Citizen Workshops now has a Zazzle store! Check it out, order some cool stuff (like this hat with customizable colors), and please let me know if you experience any glitches: http://www.zazzle.com/citizenworkshops*
I was going to start a pattern of "Listen With Your Eyes Closed Friday," but then my brother forwarded this awesome Pandora YouTube that most definitely warrants listening with your eyes open. What a cool use of virtual/physical interaction. Examples like this reassure me that we can creatively build profound and connection and community using internet and tech. Please share your thoughts!
I was just inspired by Laura Roeder’s YouTube post, “The Story of How My Worst Fear Came True.” Laura talks about attending a one-on-one coaching session and having all of her deepest “inner critic” worries spoken out loud by the coach. This made me remember a similar “fears come true” moment that happened while I was living in New York. I was already having a career identity crisis: I had studied opera in college, but wasn't sure I enjoyed opera as much as other genres. I loved Musical Theater and felt confident singing the music, but the type-casting was killing me; I hated how much emphasis was placed on physically “fitting” a role. I was curious about writing my own music, but I was paralyzed by feeling like an impostor: I’d always been “a singer;” how could I just start writing out of the blue?
In the midst of coping with this, my voice teacher helped me a prepare an audition for an opera young artists program. I had two selections to sing, and he’d coached me to sing the second aria without doing the repeat and second ending (which involved a crazy-high decorative flourish that I was nervous about). He assured me that they wouldn’t care. I was unsure about this, in addition to feeling typical pre-audition nerves, but I carried on.
Before I sang the aria, I walked over and politely explained to the accompanist where I was stopping (following proper audition etiquette rules). I sang the aria, but when I got to the stopping point, he kept playing. So I paused, figuring it was miscommunication. The judges were rigid in their seats. There was an awkward, miserable, back-and-forth tango, and then one judge launched into me: He was beyond flabbergasted. Who did I think I was? This was not a musical theater audition! My selections were unacceptable. Etc, etc, etc. I made small attempts to defend myself, but mostly just stood there as the punches flew. I left, and immediately burst into tears. All of my harshest inner critic voices - I didn’t fit, I wasn’t enough, I couldn’t do anything right, I’d never figure out a career in performance - had all been given megaphones.
Laura Roeder explains that after she cried about her experience, she realized it would be ok: her worst fears had come true, and she survived. I wish I’d felt that way. I’d always been so careful to be an A+ student, to be respectful and polite during auditions, and to sing appropriate music, so this crappy encounter was particularly heartbreaking. I couldn't shake feeling depressed and lost.
What the experience did in the long run, however, was make me feel even more secure in my goal of ripping down boundaries. Why can’t we blur lines between genres, between performance and writing, and between old and new? Why should someone be shamed while trying to find her path? Shame should never be a part of performance. When people are on stage, or sharing their creative work in any way, they’re at their most vulnerable. Not everyone is going to love every performance, and that’s ok. Being pushed to create one’s best work is challenging, and that’s ok. But shame is toxic. Shame is never ok. The deep-rooted yearning I have to share the joy of the performing arts without fear of shame is why I’m launching Citizen Workshops. I want to build a safety net - a haven for performance and creative experimentation that would have saved me as a young artist. A place where people can try new things without fear of ridicule. A place where people can find joy, laughter, and community. Because performance is scary. Creativity is scary. Life is scary. But with a safety net, some light, and a little laughter, we’re closer to realizing that it really is going to be ok.
I've listened to ZZ Ward's "Last Love Song" about 9 times in the past 36 hours. Chills and heartbreak, every time. I don't think it's legal for me to post the audio track, so I'm going to post the YouTube. But I think the song is so much more powerful without the visuals. See if you can get swept into the song by keeping your eyes closed throughout the entire thing. I know you have emails to answer and dogs to take on walks, but just try it. It's Friday, after all. Treat yo self.
What is a happy memory you have of performing? I'll start! It's hard to choose just one, and most are of singing (or flute/marching band performances!), but this one is about dance. I took classes at Fancy Feet Dance Studio in Pacific Palisades as a kid, and there was one year when they did a big performance number from The Lion King. I LOVED The Lion King. (Along with any other musical, Disney or otherwise, from the 80s or 90s.) I'd started dance later than many of the kids, so I wasn't quite as advanced - I was cast as one of the ensemble animals, which was fine with me. But Fancy Feet took a trip to Disneyland to perform, and the dancer who usually performed the lead role of Nala couldn't come. So I was PROMOTED! I remember getting in the special costume, rolling around very lion-like on stage, and feeling like a million bucks. I was in the moment: dancing front and center to The Circle of Life. Life was joyful. Hakuna Matata. Ok, now your turn! What is a memory of performance that makes you glow inside whenever you think of it? Any performance counts, from your Met Opera debut to the time you rocked "I Walk The Line" at karaoke night. (Below is a heartfelt rendition of "Footloose" at Sonny McLean's in Santa Monica, circa 2006.)
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Kimberly Peterson, founder of Citizen Workshops, shares updates on the launch of Citizen Workshops along with tidbits about creativity, collaboration, and community.
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