The Distancing Diaries: Opera Australia’s Benjamin Rasheed on Fitness, Cooking, and Staying Vocally Ready
Welcome to The Distancing Diaries, where we chat with members of the theatre community about how they’re staying creative and inspired in the time of social separation. While we can’t go to a show (for now), we hope that by sharing stories from the field, you’ll find comfort, solace, and maybe a few new ideas of how to pass the time.
Opera Australia’s tenor Benjamin Rasheed talks with us about his current hobbies, favourite recipes and how he’s keeping himself vocally ready to return to the stage!
What is keeping you inspired during this time?
The arts and my fellow artists. I’m seeing so much wonderful content online from fellow performing artists and it fills me with such hope and inspiration. I’m also enjoying many books, movies, plays, musicals, and music in general that I’ve not had the chance to read, hear or see when so busy.
How are you staying creative?
I’m spending a lot more time at my keyboard learning roles but mostly teaching myself to play. I’m no pianist but I want to be able to play the piano rather than just bash out my notes. When I’m at a piano/keyboard I find it to be a very creative and playful place.
How are you practicing self-care?
I’m making sure I stay in touch with family, friends, and colleagues as much as I can. I do like my downtime, but I’m very comforted by human interaction. I’ve discovered a great app called Houseparty, I guess it’s similar to Zoom and FaceTime, where you can video chat with multiple people while enjoying a beverage of your choice. Cheers!
What is something (or a few things) great that you’ve watched?
I really enjoyed a Netflix miniseries called “Unorthodox.” It’s about a woman escaping her Hasidic roots and fleeing New York for Berlin. On the slightly trashy side I loved “Tiger King”! Great for binge-watching, lots of mullets, people with no teeth, and big cats!
What is something that you’ve enjoyed reading?
I’ve just finished a fantastic book by Melinda Gates, “The Moment of Lift.” It’s about how empowering women can change the world and it’s a must read. I’ve also started a rather sobering book, one I felt I should try and learn from, “The Great Depression, A Diary.” It may not be for everyone but I find the economy and history fascinating.
What are you listening to?
Music wise I’ve been listening to a lot of music theatre: “Hamilton,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Carousel,” and “Ragtime” to name a few. I’m loving the free streaming of operas, plays and musicals online. I’ve enjoyed “Nixon in China” from The Met and “One Man, Two Guvnors” from The National Theatre. The arts are keeping us sane, inspired, and entertained while everything else is shutdown.
Have you gotten into cooking or baking? What’s something that you’ve enjoyed making, and if you can, can you share the recipe?
You bet! I’m no cook or baker, but I’ve started, and it’s so cathartic. I’m loving baking chocolate and walnut brownies and making hearty, rustic type meals. One in particular is a recipe by Silvia Colloca, Sausage meatballs with chickpeas. Deeelish!
How are you staying physically and vocally ready to return to the show?
I’ve never been fitter in my life. I’m going to my local park and working out, using my body weight as resistance, and I’m running a lot. Our job is so demanding that we rarely get a break and sometimes a break is the most important thing for your voice. Many of my colleagues are noticing their voices are fresher than before self isolation, so this downtime can be looked on as a bit of a blessing. I’m still singing while learning roles.
How do you think people can support theatre and the arts community and engage with it during this time?
If you’re in a financial position to do so, don’t ask for a refund on tickets you’ve purchased. Companies and artists need that money to maintain their product so that you have something to enjoy once they are up and running again.
Engage with as many companies and artists online with messages of support and, if they’re offering, purchase their online content. Most of all, keep pushing the importance of the Arts, without the Arts and artists we’d have nothing. Artists give us literature, music, theatre, dance, movies, life would be rather empty without them.