As a performer myself, I long debated if I should entertain, much less encourage artistic endeavors beyond the normal childhood dabbling. But life happens when you’re busy making plans, or at least contemplating said plans. So it shouldn’t be that surprising that practically overnight, my shy, generally low self-esteem laden daughter has become not only a professional actress, but a clearly gifted artist across multiple genre.
“Save the drama for drama” was a phrase I had always taught my baby girl. It was the G-rated version of what one of my favorite acting teachers, Gary Imhoff, whom I first worked with when I studied at the Beverly Hills Playhouse said many years ago. One week in class, I performed a gut wrenching personal monologue after which Gary made a statement that would stay with me to this day: “Shira, what makes you a great performer is that you are learning to take your shit and turn it into gold.”
I had already been through many challenging episodes during my early and teen years – the likes of which would make either one hell of a Lifetime movie or at least an alternately tear filled, rip roaring hilarious cabaret show.
History seemed to be repeating itself as a couple of decades later, my two babies had already experienced similarly unusual (to put it mildly) early childhood traumas. Their earliest memories included watching their then single mother manage near death, bankruptcy, multiple relocations, divorce, and harder issues that I do not need to revisit ever again.
The point is that taking lemons and making lemonade was not only second nature to me, it had become our family mantra.
And for my daughter, I decided long ago any medium that would allow her to express herself would be the best way to heal and clear any early trauma. So I exposed her to poetry, gave her journals to share her feelings, encouraged her to draw whatever her soul felt, sang with her, put her in ballet, Isadora Duncan modern dance classes, art classes, a youth theatre program, handed her a guitar and an empty music book. Once I stepped back into the professional commercial and voice-over world, I invited my kids to join me for workshops at NYC’s Actors Green Room and Actors Connection.
Most recently, however, my daughter and I have started a private audition technique class offered by a wonderful coach, Jason Buyer. Jason’s transition from a long career as a casting director in LA, led to a NYC relocation in order to focus on teaching his specific, intelligent and accessible audition technique program. What a unique and magical experience – sharing a professional class with my daughter.
Artistic endeavors ultimately serve better than any traditional therapy and are so much more satisfying for both of our souls.
I honor my daughter exploring the process of becoming an emerging professional and celebrate her raw and rare talent. I suppose I just wasn’t prepared for how innate her gifts were nor how stunning she would be as a budding artist. It surprised everyone, yes, even me.
The “something special” started to become evident in the second season of her youth theatre training program. The original production that semester was The Bully Plays and my girl sat down at the keyboard and self-taught herself how to compose a song. My formal music education and spousal equivalent’s producer experience were minimally beneficial in aiding her. Together my partner and I only tweaked her transition to the bridge and I helped tighten up one lyric line. The rest of her composition, from the heartfelt words to the arrpeggiated chord accompanist were all hers. A haunting melody and poignant lyrics combined with my daughter’s unique and folksy voice made its way into the show with stunned remarks from the parent audience members. “Did she really write that by herself?”
Yes. She did.
Then came more songs, most of them recorded in rough form into Garage Band, haunting and heartfelt stories, and an ability to “fake cry” on cue.
Within a few months, she had a manager, was signed to an agency and almost booked a TV show. She landed a web promo, commercial and a lead in an upcoming horror film all within two weeks of each other. It seems rather uncanny that what began as a vehicle for healing had become her salvation.
All but gone is the young tween who was bullied and teased because of her weight, not having a “Dad” around for the first several years of her life, her shyness.
Instead my child is meeting the world with truth in her acting, honesty in her performances and a voice that sings of pain transformed into purpose.
This just 13 year old is a testament of what you can do when you take a chance to step forward, out of the shadows and into a spotlight.
Brava baby girl. The world is your stage and I will always and forever be your biggest fan.
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