Monday, July 15, 2013

Songbird and Drama Llama: The Arts' Influence, Then and Now

I've been waiting for my turn at this topic--My Life as a High School Musical: How the arts impacted my life--because it basically embodies my entire junior high and high school careers.
Senior year, The Class Actress Strikes a Pose
The arts were, quite simply, my life. I lived, breathed, ate, and slept to sing and act. Dancing, not so much. The most exciting move I could execute was the step-ball-change and even that took me weeks (months?) to master. Heck, "master" is probably a gross overstatement. And drawing and painting...let's not even go there. I can barely make a stick figure in Hangman.

But I digress. When I was young, signing and acting were pretty much the only things that kept me going. A decent B student, I wasn't a brainiac. I was never an athlete (which probably explains my epic dance fail). And I wasn't one of those kids who could skate by on their popularity and good looks.

Given what I now know, it's very likely I suffered from a bit of ADD, not the hyperactive type, but the kind that makes it impossible to concentrate. And with a gravely ill mother and a seriously mentally ill family member, I was often consumed by chaos.

Music became a safe place to be my best self, allowing me to shine for the one thing I was really good at. Italian arias, jazz standards, show tunes, and pop classics--you name it, I could sing it. And girl, I sang. Drawing a deep breath, I'd envision the shape and feel of the sound I wanted to make, then braced my core, dropped my jaw and let the music and my spirit soar. It felt like flying.

Drama, on the other hand, became the place I could escape to, cloaking myself in other identities so, for just a couple hours at a time, I didn't have to be me. It's amazing what a costume, wig, and fake accent can do for a girl. Unfettered and unrecognizable, I could be bawdy, sassy, bold, even beautiful and alluring -- all of which I could never imagine being in real life. It made me free.

The arts were so essential, I thought I'd end up on Broadway and even started college in New York City with that goal in mind. But somewhere along the way, with the help of some great teachers and classes that made me see the world in different ways, I got hooked on learning. I threw myself into my studies and seminars and realized that people cared about what I thought, not just what I could do in front of an audience. It was pretty powerful stuff.

Little-by-little, music and drama fell to the wayside as I separated from my childhood and grew into adulthood. I didn't need the escape any more. At first it saddened me, but I realize now that it's okay. The arts were there for me during the must tumultuous years of my life, helped shape who I am, and gave me mad skillz I'll never forget and use to this day. I may not sing or act when I go to a conference, present on a panel, or do a reading from one of my books, but I still have to be confident, poised, and in a sense, give a performance. I couldn't do that without all those years of training and experience.

So how do I answer the question, How did the arts impact my teen years? I say, they made them possible. And more importantly, made me who I am today.


1 comment:

CareyCorp said...

What a great post Lea! The arts saved me and gave me a place to belong. Now I am thrilled to be passing that along to my daughter who at the age of 9, think Broadway radio is the bomb. We just started watching and going to musicals. It's so much fun!