Boston is an incredibly ambitious, hard working, relentlessly grinding city. It’s dynamic, political, and it’s full of creative people like Paola Ferrer, the Chief of Staff for the Department of Children and Families for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Paola has an extremely high pressure job day in and day out. But despite the enormous amount of time and toil that her job requires from her, she has never, ever, given up being an actor.
Paola has worked in multiple theatre productions with Boston area companies, including Escena Latina Teatro, Apollinaire Theatre Company, Fort Point Theatre Channel, Flat Earth Theatre, Artists’ Theatre of Boston, TC Squared Theatre Company, and Hub Theatre Company of Boston. She has also appeared in several TV, web, print and radio commercials.
How does Paola fit both of these into her busy life? Does she have two identities?
We could say that her day job as an advocate and her pursuit as an actor are the same identity.
Standing on a stage and standing on the statehouse floor come from the same creative identity within herself. Being in front of a jury is a performance that requires tons of scripting, rehearsal, memorization, and then she’s got one shot to perform her heart out and win the audience. Advocating for children and families at the state house requires the same empathy of portraying a single mother grappling with the realities of poverty in a theater play.
All of this begs the questions, what is a stage exactly? For Paola it’s simply a place to take a stand and create a difference.
We look at Paola’s story because we need to be creative with the way we look at our identity. We can have two seemingly disparate activities under the same creative identity.
We can also look at her story as an example of how being fully employed in a busy day job and maintaining a creative side hustle should be synergistic. Many creators want to be fully self employed - and that may be their path - but the goal is not necessarily self employment so much as having congruence in our identities.
We love Paola’s story because whether moonlighting as an actor or day jobbing it as an advocate, she’s always full hustle.
- Lucas Spivey, October 20, 2017
Paola was seven the first time she said she wanted to “be an actor AND a lawyer” (15:00). Her mom thought a lawyer was more realistic, even though her mom worked at a TV station and her father was a performer. As children we are encouraged to do certain things and discouraged to do other things. Often we accept these expectations from others as part of who we are.
IS YOUR IDENTITY WRAPPED UP IN OTHER PEOPLE'S EXPECTATIONS?
As an attorney - a job she had spent her whole life pursuing - Paola felt she wasn’t actually doing the work of advocating for poverty and race like she thought she would. She quit being an attorney, and pursued work in nonprofits and theater. When asked why, she said, “Everything you do in life has an opportunity cost… My sanity, how I felt about the work I was doing, how conflicted I felt… Even less money was a better bargain” (21:00).
Perspective is crucial for an artist to uncover their identity. We don’t take the common path, and so it takes a grand perspective to get where we’re going. If you made a map of your entire life, events that seemed like dead ends at the time are often a doorway to a more meaningful future. To gain that perspective, you have to see what these twists and turns have in common.
what do all the big changes in your life have in common?