Chunky in Heat Yearbook: Sarah Daniels

EiO’s upcoming opera Chunky in Heat follows the emotional life of a teenage protagonist, Cheryl (aka Chunky), as she navigates the perils of her changing world.  We asked some of the artists involved in the premiere to share how their own experiences in high school informed their work on the opera.

Sarah Daniels sings the role of Chunky in the upcoming production of Chunky in Heat.

Upon first reading the libretto I thought “So, this is about me as a teenager.” I relate to Chunky at an embarrassingly high level. Somehow simultaneously self-centered and self-conscious. Overly confident in some ways, and wildly under-confident in most other ways. Seeing the world entirely through the lens of how it relates to me. First of all, of course I relate to Chunky’s body image issues. I can’t imagine a world in which teenage girls don’t care about how they look and obsessively compare themselves to celebrities and their peers. I used to make makeshift corsets out of bandanas and wear them under my t-shirts. Cosmopolitan magazine was a strange, forbidden bible of female perfection. It’s a messed up world, that of a teenage girl. BUT more than anything as a teenager, I wanted to get out, and it wasn’t so much a “plan” in my head as it was the inevitable trajectory for me. I had set all my clocks and watches to New York time years before I graduated and left the southwest. I dressed up every single day of high school as if to prepare myself for the high pressure to be fashionable in New York City. I totally isolated myself in this way, and I didn’t much care because I was leaving it all behind in a matter of years anyway. I was living a life in preparation for the future. Even if I didn’t get into my dream NYC conservatory, the plan was to go to New York regardless–start taking voice lessons and start auditioning for theatre. The plan was to escape to something better, bigger, brighter, at any cost. I realize now what a fantasy world I lived in, but I can’t complain–I’m in New York City, and I still call it home almost ten years later, forever chasing the dream (albeit with far much less glamour than I had envisioned as a 15-year-old). tl;dr Playing Chunky hits close to home.