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Dear Kelly
By Edgar Caruana
Copyright 2000 Edgar Caruana
Letter to 16-year-old Kelly, daughter of the writer's friend, offering certain advice about the performing arts.

Dear Kelly!

I hope you don't think I have forgotten you. You have been on my mind all the time and I finally got myself to write these few pages.
Let me tell you something- I am not saying that what I have written has not been told to you by Mom, Dad, your teachers, etc. You probably have heard all this before but I thought that if you hear it from a fellow thespian who has lived a long life on the stage it might be fun to hear it. My life has been full. The time I have spent on the stage has been a blessing and a great gift from God and I wouldn’t change a minute of it.
If you ever want to talk about a play or need some suggestions, maybe you, your Dad and myself could meet for coffee at the diner and talk about it. Remember I am your friend and I would consider it an honor to give you any help you need.
Never think of you’re the greatest. There is always someone who is greater or better than you or someone who is worse than you. The most important thing to remember is that God made you and threw away the mold. He said that I'll make only one Kelly and make sure you are unique. Then He gave you certain gifts and you have to make sure that you try to develop these gifts- no matter what they are. I'll tell you one of my favorite stories. This applies to all of us...

" A man owned a house. There was a terrible storm and the river next to him overflowed. The waters came into his living room, up to the ceiling. He went up to his bedroom, but still the waters continued to rise. So, he went up to the roof but now the waters were up to his neck. He then said "Lord, help me- I'm drowning." The next thing he sees is a man in a rowboat. The man asked him to get into the
boat and he'll take him to dry land. The man said "No, thank you. The Lord will save me!" Then a helicopter came along, and a rope was sent down for him to grab, but the man said to the pilot "It's okay, the Lord will save me!" So the helicopter went away. Naturally, the man drowned and went to heaven. As soon as he sees God, he said: "Lord, I asked for help. How come you didn't help me?" The Lord said: "My son, I sent you a boat and a helicopter. Why didn’t you take them?" In our life, we are sent many rowboats and helicopters, and if they look good and safe to us, we might take them and try to utilize them.
When I was seventeen, I had wanted to be a doctor. I happen to love people and I figured that was one way I could help them. But my father died at age 48 leaving me in charge of my mother and 6 other brothers and sisters all younger than me. I had to go to work and give up the doctor idea. I was disappointed to say the least but God takes care of His own. He sent me a boat - 2 uncles who were in the USA called me to try my luck in this beautiful country of ours. I came here and met my wife, Lucina, have 3 beautiful children- Deborah, Roger and Lance and have the 3 most beautiful grandchildren from my princess, Deborah (Monica-18, Kelly-16, and Blake-15). So, I said this is what God wanted and I accepted it- I will not change anything that happened for a million dollars.
Now let's get back to the subject of the stage- something that we both love so much.
(1.) Let me tell you that when I was your age, I was the most bashful person around. All you had to do was to ask me to stand up and recite a lesson or anything that was a solo. I would turn red, like a tomato, and wish that the earth would swallow me up. Until one day my teacher asked me to audition for a play. ME?! Audition for a play? Are you kidding?, I said. He said "No, try it and if you don't like it you can drop out." So I tried it, and you know what? I loved it. During rehearsals, my fellow actors were laughing at my lines (I must admit it was a funny play.) Then when opening night came, I had 500 people laughing at my performance. Do you know what it did to me? It made me come out of my shell and I suddenly realized that I had something on the ball and people liked what I was doing. From that time on I was a new man and I have never looked back at what I thought I was (I forgot to tell you that I thought I was ugly compared to some of my friends. I don't know why I thought I was ugly). If God made us in His own image, how can He create something ugly?
I am enclosing my "Bio"- not to show off (even though I am rather proud of it) but to point out to you that if you want to do something in this world, nothing will stop you. You just make sure that what you do is good and will not hurt anybody. I was sort of lucky that I had an accent which instead of keeping me from getting good roles, opened up other roles which needed an accent- DeBeque, Fagin, Scrooge, Vandergelder and a few others. So, you see, God is a good planner and we have to trust in him.
(2.) 1 heard your voice on tape, and I liked what I heard. You are still young and your voice is still a young voice- it will develop as you grow older. The most important thing is that it is there. You have a good pitch (which as you know, is a must), you have a love for the theater (which is a requisite ) and you are in a country where everything is possible.

(3.) Voice. The voice is a beautiful instrument and we must cherish it and take good care of it. We must make sure that if we trust anybody with it (teachers, director, etc.) we got to make sure that they are good and capable. Before you accept a voice teacher (and you will meet quite a few of them in your life) make sure that you'll give them an audition. How do you do that? Recommendation from your friends; hearing about them from other teachers; but eventually you will have to be the judge on whether they are good for you or not. The fact that the teacher is or was a good singer, does not necessarily mean they are good teachers. I consider myself a pretty good singer, or so they say, but I will not and I'll repeat "not" dare to give singing lessons. I was not educated for that. I was taught how to sing only and not to teach. Oh, of course I could tell you how to stand, open your mouth correctly and certain little tricks to make you look good, but that’s all. A bad teacher could ruin you or even ruin your voice forever. A good teacher is Domenic Guastaferro. Take my word for it.
Director. A good director can bring out the very best in you. Do not think that just because a director yells at his actors all the time that he is good. As a matter of fact he is the least capable in my estimation. A good director is the one who understands his actors' feelings, praises and corrects when necessary and who realizes that actors and actresses are also human. (As you must have noticed I still use the word "Actress" even though most women would rather be called
"Actor" ) try to pay close attention to your director. Believe me, a good one spends a lot of hours reviewing scripts and finding ways and means of making you look good on that stage.
Discipline yourself on the stage. Do what the director tells you. You might not agree with it at the time, but never start arguing with the director at rehearsal time. Wait till there is a break, then you go to her or him, tell him what you think and you might surprise yourself- they might even agree with you. I have done that many times and not only made actors and actresses happy, but surprise, surprise- I found out that I even learned something from it.
(4.) Fellow Thespians. There is nothing more horrible than jealousy or bad feelings on the stage. Some people just relish being "different" or "hard to get along with". They think it's rather expected of them. They must have been watching some old movies or seen an opera where the prima donna acted like a spoiled kid. What is better than being friendly to your friends- going to them and asking them if you could read their lines with them: "I'm having trouble with this note/phrase. Could you help me?" How can they hate you when you are actually asking them for their help because you value their talent and advise. Believe me, they'll jump over a bridge for you!
(5.) Nerves / Preparedness. Being nervous on the stage could come from many things.
A.) Some people are nervous no matter what- they will never get over it (fortunately, thank God, there are not too many of them)
B.) Those who think that nervous is the way to be. It seems to work for them.
C.) Those who make sure that they try to make their work as easy as possible. One example: I am a tenor and unfortunately I have not been able to master my "B flat". I can only reach a high "A" comfortably without cracking. So what do I do? I never sing anything with a "B flat." Why make myself worry whether I can reach the specific high note if I'm not sure of it? Some tenors in the Met do not have a B flat, believe it or not! So when I sing I’m not nervous. That's half the battle. Do only what you're able to, but if you do it, you must give it your best shot. That precious audience deserves it.
(6.) Audience. Did you ever think what the word audience means? It comes from the word "audio" which means "listening". Why do they want to listen to someone like you or me? Because we are speaking or singing about something they like. Imagine that. They are honoring us with their presence. What a great gift God gave us. We can make people happy and forget their troubles even for a couple of minutes because we are giving them something of ourselves.
Look the audience in the eye and show them that you are proud to give them pleasure. The rest is easy. Audiences are not stupid. Have you ever been in an audience and seen an actor on the stage who is so full of himself that you wish that you could go to him and ask him to leave the stage? I have and the audience can see this. Also remember that you are human. Your voice can crack (it has happened to many people-amateurs and professionals alike). Most of your audience will feel for you and root for you. Believe me - it has happened to me. You forget your lines, the audience will hold their breath and when you regain your composure, they will breathe a sigh of relief.
Kelly - remember I’ll always be there to help you. Please don’t forget - call me anytime.
Love Edgar