Sunday, April 2, 2017

Inhabiting Your Craft

Happy Sunday!  Happy April!

I was tagged in a post on Facebook this morning...which got me to thinking...

The post was very complimentary: “…XYZ is a wonderful actress…BUT, her voice needs the tender and intelligent ministrations of SEY.  Her voice is in pieces - you could hear her move from one register to the next, and the “high” notes would crack in between.  It was painful to hear.”

I thank the person who wrote this - I am honored.  And it broke my heart. 

Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why do we neglect or reject a portion of our craft, thinking or hoping or praying, that another aspect will make up for it?

It breaks my heart for many reasons.  One is personal.  I have done this.  I have relied on my acting intelligence when my voice was a mess.  I knew it was a mess.  I knew WHY it was a mess.  I was stubborn (my best and worst trait!) and made myself get through.  Did it work dramatically?  Yes.  Did it work vocally?  Oh hell no.  Was it reliable?  absolutely not.  Was I in survival mode only?  Pretty much.

So, I get it.  I get it more than you will ever know.

This is why I am vehement as a teacher to try to instill the absolute NECESSITY of CRAFT.How does one inhabit one's own craft?What does it demand of you?What does it reveal about you?These are the big questions we have to be strong enough,  stubborn enough,  willful enough,  to ask - and then to ANSWER.

It directs us from opposites.  The "actor" feels the story telling is enough to mask the lack of vocal development.  The "singer" feels the voce will supersede any flaws that the lack of acting intelligence may have.

WRONG.Both, and I do mean, BOTH are crucial to truly inhabiting your craft.

It doesn't matter what genre you are in - music theatre, opera and all its manifestations - CRAFT is CRUCIAL in order to fully inhabit what you say you do and who you say you are.

FEAR is a big obstacle.  I get that.  The "but what if..."  can often be truly in the way.  But what if I can't?  Hey,  but what if you CAN?What scares you?  failing?  or succeeding?

So what are you doing to inhabit your craft?  Where are the weak spots?  Are you just doing a patch job, or are you truly looking at it objectively and seeing it fully - big picture - and are you ready to work on the overhaul?

Craft as a singing actor is CONSTANT.  We work,  we discover, we hone, we physicalize,  we gestate,  we incubate,  we "ah-ha!",  we create behavior,  we create consciousness,  we observe,  we step away,  we internalize,  we materialize...

It's a lot.  It is.  I know that.  But we MUST.  We must honor the craft we say we do.  

I see great actors simply not discovering what they can do for a HEALTHY singing voice.  That's a choice.  A choice NOT to.   We see all their commitment into their acting craft,  and even their SPEAKING voices - but then not what is needed to sing with the same level of authenticity.  The study and discovery has to happen in order to create a fully realized characterization.  The voice doesn't have to be amazing.  An actor who sings may not have a beautiful voice,  but they can create beautiful technical behavior to access what they DO have,  and access their talent at will.

Study doesn't just happen when you book a show.  Study happens in the in-between.  However, when you BOOK,  you better be studying in order to have that 2nd set of ears and eyes keeping you healthy in order to do your work!  The maintenance is KEY.  Maintenance cannot happen if the behavior has not been achieved.

The same goes for singers who act.  I have heard incredible voices and as soon as I see them on stage - I can't watch.  They are awkward.  They have no idea what to do with their bodies,  how to move,  how to physicalize their voices with any dramatic choice.  We lose how magnificent the voice is,  because we SEE the awkwardness or the self-involvement with the SOUND and the craft of acting doesn't exist.  A character is not realized.  This isn't inhabiting the fullness of craft either.

With both singing and acting -  you must look at each specifically before you can integrate fully.  You need to discover the physical behavior of EACH in order to embody BOTH.

"It's good enough" my darlings, is bullshit.  It's your stress management talking.  Trust me, been there, done that, have the tattoo.

Inhabiting your craft takes time,  perseverance,  tenacity,  stubbornness,  willingness,  desire,  passion and drive.  

It's not over till it's over.  It will be enough when you aren't over thinking and overcompensating and aren't making excuses for something.  And then,  the muses will reveal what more you can do!Inhabit because you MUST.  

Your craft demands all of you.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Exploring the Consciousness of the Body

No matter the level of study or development you are, I hope you have a teacher you check in with regularly that has a strong understanding in the physical instrument.

What we all need to do, on a regular basis, is check in on that physical function of our fully body instrument. In other words, the ABCs.

We can do some of it ourselves, as we become more aware of what to watch for and observe, and then having a teacher who can diagnose or re-adjust what you cannot see or sense is crucial for keeping the physicality aware and awake for your voice to find an authentic place to reside!

Observing these tangible elements is really an ongoing and daily practice for those who are pursuing craft effectively!

1.    Body Posture

How are you moving? How are you standing or sitting while you speak? Where is there hyper-extension? Is there slumping or compression? Any locked spots? Any pressure spots?
2. Energy Centre

What position of energy do you "lead" from? High in the chest wall? Collapsed through the solar plexus? Compressed or pressed through the pelvis?

3.    Head/Neck/Jaw

We deal with what has been referred to “text neck” as a general issue in our current smart phone society. Is the head balanced on a long neck or does it push forward? Is there chin tucking or jutting forward? Is the jaw tight? Is the speaking voice in fry or is in buoyant? Is there range of motion in the complexity of the neck muscles or is there compression?
4.   Singing Posture

As you begin to vocalize, how is your posture affected? How is the breath engaged? Is there ease or are you struggling?
5.    The Breath

How are you accessing the breath? Can you find ways of engaging more elasticity in the body in order for the breath to have more buoyancy and release without adding voice or vibration to it yet?
6.    Body Basics

As you engage breath movement with the voice, how is your body responding to the athleticism of those intangibles? Is there fatigue? compression? tightness? collapse? grip?

7.     Voice Onset

What happens on the onset of the voice? Are you paying attention to that initial and crucial onset for balance?

As a teacher, I am paying attention to ALL of this with every singer when they walk in. As a singer, I am paying attention to all of this when I begin to stretch and workout my body, breath, and voice during a practice session.
In the study of voice, one size does NOT fit all. We have to learn to recognize where we are and begin there. Learning to observe without criticism (!!) gives us permission to not judge and simply recognize the habits and behaviors that are not always conscious. This can then lead to more conscious CHOICE of changing habits and behaviors to better serve us.

Consciousness.  Awareness.  Willingness.  Clarity.  Focus.  Pliability.

All of these are crucial to the singer, as well as the teacher, in order to discover what you need on any given day.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

I am returning to the Laurie Beechman Theatre in April

after a sold out performance in November, to public and critical acclaim,  I will be returning
to the Laurie Beechman Theatre,  at the West Bank Cafe in APRIL!

"WHY?"  returns THURSDAY APRIL 13, 2017 at 7 p.m.

Laurie Beechman Theatre, West Bank Cafe

directed by Trent Armand Kendall
music direction by Steven Ray Watkins
bass, John Miller
drums, Don Kelly

tickets available NOW

Join us!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Can't, Don't, Won't

welcome to March!

Auditions are in full swing in the Music Theatre community...
Auditions continue in the Operatic community....

It can be a very busy and overwhelming time of year.

How are you doing?

This is the time of year I often re-visit how I am talking to myself,  as I see all kinds of psyches in the studio!  I see the can't, the don't, and the won't...

As artists,  we have an incredible ability to self-doubt.  That's not a criticism, it's an observation, because I DO IT TOO.  Self-doubt doesn't have to be a negative:  it gives us permission to find more, and achieve more, and push ourselves to reveal more, if we allow the doubt to motivate us, not debilitate us.

Our "self-talk" is crucial and it also it important to acknowledge it and see if it needs tweaking or changing.  Behavior can't be "stopped",  but it can be replaced.

Deciding how we are going to self-speak without delusion  (WAAAAAY above my pay grade) is always an important discussion.

What are you saying to yourself?  What are you saying out loud?  What do others hear?

As I challenge myself,  I challenge every singer that walks in the studio with their self-language.  We often don't realize how we self-sabotage just with a word which then becomes a thought, which then becomes a behavior,  which then gets in our way.

How many of us have been told to get out of our own way?  Hmmmm.

"Can't" easily is an excuse.  Remember, this is not exclusive,  but more a way to discover HOW you speak to yourself and when it happens, and why it happens.

"I can't get out of bed to get to that audition call."

Well, unless you are sick or dying,  yes you can.  CAN'T is the excuse of something else.

Maybe you don't want to.  Maybe you're exhausted.  Maybe you're scared.  Maybe you're confused.

What would happen if you took a step away from "can't" and got to the crux?

"I can get out of bed,  but I don't want to."


Do you HAVE to?  Is there something that relying on you to DO that task?

Each statement reveals another question that gets you to the real answer that you need to claim and then DO something with.

"I can't learn all this music."  

"I can't decide what to sing."

"I can't decide what to wear."

Unless you honestly CANNOT,  this is stress management talking.

That's okay.  We ALL DO IT.  Move past the "can't" to figure out why that word?

As you move past "can't"  we get to "don't".

"I don't wanna."

okay - that's honest enough.  But, WHY?  Never settle for the can't, don't, won't.  Figure out why the dismissal.

"I don't have time."   "I don't have the money."  "I don't have the aria/song prepared."  "I don't...xzy"

Why don't you?  And you cannot answer with "can't"!!

Do you WANT to?  If your answer is no,  then that is something you can work with to find out what you want and what you DO have time/money/energy/passion for!  If the answer is yes,  then what is in your way for that time/money/preparation/action/energy/passion?


"I won't audition for them again."
"I won't sing that again."
"I won't use that monologue."
"I won't..."

Again,  why?  "Won't"  is beginning to claim a decision.  A decision can be unconscious but if you say it out loud, it becomes conscious.  When the conscious CHOICE allows you to create a boundary that is positive,  "won't" works if you know why.  When you know why,  you can claim the choice and create a behavior that replaces the one you aren't going to do again!

Our vocabulary reveals much about where we are.  It's not always easy to look into that particular mirror,  but if we choose to explore the artistic nature of who we are, and if we choose to embark on the passive/aggressive love affair of the business of show,  then we must DEMAND of ourselves that check in, and that honesty.  It isn't about being hard on yourself;  it is about being HONEST.  The honesty can be tough,  but it will give us direction and clarity.

That doesn't mean if you self-speak light, love and glitter bombs that you are being honest with yourself either!   Stress management and delusion live on either side of the veil.  The truth is somewhere in the middle.

I can't....why?  Answer it immediately so there's no time to meddle.  Then continue to riddle it through to a logical end for that question,  on that day.

I don't...why?

I won't...why?

These words need to be there for each of us to find our boundaries and our behaviors.

Claim them;  answer them;  laugh at them;  take a big breath and DO YOU.

Sometimes it turns into:

I can...
I do...
I will....