream and tackle it every day. Don’t wait nineteen years and just expect it to happen. It won’t.
I walked in the door at my house, and the boys ran to me. “Mom! Mom! Did you make it? Did you get a role?” I felt a pit in my stomach. I didn’t want to tell them I didn’t make it.
“No.” I said.
And then my youngest came over and gave me a huge hug, “That’s ok Mom. It still is pretty cool that you went and tried!”
Don’t wait. The time is now.
Take that next right step and do that thing you are dreaming about!