For the last several months, I’ve had to relearn something about myself. For 14 years, I’ve been an actress. I discovered performing on the theatrical stage in 1993 and immediately fell in love. For several years, I struggled with the longing to play the ingénue… the most common lead roles. I did a lot of ensemble work, but finally, finally, I began to find myself… as a comedic actress. I got plenty of leading roles, but always as mothers, nuns, old women, and other roles that bigger actress are “acceptable” for. At first this chaffed me, but I began to find the joy and excitement in these roles. I soon excelled at these roles, and became much sought after for my ability to pull off these roles.
Last year though, I was cast in a role I never would have gotten cast in before WLS. The Baker’s Wife in “Into the Woods” is a physically demanding role that would have been impossible for me to do 2 years ago. Though I loved every minute on stage I was in this role, I was left with a vague unsettled feeling. I was out of the known, and rapidly trotting down the road to the unknown.
About 6 weeks ago, I auditioned for "Smoke on the Mountain." It's a show I've done a couple times before. Nine years ago, I played Vera, the mother who is in her mid-40s. No on every questioned if I was old enough to play her. This time... 9 years LATER, I got cast as June, the daughter!!! The director told me, and I quote, "You look too young and pretty to play Vera." I was totally blown away. I NOW look "too young and pretty" to play a role that I played a DECADE ago. After the initial shock wore off, I realized that once again I had from habit only seen myself as I was before WLS.
Until March 24th, I would often look in the mirror and see me at 420lbs. I would look down and see 400lbs. However, if I caught a glimpse of myself in a window, I would longingly wish to be as thin as that woman, only to be shocked to realize it was my own reflection. On March 24th, that changed. I put on a fat suit at the Face2Face meeting of the online support group. The thing only weighs 10 lbs, but it’s BULKY. The bulk of the thing alone was enough to make my back arch, my feet spread, and almost impossible to sit down and stand up. It was a wake-up call. I’ve begun to see myself as I physically am, and it’s neat.
Last week at rehearsal for “Smoke,” my world was rocked again. I walked down the hall of the theatre and spotted a display of pictures from “My Fair Lady,” the last show I did at this particular theatre. I did that show about 9 months out from surgery. I had lost around 160 lbs at that time and was feeling pretty thing, for me. There on the wall was a picture of me. I was stunned.
I’ve lost another 60 lbs since then and am 3 sizes smaller. I was shocked to see how big I still was then. It drove home, again, that I am quite small now. It’s rocking my world, and I’m not quite sure what to do with myself theatrically.
I’ve auditioned for several shows the past couple months, and haven’t been getting cast. I finally realized this weekend what the problem is. No, I haven’t suddenly lost my talent. I have been auditioning for shows and roles I am no longer appropriate for. I’m still auditioning with a Plus-size mindset. This is going to have to change. I was lucky this time that there was a role in “Smoke” that I am appropriate for. I am going to have to relearn who I am theatrically and adjust my auditioning accordingly. Not only the types of shows and roles, but I am going to have to find a whole new set of audition material, as the monologues and songs that have served me so faithfully and for so long are no longer really appropriate for me.
Last night I auditioned for another show. There are two female roles. The old housekeeper and the younger love interest. Yes, I went in thinking I was going to audition for the old housekeeper; the directior had other ideas. He read me for the love interest repeatedly. My husband tells me that after I left to go to rehearsal, the director and his assistant watched me go out, turn to each other with raised eyebrows, then smile and nod at each other. Wow.
I am constantly surprised and amazed at the variety of things that WLS has touched in my life. I don’t know why I continue to be surprised… WLS has changed my entire life. I have to learn to expect that being healthier and thinner is going to touch and change everything. I do hope, however, that I never lose the sense of awe and amazement.