First things first, performing isn’t all costumes and la la lines. Sweat, blood, and tears go into performing. Ok, maybe not blood… you get the picture. I’ve performed in shows since I was around Kindergarten age. Yes, there is such thing as limelight fever. It can be addicting. The lights shining on you, hundreds of people, their eyes following your every move, their ears clinging onto every word. However, there is also the technical side that you don’t see on stage – the time spent developing your character and rehearsing for the show. It is hard work on top of hard work on top of hard work. Even if you get cast as ensemble and give it 300%, your character will be more appealing than the lead who gives it only 50%.
One thing that I really don’t understand is why people rank someone’s vocals based on vocal range. I am a soprano, and whenever someone asks what my range is, they act like my voice is the Holy Grail because I am a soprano. It’s ridiculous; I know plenty of altos whose voices are amazing. First soprano does not translate to first place. For instance, I know people who can fake a soprano voice. (Not a good one, though.) Just because you’re an alto doesn’t mean you can’t make it onto Broadway – just like having a soprano vocal range does not secure you a place on 42nd Street.
Some people believe that there are tone-deaf people out there. Maybe there are, but I don’t think that means they can’t learn to sing. I know someone who appears to be very tone deaf when just messing around, but when they really try, they can hear the notes. It. Just. Takes. Practice. And a little motivation!
I’ve always loved one of the main parts of performing in musicals – dancing. Although I may not completely have my splits all three ways yet (I’m very close) or be able to walk into a room and spontaneously break into a choreographic sequence, that doesn’t mean I’m not a good dancer. It’s about how much you give to it. If you take dance classes, yet you give up and just do enough to get by, you aren’t improving or learning. I know a boy who was nowhere near his splits in the first semester of the school year. Now, he’s got his right splits and is a few inches away from his middle [splits]. Sure, there are some people who were born with an inner rhythm, but there are fewer people who cannot teach themselves to become amazing dancers or singers or whatever they wish to do. The term natural applies to some people, but what I’m saying is that, even if some people are natural at something, that doesn’t mean people who aren’t naturals can’t be just as good – if not better than those who are. It’s kind of like effort at school. Let’s say there are two people. One gets straight A’s without even trying, but the other works their butt off to scrape up B’s and C’s. Which one will succeed more in life? I think the person who gets B’s and C’s. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. Knowledge is an acquired attribute. Effort is, well, effort. To go without effort is to pretty much give up. Basically, this all circles back to how anyone can be a good dancer if they truly want it. So if you want it? Well, go for it!
The last thing I want to address is acting. People think acting is easy, that it’s a piece of cake to walk in someone else’s shoes. When in reality, that’s miles from the truth. To truly connect to your character, you have to be able to push away all the little habits and quirks that make you, you. You have to “relearn” yourself, practice being someone you’re not. If you were being yourself, I bet you wouldn’t randomly start touching a scar on your forehead like Harry Potter would. Why? Because you aren’t Harry Potter. You are you. And unless you understand the character you are portraying, you aren’t acting. I’m not saying you can’t ever play a role you can’t relate to. If anything, playing a role you absolutely have nothing in common with is (theoretically) easier in a way. When you play a character that is closer to you, you have to put aside all those little things you want to do as yourself and completely revise who you are… while still acting close to who you are.
To wrap this up, I just want to say that performers should never feel alienated because of what other people might think about us and our craft. Performers are just as hard working as athletes or mathematicians or anybody else. You cannot do anything well without effort. In everything, there is some part that you can do without natural talent if you practice enough. So, if you’ve thought of performing as a stupid thing, something nerdy people in Thespian groups do, think again. Performers pour their heart and soul out into every performance. And even those who weren’t “born to perform” can improve if they try hard enough.