Host Garrison Keillor answers your questions about life, love, writing, authors, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion.
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The Direction of Your Fears
August 14, 2008 |
Dear Mr. Keillor,
Hi! I'm a senior in high school and I'm planning on following a career in the performing arts. It's always been a dream of mine to be a part of the show. What I would like to know is how could I possibly join Prairie Home Companion someday, if possible? If not, do you have any tips or hints on becoming a truly dynamic performer? Thanks so much.
Push yourself in the direction of your fears, Rebecca, and learn to master things that frighten you —shy persons should learn to get up and speak and sing, clumsy people should do gymnastics, juggling, riding a unicycle. (I didn't do it and I regret that—I'd be a better performer if, in addition to writing, I'd studied dance and picked up a musical instrument and learned how to stand on my head.) You are in your prime learning years and they're not to be wasted sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher blather about things you're not motivated to really learn. The listless passive student sitting in a classroom in order to placate his or her parents—a huge waste of time. Grab hold of your ambition and go with it. Get a job as a tour guide, a good place for a performer to start. You master a body of knowledge and you learn to present it face-to-face to a small group of people and you will know immediately if you're engaging them or not and if you aren't, you'll learn how to improve. I live in an old neighborhood of stately piles, many of which have interesting stories, and ever so often a gaggle of tourists goes by, led by a guide—this is a great performance opportunity that might be better for you than a bit role in a show. Or camp counseling—children are a tough audience. And start building your skills—develop your singing with old show songs, learn to tell jokes, take up juggling, master the tango and the samba, take to the flying trapeze, learn to play the tuba, and keep a daily journal of all your doings. Whatever you do, don't sit and wait for the phone to ring. And when you're ready to take over the radio show, let me know. I've got a few more years and then I'm out of here.