Riding the Weathervane
Although I both want and sense a major shift in my path, very little has actually changed beneath the surface winds. At the age of six or seven, I dreamed of being the white kid on The Cosby Show. Really. As the years slowly progressed, I wanted to be Debbie Gibson and, after seeing Les Miserables for the first time, would walk around my neighborhood singing “On My Own,” hoping that maybe someone might drive by in their car and discover me. Crushed after my parents wouldn’t pay the money for headshots to get me on the roster at Barbizon in Cherry Hill (the agency later lost a lawsuit to Kelly Ripa), I came to believe that I’d never actually pursue my dream of living life as a performer.
Instead, I focused my energy on choir and the thought that I could teach, like my teacher Cris Bass who had given me so much of my strong musical foundation. My first detour at Westminster Choir College furthered a deep love and talent in music and singing and helped me realize I really just wanted to perform. Four years later, I can’t say my father initially smiled and shook my hand when I informed him that despite achieving my degree in music education, I had canceled my job interviews and started auditions.
Along the way, many have told me to focus on only one thing, opera or classical singing, since I had found a niche that worked and shouldn’t spread my efforts too thin. When I initially planned to move to LA after earning a master’s in opera performance, my friends in Maryland (mostly) protested in earnest, frightened I’d lose my contacts, my momentum, my career. Two calls from the chorus master at the Metropolitan Opera, offering me three shows in total for my first season there as an extra chorister, provided me with the greatest detour, moved me to my home in New York City, and gave me four glorious seasons so far. My friends breathed a sigh of relief, and I enjoyed the splendors of a successful career as a classical singer in the city.
While grateful to have had the opportunity to audition today for the Met’s 2012-2013 season, this week carries a new hope of ending the detours from pursuing a more acting-based career as well. Don’t get the wrong idea, I love singing in operas and in operatic ensembles and would happily do so for decades, if possible and financially feasible. Somewhere between the music, the production values, and the acting, I love most about opera the way in which it combines so many elements to convey messages often larger than life to the audience and onstage participants.
For the same reason, film has always appealed to me as a brass ring of sorts, as a medium through which I have learned and expanded my view of humanity and by which, I have often dreamed of helping others do the same. Sitting joyfully through the credits of a meaningful movie, I thank the countless names involved and picture myself among the many fortunate enough to have contributed. Truly, I really have seen film as the culmination of inspiration, art, and accessible audience since I cried when the little girl in Space Camp said, “I’m goin’ up. I am.”
Consider this my first tangible step in reaching that brass ring. Perhaps not exactly the first, considering the seminar I attended last weekend called “The Actor’s Business Blueprint,” but definitely a crucial confession. In The Tao of Show Business, Dallas Travers (who also taught the blueprint workshop) writes, “If you sheepishly talk about your acting career only in safe environments after much poking and prodding, expect your goals to be reached just some of the time and only in safe environments.” Until now, this has been my bad habit and tragic flaw.
Given how little value I find hiding in safe environments and making excuses, consider me out of the closet. I am an opera singer, and I do it well. I am also a trained and talented actor, and not only do I intend to do something about it, I plan to commit each day to a lifestyle and passion that gets me closer to both achieving and living my goals.
Sometimes, yes, these goals seem daunting to reach. Currently, I’m transitioning to focus my efforts toward film and commercials, and this year, I plan to book at least three commercials and three high quality films. The biggest difference between opera chorus and film? I haven’t had to audition much for opera anymore, and I therefore haven’t experienced nearly as much rejection as your typical actor who auditions several times per week on average.
I’ll have to keep myself focused, on track, and encouraged to reach for the stars as I once learned from Space Camp. I admit, I need you. To my friends, my fans, my family, I tell you these things in hopes that you’ll encourage my journey, nag me to do more auditions, and expect me to book those gigs. In the meantime, for myself and all of my actor colleagues, my favorite line from an opera by Pasatieri based on Checkov’s The Seagull:
“I’m an actress. I belong on the stage. I believe in myself. When I think of that, my wounds vanish, and I’m no longer afraid.”