“Why do you do it?”
If you are involved in the arts, you have probably been asked this question. Maybe you were asked by a disapproving or unsupportive family member. Maybe by a bewildered friend who wonders why you would prefer to be at rehearsals night after night rather then going out with them. Maybe you ask yourself this when you start to doubt your own abilities as an artist, or performer, or creator. Whichever the circumstance, people involved in the arts seem to have to have a good reason to be a part of such a unique industry. And it is unique, no matter what aspect of it you are involved in.
So, why is it that people ask for a reason when it comes to the arts? Let’s look at the art industry closely, shall we? We have many different types of artist. We have the performers – singers, dancers and actors, to categorize it in a very broad manner. These are the people who learn, perfect and practice their craft in every way possible. In many ways, they are elite athletes, utterly dedicated to their part to play.
Then we have the creators – choreographers, writers, composers, artists, directors; the people who let their imagination run wild and come up with the material that the performers need. Without them and their vision, there wouldn’t be a performing industry at all.
We also can’t forget the crucial producers – the lighting designers, set designers, costume designers; anyone who slogs away backstage in their theatre blacks, doing everything in their power to make things run smoothly. We performers and creators often gloss over the details in our haste to get our vision up and running, it’s the production team that finely tune a performance into become the well-oiled machine of a show that the public sees.
In many ways, the arts are just another occupation. One that involves work, commitment and ambition just like becoming a lawyer, or an architect. But for those of us who aim to become a part of this industry, it is so much more. It requires so much passion, and strength. It requires the ability to be judged mercilessly and still come through. It requires the stamina to perform in a show night after night for years. Or light the same show, or mic the same performers and sound control the same show for night after night. It requires a complete abandon of self-consciousness so that you can do anything, write anything, be anyone, and never look like an idiot, because it’s all coming from a real, genuine place. It’s the ability to be honest, while playing pretend.
The funny thing is that this is what it is to us because we’re passionate about it. It is the same for people who want to be doctors, to them, the world of being a doctor is perfect and difficult and inspiring. The world of a performer pales in comparison. But neither is harder, easier, nor better then the other. It’s all about the passion. Passion changes perception, changes what is important to you, changes what your world revolves around.
As a student in musical theatre, I am surrounded by people who are so passionate about this industry that it makes me so excited to think of the future performing community. These people are so vulnerable and so ready to do something and break out onto that stage. And the passion that these performers have is undeniably crucial to the industry. Why else would show’s be created in the first place? Why would people put their whole lives into working on a role? Passion is what gets people out of their comfort zones and pushes people to create new and incredible things.
But passion, as many people would agree, isn’t always going to get you through. It can fizzle out, and leave you without that relentless drive. When people are telling you you’re not good enough, when you feel like you’ll never make it, when you are so stuck or uninspired, or when you’re just so exhausted that everything seems too difficult; these are times when passion fails you. These are the times you ask yourself, “Why do you do it?”
So what do you do when the passion leaves us for a while? We can’t sit around and wait for something to inspire us, and we can’t simply plough our way through it without having that positive force drive us. What we can do is remind ourselves of that passion and patiently wait for it to return. Allow ourselves to be inspired by anything and everything. Surround ourselves with the things that inspired us in the first place. Go and see a show and be carried away by a story, or listen to a beautiful piece of music, or take a walk and let nature do the inspiring. We have an endless supply of inspiration in the world, it’s simply a matter of opening ourselves up to it.
To all those performers, creators and producers, and even to those of you who may be pursuing another career that tests your strength, allow yourself to ask “Why do you do it?” Yes, people ask it of you in a demanding way, expecting some justified, viable, tangible quality that will prove it’s worth the hard slog. That it is worth the risk.
But maybe it will remind you of that passion, and maybe it will inspire you all over again.
To help out, I’ve spoken to a small amount of people who have been in a tough spot at some point in their lives. I asked them “Why do you do it?” and these are their answers. Add your own answer to it. Why do you sing? Why do you dance? Hell, why do you study commerce or why do you grow vegetables? Throw your answers to the mix and help inspire.
If anything proves that there is a reason to spontaneously burst into song or dance, it’s this.
WHY DO YOU DO IT?
Because there is no other option. I can't see myself doing anything else in my life. It makes me feel alive – Shaun Pirovano, Student.
Because what else is there is the world where you get to be whoever you want to be, and use that to affect and inspire people? Plus, I like sequins – Jess Phillippi, Student.
Because I have never had anything else in my life that I both love and hate at the same time. The struggle to succeed and get one step closer to your goal/dream is exhausting but the feeling of elation when you do get it… nothing else comes close – Melissa Kahraman, Student.
Because I have so many people I want to be, but only one lifetime. Performing lets me be as many as I want to be, as well as my favorite one of all; an actress – Veronica Wnuk, Student
What other occupation in the world is there that makes complete strangers put their entire focus on watching you play for a night? It is such an honouring craft – Alexander Treloar, Student.
Because I don't think I would be good at anything else! – Mathew Frank, Composer
Because it is the only thing that ever came naturally to me, and I just happen to LOVE IT with all my heart – Christie Whelan, Performer
Because when it comes the arts, I feel there is something greater driving me through it. The decision to commit your life’s work to art isn't so much a decision than something you have no choice over – Stephen Agisilaou, Dancer and Choreographer