How to Find #Gratitude When One Door Is Closing and Another Has Yet to Open
by Amy Ruggiero
As performers, we train every day to be present and “in the moment” onstage. But it can be tough, if not impossible, to sit still in this business. Even if you are lucky enough to book a job on Broadway, part of your eight-show week will inevitably be set aside for dance classes, voice lessons, audition appointments, open calls, and maybe even “double duty” rehearsals for other projects. It can be hard to truly value what you have in the moment when you are constantly looking ahead, coveting future opportunities, seeking some promise of stability within a volatile industry.
For me, expressing #gratitude is something I have to remind myself to do to stay focused on the good stuff I am living in any given moment. You can’t find gratitude once and hold onto it forever. It has to be rediscovered over and over again, whenever you are facing new challenges, and especially when you are about to be #notbookedbutstillblessed.
As I just finished up my last week as a vacation swing for Carousel, I was presented with this question: “How do you find gratitude when your show is closing? How do the things you are grateful for balance with the sadness you are feeling as well?” I was fortunate enough to join the company while the show was still in previews in March, seeing it through its opening night in April, all the way to the Tony awards, and back for six weeks scattered throughout the summer.
When the show announced in early August that it would be closing on September 16, I of course felt disappointed. I had hoped the show would live a long and healthy life, perhaps opening up a permanent position for me at some point. Instead, I would never get to go onstage for all of the eight tracks I had learned and labored over. I would stop rehearsing and performing Justin Peck’s choreography, a dream-come-true for someone like me who started out as a ballet dancer. It was all very sad, mostly because Carousel is gorgeous and filled with so much talent, but selfishly because I felt like my personal journey with the show was just getting started. Much of the cast had been with the production from the development labs and being onstage with everyone still felt new, exciting, terrifying and wonderful to me. I had more that I wanted to learn and to soak in from the experience.
All of that being said, if I wallowed in my feelings of disappointment, I would be doing myself and my last days with the production a disservice. The first thing I needed to be grateful for was the fact that I had gotten this job opportunity to begin with. We live in a world with an incredible number of talented people and no position is guaranteed. I received my offer to join Carousel almost a year after I had auditioned; it was crazy and unexpected and such exciting news. It would be my Broadway debut.
I also had to be grateful for the fact that the show was set to close after I would return for my final weeks in September. As a result, I would still get to be onstage in two different tracks for eight more shows. I was being given the chance to really take in and appreciate every moment. It would have been much harder to find my own closure if the show was set to play its last days during the break between my contracts. Finding gratitude in tough situations is really all about perspective. Look for the “good,” and that is what you will see.
It strikes me how similar a show’s closing is to the rejection we face as artists on a daily basis. In both cases, we are forced to deal with uncertainty and doubt for the future. But we are all forever students of this business, should we choose to be, and learning to accept the unknowns, face the rejections, trust in the path, and take pride in the moment are all constants of the curriculum. Sometimes a door closes because we need the space to open others.
Looking back, I’ve seen the evidence for this so many times. My first job opportunity out of college was as an apprentice with a ballet company. I thought I would spend the entirety of my career with that company and when I was not offered a full position after two years, I was certain my dancing days were over. If only I could go back in time, I would tell my younger self to be grateful for the solid years of training and experience that would in fact carry me forward into new opportunities, jobs I could not have planned for or even dreamt of. All we can ever do is show up, do the work, continue growing and be open to the possibilities around every corner.
The company of Carousel had known the show was going to close for almost a month when I returned to the Imperial Theatre at the start of September. I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of morale. Would people be upset, disgruntled, or perhaps just “over it”? Watching the 8-minute, dance-filled Prologue from the top of the theatre’s mezzanine steps on the Tuesday after Labor Day, my heart overflowed with love for my friends onstage. They were of course as generous, energized, and welcoming as ever. They filled the space with the same beauty and wonder and magic that they had on opening night. They were radiating gratitude for the work, for each other. And I was grateful for them.
Sure, this singular moment in time was outnumbered by the many occasions of rejection, uncertainty and doubt I have experienced thus far in my career—the failed auditions, the closecall callbacks, the could-have-been shows, cancelled productions and more. But the fleeting instances of actual achievement are what make every disappointment worthwhile. And, listen, I’m no pro at this having gratitude thing. If you’re like me, you will have to find ways to constantly remind yourself to look for it in both the best and toughest of situations. I try to meditate, I journal. I spend time with people I love. The means are always evolving. All I can say is, no success is too small an inspiration for real #gratitude. Own it and it will carry you from one door to the inevitable next.
It has to, because people always talk about doors closing and doors opening. No one ever talks about being stuck in a hallway. Just saying.