Week 12 | Artist 12: Created to Create 2016 | Megan Callahan, Yoga Studio Owner/Performing Artist
Yoga Studio Owner, Performing Artist (Director/Actor/Musician/Voiceover Artist), Founder of B.A.L.L. (Buffalo Artist's Learning Lab)
megancallahan.com (coming soon, under construction/revamp)
Where were you born?
I was born in Edison, New Jersey.
Where do you live/work?
I have been living in Buffalo, New York since December 2008, when I moved here temporarily to do a play at the Irish Classical Theater Company. I ended up unexpectedly staying and becoming very involved in the artistic and yoga communities.
What fuels your desire to act/create?
For me, it is an act of service, healing, connection and discovery. I have always had many varied interests and music and theatre have been an organic place for everything to come together under one beautiful umbrella: a way to be a type scientist of the human condition and experience.
The best thing about being an artist is...
I think artists look at things through a different lens, as if they zoom out and look at culture, human interaction, ancient myths and stories in a way of wanting to make commentary on them, personalize them and help connect people to particular facets of them. Like with news, which can be very impersonal, when a musician or an actor tells a story about that same news, we now feel deeply connected and moved by it and able to relate to that particular point in history, current world event or thematic idea. So for me, the best part of being an artist is the way it connects us all more to all beings, creates a way to meet each other, to empathize, to celebrate, to mourn and to think critically.
The biggest obstacle in working with self is?
Probably the inner critic. The inner critic can be death to even starting a project, or that part of us that throws a 'wet blanket' on something, either due to things that we've been through, or unsolicited harmful feedback from others at the wrong point of our creative process that can paralyze us. I also think a growing obstacle is how busy everyone has become, bombarded with social media, electronics and distractions that temporarily provide a fix for our expressive needs, but not in the deeper way and also stress out our nervous system, putting us into a more permanent "fight or flight" mode physiologically which is deadly to creativity. Also, now that I'm a mother to a young child, with another one on the way, which is one of the most amazing journeys I've ever been on, it's been difficult to find the long stretches of time I needed previously to write music, and dream up new ideas. But, I know it's a phase of life, so I'm interested to just be with it and see what unfolds in the years to come.
What advice you would give self at the very beginning of your training and professional career?
I wish someone had turned me onto meditation years back when I was starting. It's such a great way to deal with the conundrum that Uta Hagen discusses of needing the skin of a butterfly onstage and the skin of a rhino offstage. And to identify if you are a "Mozart" or a "Ben Franklin" in the sense of someone who is very much focused on one thing naturally, or more of a renaissance soul with many interests. I had years early on, and sometimes still do, where I was told I had "pick one thing," which was in fact misguided advice. Those who are renaissance souls just have to learn effective strategies for rotating their interests and not doing too many things at once, but still able to feel satisfied and free to create.
Are there any rituals you created to help you "face avoidance" that plagues any artist occasionally? Would you describe what works for you?
Building on my last answer, I used meditation before auditions to help me with nerves and the inner critic. And I also plan something really fun or nourishing after the experience to look forward to. And I loved a book I read a few years ago called "The Renaissance Soul." Additionally, I employ things from my work with the Michael Chekhov technique, energy work and yoga.
Talk about a piece of work that you experienced recently (could be a book, theatre, film, etc...) that moved you and how it found its place in your your work?
I saw a powerful documentary I've wanted to see for years called "What happened, Miss Simone?" about Nina Simone, who has always been one of my favorite artists. I was so inspired by the way she took the pain she experienced throughout her life and made beautiful, universally relatable art from it. Also, the sort of heart breaking pragmatism of her story. Sometimes what we dream of doesn't work out exactly as we picture, but it doesn't mean we still can't make a different kind of art, or express ourselves differently. She wanted nothing more than to be a concert pianist, but had she never played piano bar, she never would have been made to sing, and ultimately write songs, which so many people relate to.
What other art form do you connect to? How does this craft/discipline help you in your work?
I love dance. I am not much of a dancer myself, but the full bodied expressiveness of dancers is incredibly inspiring to me. The way to tell a story with no words, to express deep emotional significance through just movement. This inspires me especially as a director to encourage performers to find full bodied expression and something interesting and palpable living within, instead of the "neck and shoulders" acting that can plague the Western world.
Describe your ritual or productive day at work?
My days have changed pretty significantly with the advent of little ones, but a productive day is when I have time to journal and meditate upon waking. And then on the days when I can drop my son off to play with others, to play some music, or sit and dream. I find that with the various things I'm balancing, a good day is when I feel "proactive" vs "reactive," and scheduling has been key for this. The idea of "spontaneous" creativity had to be let go in favor of scheduled blocks of focused time. As a photographer friend of mine told me, he actually became highly productive after becoming a parent and I can see what he means.
Describe effective techniques you use to increase your focus/productivity when working on a project?
In addition to meditating, I definitely am a "cleaner." A clean workspace always helps my productivity. Also taking the time to schedule out the various components of the project and estimate how much time each part will take and allocate them into pre-scheduled spots, which can always be adjusted. Even if it's scheduling "dreaming time" which doesn't have an agenda other than to show up, it's very useful for me to work this way. I also work well with deadlines. And if I'm feeling a bit depressed one day or blocked, I'll take my dogs for a walk and use some walking meditation with breath awareness and inevitably come home in a different state and ready to return to work.
How do you reward self for a job well done?
Time in nature and a meal out is often a nice reward!! I like to journal about the experience too so that I have something concrete to refer back to when feeling discouraged about something in the future or needing inspiration.
In 2016, SUPER SPACE is serving as a vehicle to facilitate Created to Create Project.
CREATED TO CREATE
INTRODUCING ONE ARTIST PER WEEK, FOR 52 WEEKS IN 2016.
Beginning, January, 1st, 2016
ACTORS, ARTISTS, THEATRE MAKERS, FILM MAKERS, DESIGNERS, TEACHING ARTISTS, STUDENTS all chosen because they spend a part each day creating. Artists will be chosen in no particular order.
Introduce artists from different parts of the world. People who use different mediums and whose practice is at a different skill level. A thing they all have in common is unique sense of style and self-expression.