Drawing On Everything You've Learned

Do you know that feeling of looking at the results of your student years and thinking, “What was it all for? What did I learn? How come I’m not where I thought I would be? Didn’t I learn everything I need? Didn’t I pay my due? Did I really make the most of my own education when I had the chance?”

Maybe you have felt that way and maybe not, but many friends and colleagues of mine have expressed a similar sentiment at one point or another. For me, recognizing that nearing my mid-30s I didn’t have the international, nor even the domestic, opera career that I expected (which is always a dangerous word to use) started that thought process. It was a hard point of reflection that made me look at what I was trying to accomplish and identify the external and internal obstacles. It also made me very hard on myself, criticizing my past behavior and lamenting a wasted youth from which I felt I could draw nothing of note.

Now, that last thought is a bit melodramatic, but when caught up in the depression of perceived failure every self-condemning thought feels true.

I have spoken before about how in the past few years I have redirected my efforts to other venues of performance: taking acting classes again, dance classes, auditioning for local productions outside of opera, and putting on my own concerts. These efforts served two purposes. First, I recognized that these were activities I needed to do in order to learn what skills I was lacking, work for those skills, and then gain more exposure and interest from the community in my craft. Second, I needed to find the pleasure of doing the work, and not focus simply on the accomplishments I was hoping to gain.

In this working process of re-branding myself from opera singer to singer-actor, I find myself a student once again. Not only that, I feel reconnected with the young, eager idealist I was long before and able to continue on with the passion that started me on the performance path. Each new challenge presented to me is inspiring, encouraging me to keep exploring and pushing me to learn all that I can that will serve my work. I feel connected once more to desires and dreams I once had, yet now they are much more specific than they were before. With each newly honed skill I can apply it to the work at hand: my acting and diction studies have helped me acquire more work locally in a variety of performance venues; Spanish studies have led me to teaching and performing in Spanish; and even though most of my work as of late has been in musical theater, my years of experience in opera are completely transferable and aide me well when, for example, I am asked to sing lyrics in another language.

Which reminds me: go see Man of La Mancha, presented by Theatre Latté Da, at the Ritz Theater, running September 16th through October 22. You will see what I am talking about.

Using what we know, Discovering what we don’t, Studying, Refining, and Trying again. It has been difficult accepting the areas where I am lacking, especially as an adult, but the more I do, and the more I take action to rectify it, proving to myself that it is remediable, the easier it becomes to move past the muck of self-doubt.