I went to my unofficial- not my graduating year- high school reunion this past weekend. The school was special. It was the High School for the Performing Arts in New York City. Since the classes of ‘80 and ’81, seemed to have fallen off of the radar of the alumni association, my classmates put together an unofficial one. It was held at the Muse Hotel, next door to the building where we went to school on 46th.
It was such a small school, we only had 132 graduates in our class. The class of '80 was small as well and all of the other years were welcome. I was in the Drama department and many of our classmates were going to be there. My very close friend, Wendy, refused to go “It’s not our year. That is like crashing someone else's party.” I decided to go on the day…my intuition told me to go anyway. I only felt as if I was crashing for one minute. The warmth was spectacular.
Performing artists are generally an outgoing, friendly bunch. There is also far more picture taking than at other reunions. Or is that a stereotype? It was funny to evaluate the old stereo types that I developed in my high school days. Dancers were quiet. Actors are self involved; Musicians are weird “in a good way”- usually geeky and good at math. Dancers and Actors all have eating disorders. Now that I am older, I understand these stereotypes….
1. I was very mistaken about dancers being quiet. The old ones are a force to be reckoned with. They have had years of serious discipline and are formidable and strong.
2. Actors are self involved. A certain narcissism is part of the craft. However, many are just as astute observers of others as well as their own psyche.
3. Musicians…I haven’t a clue.
4. As for the eating disorders, this is true…unfortunately the emphasis on appearance, makes this one of the most damaging dangers of these occupations. I have since learned that male actors also suffer from eating disorder and serious body image issues. Now that I have had over 20 years of post high school experience, I think it is best to leave the stereotypes. People change, life changes people.
What happens to an aging performing artist? I never wanted to pursue an acting career. My parents were divorced. My mother was poor, my father was rich. I cared little for money but I knew what it was to struggle and I knew that actors struggled. Most working actors make their livings from commercials, voice over’s, small parts on TV and movies. Most actors have to have other flexible work to supplement their income. It is a hard life. Dancers have a short career. They destroy their bodies at a young age and then go on to do something else. Musicians can pursue their career into an older age.
One of our class mates plays drums for an Indie band. He put me on the list for his NYC concert at the Bowery Ballroom. I felt old just being in the audience. I made the mistake of being in the standing room section. I wanted to be close to the stage. I had no idea how hard it was to stand for four hours with 20 something’s. When I saw him at the reunion, I told him that I hoped I didn’t piss off his fan base by body slamming the young girls who danced like squirrels next to me. They were too peppy for their own good…
In the next year, I would like to explore the aging performing artist. Perhaps I will compile interviews of my classmates. I have too many unanswered questions in my own mind. How do we all follow our bliss, when our ideals of bliss change? People change.