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Back to Basics – A lesson in levels

This post is dedicated to the incredible teaching team at Treasure Valley Children’s Theater.

Remember when you learned 2 + 2 = 4? I do. I remember how many worksheets my teacher made me complete with some “2 + 2 = 4” challenge. Adding apples… adding friends… adding friends and apples… and so on. Once I mastered the simple equation I was invited to advance my skills. But the lessons always came back to the basic principle, 2 + 2 =4.

I believe the same process should be applied to the education of aspiring performing artists.

Unfortunately, in America, we are culturally programmed to move forward, advance, or increase “levels.” This constant need to “advance” is difficult to achieve in the performing arts because, to truly be “good” at a craft, we must be humble enough to recognize our own imperfection – and then to revisit that imperfection in every thing we do. To always go back to basics.

This position is a bit challenging to explain, so let me take my own good advice and go back to the basics. I may know 2 + 2 =4, but this fact does not make me a mathematician. I would need many, many more years of study and practice and challenge to earn that title. Ultimately, no matter how much math I learn, 2 + 2 will still equal 4.

Now apply the same formula to the education of the performing artist. Too often, performing arts students believe they need to advancement before they are truly ready. The greatest gift we can offer aspiring artists is humility and self-reflection. One acting class (or music or art or dance class) does not necessarily earn you the title of “Actor.” Nor does this one class earn you an “advancement” opportunity. The goal is to better understand ones self from your strengths to your areas of weakness, and then be humble enough to acknowledge that you haven’t “mastered” the basics and you will constantly, throughout your career as a performer, revisit those basics.

The “advancement” in performing arts comes from within the artist, not necessarily from the “level” of class in which they have enrolled. So, the lesson in this somewhat convoluted post? Take an acting class! Any acting class! Don’t be concerned with the “level” – challenge yourself to work beyond your own basics and build upon the idea that 2 + 2 =4.