Being You and Finding Your Way
I am fortunate to make a living working in the creative arts industry. I am also a creative person myself. I am drawn to the rollercoaster and the unpredictability of not knowing what is around the corner, and also the feeling that anything is possible. It can be incredibly rewarding, but also isolating, frustrating and lonely. Sometimes you can feel on top of the world and at other times, that everyone else’s lives make sense except your own.
Having taught at a musical theatre college for the best part of a decade, I saw lots of talented and hungry students moving through the college, who had left their families, armed with their hopes and dreams, and their sights set on a career on the West End stage. There would be a real mix of performers who would “make it” (whatever that means) and there would be my favourite success stories that would happen to the quiet students at the back of the class, who perhaps got overlooked, but who were grafting hard by themselves. There were also those who would live the dream, being offered a lead in a West End show before even graduating, then going from high profile job to high profile job, leading role to leading role, and having the best time doing it (although nothing is ever as it seems). I would also see students with incredible pressure placed on them by themselves or by family, who felt that it was make or break and sometimes they would indeed break. One thing for sure is that you can never truly tell from the surface what is going on underneath. It may appear that someone is doing better than you, but it’s just that their life is playing out differently, it doesn’t mean that they are worth more. We are all in this together.
When I first graduated from drama school, I had terrible experiences with auditions and countless jobs and contracts that fell through. In auditions, I would prepare a song that I thought sounded great and showed off my voice (a light, pretty soprano) but whilst waiting in the wings, I would hear a big, powerful, voice whacking out a Celine Dion number and my confidence would crash. I would then shuffle nervously onto the stage, doubting everything about myself, my voice, my outfit, and my song choice. I felt crushed and that I had let myself down. For anyone who regularly auditions, I salute you. It is a hell of a thing. What I have drawn from my experiences, is that all you can be is yourself. I know it sounds cheesy but there is not another you – you are unique and a one-off. To bring it onto the subject of singing, be prepared yes, but polish and shine the spark that is inside you, ensure that your voice is in the best condition it can be, do lots of work on your inner self / self-esteem, emotional health and wellbeing, eat well and nourish your soul.
Keep your friends and family close, and let them see you when things are not going that well or when you feel vulnerable and low in energy. Don’t feel that you have to put on a brave or perfectly made up face when you just don’t feel like it. This is exhausting and you end up going through things alone. Share your stories and experiences the good and the bad – this doesn’t have to be with everyone, but with those that you can trust and who support the true you. Make sure that your close relationships are nurtured and attended to. The most important relationship of all is with yourself, but having a supportive and understanding network around you is crucial.
In your performing life, dare to let your audience see who you are, don’t be afraid to feel vulnerable and out there, sometimes the best performances can be born out of an insecurity, taking risks, life events or something not going to plan. Theatre is unpredictable but this is why we all love it. Letting the world see you, does come with a risk, but it is worth it.
You may not get the job you are going for. This may happen time and time again, until you are on the verge of quitting. You might get the job but get a rubbish review. You may get an injury and have to sit out the rest of your contract. The contract might fall through. You may get told that you are too short, too tall, too fat, too thin, not experienced enough, too experienced, just not right for the part, etc, etc. This may hurt at the time and feel like rejection, but really it is finely tuning where you will go next, and bringing you one step closer to your true path. It’s hard to trust the process, I know, but doing everything with the best intentions and a commitment to being yourself, will guide you through.
This may sound hippyish (if that is a word) but I do believe it.