“What do you mean I didn’t get the part?!?” I wanted to scream. Instead, I calmly thanked the theater department secretary for reading me the cast list that my name was not on and hung up the phone. Then I sat on the edge of my bed and cried, and wondered how I was going to get through the rest of the semester.
It wasn’t the first time I hadn’t been cast in a show, so it wasn’t the rejection that bothered me. It was, however, the first time I hadn’t been cast in a show since the summer course I had recently taken in London. It had been my first trip abroad and, for a small-town girl, it was eye-opening. All I wanted to do after getting home was get back on stage and act and act and act some more.
I waited until my emotions were under control, then I picked up the phone again and called Doug. Doug was the technical director of the theater and the grand poobah of all techies, student designers and general misfits. He was surprised to hear from me.
“Doug,” I said.
“Jenny,” he said back, in his even-keeled voice that was laced with ironic amusement.
“I’d like to be a part of the show,” I stammered. “I can’t really do anything construction-y, so I thought maybe I could stage manage?”
He waited a long time – seriously, a really long time – before responding.
“OK,” he said. “You can be the assistant stage manager. Rehearsals start on Monday.”
“Great,” I said and hung up the phone.
I was a terrible assistant stage manager.
Thankfully, Doug and I hit it off and he hired me as his student secretary the following semester. I worked in his office for two years until I became a senior. That year he suggested I take a marketing internship with a local theater company. In that role, I was able to add onto the people management and organizational skills I learned from Doug with the real-world public relations basics of press release writing, donor management, and event coordination. These skills landed me my first job out of college and prepared me for every work experience I’ve had since.
Before that first call, I thought I knew where my future would be: on the stage, all the time, getting by however I could. Naturally, to my disappointment at the time, the future changed. With that second phone call, I learned my first, most basic lesson about change: When what you’re doing doesn’t work, find something better to do.