Artist Spotlight: Jessie MacBeth
Hi! My name is Jessie MacBeth.
I am a college graduate with degrees in Music, Theater, and Africana Studies. I was in an acapella group in college where I had many solos. I was given the opportunity in college to perform leading roles in many shows, and went on to perform a bit in New York City and Connecticut. I thought my identity was rooted in being a fantastic singer and always being the best one in the room. If I wasn’t, I found ways to break down other people’s talent in my head and rationalize how I was just as good or could be just as good if I had been given the opportunity. I am a selfish, ego-ridden human being.
Then I moved to Pennsylvania and started working for a company that did not believe in curtain calls. They did not give me a leading role. In fact, I was part of the ensemble and was a second understudy for another role. I fully expected to go in, and blow them away with my talent and humility. Sounds a bit counterintuitive, right?
That’s because it is.
I was letting my identity be ruled by affirmations and opportunities, and I still do. When I moved and started this new job, I learned so much. To be honest, I learned how to be a better person and I feel like (and hope) a better performer as a result.
Here are some things I have learned:
You don’t deserve anything, regardless of whether or not you have talent.
First of all, just from the Christian perspective, we don’t deserve anything and we are sinners. So the idea that because I have a gift I deserve a certain role or special attention for my talents is a very silly way to think. Of course, I still often think this way. I have to constantly remind myself to continually renew my mind and realize the only reason I have this gift is because of the Lord. I do not own it. It is not even mine to begin with.
When I started to fully grasp this concept, I started to pray before my performances. “Lord, thank you for the gifts you have given me. Without you, this performance would be crap, and I leave it in your hands. Help me to speak to someone in the audience.” Or something like that. Not the most eloquent of prayers, but it relinquishes the responsibility of my personal performance from my hands to the Lord’s hands. I don’t own my performance, and I try not to be defined by it either.
I have no control over my gifts.
There is something bizarre about the concept of gaining control over your life. You will never be able to control everything, so the concept of gaining complete control is futile. In my everyday life, and especially in my pursuit of the arts, there is always a driving force in my brain to gain control of my craft and perform a finished, polished product.
Being a performer is not about having control, it is about surrendering. I can practice all I want, but before going onstage I suddenly get overwhelmed by the fact that I am incapable of being in control of what I am about to do. I know my lines, I know my blocking, I can warm up my voice. But I don’t know if my voice is going to do something unexpected or if the lights and sound will go out. I can see that the lights and sound are all working prior to my entrance, but once I open that door to perform, a lot of my control goes out of the window. I just need to trust that the vessel the Lord has so graciously given me will perform as well as it can given the preparation I have taken. Performance and faith are inextricably linked. There is a huge amount of trust that goes into performing, not only in your scene partner but in yourself.
I would love to eventually see performances as an offering; to expect nothing in return and just lay it all out for people to consume in the way they wish. You cannot control the reviews, the way people perceive your performance, or even how they talk to about you later on. However, you can ensure that you are as prepared as humanly possible beforehand.
In my world, it is a daily struggle to relinquish the thoughts and judgments of others. Currently I am exploring how to navigate through life with an anxiety ridden brain and a heart that’s eager to love and bring glory to the Father.
If you are interested in hearing more from me, you can find other musings at 5thingsimanxiousabout.com.