by Kristina Latino
"If you can see yourself doing anything else and being happy, then you should do [that]. But if you can't see yourself doing anything else and being happy, then go for it."
This was the advice actor, singer and dancer Kristin Chenoweth offered to students yesterday in Farkas Hall as part of the Office for the Arts Learning from Performers series and co-sponsored by OFA, Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations and Faculty of Arts And Sciences Diversity Relations. (She also stopped by the Office of the University Marshall -- and less officially at the Coop.)
Her revealing interview, moderated by students Eric Padilla '14 and Cary Williams '16, covered a wide range of topics including her love of fast food (she's a McDonald's girl) and go-to audition songs (On the Other Side of the Tracks by Cy Coleman). Chenowith was witty and clever, charming the audience with tales from her childhood and moments of early artistic inspiration. A performer who has achieved success in film, Broadway, opera, classical concerts and TV, Chenoweth was more than happy to share perspectives with students hungry for advice. She even shared a song.
Chenoweth's overarching message yesterday afternoon was one of self-love and respect. In her Oklahoma town growing up, she was unique. One of the only children with an interest in performing, she stood out for her rare interests, as well as her petite frame and, as she said, a voice that "sounds like [she] breathes helium every morning." Rather than let these traits defeat her, she made them strengths.
"I choose to embrace the thing that makes me different," she said. "All the obstacles that you face -- switch it. Make it the thing that works for you."
She also stressed that one can't always plan one's future. She said that sometimes your path will stray from what you envisioned, but become much better than what you could have planned. To make difficult decisions, Chenoweth listens to that "little voice" inside of her and follows her heart, even when that means taking a risk. Some risky decisions, like deciding to take the role of Sally in You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, have been incredibly successful, while others have fallen flat. Still, even when Chenoweth has faced challenges in her career, she has learned from them. She stressed in her talk that rejection is part of being an artist, regardless of how much success one has had in the past.
"It doesn't matter where you are on the food chain," she said. And added that when you face rejection, you should "let yourself be sad, get yourself a [Wendy's] Frosty, and then move the f--- on."
At the end of the day, she says, she is an actor first. In her view, one must always give oneself over to the character to achieve success. "I am an actor," she said. "I am 44-years old, and I want to be the best artist I can be."
She has stolen audience's hearts in Wicked, You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, Glee, Pushing Daisies, and so much more. She stole the Harvard community's heart yesterday. An artist for life, she's likely to steal the hearts of audiences for a very long time.
[Caption: Kristin Chenoweth singing "'Til There Was You" at Farkas Hall; student moderator Eric Padilla '14 is in the background. PHOTO: JACOB BELCHER/OFA]
[Caption: Chenoweth with Harvard students. PHOTO: Jacob Belcher/OFA]