When Does an Artist's Story Begin?

Rediscovering (What Could Be Considered) My ‘Artistic Roots’ Eleven Years Later

By: Dec. 28, 2021
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When Does an Artist's Story Begin? It is imperative to note that my so-called 'start' in the arts is a confusing tale at best. That is, if we were to ponder that of art itself, wasn't I always making, participating, creating, taking in art at any and all times whether I knew it or not, even with my first cry? Just, boom, out of the womb, writing the best wail of a song ever written in the silence of a hospital room, somewhere no one cares about in Oregon, as I scream into the void.

Or with my first wobbly waddles down the hall of the old condo with my mom and sister trailing in my wake warily in case I inevitably fall. Which I do, and will continue to for the rest of my life.

Maybe I began my artistic journey at age two in classes that tout what my Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) movement teacher calls 'pure movement,' back when I would pout in the corner while the rest of the class learned a simple toe ball heel in tap because my partner hadn't followed the choreography by placing her hand on my shoulder twenty minutes beforehand.

Or was it at age seven in the kiddie car lot commercial I denote as my first job as an artist? That time when they had to tape my prop phone closed because little old me loved the sound it made when it opened so much that I had ruined nearly every take. The same job instantly led me to become a 'mini adult' under a decade old working all over the Pacific Northwest in print, commercials, and film, as well as teaching myself to not make my eyes dart (a constant complaint by my film producers) by staring at a spot in the windshield whenever I rode in a car. Possibly it was my professional musical theatre debut at age twelve in Shrek the Musical at a local regional theatre, the same year I began private vocal lessons. Maybe this or that or a circumstance that I don't have the time or energy to even attempt to fully understand.

Yet I tell the story of my artistic start over and over again, because isn't that kind of our job as artists? Telling stories? And so, we tell stories of our lives, what brought us here and, yes, our 'start' in the arts. Just as all stories go, I tell mine differently every time, for every person, every instance, everything. If I'm talking to another dancer, I brag about my sixteen years in tap, jazz, ballet, etc, but that my roots are in my competitive gymnastics, of which I did for the first decade of my life.

A writer? It's been my hobby for a long time, but of course my plays have been workshopped and produced in professional playwriting festivals. Musical theatre? The dance spiel then my debut and continuous work in regional theatre from age twelve to eighteen as well as vocal lessons all throughout. Directing? I thought acting was the thing, but I've always been a natural leader, as you know. Though, it is true that directing is so much more than that. A director is merely a tuning fork, an extension of everyone else, facilitating the atmosphere of play, comfort, security, and a gentle yet affirming push. It is collaboration at its finest and I made my professional directorial debut at seventeen, thank you for asking... of course, I am emphasizing the dialogue in an effort to present thousands of times more egotistical than I truly am, but that is merely the joy of being an artist (and subsequently selling your art); it is impossible to talk about your work, your passions, and your accomplishments without sounding like a horrendous, pretentious asshole.

I still sound as such when it comes to acting, but my arrogance becomes muddled in the name of my own confusion. I previously mentioned my first professional gig (the kiddie car lot). And so, if we're going by paying standards, I got my 'start' in the arts with the camera. I was constantly in front of it as a wee child, whether for print, film, or tv and knew my place on a set. I was comfortable, calm, ecstatic, and well met... or so I've been told. However, once I began acting in musicals of grandeur on stage, life in front of the camera went away. I was in the 'dead zone,' as most preteens and teens in the film and modeling industries experience, but I also did not have time for the set existence. I had gotten so consumed with musical theatre that I no longer had the hours available for on camera work, resulting in my last time being on set at age twelve (not the best set experience, I might add). For years afterward, musical theatre was my home, my life, my livelihood. I could never be expected to part with it, for if I did, it would truly be a Shakespearean tragedy.

Then, I finally did a straight play. Do not get me wrong, dear friend of mine, I love musical theater with my heart and mind. I still do in fact, to this day. But music and light became so loud I forgot where my roots connected to the ground. As rehearsals began for the play in question, Wait Until Dark, sixteen year old me was slapped in the face with all the on-camera training that was ingrained in me starting at the wee age of seven. It was astounding to feel at home, despite the denial that I had been there all along. With the next year came uncertainty through an abundance of knowledge. A violent crash of delight and wonder and exploration came upon me as I proceeded to audition not just for musical theater schools, but also for acting, new media, acting for film and tv, directing, playwriting... even journalism. There were no bounds to my craft. This realization was imminently followed by (and possibly even a prelude of) a longing to be back on set; I yearned to return to what might be considered a segment of my artistic roots. I wanted to get back on set and collaborate on films again.

Which leads us to the present. At the time of writing this, it is just a few days shy of the end of 2021, nearly two years into a pandemic and a little over 11 years since my paid 'start' in the arts on the set of a commercial. A week ago today, in between the end of my first semester as a BFA student at Boston University and heading back to my home state for the holiday break, I shot a film in eight days. I've known about the project for half a year at this point, and I couldn't be more in love with it, the story, and the people I made it with. Honeybee is a feature film written/directed by Mira Steuer and written/produced by Melissa Levine. They are freshman BFA film and acting majors (respectively) at Ohio University. When discussing this film with her superiors, Mira was told that freshmen do not make features. Freshmen also don't festival their films before they're a legal adult, but that hasn't seemed to stop my director. I play a fifteen year old girl named Alice "Honeybee" Lynnwood who is stuck in her family house with her older brothers as they discuss who will receive custody of her in the wake of their father's death. My experience on that set is one that will stick with me for a long time. Being back on set again, but more specifically having the innate pleasure of being on that set, was a truly full circle moment for me, once again offering me memories and reflections of my roots as a budding artist... But all that is for the next blog. Being back on set was, as I said, a slap in the face, but one I so desperately needed. *See* you all in the new year, where I hope we all can enjoy some simple and eye-opening reflection on our lives and the arts.