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The Vine: September 28, 2012

Submitted by on September 28, 2012 – 8:51 AM47 Comments

I've been heavily involved in community theater for the last several years. My passion is acting, but I've worked in various technical capacities just to help out friends. I've never especially enjoyed the tech stuff, though — I don't have any particular talent for it, and I'm not very creative with it. Mostly when I do tech, I just spend the show longing to be onstage.

I've come to a point where I don't want to deal with the heartbreaks of auditioning anymore. I'm not "traditionally attractive" (got a Gilda Radner/Andrea Martin/awkward-funny-bespectacled-bignosed thing going on) and I'm entering my thirties, and so facing a dearth of roles that I can even reasonably audition for. In the last year I have experienced a parade of rejections, and I just can't deal with it anymore. 

So I'm looking for a replacement hobby. The obvious options don't really appeal to me — joining a musical group or an athletic team, something like that. I have actual negative amounts of musical talent — no natural rhythm and a little tone-deaf. I'm also not athletic — I don't mind physical play, but I'm tiny, wimpy, and have trouble keeping right and left straight. I've tried pole-dancing classes and poi-spinning, with only embarrassing results.

I'm hoping the Nation has some suggestions. I'm looking for something that won't involve a constant barrage of rejection or depend on a particular physical appearance, and will hopefully introduce me to an interesting, creative community. I live and work in the DC metro area, if that helps. What kind of stuff do people do if they don't do theater? 

Because Spending Every Night on the Sofa with The Xbox Would Be Sad

Dear Is It Still Sad If You're Using It To Stream Netflix Oh It Is Oh Okay I'll Just Be Over Here,

Hmm. Obviously you've got a shit-ton of options, but unfortunately you're going to have to try a bunch of them before you find a good fit for you, activity-wise and people-wise. I hope we can narrow it down somewhat, so I'll make a few suggestions and then the readers can have at it.

First, go onto Meetup.com or another site and do some searches. You don't have to commit to anything, but most metro areas offer almost every imaginable activity in a social setting — going to baseball games, seeing the latest documentaries, putting together box lunches for protests, you name it. Huck a bunch of search terms in there and see what comes up, if only to get some ideas.

Second, figure out for yourself what parts of the theater experience you want to take into this next hobby. Is it the performance aspect? You can still find gigs; just broaden your parameters a bit — you could give tours of anything from haunted sites to historic places to a wing of a museum. Any particular subject you like? Non-profits always need volunteers for data entry, research, coordinating mailings, or just setting up chairs for talks; again, museums are great for this, and you can also pitch in at cemeteries, after-school arts-magnet programs, and so on.

Do you like kids? Crafting? Any combination thereof? Friday afternoons, my fifth-grade teacher — not a terribly pleasant specimen overall, but possessed of an all-time gorgeous speaking voice — would read to us for an hour while we colored or made art projects. I've often thought of starting my own "sewing circle" in that vein, and maybe that's something you'd like to do.

Or take a class in something that has nothing to do with anything. Do you have anything like the Brooklyn Brainery where you are? It's kind of…well, Brooklyn-y ("The Art of Canning," hee — but then there's also a class on how to give a good beej), but I was looking on the site the other day all, "Maybe I could do a class about The Aenei– oh, they already had that one. T…wice?" Take a basic illustration workshop, learn to finger-knit…I've never really learned much from the classes themselves, but I always met some cool people.

Speaking of cool people: readers?

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47 Comments »

  • Bo says:

    Depending on the size of the metro area you're in, can't you find an improv group? You still get to act, you are with creative people, there's virtually no tech to say no to, and there's no auditioning for particular roles? I have a friend here in Philly who's a zoo keeper and has been doing improv for fun for about a year. Now she's branching out to musical improv (which I understand isn't your gig). But in a bigger metro area I'd think there are possibilities.

  • Kelly says:

    I think the volunteer docent route is a great suggestion from Sars – I transitioned from theater involvement to tour guide and had a really great time with it. You're still putting on a show, drawing people in, making people see something that you see, and the worst someone can do is burst into tears or trip and break their collarbone (not that either of those things ever happened to me…um….). Seriously, though, I loved it and it's really fun. If you want to make it even a more pointed performance, you could volunteer for a politician and knock on doors! It's… not as fun.

    I bet you could also find a decent gaming/role-playing Meetup group in the DC area, which would help get you into a new community and satisfy some performance needs as well. And there are fantastic online communities for knitting and crafting that bring some competition into the mix – I can't find it at the moment, but there's one that sorts the knitters into the different Hogwarts teams each year and they compete in a knitting quidditch cup; it sounds goofy but my friend who does it gets a lot out of both the community and the drive it creates to finish projects. Best of luck!

  • Lulu says:

    I host trivia at a local bar. It has a performance aspect (working the crowd, making jokes, reading out questions and rankings) where a big personality is useful but not required. There was one audition at the beginning, but it was basically just to check if you can enunciate. There is a small amount of "tech" work (you have to set up a mic and keep score on a spreadsheet), but it's pretty easy. You meet tons of people (the regular teams at the bar, the bar staff, other local hosts) and can basically do as much or as little as you want–from one night a week of work to taking on multiple gigs. And you get paid. And plied with drinks.

    In a similar vein, if you're funny and work well alone, you might consider open mic stand-up comedy. A couple of my friends do this and have a blast.

    However, for the meeting people/group aspect and if you don't already have specific ideas for how you want to be funny, I second improv. I've only done this a few times because I'm not really that much of a performer, but it's super fun!

  • Lauren T. says:

    The Washington Nationals are going to the playoffs – maybe it's time to hop on the baseball bandwagon? This is going to be an awesome month for your local team! The excitement of October baseball is greater than any performance I've experienced. How often do you get to enjoy something alongside 40k+ fans? :)

  • Krissa says:

    Are you familiar with Inkwell? A former colleague of mine was heavily involved with the program, and I know they did some things like public table reads for new plays. It's not exactly "performing," but you get to be involved with helping new playwrights get their works out there, and stay somewhat connected to the theater community in DC, sans constant auditioning.

  • Krissa says:

    My hyper-linking is only hyper, not linking. Try this one:

    Inkwell.

  • Anlyn says:

    I know jack-all about performing or what's available in DC, but what about street performing? I don't know if there are auditions for that, or if you can just join a group and begin. I really enjoyed the street performers when I was in Vegas.

  • B says:

    If the improv thing does interest you, I highly recommend The Comedy Spot in Ballston (http://comedyindc.com/) You start with classes and then advance to a performance team. I have a friend who does it and loves it. And it does seem to be rather full of boys, so I bet they would love to have you.

  • Andrea says:

    I'm a former DC Metro-er, and if you want specifics on dance classes (little *actual* rhythm required and really fun people), improv, a nice dog and cat rescue that is always looking for volunteers, or a church group that always has a ton of interesting events (Crab Fest, Oktoberfest, Concerts – these people know how to have fun!), I can help. Sars – you can give XBox my email if she's interested!

  • Whitney says:

    If one of your concerns about physical activity is that you won't be as good as everyone else, you might consider tennis — players are classified by skill level so you would only be playing other people who have similar skills to your own. To get started you'd want to look around for a rec center or tennis club that has a drill (which is basically skills practice); once you join a regular drill it's not long before someone points you to a league for your skill level or asks you to join a team. (Particularly in the lower level leagues, people are focused less on how good you are and more on if they can pull together enough people to field a full team.) My mother had never really played tennis in her life before taking it up in her late 40s and now she plays in leagues two days a week and has a drill on a third day — plus she's made a ton of new friends.

  • Yoshi says:

    I know you said that you've tried a couple of types of dancing and weren't thrilled with the results, but I'm going to chuck in a vote for belly dancing: it's got a great dramatic vibe to it (even if you never perform), it's accepting of every shape and size imaginable, and there are several different styles so you can look for one that appeals to you and find someone who teaches that style. As someone who is an internationally-reputed arch klutz (ever had to try to convince a room full of nurses and domestic violence workers that you actually *did* get that black eye from walking into a door?…. Yeah.), I understand those concerns, but belly dancing works for me just the same, and I love it to bits.

    Some styles to look up – try youtube for videos:
    Egyptian/raqs sharqi
    Turkish
    Lebanese
    American tribal
    Tribal fusion
    Gothic

    Good luck!

  • KarenF says:

    About twenty years ago, after graduating college, I moved to a new city 1000 miles away from my friends and family. I'm a shy, clumsy, writer-type, but I didn't know anyone in my new city, and I was afraid if left to my natural instincts, I'd end up watching a lot of television. I forced myself to try lots of new activities, not because I thought I'd be good at them, but because I thought they sounded like fun.

    Some were complete failures (swing dance, tango, latin – tried them all because I love watching dance, but I've got no rhythm).

    Some were helpful in gaining new skills, but not so much in finding a social group. I can cook now! I can bake bread. In fact, I'm bake excellent bread, which helps my popularity at work.

    One, I expected to be a complete failure (because I'm horribly clumsy, last person picked in gym class), and turned out to be a great pick. Figure Skating. Who knew? I can't hit a volleyball over the net, I can't do a layup, can't even do a cartwheel, but after years of lessons, I can land a single lutz, do a sitspin, and am working on an axel. I only took the first class because I wanted to be able to go around a rink without falling. So don't rule out something physical because you think you have no athletic abilities.

    But the one that helped me the most when I first moved up here was improv class (I see someone mentioned that above, and I'd second that vote). It was fun, I met a lot of great friends, found a roommate, and through a round about way, found my way into a freelance business.

    Now, as it turns out, I'm barely competent at improv. But that led me to stand up comedy, which I was better at. And that led to getting put into a sketch comedy troup – not on the strenth of my performance skills, which as I said, are competent at best, but because I'm a good sketch writer. And that led me into screenwriting (after more classes), and while I've not yet managed to sell a spec script, I've had some shorts filmed locally, I get a small amount of freelance work and I've done ok in contests. Plus fellow screenwriters are always willing to go out to the movies with me.

  • Kristen says:

    I just went to a reading for my MFA program where several actors read stories written by local writers. I know this isn't as far removed from acting as you seem to be looking for, but my impression is that many of these groups have a stable of actors and they take submissions from writers (rather than auditioning actors). The readings are largely social events where writers and actors and their friends kinda mingle. Plus it sounds like your looks are perfect for a literary crowd! Anyway, you might want to look for a group like that — or start one, because then you can always go onstage!

  • Mary says:

    Hi! The DC area is chock full of exciting things to do! I recently took a trapeze class with these folks. Honestly, the people working there are mostly performers, and you do not have to be athletic to get started.

    Also, if you are spiritually-minded, you could get active in a church community. Some churches have a TON of volunteering options and classes for adults. I attend St. Mark's; it's very progressive (we have members who are atheists, culturally Jewish, etc., even though the church is officially Episcopal), with a robust adult education program several nights a week and an affiliated community theater if you still want to do some of that. You could take the classes without attending church.

    For volunteering, I really like the Employment Justice Center's Workers' Rights Clinic; information at http://www.dcejc.org

  • Jenn says:

    If you're a comedian, you have to check out Comedy Sportz.

    If you want to go the volunteer route, try Arena Stage.

  • MizShrew says:

    I'd second the comedy improv suggestion. With your performance experience it seems like a good fit, and the quirky-cool thing you seem to have going would be a plus there vs. trying to get the leading-lady bits in community theatre. (I feel your frustration there; I'm not a traditional beauty either and even if I auditioned well I didn't get those parts because I didn't have the right "physicality.")

    Would a Renaissance Faire gig have any appeal for you? Get in costume, do the silly accent, bow to the Queen, all that? Ditto the museum guide, especially if you can find one that does a more immersive experience with costumes, etc. I have some friends who went from community theatre to Ren Faire and have a blast with it.

    Also, since Halloween is coming up, it might be fun to check out some of the haunted houses… In my city there's a beautiful old mansion that does a pretty elaborate haunted house thing. Might be something of the kind in DC? Could be a way to meet some more cool people in your area. And if you don't like it, once Halloween is over, so is your commitment.

    And finally, if you want to do storytelling, see if there's anything like the Moth in your area. You can get the idea here: http://themoth.org/events
    There's a local group in our area that puts on events in local pubs and other venues. It's amazing the stories you hear, and you're totally in control of your own performance and story.

    Have fun finding your niche — and even more fun telling the community theatre "no thanks" next time they ask you to do lighting for yet another run of "Noises Off" or whatever.

  • Katherine says:

    Definitely look into the historical animator route! It's a great way to directly entertain and interact with a small audience, and I think you'll find it rewarding in the way a really intimate stage show is.

    If you're looking to actually craft, but don't want to embark on big projects, many communities have some form of a group that helps knit or crochet hats/blankets for premature and underprivileged babies. You get the satisfaction of making something and directly helping out someone who truly needs it, but without the daunting prospect of making a project that's huge and difficult.

  • Maria says:

    Quilting is my subculture of choice. I find that women who are drawn to it are very big-hearted and accepting. Some are just people who like to sew simple items, like purses and table runners. Others like to make art quilts for the wall. Some make only baby quilts while others like to make only larger bed quilts. It's a wonderfully addicting hobby and it might really surprise you that you're more creative than you thought. I think you are probably a very entertaining personality and would be warmly welcomed. Quilting lends itself to working in groups with others in classes, and at retreats of day-long or all-weekend gatherings.

    By comparison, I think knitting is just as compelling creatively, but tends to draw a more introspective crowd. Offshoots of knitting are spinning and weaving.

    I'm sorry for the pain of audition rejection. I wonder if a nice long break would make you feel like you could take another crack at it? I hope you report back to let us know if you found a new passion that worked out for you!

  • Maria says:

    Is dinner theatre still a thing where you live? We have it where I live. I don't know if it's harder or easier to get a spot in those productions.

    I also wonder if you have ever considered starting up your own troupe? You could then see about performing at venues like festivals where auditions would not be such an issue.

    There's always the RenFaire, too, if that period of time interests you.

  • Irene says:

    Strong recommendation for this one: http://www.alexcolonialtours.com/wanted.html. I've taken the tour several times – usually around Halloween – and the best ones had a guide who was willing to totally get into the spirit (pun intended, I think!).

  • Kate Monster says:

    It might sound counter-intuitive, but look into belly dance classes. I've been doing it for about 3 years now, and I'm not all that attractive–I've got a belly that makes strangers sometimes think I'm the proud bearer of a lil fetus, and I've got enormous ham thighs and stuff. But the classes I've taken have all had women at a variety of body types, ages, levels of talent, etc. Everyone is super supportive, and we all have an incredible time. I've made such good friends, plus it's a dance form that makes you feel super sexy no matter your circumstances, AND you get to wear fuck tons of rhinestones and shit. I'm constantly telling people how awesome it is–you get a few "isn't that like being a stripper?" questions (and it totally isn't, BTW), but by and large, the whole experience is totally positive if you find a great teacher. There's also a secondary element of making costumes that becomes part of the process, so it's two hobbies in one, really. I'm a theater person myself, so I can attest that shifting type of performance still gets you the performance high.

    Also, since it's the auditions that bug you, why not think about joining/forming an improv troupe or something along those lines? Then you'd get to act on your terms, with people you know, and not have to face the rejection.

    Finally, I'd say that you ought to keep your eyes on the shows going up in your area regardless. Something might come up next season or down the line that BEGS for an awkward-funny-bespectacled-bignosed actresss, and you'll be able to jump back in. I've been rejected a ton of times, both as a actress and as a writer, and it mega-sucks, but I really fucking love acting, so I keep an eye on the notices and audition when 1) my favorite shows are being staged (even if I have no chance, I still audition. Case in point: the really terrible audition that non-singer me had for Into the Woods, because I couldn't live with myself if I didn't try for it); 2) I know someone involved at the top end of the production, like the director or playwright, and so I have an "in" and know that I'll enjoy the process if I'm cast; or 3) if there's a part that seems right for me listed. I thought I'd never act again once I got my BA and chose Writer Grad School over Actor Grad School and Real Jobs, but I'm in a show now.

  • Maggie says:

    I must second the improv suggestion. No tech. No auditioning. No need for "classic" good looks. And if you find a place that focuses on more long-form improv (The Harold is one popular form) then there's a lot less pressure to "be FUNNY" than you might think. It's really about being true and present on stage.

    And it's fun!

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Total sympathies from a theater major here. I too gave it up when I realized the odds were laughably astronomical, but I'll never regret being able to play great roles, even just as scene work or auditions, and the ease it gave me in public situations.

    God, I miss it. Why did I read this post???

    Ahem, anyway. My mother is the happiest retiree ever because she can now devote full time to her projects. One she's just wrapping up is her group Literary Connections, which chooses a book/author to study, goes on a trip based around that author (They went to the Midwest while reading Willa Cather, for example) and having a big theme party at the end of the year. My mom gets to indulge her passions for writing, acting, and organizing (She's a classic Type A personality) while making freinds with similar interests.

    While putting together something that big might be a little daunting, especially if you have to hold down a day job, something similar might be appealing? Check and see if there's a local Jane Austen Society, a Book-It theater group (the one here in Seattle is presenting The Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet right now) or something similar. And if you start your own and you want to play Anna Karenina, you do that. Kiera Knightley had her turn, this one is yours.

  • Maryse42 says:

    Years ago when I had moved to a new city where I knew no one aside from two people I had connected with on Usenet (dear god, I am a dinosaur) and my BF, my one friend introduced me to another friend who had a play-reading group. A bunch of friends got together every couple weeks at someone's house (we took turns hosting) and we'd spend the afternoon reading a play out loud, cold. If there were more characters than attendees, we might have to double up or triple up on roles. We did a variety of plays — old, new, classics, comedies, tragedies… It was great fun. Low pressure, but still an opportunity to perform vocally (no acting out, just reading), and discover new playwrights too. Then we'd have a fabulous potluck dinner. Perhaps if you have some similarly-minded friends and friends-of-friends, or went on MeetUp, you could organize something along the same lines?

  • Katharine says:

    30-ish is a hard time to be a female actor, for sure, but I think it's pretty sad that you would walk away from something you love because you think you're not pretty enough.*

    You might just need to adjust your sights a little. What roles are you going for? I get that it sucks to start thinking, "well, if I can't be the LEAD," and yes, most LEAD roles are for classic, cute romantic heroines — but, y'know, there is plenty to be said for a character role, and very often, the actual work of a character role can be a lot more interesting. Try out for the Batty Older Lady parts, maybe; in my experience of community theatre, nobody cares about a bit of white hairspray on a younger actor with a great performance.

    Improv is another good suggestion. I don't know if you think of yourself as "funny" — I don't, I'm not a comedian — and yet I found improv to be a fantastic skillbuilder anyway, and learning to be "supportive of the funny" even if I hardly ever came up with the great lines myself was really helpful in tons of ways. (Including my real job. Learning to think on your feet as a discipline is never going to let you down.)

    Or what about creating or producing your own fringe shows? That way, you get to pick what you do, and tailor it to your own strengths; if you plan it well, it doesn't have to cost a whole lot, and doing a bit of a Fringe around nearby areas is a fun vacation if you like that sort of thing. Or do street theatre.

    And — whoa! You have a "Centre for Movement Theatre" in Washington, with classes by someone who trained with LeCoq! Clown! Bouffon! Neutral mask! I'm telling you, if all you've done is traditional western proscenium light theatre, this is a whole new exciting piece to the acting thing! ("Clown" is a lot more than red noses and kids' parties, in this context.) And this is a type of theatre that relies far less on looks, and also improves one's presence and physical control for all types of acting.

    I mean, maybe, yes, you do just want to walk away from it, and that's fair. But I have a lot of other hobbies, and still, none of them are ever going to substitute for the high of performing, for me. As a fortyish woman who never was gorgeous and is now aging, I too need to look harder for my opportunities, and understand what exactly it is I'm selling in order to get cast. But I do get cast.

    * Granted, that's why I chickened out of trying for a professional theatre career in my youth. But I've regretted it ever since.

  • KittyT says:

    It sounds like you're looking for social activities, and this sounds about as anti-social as you can get, but hear me out:

    Writing. There are great community education and social writing groups out there where you can share your work.

    Also, I'm going to give a shout out to my favorite activity — National Novel Writing month starts on November 1st! (www.NaNoWriMo.org)! Local volunteers host write-ins, a fun combination of meeting new people and sitting at your laptop writing frantically.

    Anyway, just my two cents, and good luck to you!

  • Maria says:

    Is there a childrens' theatre group in your area? That might be another avenue…they often have adult roles that need to be filled.

  • Kristen says:

    @Kate Monster (Do you live on Avenue Q?) You are making me laugh! "Ham thighs" What a silly way to describe exactly what I got. I'm stealing that phrase from you.

    These are such fantastic ideas. I want to hug the Nation really tight right now.

  • LizMR says:

    This may be a better suggestion for spring time than for fall, but have you ever thought about sailing? On a lark, I took a learn-to-sail class out in Annapolis when I was 32 and fell in love with it. Plus, the sailing/racing community is incredibly welcoming, with lots of social activities. You might check out http://www.spinsheet.com for Chesapeake Bay sailing info. Closer to DC, they have classes at Belle Haven Marina in Alexandria (www.saildc.com).

  • Kona says:

    The Imnprov idea is a great one, and my suggestion is roller derby. I joined a league almost a year ago with zero sports skills or experience, and it's been amazing. I skate with a great group of women (and the occasional guy), and it's added so much to my life in such a short time.

    Even if you're not interested in playing, leagues are always looking for NSOs (non-skating officials) or just volunteers to take tickets at the door. My league also works with a different charity every month, so you can get involved in that aspect too if you'd like.

    In DC proper, there are the DC Rollergirls (http://dcrollergirls.com/), or there's my league which is NOVA Roller Derby (http://novarollerderby.com/).

    Hell, even if you just go to a bout, you'll have some fun.

  • emandink says:

    Another option to think about if you're interested in sticking performance-related activities is voice acting. I know there are opportunities in DC (although I don't have any links handy).

  • threeattic says:

    Letter-writer XBox here — you guys? You guys are the best. I knew you'd come through for me.

    You know how sometimes you're trying to brainstorm things, and you know there are a metric fuckton of things that could go on your list, but somehow you can't think of a single one? That's where I'm at. So you guys are great.

    Improv is definitely a thing I've considered. I find it completely terrifying: there's no script! how do you even — god, that's like life! — but I think it would be cool to confront that terror.

    And several folks mentioned tour guide-ing, which hadn't even occurred to me, which is dumb because I have several theater friends who give ghost tours around our historic district. One of whom I am actually in a play with right now, so at tonight's show I'll corner him and get some info.

    @Krissa — that is really, really awesome. I will look into them, and maybe bang out that play I've been sitting on all these years.

    @Andrea — totally, hit me. Threeattic at gmail. I'd be totally into volunteering with an animal rescue; that sounds like a great change of pace. Thanks!

    @Mary — My brain loves the idea of trapeze; my inner ear, not so much. Good thought, though. I know a number of people who've worked at the St. Mark's theater, and I've auditioned there a couple of times; it seems like a great place.

    @MizShrew — BRILLIANT. I love haunted houses like nobody's business, I should definitely look into that. And there's a big RenFaire up in Annapolis; I even know somebody who demos archery there. Another good thing to check out. (Heh, Noises Off was last year — it's wardrobe for A Christmas Carol now. Aaand I'm done.)

    @Maria — I've done dinner theater a couple of times, actually. Dude, it is hard. Trying to get people's attention and entertain them where there's pie in front of them? I just can't compete with pie. Regarding quilting vs. knitting, I didn't even realize there were so many fiefdoms (peacefully co-existing fiefdoms, I'm sure) in the crafting community.

    @Kate Monster and @Yoshi — belly dancing! I could try that. The less need for refined motor skills or physical stamina, the better.

    @Kate Monster and all my other non-Julie-Andrews-looking actor ladies — I KNOW, RIGHT? Arrrrrrrrgggggh. I'm on the northern Virginia side of DC, which is so conservative and traditional — I see very little tolerance of the idea that beauty doesn't have to be white and anglo-saxon. It's not like I'm going out for Maria von Trapp, either; almost always I audition for roles I could reasonably play. Every play where I've gotten a decent role, I've gotten good notices, but it's hard not to think every time, either I'm hideous or I actually suck, so should I be outraged or embarrassed?

    @Maryse42 and @Jen S — Ooh. Actually, this makes me think of Backyard Shakespeare; a friend of mine tried to start up a club for it a couple of years ago, but it was just too big a project. Now I might have the time, though. I was in a Shakespeare reading club in high school (no, I didn't date a lot, why do you ask?) and it was excellent.

    @Katharine — that's fair, and I don't think I'm giving it up forever. It's just not putting me in a psychologically healthy place right now, and I'm really warming up to the idea of trying some new things for a while. But I would be sad if I thought I'd never perform again. I've long looked forward to the day when I can play the batty old lady roles, but I'm still a little too young to compete with the superbly talented older actresses in this theater scene (I've tried, believe me :)

    @LizMR — no, I hadn't thought of sailing, and yes, that's splendid! Not for right now, but I know people who sail and could teach me.

    @Kona — Roller derby! Another thing I'd forgotten I wanted to try, thank you!

    You guys are, like, creating my bucket list here. And don't stop! I'm going to print this list out and consult it every time I get bored for the rest of my life.

  • Des says:

    Poi can be tough to pick up. Hula hooping might be a bit easier, just be sure you get one that is big enough. The kind at the toy dept are too small for adults. The DC area should have a decent sized hoop community, try http://www.hooping.org for leads, ideas, advice. And hooping can become a form of theater without needing to be a super hooper and knowing all kinds moves. Just use it as a prop.

  • 'stina says:

    If you think you're the type (and don't make ANY assumptions about what "the type" is based on outward appearance: we blend), look into hooking up with your local Burner community. You don't have to have any interest in Burning Man in Nevada at all to be part of the local community. But, you will find a ton of creative outside-the-mainstream sort of people who come together from time to time for a variety of amazing projects that take a lot of different skill sets to accomplish.

    I started by building an art car with my friends in 2007. I had no real experience in anything related, but I had a BLAST doing it. And I take an amazing amount of pride that my efforts built something that is enjoyed by so many people. I've been pretty immersed in the community ever since then, taking on a variety of projects, including some with performance aspects (and not just fire spinning, aerial tissues and belly dancing). I met my husband through my burner community. Dozens of highly creative businesses and enterprises were born in the burner community

    There are a lot of regional burns around the country. In your part of the world it's Playa del Fuego and it looks like they do it twice a year. (Mine is Burning Flipside.) But again, you don't have to have any interest in camping out for a weekend with several hundred people to be part of the community. But it could be an awesome venue to put your acting skills to use, if you find like minded people to put on a performance with.

    The regional contact in the DC area is here: http://regionals.burningman.com/us_dc_was.html I have no idea how organized they are (the Houston burner community is HIGHLY disorganized and decentralized), but I'm willing to bet there's at least a facebook group out there where you can lurk and learn whether they are people you'd want to hang out with.

  • Ami says:

    ZOMG archery is SO MUCH FUN – my husband and I did a bit of that through the SCA a few years back and it was awesome! Definitely look into it if you know someone who can hook you up!

  • Amy says:

    When I lived in the DC area I would go out with friends. We'd hang out at a bar, go dancing, or go see a band play. Hobbies don't have to be something specific like knitting or bowling (though those are both good) but could just be social events, hanging out. If you enjoy theater but not tech, or the rejection of auditioning, is there still something you could do like be a volunteer for theater fundraisers? Be an usher? Teach acting to students? How about getting involved with a local charity? I used to be a member of the DC Chapter of Child Help, which works with abused and neglected kids. You'll never know what you like or what you're good at unless you go out and try it. Just get out among other people and see what catches your attention.

  • Chris says:

    What about LARPing? Live action roleplaying. It has the performance aspect and the social aspect, but no auditions. And it's not quite as terrifyingly improv-y as improv.

  • Bo says:

    Sorry, I missed the DC-area in my first read. So yes…improv.

    Also, there are probably plenty of places that have living history roles to play. You don't have to look like anyone in particular. Just like a regular person. And you have to study and understand the daily life/work of your character. We have those here in Philly, too. But I'm sure DC has some. Like being a docent with a costume!

  • Rachel says:

    I'd like to put in a plug for Toastmasters. You can draw on a lot of the skills you use on stage, but you'll be telling your own story instead of someone else's. There are way more opportunities within Toastmasters than I was ever aware of (and I grew up hearing my dad talk about it), especially in metro areas where there are tons of clubs. If you want, you can be active within your own club, and also beyond your club at the district level.

    Find a club here: http://reports.toastmasters.org/findaclub/
    You can search by zipcode, etc. There are apparently several districts in the greater DC metro area, so when you find a club close to you, look to see which district that is and then google "District 27 Toastmasters" (or 36, or whichever one it is). Right now the division-level speech evaluation & humorous speech contests are going on, and if you visit one of those contests you will get to hear some hilarious speeches and also see how Toastmasters give feedback to help one another improve public speaking skills.

    Full disclosure: Yes, I am my club's Vice President of Education and an Area Governor for my district (both are strictly volunteer gigs). It's been an amazing experience for me.

  • Anlyn says:

    What about magic? More performance than talent, and it looks like fun to learn

  • M says:

    There have been a lot of good ideas already.

    I grew up in Virginia's Historic Triangle and have always thought being a re-enactor would be fun. (Except in the summer. VA humidity plus petticoats? Maybe not)

    NoVA and the DC Metro area have a lot of historic things that use actors.

    I haven't found the perfect Meet-Up group for myself yet, but there are so many possibilities to try that I am convinced there is something for everyone, somewhere.

    Good luck!

  • M says:

    Forgot to add, I just stumbled across this article in the Post. This is what I mean by re-enacting, tour-guiding.

    http://tinyurl.com/8ea4gd4

    A Death And Dying Tour! I bet somewhere closer to DC you could find ghost roles.

  • Bubbles says:

    I'm neither athletic nor coordinated, but I've started up both roller derby and belly dance. So much fun! And with derby, there are plenty of non-skating ways to be involved. Check out your local league(s) and see if they're looking for anyone.

  • Wendy says:

    When I spent a year in DC, I was really impressed by how warm and welcoming the local contra-dance community was — and contra is another one of those types of dance that don't require exceptional skill or endurance. I highly recommend the wonderful folks at Glen Echo!

  • Adrienne says:

    I know you were concerned about coordination and stamina for athletic things, but I'm going to throw this out there: Hashing. It's a running club that has beers and parties and when I say "run" I mean "move your body through space at whatever pace works for you." It is often referred to as the drinking club with a running problem.* It's non-competitive to the point we mock the weirdos that show up with official timed run shirts (this is referred to as "racist behavior" and is frowned upon.) We accept all types, levels, ages, and speeds.

    I am not a Runner (capital R), but I do very much love Hashing because of the camaraderie and the encouragement. Also, if your group lays non-urban trails you can find some absolutely GORGEOUS natural areas that you'd probably never see otherwise.

    Anyway, if you're interested check out the Hash House Harriers site on wikipedia (check it out even if you AREN'T interested, it's pretty awesome) and then check out this site (http://www.dchashing.org/) which has an extensive list of groups in the DC area. Groups tend to all have different "flavors" so you might check out more than one.

    *If you don't drink or are dealing with substance abuse issues this could def not be your thing. Drinking to excess is strongly discouraged, but beer is central to the events. And most of the songs. Did I mention there are songs?

  • Koko says:

    As a former DC resident with lots of friends in the theater community, you might want to look into some of the smaller, less mainstream companies. There's Landless, there used to be Cherry Red, and I'm sure there are others I can't come up with just now. They tend to do smaller, more…out there kinds of works. They tend to be less hung up on "traditional" looks in their casting. The content is not always for everyone, but just a thought.

  • Erin in SLC says:

    Late to the table, here, but I stopped auditioning for thankless roles in community theatre and stuck with my improv troupe, and I'm a lot happier.

    Like so many others above, I've also started writing for the stage. I've taken it nowhere yet, really, and I'm out here in Podunk, but it gives my inner control-freak a sense of peace. Besides, the more women we have writing plays, the more diverse female characters might become, and the easier a time the next wave of pushing-30 moonlighters will have finding roles worth auditioning for.

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