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So, What Do You Do Exactly? Defining your Work in the Arts

what do you do
By Eloisa Ferrer

“So… what do you do?” It’s a question that for some, may be easy to answer. However, if you work in the arts industry, the answer may not be so simple.

Not because you don’t know what you do, but because in order to be successful in this field, you have to do a bit of everything. It’s something that is ingrained in us from the moment we set foot in our first theater class. You walk into class, your first class; freshman year of college thinking you’ll audition for a lead role, get cast, learn the lines, and hit the stage…….not so fast. Before we’re even afforded the opportunity to audition for such a role, we’re required to take lighting classes, workshops, set design, the list goes on and on. Then finally…a year or two later, if you’re lucky, you audition and get the role. This is it! You’re finally doing what you went to school to do right? Maybe…

When I was a student in undergrad, there wasn’t a single person who could tell me that I wasn’t going to be a classical singer.

On the outside, one could see that I was determined to graduate with a music degree and no one, not even my family could sway my decision. However, on the inside, I was already toying with the idea of transitioning to theater and moving away from music. Not because I didn’t enjoy singing, but because I was, for the first time, exposed to live theater at my school. Singing classical music was always a thrill for me but there was something so raw and visceral about theater that I just didn’t get from music. After I graduated, I spent some time in New York City, as all eager recent graduates tend to do. I auditioned, I worked, auditioned, performed, worked, worked, and kept working. Eventually, I got to the point where I dedicated more time to my 9 to 5 more than to what I actually moved up there to do, which was sing.

After returning to Miami, I was hired for my first job at a theater in Coral Gables, FL. This is where my next transition began to happen. I began to discover aspects of the performing arts that I never learned in school, the business side; operations, front of house, backstage, production…it was the art of creating spaces in which to create.

Who knew that being on the administrative side would be just as fulfilling as being on stage?

Now I’m not saying that the technical and administrative aspects of the performing arts are not important, let’s face it, you can’t have one without the other. What I am saying is that being exposed to the “non-performance” classes early on instills curiosity and plants a seed for an opportunity you may have never even considered. The more you learn and the more you’re exposed to, the greater your chances are of switching directions and carving out a new path towards your goals. And if there’s one thing we know about the path to success, is that it is never linear; and that’s what makes it so exciting.

One thing is for certain, the beauty of the arts is that they’re always transitioning and evolving.

We’re always required to learn a new skill, take on a new role, practice a new technique. So, when someone asks you what you do, it’s OK to not know what to say exactly; because how can you really summarize your years of experience into one or two words. I don’t know many people who can, really. But, if you must give an answer, you can say you’re an artist; because in a performing arts environment, whether you’re onstage or off…you’re there to create an experience; and that is an art in and of itself.

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