by Kenny Francoeur
The first person I trained when I was assistant dance captain ofThe Book of Mormon First National Tour was not doing well. It was the night before their put-in rehearsal and I was relegated to drilling dance numbers alone with them during the show. After several repeated and easily avoidable mistakes, they stopped, shook their head and said, “I just don’t think I can do this. I feel like I’m taking someone else’s spot.” Mea culpa, mea culpa. Suspecting they were merely fishing for positive affirmation, I replied thusly:
“Listen [person’s name], I do not care what you think, and I do not care how you feel. At the end of the day, on Tuesday at 7:30 next week the curtain will go up. The show will happen. Either you can choose to be on that stage, or you can choose not to. But the work that is to be done is yours to do.”
While it might seem harsh looking back, freshly 23-year-old Kenny was positively giddy he was able to spew that out of his ass without stumbling over his words.
During my three years since becoming dance captain, I’ve witnessed actors struggle with that decision to“show up” or not. Does a new company member “show up” to their first day of rehearsal, or wait until they start performances? Does an actor “show up” to each and every performance, or wait for an associate to come and bestow upon them the permission to do their job?
That choice is one of greatness. Greatness is a choice. It is not singularly the qualifier of an ability. Those we laud as “greats” are not the best at what they do, they just choose not to wait for the stage to be set for them by someone else. Greatness is the unashamed ownership of competency. It is that simple.
At this level, in this field, I believe every performer has an obligation to choose greatness. We’re often told to strive for it in honor of the young babes rollerblading in their garages while listening to Jekyll and Hyde and dreaming of Broadway, as I spent many a summer of my youth doing. That reasoning is nice, but the sentiment is self-inflating.
We owe greatness to all the performers just as, if not usually more, talented than we are who did not book the job. And when we choose to misplace our greatness beyond the threshold of the stage door, we find ourselves undeserving of the privilege of this work. Because this is not just work worth doing, or even work worth doing well. It is work that demands being done exceptionally.
The personal brand of greatness I seek in my little life is exactly why I’ve decided to leave this show after so long. It requires moving on from places that grow too comfortable, if I am able. Thanks to many over my more than four years withThe Book of Mormon, I’ve been immensely comfortable to grow and learn and for that I will always be grateful.
But I’m very much looking forward to all the Tuesdays at 7:30 in all the weeks to come when the curtain will go up, the show will happen, and I will not be there. Everyone who’s done the show before me won’t be there. Before long, current company members will come upon a Tuesday at 7:30 when they themselves will no longer be there.
Instead of being depressed about that reality, I choose to see it as one of the most beautiful, albeit painful, gifts that life (and this business) gives us: the show goes on. As long as we put in the work while we are here, it can go on just as well, if not better, after us. If a company shows up every day and, hopefully more than once, chooses greatness, they allow for the storytelling to remain effective, the work environment to remain free of toxicity, and for the art form to continue to grow, and thrive, and teach, and stretch well beyond any one person’s tenure with a show.
If I could hope anything for this company, of which I’ve been blessed to be a part, I hope they are proud of the work I’ve watched them accomplish, because I am very proud of them. I am honored to have played my minuscule part in fostering an environment where the standards were high and unforgiving and where, more often than not, greatness was chosen.
It has been a life-changing pleasure.