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All-In: Personal Revelations Around Closing The Gap

There’s a thing, right? About walking it like you talk it?

For me, for sure. And none of it has ever sunk in so ferociously (and so dearly) as it has this last year and a half. I went from growing momentum in my career as an actor + voice talent in Boston to planning to marry a Swiss banker type who, the moment I was cast in The Weir, at the San Jose Repertory Theatre, challenged me with:

“Are you *really* going to do this for the rest of your life?”

In the 11th hour and under split-second decision making, my answer will always be yes. That relationship proceeded to end magnificently (the cursing should have come with fireworks) and I lost everything I had overseas.

I proceeded to recover. This is code for bury my head in the sand and wonder at the havoc I had wreaked upon myself. Auditions didn’t fall into place. When I followed through on them, I had something to prove. The word “home” was a landmine – because going home to family wasn’t what I wanted (even though I wanted to, I did), and returning to Boston – much as I love it – felt like returning to a charred and smoking ruin.

What came up?

Working with children. Working with young adults. Community outreach. Leadership training. Producing arts events. Directing. Directing, even? Directing. Anything but (and I was smarting under this) doing my own work.

My new respect for doing for others as doing-for-self is in that phrase: my own work. By defining myself, my work, my attempt, drive, creativity, inspiration, affect, effect, and outcome as separate, I made sure I couldn’t feel how good giving it up to others was, and how much that in and of itself becomes a catapult from which to launch.

In comes the Teen Arts Council, a group of anywhere from 15-40 teens whose mission to expand the definition of the arts and community in the greater peninsula gave me my new job, as Coordinator. 15-20 hours per week quickly became 30-40, and teaching became, simultaneously, learning.

These incredibly intelligent young adults are capable, demanding, ambitious, creative, fairly seething with life and a readiness to get on with it – and are (also) intermittently lazy, guarded, and so tender to the touch that any critical advice or guidance is taken as dangerous first, constructive second.


Zillah Glory with the teens. Photo courtesy Christian Pease, Light at 11B

Walking and talking replicas of … myself.

Oh, crap.

Something happens when I look outward, and it is often spot on. I see what needs to be done with someone else. I see what the real problem is, what piece of information is missing in the story a friend is telling me about a fight.

When I’m sitting at the casting table or around the exec table, I see the gap between what’s being said and what’s being done.  “Gap” happens when the stated (perceived) value is different than the practiced (actual) value.

And so, suddenly, this begins to sink in, too.

The amount of sympathetic joy I experience with every new light turning on for those kids, with every project completed, through experiencing consecutive events running more smoothly, and – wow – just encouraging them to move unabashedly and with zero apology toward creating whatever it is that fascinates them at the moment, has flipped my understanding completely.

The gap between giving myself fully into what I am doing and reservation (i.e. this is my work/this is not, I’m ready for this monologue/I’m not, I’m going to sing the bejesus out of this number/I’m not) is the exact same all-in or not that I’ve been working my way around with the teens. Of course.

Of course. Motivation = full circle.

I’d like to write a great ending for this, but I’m only weeks in.

In two weeks, I have fallen head over heels in love, crossed a ten year invisible threshold by singing for two different companies, scheduled two more auditions, and am looking forward to a weekend intensive about this performance business of ours.

At yesterday’s callback, I held sheet music in my hand and accepted where I was and what level I was at. I felt like a million bucks and they let me know – “absolutely keep singing, why haven’t you before?”and “no, not this next show, but we’re calling you in for the show after that.”

When I’m all-in, it includes every warble, every dropped word, every laugh and … every thing I’d want to know about myself if I were sitting behind the casting table for my own audition.  And damn, it feels really good being the kind of person I’d want to work with.

Kudos to the kids who show me how.


Administrator note: You can follow Zillah on Twitter – Follow @hiquity

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