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Are They Professional?

By Marion Abbott

After Friday night’s performance of Broadway Divas: A History In Revue, a patron approached me and told me how much he enjoyed the show. He then went on to compliment the cast and asked:

Are they professional?
I didn’t know what to say.

I remember when I first started out as an accompanist — I learned the ropes while playing at my church— congregational hymns, the choir, soloists. I played for everyone and anyone and learned more and more each time.

It was a sweet day when I was able to charge $20/hr to accompany someone outside the church sphere.

Professional at last!

So by that definition, I wasn’t professional until I was paid for my services.

But that’s a tricky thing to define in the musical theatre industry.

There simply isn’t enough work for each artist to insist upon payment for every performance.

(Ugh. So depressing seeing those words typed out in black on white.)

Even the most successful musical theatre artists usually don’t work 12 months out of the year solely in musical theatre.

So then what constitutes a ‘professional performer’ in this context?

For me, as a producer, it’s about everything other than the talent.

It’s about passion.

You can teach a dance step, you can coach a voice, but you can’t teach an artist how to be passionate about their craft.

It’s about joy.

The artist who embraces joy is the artist you don’t mind being stuck in a windowless room with during a choreography rehearsal when the air conditioning decides to break down.

It’s about communication.

Every email is dealt with efficiently, every question asked is answered promptly and when the TTC is being the TTC *insert eye roll here* they send a message to the Stage Manager.

It’s about willingness to learn.

A creative process with an artist who’s open to learning is heaven. The opposite is a nightmare.

It’s about generosity.

An artist who can wholeheartedly support the success of their fellow artists is golden.

Talent is talent is talent. But generosity, willingness to learn, communication, joy and passion can make or break a creative process, every single time.

As my community grows and I become connected to more and more artists, I’m happy to tell you that there are many in Toronto who embody all of those traits. And then have remarkable skill sets and talent to boot.

Were the artists who performed in Broadway Divas professional?

Absofrigginlutely.

And I love and admire them all for it.

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