Opening night

April 15, 2013

As someone who grew up constantly involved in the arts, it is astonishing to me when I hear people say that they've never seen a(n) [basically, insert art form-opera, ballet, symphony, puppet show, etc.-HERE]. Not only have I been performing since I can remember, but I've been attending performances since long before that. Call me an old soul, but I'm a sucker for the several-hundred-year-old art forms, those means of communication that draw on the visceral needs of the human being. The way babies cry is pretty close to perfect vocal technique, dance-emotion in motion-is what we had before words, and music is a means of expression when speech just won't suffice. These things existed long before we imposed prescribed techniques and defined structures on them.

All that said, there are still plenty of people in the world who don't believe themselves to be affected by art. Whether they're intimidated by it or don't understand it or just think it isn't worth spending time and money on, they don't go out of their way to experience it. In Master Class, Maria Callas reflects on this: "To think there are actually people to whom beauty, art, what we do, isn't important...It's very humbling. I always thought our art reached everyone. Well, I used to think a lot of things I don't anymore." Although I am always standing backstage preparing for my entrance when I hear these words, they were particularly poignant on the opening night of our play.

The blackbox theatre where we are performing Master Class shares a backstage with the Naples Philharmonic concert hall. On the night of our first show, Savion Glover, an extraordinary tapper, passionate artist and unique individual, was appearing for a one-night-only engagement in the 1400-seat theatre. As I have idolized him since my dancing years, I assumed that he would be playing to a sold-out house and that people would be selling their first-borns for tickets. I was flabbergasted when I learned that barely 400 people had attended his performance that night; our show was completely sold out. Fortunately, our performances finished about the same time and I had the honor of meeting and chatting with him and his dance partner. Maybe the residents here don't know who he is or maybe they don't care for the way he presents art. All I know is that I was as giddy as a schoolgirl watching his sound check and then shaking his hand, and in between I was presenting completely different art in a completely different way in the theatre right next door. It was awesome.

At any moment, your art could ignite the creative spirit of the world. After all, the Beatles were just a group of kids who loved to play music and the next minute they were thrusting musical development forward. In the same manner, performers like Shirley Temple, who were once at the forefront of the public's mind, are rarely thought about. (Incidentally, Shirley Temple Black has always been one of my heroes and, for those of you who don't know, she had an incredibly illustrious career in foreign affairs, including being the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and the Czech and Slovak Republics.)

Art is subjective. That's part of what makes it so incredible. Live art isn't about perfection, it's about existing in the moment. Every performance is different, just like every day is different. An audience may not sound responsive during a show but will give a standing ovation at the curtain call. A reviewer might hate you because you look like his ex-wife or love you because he's just found out his favorite sports team won a game. Goodness knows what could be going on with an actor/singer/dancer/musician on any given day. It's hard not to let our personal egos get in the way of our professional pride, but we have to take the good with the bad. Creating is what fuels us. Performing is what fulfills us. Take that and soar.

© Leah Edwards 2018