I am tremendously #grateful to be here today addressing the graduating theatre class of 2015, who are only a heartbeat away from taking a job away from me.
You will never be as young as you are now. You are new. You aren’t jaded. You are undiscovered. You are a question mark in the theatrical landscape. Basically, you haven’t fucked up yet. People are going to tell you how young you are, and you’re probably going to take offense to that. Like, they don’t think you “get it.” Honestly? You won’t get it. I didn’t get it, and I wasted a lot of time thinking I did. I still don’t get it. Embrace the fact that you’ll be smarter next year and allow yourself to be the age you are at this moment. Also, be happy Spring Awakening isn’t a thing right now, and you’re not going to move to New York fresh-faced to find out you’re too old.
Take the work seriously. Not yourself. Especially at auditions. You will question every move, every beat, every note. You will tell yourself you might have gotten a callback if you wore a different blouse, or didn’t stumble over that line on the second page, or had enough time to pump the biceps before you put on that tank top. Maybe you should have given the accompanist clearer directions, or had a better hair day, or an extra cup of Throat Coat. SPOILER ALERT: Nobody has ever lost out on a role because of any of those things.
You will spend the majority of your career wondering, “What if?” without truly understanding that it isn’t about you. It’s because you weren’t Equity, or you were Equity. Or you weren’t tall enough, ethnic enough, specific enough. It’s never because you didn’t want it enough. It’s because you weren’t what they wanted to see when they closed their eyes.
Rejection is hard. Ignoring it is harder. However, the amount of stars and planets that have to align for you to book a job are often so vast that you might as well break into an ugly-cry every single time you lose the Power Ball or the Today Tix Hamilton lottery — although the latter was definitely grounds for some to reach the same daily level of depression one might fall victim to after forty-seven callbacks and no feedback. Don’t make it personal. Nobody is judging you. Except maybe that one girl in the back corner of the studio, because that bitch is always judging.
Never lose your discipline. After today, you will be making the schedule. The only person docking your grade for missing a vocal coaching is you. So, like, keep doing the shit you just paid all that money for and don’t let any of it go to waste. Seriously, your class’ tuition alone could make up the missing cash needed to produce Rebecca. Don’t be like Rebecca. Actually? Fuck it. Have the determination of Rebecca, the reckless abandon of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, and the idealism of that, “I’m in tech,” line from Smash.
I know. You’re probably like, “Those were all disasters.” And that may be a possibility, but you know what? They dared to be bold. Whenever someone valiantly hurtles themselves into the unknown there’s a small chance they might become The Book of Mormon.
You’re going to meet Rachel Berrys and Karen Cartwrights and people who seem like everything came really easily for them. In most cases it probably did, but you have to remember that that’s their story and we don’t really know it. What’s your story going to be? Whatever it is, make sure it’s good and not something you would only watch if you got a comp ticket.
It’s time to go forth and spread your gift. Live your life like a final callback for the creative team, but never let the creative team stop you from living your life.
(An earlier version of this commencement address was published on May 21st, 2014, and I only slightly updated it because guys I’m really busy but more so just lazy.)