The last week of April and first week of May proved to be yet another exciting stint of arts-immersion for me. High School Musical at GVHS, Mamma Mia! at SHS, Bright Star at COC and Hair at VHS. Although exhausted from running all over town, I’m equally inspired and filled with pride. My students made me laugh and cry, playing the lead characters in every single show—my heart burst with appreciation and awe at their hard work, unique talent and skills. This might appear to be the end goal as a mentor and teacher—to watch them perform the specific role that they managed to land due to their unique abilities and my expert guidance. It could feel like the perfect fulfillment of our learning goals. But, as I walk through the parking lot wiping my eyes with Kleenex, I remind myself that it’s not why I teach. Sure, these nights make me feel as though I’ve died and gone to heaven, but when all is said and done, well, all is said and done. The audience will go home, the staff will strike the set, the cast will disperse. All that work—gone.
I spend every day working with singers—repeating those quintessential “la-la-la-la” vocal drills, executing riffs, licks and trills, huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf for correct breath control, prepping them for auditions, navigating nerves and impressing upon them the importance of passion and love (and not to mention reaching those high notes without hurting their delicate instruments). Even though I spend every day focusing on the execution of proper singing tones with my students in the hopes that they’ll land that lead in their respective productions, and that they’ll make it through the three or four nights without losing their voices, that’s not the end product.
My work with these students begins with building confidence and skill, yes, but my dedication comes from a deeper place than just competing for that six-night-run, showing off vocal prowess and acting chops. Ultimately, I am part of something much larger than supporting the talent of Santa Clarita. I am a small part of a greater whole—hopefully contributing my good juju for the betterment of humankind. Does this sound like self-aggrandizement? A puffed-up version of my job to offer me some sort of importance?
The performing arts are live—not digital, not filmed. The moment cannot be relived or recycled. While a particular musical may begin and then end, the power of the theatre reaches beyond the short-lived performance. We realize we are not alone in the good and bad experiences of our lives and that others share the same despair and the same joy; the same confusion and loss; the same discovery and love. There is an exchange that flows through the theatre, between performer and audience; one that connects us and transforms us. Musical theater is powerful—the shared experience is palpable. This linking of our minds in unison functions to help us transcend our daily existence. We are not only connected with the actors, musicians and audience members but with the fictional characters, the era of the piece, the composers and writers. Live theatre can have a lasting effect upon our individual lives.
Without skilled singers, directors and actors, this impact may not be felt by theater-goers. Without the hard work and dedication of memorizing, rehearsing, vocalizing, exercising and meditating, the shared experience would be an awkward recital at best. When my students hit their mark on stage, they are fulfilling the function of Creativity itself—bringing us together and connecting us with our humanity.