At the poetry reading the other day, I thought once again about how many ways I use the training that I first got in drama class: how to project my voice, how to take on a persona, how to vary my voice, how to pace myself. It's also interesting how some of that training no longer matters. We spent a lot of time as youthful aspiring theatre people projecting our voice to the back of the theatre; now, opera singers are the only ones who don't use tiny microphones.
Long ago, I was a drama major. I’ve had many occasions to think about how what I learned as a drama major has come in handy later, even though I didn’t continue with my original plan to take Broadway by storm. I’ve written about the ways that being a drama geek prepared me for both teaching life and my creative life (most notably here).
It’s interesting to me to reflect on how the training has come in handy, even in smaller ways. I went to a lecture on emotional eating recently. The psychologists leading the session talked about other ways to calm ourselves, including focusing on our breathing. One of the psychologists noted that my hand went to my stomach, as I practiced the deep breathing that I first learned to do during drama lessons, then as a distance runner, and later in yoga classes.
Several of the women in the emotional eating session with me couldn’t get the hang of belly breathing. “I can’t get my stomach to go out when I breathe in,” one of them said. But it’s a process that comes naturally to me.
I’ve been thinking about ways we might need to reinvent ourselves, whether it be by the ways we comfort ourselves or the ways we earn money. I heard this story on NPR which included a segment about an unemployed computer networker who started a singing telegram business. He’s got twelve characters (think Elvis), and he shows up with balloons and a card and a song.
I thought, well, there’s a way to use your drama and voice lessons.
When I was younger, I thought of all the ways that training might translate into money. Now I’m more intrigued by all the ways that training of all sorts can help us in ways that we can’t have anticipated when we started. Does this recycling and renovating of training come more naturally to creative types? Or do we just need to get desperate enough to give our training new applications? As with so many of the either-or questions that I pose, the answer probably is yes and no to both. There’s a whole spectrum there, not just one set of choices.