MT in the City: The True Meaning of Musical Theater

As the end of the semester is drawing near, I’ve often found myself reflecting on the past 4 months and how I have grown as an artist and as a person. Whenever you take on a huge feat (such as going outside your comfort zone and leaving everything you know and love to pursue musical theater in an unknown city), it’s impossible not to learn something about yourself and grow and mature in the process. For me, this semester has been full of ups and downs, compliments and critiques, confidence and total lack thereof. This semester has been an emotional roller coaster to say the least, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

When I first arrived in New York, I felt so confident and ready to be a musical theater superstar. I knew attending a musical theater conservatory wouldn’t be easy, but I was oblivious as to exactly how challenging it would be. After going through placements and having my class schedule determined, I was pleased with how things had turned out and was ready to work. Having already been through 4 years of college and with a degree in hand, I was under the false impression that attending a musical theater conservatory would be a breeze. My classes weren’t posing me any problems and I received very positive feedback from my teachers. My advisor wanted to meet with me to see how school was going and I had nothing but great things to say. I knew I was being challenged, but didn’t feel overwhelmed in the slightest. I left for fall break feeling great.

After fall break, however, my positive outlook rapidly changed. In addition to the start of rehearsals for our first production, our classes got much more physically and emotionally demanding – not to mention the extra rehearsals we had to schedule outside of class to work on a never-ending list of scenes, songs, and projects. As you can probably imagine, I basically lived at school. And if I wasn’t there, I was passed out in my bed preparing for the upcoming day’s impending insanity. At the beginning of the year, I found myself easily hopping out of bed, excited for what the day had in store. At this point, I was struggling to drag myself out of bed because all I wanted to do was relax. Instead of something I was looking forward to, school was becoming more of a chore. Because of this, I began to question my love for musical theater. If I wasn’t excited about school, how would I possibly enjoy a career in musical theater?

One day, when my stress levels were at an all-time high, I called my mom in hopes that she would make me feel better, as moms always do. I spilled my heart and soul to her, explaining that I was getting discouraged and completely overwhelmed at school and that I somehow needed to fix the problem. And, like the most perfect and insightful mom ever, she simply told me to remember why I wanted to go to school for musical theater in the first place: it’s what I love to do, I have fun doing it, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else with my life. She encouraged me to remind myself of this whenever I found myself in a stressful or overwhelming situation at school. Then, the next day, my script analysis class got into a discussion about the meaning of “talent.” What qualities in a person signify that he or she has “talent”? My teacher shared with us her definition of the word: when a person genuinely loves and enjoys doing what he or she does. At first I honestly thought the definition was bullshit, but now I see that it’s true. My eye is always drawn to the person having a great time on stage. Loving what you do is the key to being a great performer.

Being a musical theater student or performer can be extremely stressful, nerve-wracking, overwhelming, scary, vulnerable, and uncomfortable at times. We all know this. But it can also be calming, fulfilling, joyful, therapeutic, and completely life changing if we allow it to be. Nowadays, it’s so easy to get caught up in perfection and competition, especially in our field. And in the world of perfection and competition, I am the queen. Lately, however, I’ve been trying to remind myself to actually enjoy the whirlwind that is going to school for musical theater in a crazy place like New York City. As musical theater junkies, what could be better than devoting our lives to such an amazing art form that has the power to truly impact people? If I can look past all the stress and frustration, I know that musical theater really has changed my life for the better. There’s truly nothing else I’d rather do.

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