Friday, March 14, 2014

Kim, the Cheerleader

Vincent Festa, Lucy Fitz Gibbon, and Laura Soto-Bayomi in Turn of the Screw
If you knew me in high school, you'd know that the last thing I would likely be, or want to be, was a cheerleader.  I was the nerdy, honors type who only went to homecoming for the cotton candy.

But this week, I've willingly taken on the role of cheerleader for my fellow singers in Bard College's Vocal Arts Program production of Payne Hollow and Turn of the Screw.  Since I'm on medical leave, I was planning on coming up for the performances this weekend.  But, then I realized that it would be beneficial to everyone, myself included, if I came up for tech week.  So I've spent this entire week with my lovely and talented colleagues, watching as they create great art.  They've welcomed me with open arms, allowing me to contribute wherever I can.  I've pinned lots of costumes and taken tons of notes.

Helen Huang, Angela Aida Carducci, and Sara Lemesh in Payne Hollow

As you can probably guess, I was suffering from a bit of opera withdrawal.  If you're used to hearing it every day and being in rehearsal all the time, the sudden cessation of this can be a bit jarring.  So, it was definitely therapeutic to be in rehearsal again.

One of the best parts of being in dress rehearsals, besides watching my colleagues create and learn and explore, was taking photographs of their work (the pictures in this post are mine and the rest can be found here).  There's something so fulfilling about capturing the beauty of what's happening in any given moment.  The director, Nic Muni, has truly created two strong and moving pieces of art.  I'm the lucky one, sitting out in the audience and soaking it all in.

Kameryn Lueng, Helen Huang, Katherine Maysek, and Sarah Tuttle in Turn of the Screw
Opening night has finally arrived and I'm so excited to see the fruits of their labor.  It should be thrilling!  Toi toi toi and much love to all the performers.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Emotional Baggage Check

I've been trying to write this post for three months.

I've started it a thousand times in my head and a few times in writing.  Sometimes, I even got to the middle before my brain sputtered out and lost track of where it was supposed to be going.  Often, though, I'd stop just as I started, because I couldn't figure out how I was supposed to write this down.  How I was supposed to explain this thing that's been happening for six months now.

So, I'll start the explanation here:

I really wanted to continue my "Character Creation" series and show the evolution/process of a character as I was experiencing it.  Unfortunately, I have to cut this series short (and hopefully pick it up at a later date, in a different production) because I cannot participate in Payne Hollow.  My recovery hasn't progressed quickly enough, despite my (and my doctors') best efforts, so I must withdraw from all opera-related activities until the fall.

That's the short of it.  The long of it is that this non-singing, non-exercising, non-progressing, non-being illness is making something new of me.  I am, right now, something that I've never been before and the changing, the transformation, hurts.

First and foremost, I am a go-getter.  I work hard, I make plans, and I do my very best to achieve them.  This illness has kept me from doing everything.  Sure, I've been able to write some and read and watch a ton of opera, but it has kept me bolted to the couch, isolated from the very things and people I love most of all.  So even though a vacation from everything would seem amazing to some people, for me it's a new form of torture.  I know it sounds dramatic, but I'm not sure how else to express it.

Second of all, this illness forced me to turn down opportunities that I was excited about.  Ever since I first heard Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking (the first contemporary opera I ever listened to), I've always dreamed of having an opera role written for me.  I thought that I'd have to wait a long time for this, or that, perhaps, it would never happen.  But this year, at Bard, that dream (inconceivably!) came true.  The music is beautiful and the role is written perfectly for my voice.  But I cannot sing in the world premiere.  This, alone, threatened to crush my spirit.

Third, and most of all, I am not a quitter and I will not let anything bring me down.  This is tough; I have good days and bad days, both physically and emotionally, but overall I am positive and hopeful.  I think it is crucial, in life, to hang on the hardest when the sea is the wildest.  I have my loved ones to anchor me and my faith to keep me grounded.  The rest is the wind and the waves and the thrashing of fate.

Despite everything, this illness has already taught me something extremely important.  It has illuminated, for me, the reason why I sing.  I always believed that I sing because I love to do it.  But now, with no voice for six months, I have discovered the truest, deepest reason for my passion for singing.

Music is a balm for the soul.  It feeds us and moves us and heals us in ways that we cannot see or fully understand.  And I know now that I have sung my entire life, and I will sing my entire life, because it is the best way that I can give to others.  It is the thing I am the best at and the thing that I have found to have the most influence when placed in my hands.  I find fulfillment and joy in giving.  And singing is my giving.

I realized this one night when I was up late, unable to sleep from the pain, and tooling around on Tumblr.  I came across a website called Emotional Baggage Check where people can anonymously leave their problems and strangers can anonymously answer, lending words of encouragement and a song.  I spent hours answering strangers, finding a long-needed fulfillment in helping others in some small way.  Then, it was all so clear to me.  As much as I missed the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of singing, the thing that I missed most was the chance to give, through music, to someone else.

This blog post is my Emotional Baggage Check.  I'm leaving here all the hurt and frustration and disappointment of the last six months.  I'm checking it, releasing it, because only then can I move forward.  The illness isn't over and the emotions will still keep coming, but everything that has built up is now here, in perfect Arial 12.

I want it to be known that I have made it through many a bad day only because of my loving friends and family.  People have taken time to give encouragement, send me cards, make me care packages, and even mail me opera DVDs to watch.  They have given so much and I can't wait to recover so that I can give back.

I know that I called this a speed bump.  It's one heck of a speed bump and it's not over yet, but I'm hopeful and confident that it will be.  And I will be even more focused, more energetic, and more ready to do what I love to do.  And I will be all the more grateful for it.