This week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Andrew Balestieri. Andrew began to discover his love of comedy when he had to dress as the profession he wanted to be at the 6th grade career day. He attended school that day as a comedian and realized he could make people happy through laughter. He further developed his skills of comedy, acting and performance when he became involved in the after school theatre program. His interest in performing was solidified when he had a leading role in Legally Blond and “sang his heart out”, only to receive a roaring response from the audience. When Andrew was asked about his passion, he stated that “if he had been asked two months ago he would have said comedy, but now he believes his passion to be making people happy with performance in general.”
In addition to Andrew’s love of theatre and comedy, Andrew has a strong sense of compassion for others and wants to help make a difference in the world. Most recently, he and a small group of students organized “The Unstoppable: Benefit for A.L.S. Research, dedicated to Mr. Wechsler.” The event was the culmination of a video project that started in his Communication class and grew into a Benefit event. Although Andrew had never worked with Mr. Wechsler, he knew of Mr. Wechsler’s years of dedication to HHS and his positive spirit. Andrew and his friends premiered their video during the event and gave an award to the student who emulated positivity (voted on my students at HHS). The event was a success and further illustrates the kind of character, compassion and person that Andrew wants to embody.
Q: Why do you consider performing for others to be your passion?
A: For me, performing for others is just the ultimate combination of adrenaline and making people happy. Being able to be heard is what I think everyone wants. Everyone wants a voice, and I’m no different, but beyond that when I’m able to get a reaction from the audience, I know that I’ve made their day better. Making people happy is my passion and I feel that there is no better way to do that than performance.
Q: Standing up on stage and performing a comedy routine is not an easy endeavor. What has the process of honing your craft taught you about yourself?
A: It is not easy at all. But what I have found is that I am in a constant state of performing, writing, gathering ideas. I could just be sitting in a class talking to anyone and I realize that in this conversation I am trying to make them enjoy themselves. I don’t want anyone who interacts with me to have anything other than a positive experience, and it is the same way on stage. The entire time I am on stage I am trying to convince the audience to listen to what I have to say, and to like me and such. But to a certain degree it’s also about not caring what people think, as the entire profession of comedy is that you and everything you say is meant to be judged and interpreted. So I would say that in honing my craft I have taught myself how to accept myself as a personality and how to present myself in a way that I see fit. But even more so I feel like I’ve learned a lot about how my inner mind works and how it thinks. I feel very in-tune with my mind which is something I am grateful for.
Q: What advice do you have for students who have not yet found their passion?
A: Stop at nothing to find it. And don’t knock anything until you’ve given it your fair shake. When I first tried stand up in Boston, I tried a crappy five minute set in front of a room full of slightly buzzed comedians who all wanted the same thing I did. That kind of rejection can make you believe comedy is not for you, but I stuck with it and now it is something that I love. And I also don’t think passions are limited to job titles. Maybe it’s jogging (god knows why) but maybe it is. Or maybe it’s giving 110% in your relationship. No matter what, you should always take chances to find your passion. (Completely cheesy sentence incoming) Chances are some of the best things we get, that’s why you have to take as many as you can get. So all in all I’d say if you don’t know what you are passionate about, explore, its okay to not know, just keep going until you find what it is that makes everything worth it. You know what they say: It’s not about the destination it’s about the journey…and a little bit the destination.
Q: During our conversation you talked about creativity being essential. What role does creativity play in your life and why do you think it is so important for a school to foster creativity?
A: Creativity is, in a nutshell, what makes the world turn. Why do we get up in the morning? To go and learn about the world and what we can do to change it. Life isn’t worth living if you can’t make it your own. The way I see it, we live in this planet and our entire species has built a world and culture and now all of humanity has led right to us, and now we get to contribute. How can we do that if we’re inputting numbers on a spreadsheet. I quote the great Robin Williams “No matter what anybody tells you, words and Ideas can change the world. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business engineering, these are noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life, but poetry, beauty, romance, love these are what we stay alive for.” It could not be more true. We will go on to get jobs and chase money but in the end, art and human connection, that’s what keeps us all sane. “That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” Fostering creativity is about helping kids determine what their verse will be, and I think that is pretty vital.