Why I Quit Acting

If you didn’t know, when I was starting college I really wanted to go into acting. However, the college I went to, at the time, only had one theatre major: Theatre Education. That didn’t stop me from wanting to be on the stage. To this day, I love the stage. But I’ve given up on that pipe dream, and I’ll tell you why.

At first, I thought it was lack of opportunity. My high school did two shows a year, and I would tend to get small roles or chorus roles. Only because lead lead roles are one or two. Not enough for all of us. Then, when I got to college we did two shows a semester (three semesters per year), and they overlapped so you could only do one show a semester. I was brand new, the shows didn’t have enough lady roles (they still don’t), and/or it conflicted with studies.

Every audition I did brought no call back. But I still tried; this happens to everyone, right? Finally, I got a call back. Yes! I can show my true talent outside of audition nerves! Plenty of lady roles, too! Gold mine! That’s when the director had us stand in a line shortest to tallest. I, obviously, was on the tall side. He didn’t even give me a glance.

Lightbulb.

I’m too tall and too big to be on stage.

“Oh, shut up. What about this actor who’s big? Or this actor who’s tall?”

Yay for rare exceptions, right?

Its not that I’m big OR tall. It’s that I’m big AND tall. They don’t want that nonsense on stage.

For the rest of my undergrad career, I tried to prove it wrong. More auditions, even outside the school, and all the acting classes available. But alas. I got to watch my smaller friends get multiple roles, girls get a speaking part in the first show they’ve auditioned for, while I got roles like ‘Plump Sister’ and ‘Pig #3’.

“Maybe you’re just not talented. You ever thing about that?”

Why, then, was I accepted into the Governor’s School for the Arts for acting? Why, then, did I compete in one acts, and get awarded for my acting? Why, then, was I praised by my classmates, cast in their one acts for directing classes? Why, then, did I get good grades in acting classes?

If it was, indeed, my talent, then I’ve been lied to and misled.

Because I never got roles, I started getting more involved behind the scenes. I was able to do a lot more as a technician, or even artistic personnel, than an actor.

So I gave it up.

It was clear it would not work for me, so why do it? Because I love it? It’s not enough without opportunity. And I was not afforded such. Maybe I could find something else I love without leaving theatre (dramaturgy and playwriting).

I do miss acting.

I miss learning lines, rehearsals, being in front of an audience, being someone else, provoking a story. I miss it.

But I can’t do it.

And I wish luck to all of my theatre friends who do pursue it. Just because it didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.

Also, enjoy some pics of me as Plump Sister, Chorus, and Scottish Pirate.

2 thoughts on “Why I Quit Acting

  1. This breaks my heart, but also strikes such a deep chord in me. I am exactly the same way. When I first got into theatre in seventh grade, I was the tallest girl in my grade and one of the biggest. My body was already mature while my classmates were still tiny. Despite years involved in the theatre and a degree in Theatre Education (same program you were in — I knew you, but not well), the only decent roles I ever got were a couple shows where I played the villain in my teens. Those were so fun! And it didn’t matter what I looked like! But the older I got the worse it got until I gave up auditioning altogether and channeled my passion into directing. I’m a director now. I go out of my way to cast my students in surprising roles regardless of their body type, skin color, or even gender. Because I remember how much it hurt to have a director look right at me, look me up and down, and say “no” despite how prepared and motivated I was. I miss acting. I would love to be involved in the many local community theatres, but I’m crippled by audition anxiety. But I try to make up for it in my directing. When I directed student-directed plays in high school and college, I always waited until everyone else cast their shows, then I cast everyone who was left. My shows were always the most fun, most prepared, and most exciting because I had the most enthusiastic actors, the ones who never got a chance. I tend to have very large casts, too, but that’s the joy of writing my own material. I can add more roles to accommodate more people.

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    1. Thank you for this. One of the reasons I love to write plays is writing a character, a protagonist, an ingenue you don’t typically see. That look like me. One of my fond memories at school was being in your one act for Directing II, and how much I appreciated being seen in a favourable light. You do good work, friend.

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