(Originally published to the T&T Sunday Guardian 21/08/2016)
Hard work and determination can carry you far in pursuit of your dreams. That’s one of the many lessons singing actor Raguel Gabriel has learned over the first year of his three-year conservatory program at the prestigious Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York City.
Gabriel is proud of his performance over the past year, which he said has led to his being offered an assistantship at the school. This offer means that his tuition has been halved in return for working at the institution after school hours. The position is one of five available, and all 32 students in his cohort applied for the posts. He said his performance during his first year, his previous work experience as a manager and supervisor here in T&T, as well as being one of the oldest persons in the year at 32, were factors that led the interviewers to choose him.
While he is extremely grateful for the offer, and to have been invited back for his second year, again based on performance, Gabriel still has to find US7,500 for tuition as well as US$15,000 for living expenses and incidentals for his second year, as his funds ran out during the first year. He is therefore holding a fund-raising concert on August 27 entitled “Desire.” He said the concert was inspired by the experiences during the past year, particularly his desire to get to the end without giving up.
Gabriel said he went through some hardships while at school, including days without food. “There were days we had to live on a dollar, a doughnut a day, and I just kept saying endlessly, it’s coming to an end. That desire to get to the end made me do a lot of things I never thought I would have the strength to do. Sometimes I’d have no money to go home, I was ready to sleep on the bench but I wasn’t worried and said if I have to sleep here I will, school is in another five hours, and then somebody would bring money for me.” He said desire can drive you when you think you can’t keep going. “The amazing thing is that everyone in the world right now desires something in some form. I’m glad I never gave up.”
The concert will feature singers Danielle Willaims and Diahann White and pianist Jerome Dinchong, along with Gabriel himself, who will be showcasing the new skills he has learned. For the first time, he will be including monologues in between songs to tell a story. One of these is an excerpt from a one-man piece titled “Letting Go” which he performed at the Studio’s Poetry Projects show last March. The choice of music ranges from classical to Broadway to contemporary.
Gabriel is looking forward to returning for his second year, where he will be doing Voice and Speech, Movement and Acting with Song classes, among others. He will also be cast in productions where he will be working with seasoned directors from the industry. Gabriel said his interests have now expanded to include art, poetry, photography and teaching, due to his experiences over the past year. He will also be introduced to the business side of acting and taught how to market himself as an actor. Gabriel said this is a far cry from T&T, where acting and the Arts in general are not seen are viable careers.
“This is a real career everywhere else in the world and there are actual classes about making this thing a career. It’s very serious, the business side of it, and they never assume you don’t want to get paid. My application at the Prime Minister’s Sports and Culture fund is still there since last year. The Accreditation Council of T&T have yet to provide a form, I was informed they were waiting on a signature. That’s where that process is, so I can’t wait on that. Why is that not as important as Carnival, or somebody in Sport? It’s not just me, there are singers and people who want to act, and they’re not getting the support. I just wish though that the recognition was from here. My school sees it in me and they give me that award, so why my country here can’t see that?”
Gabriel had these words of advice for those who want to pursue a career in the Arts. “In T&T, it’s very easy to be discouraged, I had to shut off everyone and not in a disrespectful way. There are two sides: the physical side and the metaphysical side. The physical side is the reality, if you want to be a better singer, go and train your voice, become good at it, if you want to be an actor, learn about it, learn your craft. Then the metaphysical side, you have to develop a sense of faith and determination to not give up. Develop both sides, combine them together, go with it and don’t listen to anybody that wants to diverge you from your dream. It’s your dream, develop it, develop your talent, and just go with it.”
For information and tickets, call 702-0947 or 683-3738 or find Desire (a fundraising concert) on Facebook. Tickets are $200 and the concert starts at 8 pm at the CLL auditorium at UWI.