by Juliane Godfrey
SpongeBob SquarePants marks both my Broadway debut and my first time as both a swing and a Dance Captain, an initially terrifying proposal when I was presented with the offer. Being a swing/Dance Captain means constantly juggling two full-time jobs: You are both cast member and production assistant; you must be able to perform the show in a number of roles and also maintain it, sometimes at the same time if you're already on when a swing emergency happens (and happen they do). I always tell people that if this show were synonymous with taking my first swim lesson, I feel as if I jumped head-first into the deepest end of the pool without floaties (oceanic pun intended). I am constantly treading water in uncharted territory: Learning and charting 20 entirely different tracks in a show where every actor plays a distinctly different character; giving notes to those actors, most of whom are older than me and have up to 11 Broadway credits; swinging on both mid-rehearsal and mid-show for tracks I've never done in costumes I've never worn; teaching vacation swings and replacements and planning split-tracks, sometimes all in the same week; and most importantly, learning how to breathe through it all, even when I find myself playing six different people in eight days. Please, God, never again.
Needless to say, I've struggled with all the newfound pressure and anxiety that stems from having so much responsibility. But at the end of the day, I always come back to how immensely proud I am of our show and how much it has allowed me to grow, not only as a performer but as a human being. Being a swing has given me a gratitude and a humility that wasn't nearly as palpable when I was performing in the ensemble 8 times a week. Moreover, it has trained me to forgive yourself when I make mistakes and to be better at operating calmly under pressure. Conversely, being a Dance Captain has forced me not only to zoom in on every single detail of Chris Gattelli's brilliant choreography, but also to zoom out and see the big picture. To be grateful that I am an integral part of that picture, if not always seen or heard onstage. Indeed, I know now that I am neither a "simple sponge" nor a simple swing, and that I'm right there with Sandy and SpongeBob every show as they climb the "giant volcano of doom", Mt. Humongous. It's strenuous, volatile, and at times overwhelming-- but nonetheless a once-in-a-lifetime achievement that I will forever be proud of.