This week I spoke to over a hundred drama in education students over at Brock University. My talk was about turning a love of the arts into an arts career and more to the point, don’t follow a career path just because everyone else is doing it. It’s especially easy in the arts to follow the herd – I must go to one place and do this one thing because that’s how you become a successful and professional actor, writer, painter, dancer. And if I don’t follow that path then I’m a big fat failure. I thought that way for many years before slowing turning the ship around to stand proudly at the Theatrefolk bow. Or stern. I’m on the boat, you get the picture.
It’s interesting how much we gauge our effectiveness by what we see. If we see lots of faces paying attention, success! If people don’t look engaged, there’s something wrong. I’ve always been that way from a glass half empty stand point: I can never focus on those in the audience who are interested and paying full attention, I’m always distracted by the bored, the sleeping, the clearly not getting it, the texter, the could give a crap.
So during my speech that’s who caught my eye. Granted it was first thing in the morning and granted it was one of those soul sucking room full of concrete and dead air. But based on what I saw and the fact that there were no questions at the end, I felt a bit deflated. I hadn’t done my job as well as I could have.
Then one of the co-professors for the program stood up and as a coda asked for students to put their hands up and name one sentence of inspiration they had received from the speech. What did they get from it? All over the room hands shot up, and basically the heart of my speech was said back to me:
- It’s my job not to be bored
- Be good at one thing.
- Be specific.
- Don’t do something because everyone else is.
- I love not being wall-mart
- Embrace failure.
- Are you knocking on the wrong door.
- Theatre in the classroom changes lives daily.
- Ask yourself what you want.
- It’s amazing how long we do things we don’t like.
- It’s only failure if you don’t learn something.
It was amazing to see and hear. And I’m glad I kept going, full speed ahead even though I thought I wasn’t connecting. You never know who’s paying attention to you, even when all you see sleepers ad couldn’t care lessers. You never know who’s listening.