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Theatre Industry Pros Give Advice To Their 18-Year-Old Self, Vol 2

By Ashley Sutherland-Winch

“With everything you know now, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?”  What people don’t say is to work harder, say yes to one more project, ask for more work days, or travel less. Is there a common story line in every industry professionals’ journey when they choose a life working in live entertainment and theatre? If given the chance to go back in time, here is the advice industry pros would give their 18-year-old self. 

Jodi Benson, Disney Legend, voiceover actress playing iconic roles like “Ariel” in The Little Mermaid, “Barbie” in Toy Story 2 & 3, “Thumbelina” in Don Bluth’s Thumbelina, a Tony Award nominated Broadway actress would say:

I would want to make sure that I remind myself that God is ultimately in control and to put aside fret and worry, because He does have a very specific path for my life. As I’m older now, looking back, I think that would have been the advice I would probably pass on to myself.

Take a deep breath, keep my eyes on the Lord, trust that Jesus is going to be the best person to create that path for your career. I would say not to fret or worry so much.

At that time for me at 18, there were all those questions: Do I have what it takes to support myself in this industry? Do I have what it takes to have longevity in the career? There are all those questions, and I think it would have been great to have had a little bit more peace during that time. I do know that I got the gusto out of life during that time and I think I made the most out of all the opportunities I was given.

Savoring the life moments and enjoying them and not wishing them away or wishing to be older or wishing for the next year to come.

Looking back though, the advice I would give myself is to know that ultimately God is in control, the journey’s going to be incredible, take it one step at a time, and try not to worry too far ahead or think too far ahead. Savor every moment!

Krista Monson, Director, Choreographer, Former Cirque Du Soleil, Artistic Director & Director of Casting for Resident Shows would say:

Probably now I would say two things. Trust, really trust, and fight the good fight.

I was working in Istanbul last year with the United Nations and one of the speakers who was integrated into the production I directed was a Nobel peace prize nominee from Uganda named Victor Ochen.

You know how they recruit kids when they are 10 or 12, pump them with drugs, and give them a gun as a recruiting method in some African countries?  This is the type of choice, if you could call it that, Victor faced as a young boy. He refused to join the armed forces because he believed in a more peaceful way of solving conflict. Even after losing his own brother to abduction by the armed forces and never seeing him again, Victor rose from bitterness and anger and dedicated his life to forgiveness and peace.

I was surrounded by truly courageous people and I felt humbled. The artistic concept of the show involved ‘affected’ speakers: a man that had his leg blown off in Syria while still helping save people from under rubble, a woman who saved her family from a devastating typhoon in the Philippines, and Victor Ochen. Each was coupled with celebrity speakers Forrest Whitaker, Ashley Judd and Daniel Craig who spoke about rules of war, gender equality and refugees.

It was so intense, the rehearsal process, the content… Near the end of rehearsals, these six people (three affected and three celebrities) arrived for their mic and teleprompter checks at midnight and since we were on a tight schedule, we would say, “here’s your mic, here is your teleprompter, here is your script, these are the angles we are going to shoot”, etc. Victor Ochen walked in to this intense environment with the energy of a saint.

Towering at 6’4” tall, he looked down with his deep eyes. His laugh was warm and hearty. At the end of the event he said to me, “Keep fighting the good fight.” I interpreted this to say save some energy for fun and laughter. With what he had lived through, I trusted his words.

So that’s what I would probably say to myself.  Save a little bit more for joy. Generating creativity is not always glorious. You are trying to dig deep and I find it hard to achieve that balance between the joy and the hard work of creating something new. I always have doubts, but I am trying harder to pursue my work with joy, because creativity can come more naturally through love of your experience, I think. Trust your instincts and your curiosities, and most importantly trust yourself.  If you don’t know what you’re passionate about, follow what you are curious about.

I think passion is an overly used word. Author Elizabeth Gilbert said, “I ask people to ask themselves what are you curious about as opposed to what are you passionate about.”

Kids don’t know what they are passionate about when they are young, but they do know where their curiosity takes them. Keep curiosity and fight the good fight.  And then put your pencil down and go have some fun!

Ola Melzig, Technical Director of Eurovision Song Contest would say:

Don’t change a thing, but say no to that job working with the scrims on the Waterfestival, that sucked ass! As a general note I would say, to any 18-year old, if you want to be successful in this business, pay attention, be a nice person; screaming, shouting and being rude will take you nowhere; do not be afraid to ask if you don’t know, and see all the crappy jobs as an investment in yourself. And remember, you HAVE to do the small shows to appreciate the big ones! Last but not least, make sure you are having fun, because there is no point in working the long hours we all put into this, with the crap money that is usually paid, if it’s no fun.

What advice would you share? Contact submit@TheatreArtLife.com

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