Artist Interview: Aaron Lazar, Part 2
This is Part 2 of our 3-part interview with Broadway star Aaron Lazar. Aaron is hosting our fifth annual Benefit, Arts For All Goes Public: Celebrating 5 Years, on April 21 at Joe’s Pub. Read Part 1 of Aaron’s interview here.
So what is the new Aaron Lazar leading man model?
I don’t think there is a model, and I think that’s what’s fun. There’s no more models, it’s just who I am. And I’m having to just try to be open to the growth that I’m trying to enable and embrace. And that’s not only professionally but personally too. Just bringing whatever that is to whatever the job is.
Why the American musical? Why that art form, for you?
That just is what seems to come naturally. I think that American Musical Theatre feels natural to me.
How do you get through the professional tough times?
That’s a good question. I guess that if I could go back to my younger self and help myself through the tough times, it’s about knowing that there’s always going to be tough times. Even not-so-tough times as an actor, you know if you’re not working and you have a family, times are tough. So it’s about knowing that tough times are ok and you’re not alone. Everybody goes through them.
Actors have this tendency to think, “I’m the only one questioning what I’m doing with my life and should I leave and quit the business?” And then you hear that So-and-so, who is 10 times more famous, almost quit last week, and you’re like, “If I only had that person’s career, I would never quit!” The grass is always greener.
I think the simplest advice I have is the only thing that is going to make you happy is you. The job’s not going to make you happy; it may make you happier. The money isn’t going to make you happy; it may make you happier. But if you’re not happy with yourself, then no job and no money will give you happiness any longer than that brief time that it may or may not be there.
That’s great advice for everyone, not just aspiring thespians.
I think it’s a spiritual thing, you know. If you can find your own happiness, it will translate to everything else in your life, I think. And it’s not an easy thing to do, but I think it’s a worthy pursuit.
It’s kind of constant work and balance. Happiness is a moving target: always finding it and re-finding it.
As long as it’s a goal along with all the other material goals – you know, I want this job and I want to make this amount of money and I want this house, all the things that we think we need – if one of those is “I need to work on myself to the point that I love myself,” then there’s a connection to something that’s bigger than all the rest of the material stuff. I think that’s important.
Thinking about that and about striving for happiness, can you describe why you’re doing this project for Arts For All?
I’m doing it for [Arts For All Board Member] Alan Ostroff. We go way back. He was probably the first artist I’d ever met and was aware of that, “oh, this guy’s an artist.” I was doing musicals in high school when we met in a summer arts program as roommates, and I was fully aware that I was rooming with a real actor. And that I had no clue what acting was. And to support what he’s doing now, which I think is a great thing, I’m all for it.
As an artist and a parent, what do you think we should be teaching via arts education? What’s the role of arts education?
My kids are so little that it’s hard to say. To look back at my education, I wish there was a more comprehensive look at how it all could flow together. The arts don’t have to be separate. I think they foster imagination and openness and a connection to joy that our educational system desperately needs.
I admire teachers more than anyone. My best friend from growing up is a teacher, and I can’t imagine… I don’t think I have any clue what it takes to sit in a classroom with kids between 5 and 18 years olds and have any idea how to use that energy and help them find themselves every day. Maybe once. I go in to teach a Master Class or to talk to kids and I do that a lot, but to do it every day, help those kids grow up with the arts, I think if teachers are really bringing their hearts to that it’s important work.
What do you enjoy most about those Master Classes and your work with young people?
Sharing. We get to share with audiences when we perform, but we don’t really get to share ourselves. We get to share someone else’s writing and someone else’s ideas and it usually has to be done a very specific way, which has made someone else’s thing the success that it is. So sharing my ideas and the stuff that I’ve learned. I didn’t come from a show biz family, I basically figured this out for myself, and I think it’s important to share that.
I started a blog in 2005 or 2006 called Simply Broadway, and I shared really everything that I knew and then I ran out of stuff to say. And it was for young performers and their parents. And then I started a company almost 4 years ago called Integrated Arts to integrate the arts into education. It’s something that someday I plan on putting a lot of money into it and doing it right. But until then at least the idea of having it and knowing that it’s an umbrella that I can work on some things under it for another day, is exciting.
It’s fun to have that idea for when you have more time and resources to put into it.
Yeah, you know actors start theatres and run theatre companies and direct and produce. Any way that you can to share what’s important to you in hopes that it affects other people.
Thanks, Aaron! Remember to check out Part 1, and look for Part 3 of this interview next week!