Fat Girl Flashback: You Can’t Play That Part

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My script rattled gently in my hands while I stood on stage. My performing arts high school was debuting a new musical set in the 1950′s and I was auditioning for a leading role!

The character of Sheila had to be very funny and had to sing very well, out of all the girls in the drama department Mr. Bologe, our director, had narrowed it down to two; myself and Janie Rogers. While Janie was hilarious, her voice was pretty bad. I on the other hand had been singing since I could talk.

The final audition was pretty intense as we took turns reading the same lines and singing the same songs. I was a ball of nerves, but I was confident. As Janie struggled to stay on pitch, I hit all the notes effortlessly and still managed to make everyone laugh with my delivery. I left the audition feeling like the part was mine.

The next morning as I made my way to the call board where the cast decisions would be listed, I ran my fingers along the characters names looking for confirmation of my first leading role and there it was:

Sheila…….. Janie Rogers

I was devastated, I called my parents to let them know the results and they advised me to talk to Mr. Bologe and ask if there was anything I could do better for my next audition. During our lunch period I made my way to his classroom where he was munching on a salad and grading papers.

“Mr. Bologe?” I called out, standing in the doorway, “Can I speak to you?”

“Of course, CeCe… come in,” he said, pushing his salad to the side.

“I just wanted to stop by and ask if there was anything I– I could have done better in my audition yesterday,”

“Oh! No, No CeCe… you were PERFECT! Your comedic timing is impeccable and your voice is beautiful, you’re actually better for the part than Janie,”

“Okay…” I whispered, waiting for him to continue. Mr. Bologe leaned in with a smile on his face.

“The ONLY problem is that line in the second act. You know, when Sheila confesses that she ‘made love to Ben in the back of a Studdebacher’? I mean… at your size its not believable that you would FIT in the back of such a small car!”

My lips parted to say something, but I couldn’t. I could not believe that even though my talent had earned me the role of Sheila, he hadn’t given me the part because of one line in the play. It was high school theater, not Broadway. The smile on Mr. Bologe’s face said that he felt his logic was completely right and in no way offensive to a 16 year old girl who was struggling with her weight. There was nothing more to say, so I walked out of his classroom with tears stinging my eyes.

Two years later I moved to New York City to pursue a career on Broadway professionally (yup, I have other talents besides writing haha) and while being a plus size singer/actress has its challenges, no one has been so bluntly hurtful as that high school drama teacher.

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  • W

    You are wayyyyyyy nicer than me….cause even at 16 i wouldve cussed his “butt” out and made him cry….but now :: cues chris brown look at me now::

    • TheBigGirlBlog

      @ W: At that age, I hadn’t really found my voice yet, but BOY I wish I could go back in time! lol

  • ohcntrygirl

    I had a similar experience. My director wasn’t as hurtful but I was “better” for the role of Mother Superior rather than Maria. Oh yes I’m sure the addience agreed with you as they heard Maria sing off pitch with cheerleader like moves….

  • W

    @CeCe LOL..I hear ya! and BTWS is there a reason the time is in P.M on the comments?

  • http://www.lostplum.com Lost Plum

    dear lord….that man should be ashamed of himself!

  • Lauren

    Terrible! I think having a big girl saying a line like that may have made it even more entertaining to imagine! And what kind of grown man tells a girl she can’t fit into a CAR for crying out loud?? Shame on him!

  • http://www.madamethejourneyblog.com Madame

    Whoa! Talk about being insensitive! I was in a play in the HS, that my teacher actually convinced me to audition for – a lead role (non-singing – I’d clear out a room). I was reluctant because of my size, but with his encouragement to step out of my comfort zone, I went for it and got the part. There of course, was no size/race suggestions for the role (it’s just friggin’ HS), so it was all in my head. But to think of a ‘teacher’ selecting looks and not ability for an amateur production, is re-darn-diculous!

  • http://sadestartingover.blogspot.com Sade

    That’s really sad. For an adult to say that to a student… SMH. I went to a performing arts high school and always participated in some type of musical theatre. No one ever flat out told me I was too big for a part, but it took its toll seeing the best parts go to the skinny chicks.

    I gave up on acting, came to New York and now work in producing and management. I always think about the what if’s….

  • Englishchick

    Thats bloody awful. I had similiar situation at school were my PE teacher told my sister who was very skinny and a cross country runner, ‘to roll me down the hill and run after me for practise’, she had no tears from me just a few choice words mostly ending in off !!! and she had to apologise to me in front of the head. What gives these people in power the right to make people feel like that eh ???

  • http://www.shellysaysso.com ShellySaysSo

    O……M…….G!!!! I am stunned at the nerve of them to make that statement. Even IF he honestly thought that it wasn’t believable, which I doubt anyone in the audience would have though, couldn’t he just change the line?

  • http://hipsterwithhips.blogspot.com Laura

    I had a similar experience in high school. I am over 6′ and was about a size 16 then (not huge at that height, but chubby. I auditioned for a lead in our musical, an “over the hill Broadway actress” type. I’m not an amazing dancer, but I’m funny and sing very well. The character is actually notorious for being a bad dancer. My stature would have fit the part very well. Our drama director even mentioned I would be perfect for the part. In the end – I got another, decent, part, and the role went to the new girl in school. She was petite, pretty, and a great dancer. Okayyyy. The worst part? Totally tone-deaf, and the role is for a famous Broadway star! I still shake my head at that one.

  • CeCe

    Wow! That’s horrible. I am impressed though by your even going out for the part. So many big girls that age shrink back from their dreams. I know I did. Actually I was a little younger and DIDN’T try out for the lead because I couldn’t imagine a big girl in the lead part. So I went out for the teacher role and got it. I think I have created a theme for myself and still struggle to put myself all the way out there-in the FRONT. And by the way, the director told me after the run that I could have easily gotten the lead role if I had just gone after it. That teacher who tried to hold you back sucks! And what is really great is that you are still pursuing your dream-one that is hard for anyone-and doing it with style and a great sense of humor! Rock on!

  • Piper

    I’m so sorry that happened to you. If you become famous, then he’ll be eating his words. How old are you?

  • HP

    This has happened to me my whole educational acting career. I always get told I’m very talented, my acting teachers in college generally loved my work. But I went through high school in the chorus roles while the skinny, pretty girls got the parts OR (since I went to Catholic school) the ones who’s parents donated the most money. I’ve since graduated college and unfortunately never was cast in anything there either but like I said, all my professors thought I was talented.
    I’m in NYC now, going to try to pursue the acting career. I now know what my type is, and I’ve become comfortable with it.

    Unfortunately because I’m a PSP, I will not get the leads most of the time UNLESS the role revolves around the weight of the character like Hairspray or Drop Dead Diva. No matter what, audiences do take notice. Remember the big controversy with Kate Winslet during her Titanic years and the press saying she was too fat? Unfortunately looks count for a big part in this business. But because I’m a character actress, my best roles are still to come because I will only become more marketable as I age. All those triple threat, pretty chorus girls or girls who usually get the leads will not have such a good transition as they age because they will be too old for those parts and not “charactery”enough for other roles. I mean if you really think about actresses that have kept their career going long after they aged out of the ingenue roles, the list is VERY small. Yet character actresses get more work!

    Either way, don’t give up CeCe on your dream because we’re lucky, we don’t have to worry about getting older!

  • http://www.dollchic.blogspot.com doll

    wow, that was very cruel! my goodness!

  • TheBigGirlBlog

    @ HP

    Thanks sooooo much for writing that, I’ve had casting directors say that they can’t wait to see me in 10 years. Of course, I want a theater career NOW lol but your words put it in perspective. Patience is a virtue (that I’m working on ;-))

    xoxo

  • Clara

    Wow, it’s amazing what some people think is appropriate. My sophomore algebra teacher was obsessed with talking about what her body looked like when SHE was in high school (like most people in their early 60s, it was different). One day she was so determined to give us a visual example, that she called on me to stand up. Being a polite 15 year old who’d been raised to respect her teachers, I stood. She eyed me up and down and then, in front of the whole class, and said “Well, I definitely wasn’t THAT big.” Then she called on my friend Lesley (who had a swimsuit model’s body), told her to stand, and said “I looked like you.”

    I’m a teacher now and I can’t even fathom doing something so hurtful (not to mention completely educationally irrelevant!) to one of my students. Even if your teacher had a valid reason for picking someone else for the part (which he clearly didn’t), that still doesn’t give him the right to take a sledge hammer to your self-esteem. I really believe that teachers need to receive formal training in how to appropriately handle body image issues with students, especially for girls in high school, because the damage they can do is, in many cases, much greater than body snarking from other students. I’m glad you were able to use this experience positively — my experience has motivated me to a better, kinder teacher, so it ultimately had a silver lining. You’ll just have to leave Mr. Bologe out of your Tony award acceptance speech. :-)

  • Sher

    I had a similar experience when I was in college. I studied film and we had to film a short movie; we had to work in a group, direct, act and edit all on our own.

    Since we were given the scripts by our lecturer, we pretty much had to interpret the character/scene/feel all on our own. My group didn’t want to be in front of the lens so I offered. I played the lead role for a 20 minute short, I was so excited, since all I wanted to do since I was a kid was to act but every hopes went down hill on presentation day…

    My lecturer applaud us on our work and actually told me straight that I was one of the best actress in the class. She went on praising me on and on and I was incredibly happy to hear that from her (she’s an actress cum director) after the praise, she said with an evil look on her face “…but, you need to lose the weight because, I can confirm you that you won’t get any part being heavy.”

    I was mortified since she said that in front of my classmates but I held my head up and told her off.

    I didn’t care if she was my lecturer, don’t give me that lame BS!

  • Alisa

    It’s amazing how insensitive people can be. When I was in high school, I recall the Driver’s Ed teacher picking up me and a couple other students early one morning for our student driving day. He looked me up and down, then said, “We won’t be stopping for lunch till 1 pm…think you can go without food for that long?” I was mortified! Mind you, I was 5’2, 120 lbs. at the time, yet apparently, to many people (including my father), this was disgustingly overweight. Thirty years later, I am 40 lbs. heavier, but happy with myself. I’d like to think part of that weight is a thicker skin! :)

  • Zoey Blue

    I can’t believe he said that! Some people really are insensitive.
    I remember when I was 14 or 15 my aunt told me that I should go in the front seat of the car because I was too big and that there wouldn’t be enough space in the back seat for my sister and my cousin to sit with me. I was speechlees, she said it so casually as if it was absolutely normal… The first thing I thought after hearing her say that was that I sat in the back seat with my sisters everytime we’re in a car and we never had a problem with my weight. It’s those type of persons who makes my self confidence lower.
    Anyway, I love your blog!!! I admire you a lot :)

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  • Atmiha

    Once during an interview, Kathy Bates was asked if her weight had affected her career, and she said, “You just have to be so good that they have to have you.”