No Boundaries

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This year has been an interesting one for me as an artist. There have been both epiphanies and regrets.

When I started as an artist, it was all about the visual. I remember being encouraged every step of the way by my family. A number of family members are artists, though none pursued their amazing talents for various reasons. But not me in college I dove in. My mom tried to convince me to get an Art Ed degree, I had no interest. When asked, “What will you fall back on?”, my attitude was “ART” that’s what.

In my second semester I decided to take a leap and try theatre, I failed miserably at first as a performer but my perseverance encouraged the stage manager to ask me to assist and a theatre rat was born. I had no boundaries, I used everything I was learning to create, to put together performances and events without a worry as to whether or not it was the norm …and I thrived!  The ideas came and I found a way to make them happen. I directed, wrote, choreographed, produced, designed lights and sets, I made art and managed projects with others – I was referred to as a “renaissance woman”. I had the all-around skills to understand one side to the other and I reeked of creativity in the best possible way.

Then I fell in love with the craft of acting. I knew it would be difficult because I had a certain look and not a perfect body (as I was told more than once). I thought, “It’s a challenge”, a challenge for me to get past my body image issues and become free. I had some amazing teachers who helped me through blocks, read books, performed and had fun. I was so excited when I got my first headshots, but it was the first lesson I learned hearing over and over, “we have too many like you” (ie. tall, blonde, and blue eyed). I grew out and dyed my hair black, got new headshots and started getting roles. I had to change to fit the industry.

I came to NYC after realizing RI wasn’t going to make me a career, it was a dream I never thought would happen for so many personal reasons, but it did! My first year here was amazing; auditioning, meeting people, the independence of being away from family, having our first dog. I didn’t have to work and got to take classes and discover Manhattan. It was exhilarating! Then somehow toward the end of that first year things shifted, I found myself questioning everything; my choices, my talent, my body (which was the healthiest it had ever been), and my abilities. I broke down. I loved acting but instead of seeing that it had nothing to do with my talent or abilities I focused on all of the personal criticisms that come with the business; not thin enough, not pretty enough, too tall, too young, too old, my resume not full enough with the “right” names. I believed I was a failure.

I decided to turn it around and took the advice I had heard over and over, “do it yourself”. I created a theatre co. and it was successful. Over a number of years I gathered great talent; actors, writers and directors. We did incredible and moving work, so good it got to a point where I had to make a decision to take the next step and grow or pull back and rethink what I really wanted. I again focused on the wrong things for my own success. I created the company so that I could play the roles I wanted and I did, but being the leader I was the one running the company, taking on the admin work and the communications and everything else. I didn’t know how to ask for the right kind of help and I wasn’t getting what I felt I needed. I pulled back and thought about it, stepped away from the company and decided again to focus on acting.

Reality check…acting wasn’t making me happy. Through all these years it never fulfilled what I thought it would. I’m not sure what I was looking for but  as much as I love being on the stage or in front of a camera, something was missing.

I had it all wrong.

What happened for me is that pursuing a career that requires so much work and relies so much on who I know, what theatre I have on my resume and what I look like personally goes against all of the creativity in my being. Though the rush and freedom of the moment as lived out on stage is exhilarating for me, it doesn’t last. I started reflecting on what I fell in love with about theatre, reminding myself that what I wanted was to create worlds that touched people; I love the stories, the characters, the big picture, the artistry of the stage; it is versatile and ambient. The stage can be anything and all encompassing, it can swallow you if you let it. As an actor I was focused on my character and the moment I was in instead of the concept and creation of the world around me; I wanted a hand in the big picture, I missed it!

I was stifled.

This year I’ve started writing again; something I had blatantly left behind. I picked up my pen and inks and opened my paints. I am allowing my brain to stop focusing on my next headshot, my “look” and what my type is and start allowing the ideas to flow again, releasing my judgments of art and myself. I am once again letting go of the outcome to allow the genius within to escape unafraid of failure because there is no failure in a lesson, only wisdom.

I don’t regret the time I’ve spent pursuing the dream I thought I wanted, the people and experiences it has contributed to my life are essential to who I have become, but I’ve come full circle. I am in true transition. I feel the world reopening and restrictions disappearing. I am strong; my lessons have been both hard and well earned. It’s time to simply create and follow my gut (which has served me greatly) and change my paradigm. The future holds no boundaries.

Namastè
Nichole

 

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Author: The Gift of Being: On Art, Life & the Process of it All

Nichole Donje is a multi-disciplinary artist, activist and leader. A philosopher and self-exploration addict, Nichole is currently working on two books of art and poetry FINDING TRUE NORTH and LIFE POEMS. She is a visual artist and photographer. Nichole founded the highly regarded New York City based independent theatre company TAPT/The Artist’s Playground Theatre, in 2006. Serving as TAPT’s Artistic Director, Nichole works diligently to support new and forgotten works that help shape the way we view the world around us. A recognized leader, Nichole serves as Vice President of the Board of Directors for The Players. The Players is the oldest theatrical club in the country founded by such luminaries as Edwin Booth and Mark Twain "for the promotion of social intercourse between the representative members of the dramatic profession and the kindred professions of literature, painting, sculpture and music, and the patrons of the arts". A key influencer of the Players current revitalization she has become an advocate for the art and livelihood of a social club. The Players not only honors yesterday’s and today’s luminaries of the performing arts, but also brings back the forgotten art of face to face relationships. Nichole is a member of SAG-AFTRA, LPTW/League of Professional Theatre Women and The Players.

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