- Mattie Jo Cowsert
Updated: Jun 15, 2020
In the Summer of 2017, I was making big girl decisions about life and love. Despite knowing it was the best decision to stop trying to make things work with my Romanian boyfriend (Zorro) and instead focus on the life in New York I’d already invested so much in, I had a very hard time moving on. I’d officially cut things off, but I remained pretty insecure about my decision.
So I called my dad for advice because I am a grown up.
“I know I broke things off with him, dad. But it feels like maybe that was the wrong thing to do. I ended things to keep pursuing my career in New York but like, what career? It’s not like Broadway is knocking down my door. Did I give up something great for a pipe dream and need to appear oh-so-independent?”
“Well, Mattie. Have you prayed about it?”
Pray? Like, to God? About my boyfriend? No way!
Anyone who was raised Evangelical knows if you pray about boyfriends, God/Jesus always tells you to break up and move to Africa to spread the Gospel (See bottom: Evangelical Glossary). This Evangelical God really doesn’t like boyfriends. He is, after all, a jealous God.
No no. I will stick with my daily mantras and praying for people who really need it like the homeless community and women who voted for Trump.
Besides, are you even allowed to pray to God/Jesus if you aren't a Christian (or an unmarried virgin)?
So of course I said, “Yeah. Of course I’ve prayed about it.”
“Well then just keep moving forward with your life in faith. And keep asking Jesus to show you where you need to be. And remember all the times He’s been faithful to do so in times of confusion in your past. Love ya, sis!”
Ugh. I hate when parents do this. You’re all “Here’s a real problem I’m having” and they’re all “Jesus” and you’re all *thumbs up*
Besides, are you even allowed to pray to God/Jesus if you aren't a Christian (or an unmarried virgin)? Also, I’m pretty sure God is a woman. Wait, if that’s true this whole praying thing might be way easier. She’ll get me.
Well, I was out of options so I decided to revisit the prayer tactics of my yesteryear and ask this God force to give me clear guidance. I prayed that it would be evidently clear whether or not I was supposed to be with Zorro. If I was, to open those doors and make it happen. If not, close the damn door so loudly I’ll stop wondering if I made the wrong decision and move the fuck on with my life. And also please don’t send me to Africa I’d be a terrible Evangelist.
And then, because I’m a control freak and totally impatient, I took matters into my own hands and booked a flight for September 1st to go see Zorro for my birthday. #breakingupishardtodo
A week later I got a call from an Equity theatre company inviting me to audition for their Fall tours.
At this point in my musical theatre pursuits, I’d made a commitment to only attend auditions for things I actually wanted. As a result I went to way less auditions. It had been at least two months since I’d submitted for anything, let alone this company. So this call seemed really out of nowhere.
This tour is a pretty coveted contract because at the end of your hopping around the US in a minivan with 6 strangers, you get to join Actor’s Equity, the stage actors union. Which means, basically, you get your dignity and life back as an actor.
Being in the Union allows you to audition for better paying jobs, get actual audition appointments (instead of open calls where you wait around allllll day), and get seen by casting directors in the Broadway world. The only catch, and a lot of people will remind you of this constantly, is you’re also competing for the same jobs as people who have multiple Broadway credits. The competition is steeper, so is it the best choice to join the union if you don’t have the experience or skill to compete with these people?
The answer for me was yes. I was only booking about 1 gig per year anyway, so it’s not like I was a stranger to going long periods of time without work. Also, it was hard enough getting seen by non-union casting directors. At least now I wouldn’t have to pay to take workshops with Broadway CD’s, I just had to sign up for an appointment! Yes, give me that Equity Card and holding room with cushioned seating please and thank you.
I auditioned a few days later. Before most musical theatre auditions, I usually feel a confusing combination of I might die and I might pee. But I felt totally at ease during this audition. I even told my roommate right before I left the apartment “I’m going to book this.”
That whole "trust (God) to be faithful in times of confusion" thing was really proving to be very handy. Thanks, dad!
I honestly think the reason I was so confident is because I didn’t care if I booked the gig. In my time away from auditioning, I was learning to give way less fucks. And as God was starting to really show me, everything would work out how it was supposed to. I had no control over the outcome anyway so just go in and sing the damn songs, MJ.
That confidence led to a callback where, much to my surprise, a friend of mine was sitting behind the table. Turns out, the director of this show was a guy I had spent many-a-late-night with at Steps on Broadway, scrubbing toilets and floors for discount dance classes. I liked him because instead of being totally annoyed at the fact that I’d sing and do the choreo for Hard Knock Life every time I got assigned the hallways, he’d applaud. Peas in a Musical Theatre pod.
A day later I got the call that I booked the tour. And that is how I booked an Equity tour because once upon a time I jovially scrubbed toilets in a dance studio with the director. That Midwest work ethic and optimism really did the trick.
“What is the contract start date?” I asked. “September 1st.”
Lol. OF COURSE IT IS. Well, looks like I have to cancel the flight to go see my ex because I just booked a tour that is a huge stepping stone in that career I told him I needed to stay committed to.
That whole “trust God to be faithful in times of confusion” thing was really proving to be very handy. Thanks, dad! I was zero confused about where I was supposed to be. But...I still talked to Zorro everyday because feeling alone blows.
So finally, the first day of rehearsals came around (the day I was supposed to be traveling to see Zorro) and I hadn’t heard from him in about a week. My intuition told me he’d met someone else; When I asked, he confirmed. And just like that, the door I tried desperately to keep cracked despite clear celestial suggestions of doing otherwise, slammed shut.
I loved the idea of a personal and active Creator, who is deeply invested in their artwork (me, you, dandelions)
This whole series of events totally blew me away. I couldn’t believe that God would answer my prayers. And so clearly! Did She not know about the premarital sex I’d been having for the past 4 years or read all the times I used “fuck” in my Facebook statuses? Oh She doesn’t care because those aren't real measurements of worthiness? Cool.
You see, the God of my upbringing was actually a pretty personal and loving God. He was someone we were to be in relationship with, and therefore, speak to every single day. I was told God/Jesus walked with me daily, and wanted the best for His children.
Even after I shed my Christian identity, I loved the idea of a personal and active Creator, who is deeply invested in their artwork (me, you, dandelions). That by simply being created, I am of value. Always tied to my Creator, working together to make me the best finished product I can be. So why wouldn’t She/The Universe/The Creator gladly help when I was asking for help in making that happen?
My mom used to tell tell us this story about a drunk who came to their church every Sunday. He’d attend the altar call, crying, asking for help to be a better, sober man. But every week he’d return, drunk as shit, desperate for a better life.
Mom asked my grandpa, the pastor of the church who held this sobbing drunk man every week, if he thought God was listening since this man was clearly “not a good Christian.” My grandpa’s response? “That man genuinely wants help and believes in God’s love. Of course God is listening.”
So maybe that’s all it takes? Maybe I can have faith and trust there’s a power bigger than me that helps me when I don’t always know how to help myself. And maybe that power is more inclusive than us cliquey-ass mortals want to admit.
Because, at least based on my experience, the God of the sexually active, non-Christian liberals is all ears when I pray. So long as I’m genuinely open and ready for the kick in the butt, She’ll come through. She’ll get rid of the things that keep me from #livingmybestlife when I may not have the strength to get rid of said things on my own. She makes me face my discomfort and misery head-on, and sends my ass to therapy. She’s all “Time to elevate, bitch!”
She’s a smart and powerful lady, this God of the sexually active, non-Christian liberals. And the best part? She won’t ask you to breakup with your boyfriend and move to Africa. Unless your boyfriend sucks then she might, so be careful what you pray for.
Evangelical Glossary: For those of you who were spared churchy vernacular
Break up and move to Africa to spread The Gospel: Africa is a place Middle American white folks are very afraid of. And therefore, as character building I suppose, we are inherently afraid this God we worship would send us there to tell those starving, impoverished black people the story of Jesus.
The Gospel: The story of Jesus coming to earth to save us from sin. If you accept this story, you will go to Heaven. Spreading the Gospel is the main responsibility of an Evangelical believer. So, even though The Gospel will not bring starving people actual food or relief from the injustices they endure through exploitation of rich, mostly white people countries (rhymes with Poo-nited Gates), it will give them the Bread of Life (Which now I think I also have to link within this glossary). You can read more about this idea of Evangelism in my Blog: Blogelism.
Bread of Life: Jesus calls himself this a lot in the Bible. Metaphor for feeding the soul/spirit, which I totally dig. But like, Jesus called himself the Bread of Life and then also gave people actual bread so let's yin and yang in our mission work, K Evangelicals?
Altar call: Any part of a church service where the pastor invites you to "ask Jesus into your heart." Which means you profess your adherence to the Christian belief of God and the Bible as your infallible blueprint for life. This moment is either paired with the congregation closing their eyes, and those who are accepting Christ to raise their hands so only the pastor knows. OR it's this big dramatic thing where the persons accepting Christ physically go to an altar and pray with the pastor. Choose your poison, I suppose.