Friday, January 22, 2010

Head First

Hi, Clara here, writing for the first time all the way from New York City. I'm thrilled to say that I am a sophomore musical theatre major at BSC.

Currently, I am spending my interim in Manhattan, interning with a Broadway and film production company. I've very much enjoyed my time at the company, though I feel as if one month is not nearly enough time to get the full experience of the producing world. It has also been especially slow because the CEO, VPs, and Creative Executive, are all out working on a separate project in Los Angeles.

My job has consisted of answering phones, creating lists, and doing a little research. However, with everything moving so slowly, I have time (and have been strongly encouraged) to work on my own writing. Jason, the CEO's assistant, and I have been the only two people in the office for the last three weeks, presenting more opportunity for relaxed conversation. I asked him to read some of my work and he gave me strong feedback on how to improve it. Not only is it nice to get the opinion of someone directly in the business, but it's also relieving when they don't say that they thought your draft was awful. "It has potential." YES!

I've also had a chance to look into the shows they're producing. One of the projects is based off of a book (I'm not at liberty to share this information), and I read both the book and the treatment of adapting it into a musical. It was fascinating how different they were.
Some of the other things Jason and I have talked about are the differences between commercial theatre and not for profit, how production companies are run, budgeting, copyrighting, and play writing. Many of these things are not as complicated as I thought they would be, but I can't say I would do the best job explaining them to anyone else.

While out of the office I have explored several things. I didn't come with much money so seeing many Broadway shows was not in the budget. I actually have yet to see any. I may in my final week here. But instead I decided to use my money to buy a cheap guitar that I named Abel, and go "busking" as they call it. Busking means to perform your talent on the street, in the subway, where ever really, for money. I chose to stick to the subway. Other things I have done include taking an $18 vocal technique class at Broadway Dance Studio, attending a free show of the Upright Citizen's Brigade improvisation company, going to an open call audition for the musical HAIR, and giving guitar lessons to a good friend's daughter on the weekends.

Wait WHAT? Yes, I went to a cattle call. I tagged along with the roommate of my old friend in high school that is letting me stay in her apartment. We arrived at about 5:15am and waited for almost five hours in the cold to sign in. There was at least a thousand people who came. Even though we showed up early, there was still around 300 people in front of us. As soon as we signed in we were given our audition time (2:50pm) and left to get some sleep and warm up our frozen toes. We returned at 2:30 to wait for our time, lined up to turn in our head shots and resumes, sang our 16 bar audition piece, and returned home. It's a huge wait for thirty second slot of time to prove yourself, but I'd do it again I think.

All of those details aside, I've learned so much more about myself as an artist from this little adventure of mine. It's kind of cheesy, but it’s like listening to a song you’ve heard a million times and having that moment when you finally understand what it’s saying. This one time when you hear the song, you connect with its depth and truth, and it strikes an understanding in your heart that changes the way you see the world (if only slightly). But that’s all it takes; a slight tilt in the angle or a small change in hue, to give you the feeling that you’ve just conquered a small piece of the world’s many perplexities.

For the first time in my life, I've been given the opportunity to be completely independent. College doesn't count because you are provided housing, have a cafe to feed you, and it isn't necessary to leave campus. Here, I spent two weeks living by myself (my friend and her roommates weren't back for school yet), and was forced to figure out New York without help. To some of you, this is a "been there done that" statement; "No big deal, easily done" etc. But that is exactly what I discovered myself on this journey.
Let me explain a little.

I originally chose musical theatre as my major because, frankly, I didn't know what else to do. I was a musical theatre major at the creative arts high school I attended, and though I had no idea if it was a career I desired to pursue, I somewhat enjoyed performing so I chose it by default. I also figured it was a good way to receive scholarship money. When it came to deciding on a college, BSC ended up as my only option. You see, I only applied to Indiana University and Birmingham Southern. Yes, I know. It was not the smartest decision I could have made. But this time around, my lack of preparation lead me exactly where I need to be. I was placed on the waiting list for IU, and BSC offered me great scholarships. So there you have it.

I realize now how unbelievably risky that was. For the last year and a half I have, somewhat silently, worried myself over whether or not I had what it takes to plunge head first into this business. I wasn’t only interested in performing, but playwriting as well. Sure, I could “do it” but I didn’t know if I could do it well enough to make it in the real world. "If you imagine yourself doing anything else, than do that," I constantly heard my professors and fellow students fervently advise, "Because this job asks everything of you with a large possibility of not giving back financially." As a perfectionist, I didn't want anyone to know that I didn't "have it together". I attempted to hide the fact that my mind spun like an overactive merry-go-round, arguing myself dizzy with the fear that I was making a very big mistake. However, something in me told me to stay. That "something" was right.

Over the summer I discovered that my passion lies more in writing than performing. Over fall semester it became more and more evident to me that it’s what I want to do. But I was still afraid. The question, “Am I good enough?” hammered me down, among other questions revolving around my sense of ability, keeping me trapped in insecurity.

Last month when BSC held a master class with Ben Vereen, Ben called me out on my overwhelming fear failure. It was astonishingly liberating, however, no less of a struggle to be confronted with in front of about fifty of my colleagues and my professors. I couldn't have been bestowed with a better preface to my adventure here in Manhattan.

And somehow, everything fell together for me to come to New York for interim. Even though I had been planning it since second semester freshman year, the weight of my decision didn't become a reality until the taxi ride from JFK airport to the apartment in which I would have a mini freak out before realizing I wasn't going to get mugged if I walked outside. Then when I realized I was going to be fine, the thrill of independence over took me, and my level of confidence boosted to unbelievable levels. At first I thought it was just being in New York that brought about my oozing confidence. It was when I had time to calm down and realize that New York is just another city, another place that is full of routines, smelly trash, and busy people, that I realized it wasn't the city. I was so excited about my independence that I never gave my fear enough time to tell me that I couldn't do it.

There's still a feeling of fear and uncertainty at times, but now I know to ignore it, because I've been there, done that. I've proven to myself that it is possible. And honestly, I can't see myself doing anything else but theatre anyway. I only wish I could tell Ben!


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