How to Improve the Theatre Industry and Lessons Learned
Amy: If you could wave a magic wand and make a change to the theatre industry, what would you do?
Marija: Ooh, fun! This is quite niche, but I would take away the idea that you have to fit into what the casting team wants.
Hayley: In terms of people feeling like they have to mold themselves to be in particular types?
Marija: Yeah! Go into the room and don’t be apologetic that you’re there. They want you to succeed. I still have this energy sometimes where I feel like I’m apologizing as I am in the room. It’s that fear of, “I have no clue what you want or if I’m fitting into what you’re looking for.” There are so many things that are dependent on someone else and something you can’t control. For performers, I would love to take away the idea that you have to be what they want as opposed to being yourself. Auditioning can be emotionally and mentally exhausting.
Amy: It’s a fair critique of the industry that a lot of people can do things to address. As performers – it’s hard, but when you show up for an audition, you show up as yourself and let the casting team figure out if who you are fits in the show. But you don’t have to be anyone but yourself. And also, there are ways that casting teams can create safer, more supportive spaces that encourage people to be themselves.
Marija: During school, I hated self-taping because I would try to do something 45 times and not like any of the takes. It was very hard on my perfectionist brain. But since I’ve let go of some of that, sending in a self-tape, making a choice and you either hear back or you don’t, it has been wonderful. In the room, you can see on their faces what they think. And if something doesn’t go the way you’re hoping, you feel this pressure to “win them back.” I love being able to just send something in. I feel like I can make more confident choices as an actor when I’m able to do it without all of the eyes on me. Because when the eyes are there, even though I’m working on it and have come a long way, I find that the little voice in the back of my head is still worried that it’s not what they want.
Hayley: What’s something you’ve learned that you would want to tell your younger self?
Marija: I’m gonna get emotional! So much of my life in performing and in general was trying to be perfect. I wanted to do everything right, I didn’t want to make any mistakes. My senior show, A Chorus Line, was shut down a week before we opened in March 2020, and the last thing I can remember of that time was freaking out about my double pirouette. I loved the process, don’t get me wrong, but all of my time outside of rehearsal was spent worrying about what I was lacking.
Then I’m in my bed in the middle of April, not doing anything, and feeling like, “I wish I was worried about my double pirouette, because then at least I would be doing it.” It was such a perspective change for me, and it’s helped a lot. I feel like a different person and a different performer now. We Will Rock You is a full-body marathon, but I’m not as hard on myself anymore as I would have been. I’ve allowed myself to just BE in this process and to have fun. I walked in as unapologetically as I could, trying to give what I can.
If I’m not my biggest cheerleader, it’s not gonna work. You have to be the one who keeps yourself going. Now I know that at the end of the day, I’m going to keep going with this, because I believe in myself in a different way. I’ve let go of perfectionism – not all of it, some of it’s still hanging around. I think that perfectionism has helped me in a lot of ways, it got me to certain points, but it doesn’t serve me anymore. And I’m starting to finally let that go and just be.
Amy: My personal experience is that recovering from perfectionism is truly a lifelong journey that is never done.
Hayley: When you can step away from perfectionism and focus on what you love about it, the gratitude of the act of doing and pursuing, it’s really cute, you know?
Amy: (laughs) It’s really cute.
Marija: Our industry is hard enough. I would never speak to someone else the way that I speak to myself. So why would I do that to myself?