Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Author Guest Post: Meredith Zeitlin

I'm excited to welcome Meredith Zeitlin, author of Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters, to the blog today!


Things I learned in the Drama World that Are Essential in the Real World

I started doing plays in elementary school, because that's where they send hyperactive kids who can sing. Suddenly I got to stand on a stage and have a bunch of people clap whenever I opened my mouth and said stuff – which, let's face it, I'd've been doing anyway.

I took to it immediately.

I was on a track after that – school plays, after-school classes, theatre camp (Stagedoor Manor shout-out!), and then a major in theatre at Northwestern University, where I was also accepted into the Musical Theatre program. And then I graduated, moved home to NYC with a rock-solid plan to become the next Bernadette Peters... and was miserable.

It took me a while to figure out why, much longer than it took me to quit doing theatre professionally. Because I still loved to sing (and I definitely loved applause) and I still enjoyed going to the theatre and had so many wonderful friends who were – and still are - actors. But it was so different from what I expected.

It was – it IS – a job. And it is really hard work. And I didn't want to do it.

Finally coming to terms with that allowed me to do two things: NOT try to be an actor anymore, and KEEP the things I loved about being in the Drama World growing up. Here are some of those things, which I think are essential in everyone's life:

1. BEING NOISY. Actors are loud. (Musical theatre actors are crazy-loud.) In most situations out in the world, that's not really encouraged – and sometimes it should be. So speak up! Let people know what you're thinking! Don't hide behind the popular opinion, don't just laugh on the inside if you hear something funny, don't pretend you don't care because you're too cool for caring. Let people see your feelings. Sing randomly in a mall! Tap dance around your office! It's fun. Fun is good. 

2. IT'S OKAY TO PRETEND TO BE SOMEONE ELSE. Not all the time, of course. (That would be kind of psycho.) But think about what characters – in plays, in films, in books! - really are: carefully drawn sketches of people, designed to show us something. Why not step into those shoes for awhile and see if you learn anything?

3. WEARING ALL BLACK IS INCREDIBLY FLATTERING. On everyone. Sure, it's cliché, but so what? Embrace all black every once in a while. Feel dark and mysterious. Throw on some intense eyeliner. Let people wonder if they should be scared of you.

4. HAVE FRIENDS WHO REALLY GET YOU. Here's the thing about Drama Kids – they are linked by this incredibly powerful thing, this love of music and performing and being over-dramatic and a bit different. The minute I got to theatre camp, I knew I was someplace completely special, someplace where I didn't have to try to fit in, where knowing all the words to Les Mis was suddenly cool, where practicing my audition songs in the bathroom was encouraged. I was 14 and, though I'd always had lots of friends, I'd never truly felt relaxed enough to just be ME before. It was liberating. It was thrilling. And it's something everyone should get to feel. Find these people, whatever it is you like to do – they are out there! You deserve to feel completely welcomed and accepted by the people around you.

5. TAKE THINGS TOO SERIOUSLY SOMETIMES. When I got out of college, I suddenly realized I'd spent four years “finding my inner animal” and practicing authentic Shakespearean dialogue and all kinds of crazy Meisner exercises that involved repetitive motion... and on and on and on. And we took it so freaking seriously. I mean, all I wanted in life was for my professor to say something positive about my performance as a forty-year-old Russian widow. It's all ANY of us wanted. And yes, it's ridiculous. But it's also necessary. We needed that sacred, uber-serious space to be ridiculous, to experiment, to flail around like loons. Don't forget that out in the real world. Take things to a dramatic place every once in a while – so what if someone else thinks you're being absurd? It's your project/hobby/whatever. It can be that important to you.

Well, that's it for now. I expect all you readers to go out and make a scene in public now. Break a leg!

What a fun post! Thanks for stopping by Meredith!

Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters releases March 1st!

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  1. I LOVED this book! I was so in need of a light, funny read and this did it for me. Thx for the post!


  2. Don't miss the WOW Blog Tour and chances to win your very own copy. You can find a giveaway contest and the tour calendar at the Muffin: http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/2012/02/meredith-zeitlin-author-of-freshman.html

  3. What a great post! I think those are great life lessons, and I'm glad Meredith learned them in the 'Drama World.' Also, added to checklist: wear all black tomorrow!

  4. I live in black :)
    So with you on #1. Mr. Whimsy works in technical theatre so I've witnessed this one first hand.

  5. LOVE THIS! So well-written, so funny, and I can't WAIT to read this book!!!!!

  6. this is the most awesomest.

  7. Great insight. I love to sing and be noisy too. This post gives me respect for people who continue to pursue working in the theater.