Follow Your Dreams?

by Angela McMahon 2 years ago in career

How I was Broadway Bound

Follow Your Dreams?

To be young and unaware...

When I was 16-years-old, I was sitting at dinner with my family when my baby sister asked "Angie, what are you gonna be when you grow up?" Without thinking or heisitaing in the least, I claimed loud and proud "I am gonna be a Broadway dancer!" What came next would be the drum beat that would not stop in my head for the rest of my life.

"That's not a real job," my father added. "Those jobs only go to people who know somebody. You have to get a real job." I couldn't contain my tears. Everything I have ever read that is uplifting says follow your dreams, do something you love, and never give up. It could not have been more clear to me what my calling was in life.

I had been in dance classes since I was three-years-old. I started doing dance competitions when I was five. I had NEVER not placed at least second or higher. At sixteen, I was on drill team, and still in the studio three to four nights a week. I started to teach classes to toddlers on weekends to help pay for my "hobby." Nothing else in the world made sense to me. School was terrible (as it should be for a teenager). My grades were C's at best. The only time I felt happy was when I was dancing. All of my friends were in dance. It was my whole world. My parents were happy I had some kind of hobby to keep me occupied, but a job this was not. They could never really give me a good explanation (or at least an explanation that would satisfy me) as to why this could not be my job.

I started community college in a few years. Because, as stated before, my grades were not good enough to get me into a "real" school. I was determined that I would be Broadway bound. My parents refused to help me pay for school till I came to my senses and followed a more reasonable career path. So I was determined to make my own way. Someday when I was on Broadway they would see the error of their ways and apologize for not believing in me.

I auditioned for my first musical. A few things should be pointed out at this point. 1. I was 17-years-old. 2. I had zero formal acting or voice training. 3. I was/am pretty tone deaf. 4. To support going to school, I had two jobs. This immediately caused several problems with reaching my dreams. 1. I was very busy with two jobs and being a full time student, so my rehearsal availability was very scarce. 2. My acting ability wasn't great, it was what you would expect a 17-year-old girl who has done one high school musical ability to be...robotic and melodramatic. 3. I was/am still tone deaf. It's kind of bad guys. You know the lady in church that tries really hard to sound like an opera singer during hymns? Yeah, kind of like that. But you see the big problem at this point is no one explained any of that to me in those terms...or in any terms. It was just a thanks, but no thanks. Leaving me to believe, well I was just not right for this part this time.

As time went on, I started taking some acting classes. This did a few things for me right away. 1. My teachers, who were also the directors of the shows, got to know me personally. As they got to know me, they got to like me (or I guess maybe some didn't like me, but mostly like). 2. I started to get better at acting. 3. I started to pick the shows I would want to clear my calendar for to be a part of. My first musical was Cabaret. I wasn't cast as a Kit Kat Dancer, they had lots of singing they needed to do, but I was cast as a back up chorus dancer. I had no lines, and very small amounts of singing, and sometimes, no kidding, I would be asked to sing quietly or lip sing. I didn't mind, cause I was on stage, and that was the only place I ever wanted to be. I remember at one point one of the Kit Kat Dancers said to me "Ugh I am getting so bored doing this show." All I could think was, are you nuts? I could do this show, this role for the rest of my life. Nine times a week if they asked me. It felt perfect, and I felt at ease that I was making the right choice in my career path.

The next article I write, I will get into how I found out I am the wacky neighbor type.

Angela McMahon
Angela McMahon
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Angela McMahon

I am a faculty member at The Second City where I teach writing. I have been working in store front theatre in Chicago as a producer, director, writer, and performer for nearly two decades. I am a mom of two lovely ladies. 

See all posts by Angela McMahon