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Student Blog: Celebrate The Differences: Why Comparison Isn't Necessary

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Many of us feel the need to compare ourselves to other performers, both our peers and professionals, but this prevents us from celebrating our unique strengths.

I was recently reminded of a conversation I had in my senior year of high school. I was talking to one of my classmates who was also pursuing theatre in college, and he asked me "Who do you think you are on the same level of talent as?" At the time, I didn't see a problem with that question. I thought that question was reasonable. If I wanted to do theatre, I needed to know who on Broadway I was on the same level of talent as. However, I've since realized how toxic comparing myself to other performers, both my peers and professionals, can be.

First off, I am still in school. I shouldn't be expected to be on the same level as someone like Kristin Chenoweth or Eva Noblezada, people with established careers. College auditions have made a lot of people, including me, feel like if you aren't a triple threat going into your freshman year, you aren't going to be successful. A lot of people decided not to pursue theatre because they didn't get into an acting or musical theatre program right out of high school. As someone who auditioned for BFA programs multiple times and didn't get in multiple times, I can tell you that being a triple threat isn't the end all be all. I was terrified to go to my current school because I was told pretty much my entire high school career that I wasn't going to cut it because I am a weak dancer and my school was a "dancing school". That wasn't the case though. My program is great at meeting people the level they are at. I might not be a strong dancer, but I am amazing at finding repertoire and connecting to songs. I shouldn't compare myself to people who have been dancing for years or are naturally flexible. I have different strengths, and that's okay.

I think that people sometimes forget that individuality is an asset in this industry. A lot of people want to be the "ideal" performer, the triple threat, but there is no such thing. We need individual voices. We don't need another Jeremy Jordan or Aaron Tveit because we already have those. We need to celebrate our individual strengths and differences. I am not really belter. I feel most comfortable in my upper mixed voice or head voice. If I am comparing myself to belters, of course I'm always going to feel inadequate because they are able to do something I can't. However, they might be jealous of the high notes that I can sing though. Other people's strengths don't devalue my own. We are different, and that's what is going to make us successful.

The reason live theatre is amazing is because it's never the same. If people wanted to see the exact same thing every time, they would watch a movie. Everyone has their own strengths and life experiences that will make their portrayal of a character different than someone else's. A great example of this is my favorite actress, Ali Stroker. Ali Stroker's portrayal of Ado Annie was less than traditional. Besides the fact that she sports a wheelchair, Stroker's version of Annie has a lot more agency than most productions of Oklahoma!. She is not reliant on stereotypes. She knows how to use her sexuality to her advantage. Another actress might have played Ado Annie completely different and more traditional, but Ali Stroker didn't, and it paid off, winning her "Best Supporting Actress in A Musical."

Oklahoma!
Ali Stroker as Ado Annie in the 2019 revival of Oklahoma!

Comparison can be really easy in the world of social media. I don't know about anyone else, but my feed is constantly filled with videos of amazing talented performers. It is easy to get jealous when their posts are getting a million likes, and mine doesn't even get a hundred. Everyone's success happens at different rates and times. Just because someone blew up on TikTok at the age of fifteen and got a Broadway contract doesn't mean you won't get one at the age of thirty. It is just not time yet, and that's okay. Our chance for success is coming, and when it does, it will be amazing and uniquely ours.


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From This Author Student Blogger: MaryRose Jones