If you go to enough auditions, or do enough performing, you will start to hear the phrase “make bold choices” over and over. The idea is that in an audition, or on stage, no one wants to see you play it safe. You can’t just sing through the aria without making anything of it. You can’t just read through a scene without deciding what your character is going through. So, we’re told, it’s better to make a choice, to do something that sets you apart, to add the emotional shift or dramatic gesture or change of tone that signifies you’re willing and able to Make a Bold Choice.
[I remember one audition when I really went out on a limb. I had a take on a scene that I thought was soooo funny, so I went for it. And no. one. laughed. The directors, who were prone to giggle when other actors did so much as sit down, were silent. My bold choices were boldly un-entertaining. Later that night I kvetched to some friends: I thought I was being funny and no one laughed! My friends teased me in response: isn’t that what things are like for you much of the time anyway?]
Bold choices are put on a pedestal, but no one tells you what to do when those choices fall flat. It takes a lot of emotional resources to survive the first risk that doesn’t pay off.
But I know a lot of people who make bold choices every day. Every time you smile at a stranger, every time you write a blog post, every time you sing or act or speak, you’re taking that chance. Creativity is one long bold choice. If you’re a little bit crazy, like me and my fellow performers, you learn to ignore the pain and embarrassment of the chances you take. You learn that the payoff of success mitigates the long stretches of failure, and that even failure itself isn’t so bad.
Much like in an audition, in life it’s often not so much the choice itself but the knowledge that you are capable of making one that makes all the difference. It’s life-giving to know that we’re still agile, that no matter what is thrown at us we can dodge and lunge and react.
In what ways are you making bold choices? How do those choices challenge you?