It’s become a tradition at Brelby to spend the month of November reflecting on our artform and how it impacts us through our annual Blogathon. This year, in honor of our 10th Season, our Blogathon participants will be sharing lists of 10 things that have impacted them, whether they be lessons or memories…or are looking ahead towards future goals.
Today’s blogger, Alexxis Briviesca, may have left Arizona for the Big Apple…but she still holds Brelby in her heart, and we’ll never stop cheering her on from afar as she chases her dreams.
Below, she reflects on 10 lessons she has learned from being an artist.
Hello kind souls! My name is Alexxis Briviesca. Boy, it’s been some time huh? For those who don’t know me, I was Brelby’s cheerleader and Sierra Boggess enthusiast (two of which have not changed.) Two years ago, I left the warm embrace of Brelby’s cozy arms, and followed my aching heart to pursue the fire in my gut. I wanted to make art that would stimulate change, inspire community, and express truth. It was never a question; It was NYC or bust for this ambitious and anxious little squirrel. For awhile, I found myself attending audition after audition, feeling more like a shell rather than a vessel. “I know it will come in time”, I would tell others. “It was a good two years until I found Brelby, what do I need to do to find that here?” The question, ambiguous; the answer required soul searching. In the end I returned to these main principles, stimulated by fond memories of my time at Brelby; the place that is 100 percent responsible for the artist I am today.
- Art Should NOT Kill You: Or let’s be less dramatic here… art shouldn’t feel like a self sacrifice. For the longest time, I believed to be an artist you had to give your entire self; if you were forced to unbutton that sweater, or perhaps climb a tall ladder despite your crippling fear of heights, so what? Suck it up. How bad do you want it? I remember attending the auditions for Little Women. Per usual audition procedure, I had a form to fill out my personal info and conflicts. As my eyes wandered to the bottom of the page, an unusual question caught my attention; “Is there anything you would be uncomfortable doing onstage; ex: heights, kissing, etc?” Woah. Here was I, used to asking “how high” whenever a director ordered me to jump. To seem more accomodating, I wrote “N/A”. 3 productions later, I found myself unapologetically writing “heights”, a severe fear of mine that never seemed to be respected by my old theatre program at the time. For The Tempest, Cody Goulder gave me a walk through of the set to assure I felt comfortable. Boom. Drop the mic. No judgement or questions asked. Your creative team should make you feel comfortable and safe. And if not.. find a team that does.
- Kindness Won’t Kill You: Picture it. Little Women callbacks, 2015. A trembling Alexxis walks into a room filled with Brelby regulars and some new faces. Unsure where to land, she sits next to a smiling Ixy, bursting with radiance. They talk, they laugh, they band together like super glue. Others decide to join their conversation, and as they call Alexxis to perform “The Most Amazing Thing”, a choir of kind souls wish her to “break a leg!”. Now, auditioning in the professional world, I’ve lost count of how many women look me up and down when entering the holding room. Some are very kind, others I can feel their eyes piercing at my resume, or giving me a half smile when I try to make small talk by complimenting their pants. Ugh. If Brelby taught me anything, it’s to save the drama for your mama. How can you truly expect to build an ensemble when pettiness and ego play the starring roles? Sometimes, little bursts of encouragement is all a person needs to stand confidently in front of that director panel. So say “hello”. Offer a “break a leg”. And if you don’t see the point… in the glorious words of Brian Maticic (Musketeers callbacks 2015), “Get the hell out of my theater”.
- You Have Nothing to Prove, Only to Share: It was the week of opening night for Fangirl. I came sobbing to Emily Heald, my loving director, asking her why she decided to cast me in this role. At this time, I also was still recovering from one of the worst depressions I have ever had; the main issue was not believing I had anything credible to give to this art anymore. I felt defeated, inadequate, a failure. With that gentle voice and giving eyes, she gave me a hug and assured me I had the character in my heart. It wasn’t about impressing others or meeting expectations. It was about embracing what I had to give and using it as fuel to create a wonderful journey. That night began my quest of diligently rewiring my brain; not viewing performing as a vessel to validate my worth, view myself as worthy to share the passion I have for my art.
- Believe in Your Curiosity: Applying to be an AD for Rosie’s was a risk I had many anxious nightmares about. Little me, only having a director’s class and a high school production in my back pocket, I didn’t think Brian or Shelby would even take a glance at my application. However this was 2016, the year I vowed to myself that I would pursue things that terrified me. I believed that my interest in serving artists and crafting a message would be enough to maybe make myself qualified. Thank God I did. My application not only was glanced at, it was accepted. I abandoned this flaming curiosity inside of me for a while hustling in NYC; I was in the “real world” now; if I didn’t have the credentials, I thought no one would take me seriously. This past weekend, I performed my own poetry and sang for the first time publicly since I left AZ. Today, I find myself writing. Singing. Forcing myself to break the prison I’ve confined myself in. Our soul’s capabilities are more than we can ever perceive; what have you always wanted to try? Thought of it? Go do it… this is your sign!!
- Art Can Heal: Rosie’s Pub; The Tempest; Fangirl; Postcards; Miscast Concert 2 and 3… the list will not stop. Brelby saved my life. These ensembles uplifted my heart. Sometimes our mind can convince us that nothing will heal the war inside our brains. With a good community, the power of expression, and the permission to comfortably dig deep, fear will mend, and peace can be restored.
- Find Your Community: Finding the right ensemble is a lot like finding a good pair of shoes…essential, but takes at least three or four tangos of “trial and error”. Like I said earlier, it took me two years after high school to find a theater I felt connected to. Now in the city, it took me about 40 auditions and 38 no’s to find a tribe of people I knew would nourish my soul. Exploration and disappointment go hand in hand; sometimes you will go to an audition or do a production that may make you feel discouraged, unsupported, or the worst, isolated. If valuable experiences or people didn’t feel rare, they wouldn’t be as appreciated. Don’t lose hope. Try not to get discouraged. Your tribe (if you’re still searching) is waiting to embrace you with open arms. Once you find them, don’t you ever let them go.
- “Impractical” Does Not Mean Impossible: I remember becoming so offended when people would call a career in the arts “impractical”. Ugh. Stop it. What do you know? Well after living as a “starving artist” for the last year, I can kind of see where they are coming from. Would some say it is impractical to pursue a career where booking the job is 20 percent talent/technique and 80 percent fate? Sure. Is working 40 hrs a week at a restaurant as opposed to a desk job impractical since I’m not earning salary? Maybe. Whenever I feel the workings of an existential crisis brewing, I think of Brian and Shelby. 11 years ago, I’m sure they were told building a theater out of the change in their back pocket was “impractical” as well. I have seen them hustle, strive, bustle, and fight to ensure their artists continued to have a safe space to create. And here they are, owning their own theatre and producing more than anyone in the valley. Art has no dependable outcome. Does that make it less credible, or not even worth the snuff? No. Absolutely not.
- Good Networking=Attitude: Establishing yourself as a kind artist will not only you know, make your creative team’s lives a hell of lot easier, but will build you a reputation that will follow you throughout all of your endeavors. Brelby is known for their core ensemble. Any time I see a new face welcomed in their group, I not only see them cast in following Brelby productions, but also shows affiliated with other theatres. Many of the shows I was in at Brelby were directed by company members or guest artists, rarely Shelby and Brian themselves. Shelby also generously wrote my letter of recommendation for my Marymount application, which I am pretty sure is a huge part of the reason why I was accepted without a formal live audition. Do you think any of this would have happened if I established myself as a nightmare to work with? Judging from Brian and Shelby’s low tolerance for bullshit, I am thinking not so much. To sound the least vain as possible, being a kind person eager to participate truly sets you apart. People want to work with nice people. And in the end, you will be creating your own opportunities.
- Just Do It: Nike, if you happen to be reading this, please don’t sue me for violation of copyright.
If there is ANYTHING you can take from this novella, is to not be afraid to try. Please. Seriously. I underlined, italicized, AND bolded the damn thing to stress this to you. So many times, we doubt our instincts. We doubt our gut. We doubt ourselves. If Brelby is known for anything, it is thinking outside the box. They are 100 percent responsible for taking this anxious, self deprecating 19 year old terrified of making “the wrong choice”, and forcing her to trust the voice inside her soul. Jump. LEAP. As cliche as it may sound, experimentation is the heart of all major revelations.
- You are ENOUGH: You are so enough. It’s unbelievable how enough you are. Brelby, thank you for giving those words stirring inside my brain a home.