Actors, Dancers, Singers or Writers?
by Mary Ellen Stepanich
Do you ever have difficulty getting along with someone in your acquaintance? Is there someone you know who treats you like you’re covered in filth, despite all your attempts to get a positive response? Do you ever say to yourself, “I wish he/she/it were not in my life?”
Obviously, I’m thinking about such a person at this very moment. (Perhaps you are, too, now that I’ve brought up the subject.) Because I have a Ph.D. in behavioral science, I automatically attempt to analyze, classify, and place the object of my distress in a logical category that will help me to understand and deal with the conflict I’ve experienced.
Why does THIS person cause me stress, while THAT person does not? We’re approximately the same age, we live in the same community, and we are similar in many other cultural and social categories. So, what is it about THIS person that makes me want to ____ (fill in the blank with the most hideous behavior you can imagine)?
Well, of course, I didn’t do that. But I did start to think about the people in my universe and how I relate and react to each of them. What types of people make my life a heaven-on-earth and what types make me think I’ve living in … the other place? For the most part, my circle of friends and acquaintances can be placed into four categories: Actors, Dancers, Singers, and Writers.
I have participated in community theaters in several different cities during my life, so I know quite a few actors (although, not professional ones, as in “paid”). I’ve played everything from opera (Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro) to farce (a student production of The Prince of Pendlepoop). My acting choices do tend to gravitate toward comedy. Let’s face it – I like to make people laugh.
When I moved to my current community, a friend invited me to join the dance group, which had classes for everyone from beginners to experienced dancers. Although I had never danced before, I was tempted – I always pretended to tap dance along with Shirley Temple when I was younger. I joined, took lessons for several months, and eventually appeared in the annual Desert Dancers show, tap dancing to “In The Mood.” I may have been much older and much chubbier than Shirley, but I was convinced I was her equal.
All my life I have been a singer, both as a soloist and an ensemble singer. I started in church choir and high school glee club, and then joined the international organization of women singers, Sweet Adelines, where I have sung in everything from championship choruses of 120+ expert singers, to small choruses of 20 or fewer wannabe singers. I have been the lead singer in more than a dozen barbershop quartets, the current one for close to 15 years, and I have been lucky enough to win a championship medal.
Although I have engaged in writing projects for all of my professional life as a college professor, it was not until I retired from teaching that I began to write short stories and books. I’ve had two stories published in print magazines; I’ve self-published two books and have coauthored a third. I belong to two writers’ critique groups, as well as the Phoenix Publishing and Book Promotion group.
Given my experiences with these four categories of people, I have to ask myself, “What is it about actors, dancers, singers, and writers that make them a good “fit” for my own personality…or a source of heart-rending conflict?” I’ve come to these tentative conclusions:
Actors, by the very nature of their work, are self-focused. Their concerns run the gamut from “What is my motivation?” and “That part was written for ME!” to “Did you like that little bit-of-business I added in Scene Two?” Consequently, there is often considerable conflict among the players for space in the spotlight.
Dancers, conversely, are ensemble-focused. They strive to execute their steps and routines exactly like the other members of the troupe. One of the teachers of my dance group even told us not to smile while we danced. We were not to bring any special attention to ourselves as individuals. Therefore, dancers are just gals who want to have fun, and do it in perfect symmetry.
Singers, I have found, have to be both – focused on their own voices so as to make them as perfect as humanly possible, but also focused on the ensemble to achieve the balance and blend that is so critical in a barbershop quartet or chorus. Writers, also, are both – because what they write comes from some deep well of passion within themselves, but they write for an audience of readers, hoping to tap into and resonate with each reader’s innermost emotions.
So, with whom do you think I prefer to hang out? (Notice how I used the correct grammar?) Join me every week at my barbershop quartet rehearsal, and at the dinner meeting of my writers’ critique group, and you’ll know for sure.
Dr. Mary Ellen Stepanich is a retired professor of organizational behavior who alwaystold her students at Purdue, “I’m very organized, but my behavior is a bit wonky.” She has published articles in academic journals (boring), show scripts for barbershop choruses and quartets (funny), and an award-winning radio play, “Voices from the Front,” for Sun Sounds of Arizona (heartrending). Mary Ellen lives in Peoria, Arizona, with her cat, Cookie, and blogs on her website, MaryEllenStepanich.com.