Passion is Everything
When I first told my mother I wanted to be an actress and do musical theatre, she said, “Oh honey, wouldn’t you rather be a doctor?” Theatre is competitive, and I’m not likely to make much money, even if I am successful. But I want to do it because I’m passionate about it. I’ve discovered that passion is the most moving and powerful thing a person can feel, and it’s what I’ve come to believe in.
This year, when I auditioned for the musical Aida, and found myself cast as Aida, I didn’t know what I was getting into. That show was the hardest, most demanding, most beautiful thing I’ve ever been apart of. The choreographer, Josh Larson, gathered the cast together before teaching the act-one finale, “The Gods love Nubia”. He told us that this number had the potential to be the most powerful number in the show; but in order for us to reach that potential, it meant that we, as performers, had to go to a place we didn’t want to go. “The Gods love Nubia” is about finding hope when you’ve reached rock bottom, and finding the strength to pick yourself up again. To get us ready, Josh asked us to share what we were most afraid of losing. The room was quiet, and then a girl, whose father is a fireman, shared her fear of losing her Dad in a fire. Others shared, but I didn’t know what to say. Josh taught the number and I learned it, but I didn’t feel anything. I’ve never really believed in method acting, putting your real-life emotions into a character to get a response, but I’d never not felt anything as a performer either.
A few days went by, and I think Josh could sense that we still weren’t committed; so he sat us all down again. I don’t remember what he said exactly, but he basically said, “All right guys, this is mediocre. I won’t settle for that.” He told us that the ugly place we didn’t want to go, maybe it wasn’t real for us, but the emotion and passion had to be. So we took a few seconds, and then tried again. This time, it was completely different. People let themselves risk and be passionate. The whole energy of the room changed. People were crying and laughing, and it was an incredible, almost spiritual experience. Then Josh said something I’ll never forget, “Passion is everything.” I saw what it did in that one little room, in our one little city; but what if it spread? If we took that feeling outside; that energy, strength, and most importantly, passion, maybe the world could be different, better.
My mother wanted me to be a doctor so I could help people. But theatre, what I’m most passionate about, can help people too. Heather Headley, The original Aida said, “Theatre can change the way people look at things, can make them better people”. This is what I believe.
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