Monday, April 30, 2012

Inspirational Women in the Entertainment Industry: Megan Hilty...

Veteran theater performer Megan Hilty may have gotten her starring Broadway role at an extremely young age, but for a woman who knew this is what she wanted to do from age twelve, no matter when that break came, it had to bring with it a sense of relief that all of her wants and dreams of doing this for the rest of her life actually could be a reality. In looking back on Hilty’s plans and preparations, though, her success seemed destined from those early days at twelve, taking voice lessons, realizing for the first time this was an option and she could really do this for the rest of her life. 

“I always knew I wanted to be in the arts, and in theater, even if it was behind the scenes. Anything. I just wanted to be a part of it,” Hilty told Made Possible by Pop Culture

Hilty credits her family’s support, even at a time when they didn’t quite ‘get it’ because none of them were in the entertainment business themselves, and especially her mother’s advice of taking time to “try life out” and “do some soul-searching, essentially,” for giving her the “okay,” not only to commit herself to a life that can be traditionally unstable but also to move to Southern Oregon after she graduated from high school early and work on a small production. Hilty calls that time her “two years off,” but really, she might have been working harder than most trying to support herself and still keep feeding her love of theater. Once she realized that through it all, she still really wanted to pursue this career, then she considered herself “allowed” to go to college. Many artists feel further education is unnecessary. They prefer to just throw themselves into the industry and try to get work, rather than spend “four years of training and hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans,” but Hilty credits her time at Carnegie Mellon as everything she, personally, needed. 

“There's no right way. Everybody has such a different path. If you ask any two people on Broadway-- any ten people-- they all have very different answers on how they got there. But for me, I knew that I wanted to go to a place where I could really work on making myself better,” Hilty explained. 

“I had thrown myself into it already in the ways I could as a teenager...and I learned a great amount of things from doing that, but I wanted to go to a place where, and this is going to sound so awful and pretentious, but where I could 'hone my craft.' I wanted to be better, and I wanted to be in a place that could open doors for me that I hadn't been able to bust down myself.” 

It was during her university showcase-- something she described as "auditioning for every casting director, agent, producer, everybody!" in the industry-- that led her to Wicked, after all. But even once success comes in the form of starring roles, life in the theater, let alone any artistic medium, is never truly “easy.” When you’re still working menial or otherwise unstimulating or just plain “not for you” day jobs to be able to perform in workshops that barely pay anything, Hilty feels the drive and determination to keep going has to come from you and you alone. 

“It ultimately comes from you knowing why what you're doing and why you want to do it…Really ask yourself why you want to do this. If you just want to be a star or if you want the glamorous life, you are sadly mistaken about what this really is. You have to make sure your heart is in the right place. And then you just have to be nice to people!” She astutely advised. 

Hilty may have come along way from her days as a teenager in Oregon, but she doesn’t let her marquee status change the way she sees this industry or her role in it. Hilty shared that she still does “tons of readings and workshops” during the day while performing in shows at night. She feels it’s the only way to keep working, get ahead, and stay on your toes in such an ever-changing business. And she shared she has still experienced the whole “being replaced with a mainstream star” debacle, but even that, she said, is just something you have to accept as part of this business and not let get under your skin too much. 

“You have to have a really thick skin to be in this business…It’s a harsh reality, especially in times when people aren't as willing to spend a hundred and fifty dollars on a ticket for a show if there's nothing familiar-- there's no guarantee it's going to be good. So if you know that your favorite movie star or TV star or recording artist is in that show, you're much more likely to spend money on that ticket. I get it...but it doesn't make it any less painful,” Hilty admitted. 

Through it all, Hilty also feels that surrounding yourself with honest people, even if at times that honesty is a bit painful to hear, is much more crucial than surrounding yourself with “yes men.” 

“I would much rather honesty than just blind faith any day because even a kind of criticism, I can kind of take it or leave it, but there's room to grow. That blind faith where I'm going to be a star, there's nothing to work for, and if there's nothing to work for, it's not worth it,” she said of how she continues to grow as a performer. 

Clearly, Hilty is incomparably talented, but in this business sometimes that is not enough. Surely Hilty’s her humility and ability to tap into the positivity within herself has helped carry her as far as she has already gotten, and will continue to do so because Hilty truly is in it for the long haul. 

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