Recently, the rehearsal process for my school’s production of Cinderella began, in which production I am playing the title role. On the second day of rehearsal, a middle school girl asked me, “Bailee, how do you always get the best parts?” Without a moment’s hesitation, I said, “I work extremely hard.” It may not have been the answer she was looking for. Her expression was rather blank. While she may not have wanted an elaboration, I gave her one anyway.
“Musical Theater is the most important part of my life,” I tried to think of a way to demonstrate this to a fifth grader. “I’ve missed out on tons of parties, I had to stop playing soccer, as much as I loved it, so I could put all of my time and energy into this field of study. I can’t take all the classes I want to, because I have to keep my arts classes in my schedule. I rarely have time to hang out with my friends outside of rehearsal or competition. First semester last year, I had an acting or dance class after school everyday of the week and my weekends were devoted to schoolwork and voice lessons. I’ve missed out on family outings, events, my brother’s swim meets, extra credit opportunities, all for this, and I still don’t think I’m working hard enough. There’s always more I could be doing, more dance classes, more acting lessons, more voice lessons, one more vocal exercise before bed… In short, I’ve given up the normal, everyday, teenage experience so that I could get parts like these.” Needless to say, she looked terrified.
I didn’t mean to scare her, and I didn’t mean to make it sound like, in a high school or middle school environment, if she didn’t give up everything I did and more, she would never be a lead in a musical. That’s not the case even in the production I’m working on currently. However, there seems to be this misconception about theater that all it takes is a little raw talent, and you can skate your way through life. If you’re shooting for something big, if you’re shooting for a career in this industry, making sacrifices is the least you have to do. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so blunt, but in some aspects of performing arts, *cough cough* dancing *cough*, I’ve had to play catch up and I still am playing catch up, because I didn’t have anyone to tell me this until I was about thirteen years old. It’s so easy to think a career in performance art is just going to land in your lap, especially when you’re young. I’ve been there. What I want to do is help those who have expressed an interest, so that maybe they won’t have to do as much “make up work” as I have.
Just to be clear about something I mentioned earlier, I have no regrets about giving up all those things; soccer, interesting AP’s, parties, most of my social life. The reward of being able to live out my fantasy of being some big Broadway star is more than worth it. Just the promise of being able to stand onstage in front of a modest audience of about 200 people each night is worth it. If this is what you really want to do in life, go for it. If it’s your true passion, you will never regret giving up the more trivial things. I love Musical Theater, and I’m so glad that it’s my life.
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