For the last four years, I have attended the Marin School Of The Arts (MSA) in Novato California. MSA seeks to give students the opportunity to express themselves in many different artistic forms, such as acting, musical theater, visual arts, dance, creative writing and film. MSA seemed like a perfect place to cultivate my love and passion for theater. Unfortunately, it is a half an hour away from my home in Sonoma. So with the tenacity that can only be found in stage mothers, a carpool was arranged by the saintly parents of Sonoma California, whose children had become, at this point, too far into the love of art to ever be pulled back out.
This lovely team of rag tag teens and anxious mothers and fathers made the half an hour treck over 5,600 times (More if you care to calculate the friendly visits, rehearsals, shows and such). I have completed ten shows in my time at MSA. The count currently is four musicals, three cabarets, two spring plays and one bout of technical crew. I loved and hated every single thing I did at my crazy, different little magnet school, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Because I feel that when you are given an opportunity like that so early in life, it can either make you swear off theater forever, or, like in my case, send you into an addiction and need for theater so great, that nothing will ever be able to cure that bug. I did not start off my career in musical theater in high school. It came much earlier, when I was given the chance to play “Snoopy” in a production of “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown. ” Everything just snowballed from there. In my 13 years of theater, I have been lucky enough to be involved in 15 theatrical productions.
Three of these was served on technical crew, where I learned a new appreciation for everyone in the theater – not just the actors or directors, but the people who buy three dollar iced tea from Starbucks because the iced tea we had been using for fake scotch was not to our Gypsy’s liking. Being part of a tech crew really gave me insight as to why I want to be the one onstage, instead of pulling a rope backstage. People say that acting gives them the ability to become someone else for a few hours. While I agree with this, I would like to make a slight alteration in the previous statement.
Acting gives me the ability, not only to become someone else, but the ability to really become me. For me, there is no truer expression of self, than baring your guts to an auditorium full of people who you don’t know. They may hate you and wish to see you fall flat on your face. But it is your job to do the best job you can, regardless of what other people think. Unless it’s your director, then it really matters. I really want to be on Broadway. “Really want” doesn’t even actually begin to express my feelings of wanting, but that’s why I’m writing a whole essay.
I know that in this business, I will face a lot of rejection. You may even reject me, but that’s how I reassure myself that I really do belong in theater. Because no matter how many “no’s” or “We are looking for someone blonde’s” I will hear, I low there will be someone out there who will say “yes” to me. I belong here, and I know someone will think I am good enough. The ability for me to be able to say that to myself, over and over again, is imperative. And as long as I can do that and forge ahead, I know I belong in the game.
I want to make my living as a performance artist. The knowledge and satisfaction one must receive from being able to purchase necessary items of living with money they earned from doing what they love most in the world must be priceless. Performers are so lucky. If they are employed, they are given the chance to get out in front of people and share the love and warmth that they have. Because unlike toll collectors, and trash men (who are indeed a very big part of our society), performers are allowed to do their lives’ goal.
There is no better feeling in the world for me, than after a show, when someone you have never seen before comes up and is either smiling or crying, and thanks you for doing what you love most. Because unlike the trash men, who take away your garbage and resent you for it (I’m guessing), you are thanked for doing your job and sharing your emotions. It is still shocking to me, even after my comparatively short career! And the really best part? It makes me feel good. Picking one piece of art that has affected me is very difficult. Herein, because you ask me to pick one.
The piece of art that has affected me most is a song. Now I don’t know if you have ever heard it, I hope you have for it is musical theater after all. At the end of the musical “Les Misarables,” after practically everyone in the story has died (sorry, spoilers), there is a very, very quiet beginning of a song. It is the very last “reprise” or piece of music you hear in the show. It sounds almost exactly like “Do You Hear The People Sing. ” This piece begins so softly and so quietly, it is almost a whisper, sung by the defeated French army of rebels and women and children.
It grows from almost nothing, to a rousing march, growing into a full blown musical finale. This particular piece is what I listen to whenever I feel doubtful about theater. Perhaps I didn’t get a part or I have to sing alto instead of my preferred soprano in a group number. I will shove my electric blue ear-buds in and crank the volume so I can hear the beginning whispers of the deceased. As the faint whisper begins to grow, I feel the hair on the back of my neck and my arms stand up. As the chorus breaks into “Do You Hear The People Sing? ” my eyes get the familiar sting that comes right before I start crying.
I can feel the freedom re-enter my soul when I hear them sing “tomorrow comes. ” Because the song reminds me, no matter how bad today is, tomorrow will come and you can make it better. When I was doing the last of my three technical crew opportunities, the show was in fact “Les Mis. ” It was a particularly stressful time in my life, due to the fact I was taking two classes over the summer, along with six hours of dance everyday, combined with my technical duties, which took place every night from 5 to 10 (Later if we were doing a show with a tech call of 4:00 and the long show going until 11:30).
I would periodically cry a little on my breaks where my actor friends would try to tell me it was okay and I shouldn’t worry, and my Assistant Stage Manager would tell me to come inside because someone needed to move the cheese platter. After three hours of hearing French people die, I would quietly sit backstage in the dark during Val Jean’s death. Everyone had to go on stage for my favorite song in the show, except my very good friend Ryan, who was playing Master Thenarlier.
We would wait until the music had built enough for us to sing along and not be heard from backstage. The combination of doing something I wasn’t supposed to, singing this emotional song, and having a very good friend to do it with, would make me tear up and remember why I loved theater so much. Which is why listening to the song reminds me that in theater there is love, there are so many opportunities, and tomorrow will always come for you to go out and audition. There is always joy in the theater, and sharing it is one of the biggest joys.