My Curtain Call

Posted on 5 min read

My name is Rebekah Sager and I’m an acting addict.  

When I was fourteen years old I began attending a high school for the performing arts called Duke Ellington.  I was in the theater department.  Ellington saved me from the horrors of public school. Here you could be different and it was rewarded. I loved everything about my Fame-like experience–academic classes in the mornings, theater classes in the afternoons, play rehearsals late into the night. I loved pretending to be anyone but me.

When I was a senior, I applied to two schools to further my acting training. Julliard was my first choice and Carnegie-Mellon University was my second.  My audition for Julliard was a complete failure.  This would be a hint of things to come.  Thankfully, I was accepted to Carnegie-Mellon.

After graduating, I moved to New York.  I got the first of many theatrical agents–getting those was never hard for me. Getting a job would be a different story.

The first, and most important step in being an actor is surviving the audition.  Auditioning, (for me), is like marrying a man that beats you. You know it’s not good for you, but you get something out of it.  He says he’s sorry every once in a while, so you keep going back.  You walk around with bruises defending him saying, “it must be me…what did I do wrong?” You hope he changes, but he never does.

Initially, most actors’ first meeting is with a casting director. Pass that blockade, and you get a “call-back”, where you meet with the director.  Lastly, you see the producers. I made it to the call back phase but never further.  

In fact I was the  “call-back queen”.  I met Spike Lee four times but never booked a job. I met the director of an HBO movie about the life of Josephine Baker. I auditioned for the movie “Queen”, an Alex Hailey mini-series about a “tragic mulatto”. I lost roles to big names: Jada Pinkett-Smith, Halle Berry, Lonette McGee, Janet Jackson.

In the end it always came down to my “type.” I was too ethnic to play Caucasian, too light to play Black, too pretty for character roles, and not pretty enough to be a star.  I had lived on both coasts, moving from NY to LA. I got close, but I never booked a job worth mentioning.

I eventually left LA and quit for–the first time.  I moved back to DC. I got married. Worked out and didn’t sit around waiting for my agent to call. I was happy.  For a little while.

Was my lesson learned?  No. I was compelled to keep trying. I did a little theater.  I performed a small role in a play at the Arena Stage.  I was an understudy, but the woman I was understudying broke her ankle, so I went on for the entire run of the play.  The members of the Arena Stage company were a hateful and spiteful bunch. These talented and lucky-to-be working actors turned my novice actors triumph into a horrible fucking nightmare.  Actors. Never trust ‘em.

I vowed to quit for good again. It was the second time.

Then I had my son.  I found my calling as a mother.  I was happy.  We moved to San Diego.

After settling in and getting our son into pre-school, I had some free time again. I decided to pursue what I was trained to do—theater.  I was sure acting wasn’t what I wanted, so I made the decision to teach theater. Why not?  It wasn’t acting.  Maybe I could find my love of acting through those I taught.

I worked for the La Jolla Playhouse, teaching acting, play-writing, improvisational theater, and directing plays for dis-advantaged kids. I thought I’d found my calling this time. But one production of Macbeth at a local middle school too many, and it was clear that I’d lost my passion and my patience.  Theater, even teaching it, wasn’t good for me.

One more time I quit. I put it behind me.

Until two years ago. I decided, I’m older now, it’ll be different

this time. I’ll try acting again. I got head-shots taken and found a local San Diego agent. In my second week out I booked a job.  It was as an on-camera spokesperson for a car insurance company, not exactly what I was trained to do, but for once, acting gave me something back. I made a record salary of $8,000 for three days of work. I was able to take myself to India.  I was back in the game. Getting the money from the agent proved to be harder than getting the job. I continued to audition around town.  All the humiliation and abuse came flooding back. What the fuck was I doing? I began questioning and hating everything about myself.  Again.

Until one year ago, in January, at my husband’s suggestion, I began writing this blog.  I think my husband was tired of hearing my various tirades, and hoped that the blog would channel my ideas into something creative.  It was the greatest gift anyone has ever given me.  I never would have known how much I had to say and how much joy I could get from saying it.  It has truly changed my life. 

My husband has said that creativity is a mighty stream of water running though a hose—you just have to find the right nozzle to best direct your raw energy. For my whole life, I’d only tried one nozzle, acting. It never really worked very well for me, but it never, ever occurred to me to try something else. Find the right nozzle and you’ll find your salvation. I guess, every once in a while, my husband says something worthwhile.

I’d like to say that through all this, I’ve finally learned that acting isn’t healthy for me. This is my curtain call. I’m done.  Like all addicts, I know this won’t be as easy as it seems. I have to take the first step and admit that I have a problem. This is my admission.

I’ll take the rest of it one day at a time.

  • Marcey
    December 3, 2009


    This is a beautiful piece. You brought a tear to my eye. I can’t wait to see you in SD. I will be there the 27th (although Josh and Eli will be there the 21st). Can we all get together?

  • Jan Walker
    December 5, 2009

    This was inspirational. Thank you.

  • JenniferfromLaJolla
    December 13, 2009

    Great post Rebekah!

    It is really difficult to give up a lifelong dream. I was just thinking about how great it would be to bring together a group of women who are in their forties to ponder these and similar topics. I have just started a blog and not surprisingly my last entry was somewhat similar to this one.

    I haven’t seen you in awhile, I hope everything is going well!

  • Kato
    December 20, 2009

    This is excellent. I love this story here!!!!

  • Norma
    February 6, 2010

    What a good story Rebeka! I would have never guessed that all this was inside you. Good luck!