This post is part of a series of reflections about Imago Theatre’s Youth Mentorship Program, ARTISTA, by program mentors and mentees. Here Amanda Coochey (ARTISTA 2015 Participant) reflects on her experience.
When I first submitted myself for a spot in ARTISTA, I was nervous. It was December 3rd 2015. I had just finished editing a video where I talked about myself (cringe): what I’m into, what my goals are, why I think I would be a good fit for Artista and why Artista would be a good fit for me. It was one of the most vulnerable things I’ve done in a long time. “Is this pretentious?!” I asked myself ten thousand times.
I waited for what felt like ages, and then received an email thanking me for my submission. Not long after that, I got another email welcoming me to the ARTISTA team!! What?! I was ecstatic! Up until this point it felt like everything had been going wrong for me. I had graduated Dawson College’s Professional Theatre Program in May, and after taking a break during the summer to relax, I had no idea what to do with myself. All that adrenaline and motivation was gone, and I was scared. Oh snap. This is real life. I’m not a student anymore. What do I do now?? Do I even want to be an actress? Is this a mid-life crisis? Maybe I should have gone into sciences?!
No, no. Finally something felt right. I now had something to look forward to every Monday night– a new theatre family full of bright, beautiful, strong and empowering women exchanging ideas over yummy vegan food, then moving upstairs to the studio for play time. My stomach was happy. My soul was happy. The Yin and Yang energy brought to every session by Joy and Warona made for a perfect balance of energies in the room, every time. What more could you ask for from a learning environment?
As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about, and that’s one of the most important things I learned from ARTISTA. You know that saying, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself” ? Yup. That’s the truth, and I try to remind myself that at least once a day.
Fast forward to April 2016. We’re in rehearsal for our “Outcome”, as we called it, a final performance where we showcased some creative pieces we had been working on since January. I can’t believe how time had flown by… Only a few days left and then this wonderful journey was going to come to an end. I looked around the room at these lovely ladies, and I felt so grateful. I wasn’t in a good place when I started ARTISTA, I didn’t feel like myself at all. “Tell us about yourself!” They said on the first day, and I had no idea what to answer. Holy shit who am I? But ARTISTA was a safe place that allowed me to figure that out, to do a lot of reflecting and self-discovery, and boy was there a lot to do. I learned how to allow myself to be a beginner again. Baptism by fire. I learned how to let go of my ego (sort of… it’s a work in progress #theatrestruggles). I learned so much about myself by watching these women interact during workshops, and when our Outcome was finished, I found myself in a better place. There was still a lot of work to be done, but there was a fire that started inside me which only continued to grow.
When I left ARTISTA, I felt a bit empty, like post-show depression, only, I didn’t leave empty handed. I was given some incredible tools, an incredible mentor, some new friends, and I learned some great lessons that would only open up doors to new and exciting things!
In my submission video I had talked about wanting to study musical theatre, but I was scared. During my time at ARTISTA, I gained the courage to audition. This summer I received an acceptance letter to Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts in Toronto. If only I could go back and tell that girl making that video what a huge impact this would have on her over the next year! You did it gurlfrand!
The good news doesn’t stop there. In the final months of ARTISTA I took up pole dancing again, something I had started the summer before and then took a break from because I wasn’t happy. I stuck with it and now I’m doing pole combos and inversions that I never even would have imagined possible this time last year! The fire inside keeps burning. I went for my first (and certainly not last!) Reiki session with Lucy Toppetta this summer, and it was incredible. I’ve never felt so at peace with myself! (Thanks Olivia!!) It helped me to open myself up to the real issues I was struggling with and face them head on, and that gave me courage.
With all this motivation, I went out and managed to secure a spot in the advanced class at the Broadway Academy in Westmount, where I’ve just finished a 14 week workshop in musical theatre to keep me in shape for the big move in January. WOO! And the final cherry on top? I went back to my musical theatre home and auditioned for the West Island Theatre Association’s mini cabaret-style show, “Encore”, and managed to snag a solo. Am I dreaming? No. I’m awake. This is real. This is me. (I’m exaaaactly where I’m suppoooosed to beeeee now…. Camp Rock? Anyone?)
I’ll admit that losing myself for so long was terrifying, and in that time I did and said things I’m not proud of. I pushed people away. I diverted blame on to everyone but myself. I didn’t listen to the people that wanted to help me… It was like an out of body experience. Sometimes it takes a good fall to know where you stand. But every Monday I tapped into myself and put myself back together, I began building the person I wanted to be. And every day I work on her a little bit more.
Without even realizing it, ARTISTA put me on the path to my own spiritual journey. And I think the timing is perfect. I have two wonderful years at Randolph Academy ahead of me, and I can’t wait to get started. The last two years have been tough, but totally necessary for growing purposes, and as much as I think I’m doing a good job with this, I need to work on embracing the detours. I hate it when things don’t go as planned… But they never do! So I’m only setting myself up for disappointment, really. Sigh. But I think if I keep at it, and work on taking things one day at a time and accepting things for what they are and as they come, the rest will get easier.
“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person that walked in. That’s what the storm is all about.” – Haruki Murakami
Amanda Coochey – ARTISTA 2015