Please review my personal statement

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LordStark
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Nov 06, 2011 3:57 pm

Please review my personal statement

Postby LordStark » Sun Nov 06, 2011 4:00 pm

Thank you in advance for the advice and critique.
[edited slightly]

After the actors had trickled out the back door of the theater, the director walked toward her car. I had waited for the last hour, in a dusty parking lot, to ask her if I could have the chance to direct my own a show. We had met three years before this, when I auditioned for my first play. I had a terrible stutter, and I never spoke above a whisper. But she gave me a small part, and took me under her wing. She helped me with my stuttering, and taught me how to be confident. She gave me my first opportunity to act, and now I wanted her to let me direct.
We talked in the parking lot for over an hour. There is no bigger challenge in theater than directing. Everything is under your control, and everything is your responsibility. But, just like that night three years ago, she gave a stammering, quiet kid a chance.
Three months later I walked into the first rehearsal. Twenty people double my age were seated around a big table in the middle of the stage. I sat down in the empty chair, introduced myself, and asked them to begin. After exchanging confused looks, they tentatively picked up their scripts. Fifteen minutes later; one of the younger women put her script down and asked if the director was coming. I looked at every actor, and realized that they had been waiting for some adult to come over, thank me for holding his place, and take over. I explained I was the director, and asked her to please continue. After trading one more, long glance, she looked down and began again to read.
Driving home that night, I thought about my cast. Not a single person in that room thought that I could be their director. Everyone was waiting for me to fail. But I knew I wouldn’t, and I would show everyone on that stage that I could succeed.
The company itself was also young. Costuming came from the actor’s own wardrobes, props from staff’s attics and garage sales, and set from lumber cannibalized from earlier plays. For everything we couldn’t find or make, it was my responsibility to fund. I threw galas, sold food and homemade trinkets, and dragged the cast to perform on sidewalks in downtowns across the county. Raising and saving money were the only thing that kept the production afloat. As the opening approached, the costs rose. Soon, the bake sales weren’t enough. The fundraising efforts became more and more frantic, and the cast and crew began even more to doubt my leadership. One cold day, in the middle of winter, I brought the cast to a farmer’s market to try to raise some money and awareness. They were going to perform in a patch of dirt in the back, between the “guess your weight” game and a child’s train ride. We pulled up, and everyone saw where we were performing. The lead actor, who was wearing a particularly thin costume, turned to me and said he wasn’t going to perform here. There was no point. It was cold, we wouldn’t make any money, and no one at the state fair was going to our show. I told him to trust me this time. Wait and see if it was successful, and afterwards decide. The back of the fair had never been as successful. We spoke to dozens of people, and doubled our bank account. That bought a few days of grudging respect.
But still, a seventeen year old boy doesn’t inspire much confidence when things start to get out of control. They doubted my ideas, and they doubted my very ability to be their director. They had seen teenagers before who were unable to eat breakfast, do their homework, and catch the bus all in the same day. Surely one couldn’t lead a production. Yet the week passed with no major disasters. Everyone got costumes, we had a beautiful set, and eventually we had a crowded audience. Without realizing it, through all of the doubts and disbeliefs, we had done it. In the face of utter skepticism, we had succeeded.
Opening night came with a flurry; a torrential downpour of broken lamps and missing tables. I sat in the back of the audience, my part done. As the house lights came back on for the curtain call, I couldn’t help thinking of that car ride home, about how determined I was to prove that I could succeed. I wanted everyone to believe in me. Over the months that followed I learned that it didn’t need them too. Whether others think I’ll succeed or not doesn’t affect the outcome. During the entire project, not a single person believed in me, and it wasn’t until afterwards that the respect came. If I had relied on others belief, I would have failed. I could only succeed if I knew, above all else, that I would achieve my goal. I live my life with the knowledge that no matter how many people say I can’t, I know I can.
Last edited by LordStark on Sun Nov 06, 2011 10:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

LordStark
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Nov 06, 2011 3:57 pm

Re: Please review my personal statement

Postby LordStark » Sun Nov 06, 2011 6:55 pm

Bump. Anyone?

literOcola
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Nov 06, 2011 7:20 pm

Re: Please review my personal statement

Postby literOcola » Sun Nov 06, 2011 7:30 pm

I like it. I don't have much of a critique but I can tell you I enjoyed reading it more than the others that have been posted. You kept my interest throughout the whole statement and kept it clear and concise.

Incubateus
Posts: 185
Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2011 6:23 pm

Re: Please review my personal statement

Postby Incubateus » Sun Nov 06, 2011 7:53 pm

To preface the critique coming: This is a topic with incredible potential and you should be proud that you have the material to work with.

Second Preface: If you hit a prompt that asks "Why do you want to go to law school?", your current PS may make it difficult to manipulate an answer for this question. Especially an honest one.

To begin though, the writing seems to drag on at points. The descriptions of events and reactions tend to take up more space than the actual transpirings. It comes off as if you couldn't decide whether you were writing a fictional short story or a personal essay. Rather than expounding on the reactions of others, focus on your own strategies to deal with a blunt and non-receptive cast. The fact that you are playing against your type (a director usually being the older pretentious guy with a goatee) is a great idea. You could compress your introductory situation and use a paraphrased dialogue to emphasize your continuing battle with a stutter: "After an hour-long wait I had barely caught the director's attention. "Mi... Mi... Miss (___)..." She was unable to hear me behind my stutter. Finally, I burst out "MISS ___". etc" If pulled off with appropriate care (better than my spewing example) it could characterize you as a cute, humble, and generally likable guy.

That type of actionable writing will give the reader a clearer (and deeper) picture of you, flaws and all. As most writers recommend "show rather than tell".

Another approach you might want to take would be to expand upon a seemingly insignificant detail. Rather than giving a brief overview of the few months (which is what I walked away with), focus on a smaller situation and really go into detail. Toni Morrison compared it to the Mississippi River. After decades of guidance by the Army Corp of Engineers, the river still breaks levees trying to go back to its natural path. (THIS COMES OFF AS BULLSHIT, BUT IT'S TRULY HELPFUL) She said "All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was. Writers are like that: remembering where we were, what valley we ran through, how the light was, etc." Things like will stick in the readers mind for a while. Say the actress who gave you that long glare was wearing a poorly fitting pink linen shirt and for whatever reason that set the wheels in motion for an approach you had that led the cast to respect you, and ultimately trust you, you could go with something like that. (again my examples suck, you actually experienced it so find something better). For things like this, (and this is why I used the Toni Morrison reference) just pick a detail and write. Try to find all of the natural and neural pathways you have connected to that situation. You may end up writing 20 pages, the best authors do this all of the time. But most importantly, it will give your essay a tone of honesty and purpose. When you feel you have both of those things go back and cut out words, sections, paragraphs, pages. Whatever you don't need, kill it. The first time you write you are telling the story to yourself. The rewrite is for telling the story to others.

One area that interested me (that you could expand upon) was

" For everything we couldn’t find or make, it was my responsibility to fund. I threw galas, sold food and homemade trinkets, and dragged the cast to perform on sidewalks in downtowns across the county. Raising and saving money were the only thing that kept the production afloat. As the opening approached, the costs rose. Soon, the bake sales weren’t enough. The fundraising efforts became more and more frantic, and the cast and crew began even more to doubt my leadership."

That shows you in action, solving problems, dealing with situations. It is not centered around how you felt abandoned or how people felt about you (both of which come of as sophomoric -- the same feeling I was left with when I reached the end of your essay). Instead it has the potential to show.

I could probably improve my writing in this response by editing out 90% of it but I just don't have the time. You do.

Another universal recommendation: Get a copy of William Strunk and E.B. White's "The Elements of Style" and comb your essay with each rule. Pay particular attention to Rule 17: "omit needless words" and the advice to rarely, if ever, use the passive voice.

This is probably enough to get you started in a rewrite. I would love to see how it turns out so if you do rewrite please remember to pm me a copy.

Best of Luck.

LordStark
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Nov 06, 2011 3:57 pm

Re: Please review my personal statement

Postby LordStark » Sun Nov 06, 2011 10:45 pm

Thanks yall. Your critiques were very useful. I have edited it slightly, added a more specific story about my leadership. I'm still editing it further. Thanks again.




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