24 May, 2023

Keynote Speech for The Mancini Awards, 2023

I stand before you this evening, in awe of the distinguished and hard-earned celebration each and every single one of you is reveling tonight.

Look at you! You are today’s young artists, and the human beings who will both shape and inherit the world we all share.  

Breathe in this moment, and know that more glorious moments like it— on stage and off— are ahead for you. Tonight, my friends, you are already living the dream. No matter what level of artistic professionalism you pursue, your passion for live performance, communal story-telling, the impact art has on individual and community, and the internal discipline and rigor required to execute art— have all sparked within you, and that spark is now lit eternity.  

I now ask each of you— adults included to take a moment, travel back in time, and remember the very first moments when your interest in your chosen field, hobby, interest or profession was first ignited. What is your WHY?

I am Alexandra Silber — and I am a Broadway and West end actor, singer and performing artist. I am also a concert artist, twice-published author and educator. But before I was any of those things, I was a gifted, deep and yearning artistic kid just like you.

Growing up outside Detroit, Michigan, my WHY for storytelling began young, when as an only child with a loving father fighting cancer, I was filled with unfathomable feelings and questions for a nine year old. I couldn’t bring those to my peers! They were nine! But I could “discuss” the depths of human experience with art. I could ask Tolstoy about love, Steinbeck about life. I could ask the musical Cabaret about prejudice, and Fiddler on the Roof about my Jewish identity. I could “discuss” fear with The Smashing Pumpkins, and grief with opera’s great heroines. I could ask theatre, music, books, visual art and poetry— art that belongs to us all— about the things I had no language for.

And when the time came for my father to leave this world, art was there to hold me—and everything I felt— too.  The Arts change minds, heal hearts, connect us to one another, and shape our collective culture. The Arts serve. That is my why. The answer to why I make art is because art held nine year old me— gave me language I lacked, and a place to express thoughts, feelings and realities on a stage when the real world was often too frightening a place.

The world is certainly no less frightening a place than it was when I was your age, but seeing you all tonight: I am filled with hope that the future is beautiful, and the future is bright.

* * *

Before I leave you tonight, I want to share TEN hard-earned truths I’ve learned along the way as an artistic human being. I offer these observations to guide you as you go forward, enabling you to empower yourselves, so that when the challenges of an artistic life catapult and hurl themselves straight into your heart – which they will do, repeatedly – you will have some of these tidbits of wisdom at your disposal to center you so that your SOUL will not be derailed, and, no matter the challenge before you, you can still summon the power to transform yourselves, others, and, indeed,  the world.

1. Happiness is not a train station

     On the great train ride that is Life Itself, we keep pulling into stations we expect, do not expect, and sometimes, loathe. Some of these are expected, some cannot be avoided, and some we’d do anything to avoid if we could.

     Have you yourself ever thought "Once I [get the leading role/make X much money/get married/move to Europe/lose 20 pounds] MY LIFE WILL BE PERFECT!"
Me too.

But one of life’s great truths is that you never pull in to the train stations of “Contentment,” “Happiness,” or “Success.” THERE IS no train station with a sign that says “WELCOME TO MADE IT!” Those stations are like Brigadoon: sure, you’ve heard of it, and everyone talks about it and wants to get there, but no one has ever really seen it. Why? Because it doesn’t exist.

One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, right here, right now, in this single, solitary, monumental moment in your life– is to decide, without apology, to commit to the JOURNEY, and not to the outcome. The outcome will almost always fall short of your expectations, and if you’re chasing that elusive, often deceptive goal, you’re in for a very tough road, for there will always be that one note that could have soared more freely, the one line reading that could have been just that much more truthful.

     So when I say “happiness is not a train station” I mean: there is no definitive moment where you do or do not “arrive” or “make it.”

As an artist, you will never arrive at a fixed destination. THIS is the glory and the reward of striving to master your craft, and being tireless in your pursuit of something greater than yourself.

2. DONE is better than PERFECT.

     Just do the thing.
Then finish it.
Press send.
It will never be perfect.
So do it!
Because done is better than perfect. :)

3. Remember the difference between DISCOMFORT and true PAIN.

Pain is your body and mind’s alert system that something is dangerously wrong and must immediately be dealt with. 

Discomfort is not dangerous: it is the birthplace of all growth and expansion, and cutting DISCOMFORT off (or misunderstanding / mislabeling it) hinders all possibility for expansion and evolution.
Knowing the difference between DISCOMFORT and PAIN, is what maturity is all about.

4. Not choosing is also a choice.
Remember that.

5. The artistic work never ends.

When things become overwhelming – which they will—I have found that the way back to your center is simply to RETURN TO THE WORK. Return to your skills, techniques and love of the art form. 

Whether you’re overwhelmed by success or failure, abundance or famine—get to work. It is there where you will find solace and truth.

Trust that you will find your way again via the music, the poetry, the colors, the movement. All art asks is that we show up, fully present as you did when you first discovered the magic. Bring that innocent, childlike sense of wonder to your craft, and always be willing to be a beginner. It will continually teach you how to be present, how to be alive, and how to let go.

6. It is not what happens to us, it is how WE CHOOSE TO RESPOND.

     People ask me really smart questions all the time.
Questions like:
    “How do you deal with being afraid of failure?”
    “How do you not worry about being rejected?”

I’m aware that this is a sort of irritating answer but: I deal with fear, worry, sadness and anger by actually dealing with fear, worry, sadness and anger.

We must try our darnedest not to identify AS the emotions, but to accept, incorporate, built grit, resilience; to learn what we can, and move forward in the face of The Big Feels.

In short: we can’t always choose what happens, but we can chose our response, and our actions in the face of life’s inevitable realities.

7. Courtesy costs nothing.
Even if you don't have pockets full of money— a smile, a thank you, and pleasantry— courtesy is a gift you can give every day.


8. Success isn’t about what you do, it’s about how you FEEL about what you do.

9.  “Comparison is the thief of joy”
Theodore Roosevelt — our 26th President said this. Remember that you are singular, and on your very own path that proceeds at its particular melody and tempo.

The world needs YOU. It is yearning, starving, dying for YOU and YOUR singular healing offer of service through your Art. We need YOU so that we never lose sight of the fact that we are all in this together and that we are all deserving of a life that overflows with immense possibility, improbable beauty and relentless truth. Your singular vision, experience, talent and perspective of existence thus, cannot be compared.

Do not let comparison to others steal the joy of your current reality. Teddy Roosevelt was more than a great orator, explorer, and environmentalist… he was also so correct about comparison. (He also had a very fetching mustache.)

10. Art is a SERVICE industry
Art CAN  be glittery, but you haven’t signed up for a life of glory, adulation and fame. (although that MIGHT come)

The truth is, you have signed up for a life of SERVICE by going into the Arts. And the life-altering results of that service in other people’s lives will NEVER disappear as fame unquestionably will.

You are here to serve the words, the music, the author, the chord progression, the audience, the characters you play that cannot speak or breathe or LIVE without you! But above all, you are here to serve humanity.

You are now servants to the ear that needs melodic solace,
     and the eye that needs the consolation of beauty.
          Servants to the mind that needs inquiry, 

               to the heart that needs invitation to flight or silent understanding,
and to the soul that needs safe landing, or enlightenment.

You are a steward to the blocked observer who needs to feel that vital, electric pulse of life that eludes them. 

You are a vessel to the angry one who needs a protected place to release their rage.
To each of them you will reach out, and generously invite them to soar and to thrive, because we are called to share this thing called Art.

You are also serving one other thing: your own truth. You are serving the relentless, passionate, fevered force within you that longs to grow and expand and feel and connect and create; that part of you that craves a way to express raw elation and passion, and to make manifest hard-core blissful rapture and fun.

That’s why “making it” is, in the end, utterly insignificant. LIVING it, BREATHING it, SERVING it … that’s where your joy lives.

Finally— BONUS lighting-round / hot tips: 11, 12, 13:
    - Dont Wash Wool.
    - Moisturize (and don’t forget your neck)
    - And believe me, I know what I’m talking about here: NOTHING staying in Vegas.

What an honor it is to share in this evening with you. Savor the moment then fly out of this building, armed with the knowledge that YOU make a difference, that your art is NECESSARY, and that the world is eagerly awaiting to hear what YOU have to say.

I look forward to working with every single one of you— 

See you at rehearsal.


Related Posts with Thumbnails