Sunday, June 19, 2016

a little status goes a long way!

A little status can go a long way!

I often "live post" during award shows on FB/Twitter.

This Tony season was no different.  I am always thrilled when something I say resonates with a follower/reader but I wasn't ready for response from a status that night.  Not only was it "liked" over 3K,  it was shared and shared and shared.

The words had obviously hit a chord (no pun intended, and fyi, vocal CORD has no "h" - but I digress...)

Here was the post:

To you, Singers/Actors coming to NYC to pursue theatre who have been told by your schools that if you don't "make it" before you're 25, you are done: do you SEE these Tonys? Do you SEE how the craft takes time? Do you see the actors OVER 50 winning & being nominated that have spent a lifetime pursuing craft, not fame? This is theatre. Relax. Enjoy the journey.

You see, this year's Tonys really showed diversity,  not just in ethnicity, but in AGE.  All the leading & supporting acting categories were won by actors OVER 60!!!!

And, with the exception of Cynthia Erivo,  all the musical winners were not just actor/singers of color, they are all mid30s-mid40s!

So, what was it about THIS status that resonated?  

Was it the fear of not doing enough?

Was it the realization that what may have been told to you,  directly or indirectly,  from an institution you have attended,  or a teacher or a coach,  was wrong or at the least, was misleading?

Or was it the permission to just enjoy the journey of your craft instead of pushing, fighting, and losing the joy?

Honestly,  I have no idea.  I just speak the truth as I see it,  as I feel it,  and as I have experienced it.

That status was, and is the truth.

Perhaps it was simply because it was TRUTH that it resonated.

I believe that all of us just simply need PERMISSION.   We just need simple permission to BE.  When that permission is reinforced by an outside source,  it allows us to breathe,  to smile,  to take a step back and observe.

As a teacher,  I meet many young performers in NYC and elsewhere, with stars in their eyes and dreams in their minds,  hoping for a chance to be on stage.  I love that optimism and that youth-inspired energy!

However, as a performer most of my life and as a teacher for about 30 years,  I know that lack of experience needs to be focused and not trampled.  I know how hard the business is.  I see the hardship,  the expectations,  the fatigue,  the unawareness,  the push,  the try,  the frustration.  I see the glitter rubbed off,  and the stars get rubbed away.

However,  I also see those who then decide they will LEARN what it means to be an actor.  They will LEARN what it means to be a singer.  I see who commits to the process and who does not.  

Committing to the dream is only the first step;  committing to the work to inhabit the dream is quite another and it's not for everybody.  

Committing to craft to "become" takes time,  takes patience,  takes stubbornness,  takes awareness, takes absolute,  unrelenting guts and focus.  

The journey is a lifetime.  It's not a race to see who gets there first.  It's not an expiration date.

Recognition of your presence as an artist in the business,  takes time.  You build that recognition with your work,  with your consistency,  with your growth.

The journey often reveals the time to "recover" and take unplugged time and space for yourself.  "Go go go" does not necessarily make a well developed artist nor a strong craft.

The journey has different speeds and many directions.  It demands you to stay present to allow the speed and direction to reveal itself fully to you.  By staying present,  if that speed and/or direction changes, you won't miss it!

When you buckle up for a flight,  the pilot will come on over the intercom and give you a sense of length and altitude and approximate flight plan;  then he/she says "so sit back, relax & enjoy your flight."

So, before panic completely freezes you,  before "I must" takes over your brain and spirit on a loop that is insanity,  why not take a breath,  and release it?  Why not sit back and observe?  Why not relax into this journey called craft and see where it wants to lead?  

We can choose to feel this choice a burden,  or we can choose to explore the possibilities and enjoy it!

The script is being written as you move into these possibilities;  YOUR possibilities.

Don't write the script before you have fully committed to NOW.  The script is simply a first draft - just commit to re-writes as needed and demanded!  

Theatre isn't going anywhere.  It will be there when your journey leads you to it.  

Theatre is about living, breathing,  morphing,  evolving craft. 

Theatre is about timelessness and mindfulness.  

Theatre is about community.

Theatre has no expiry date.

Theatre simply IS.

The craft of theatre is not fame - it is a sense of inhabiting one's work.

And on Father's Day,  I leave you with  my Dad's words: "We are never finished.  There is always more we can do.  But to be content in our lives & in our work,  THAT  is the key."

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Which path is it again?

Happy Mother's Day!

I am not staying very active here as of late,  my apologies.

After awhile,  I feel I am repeating myself, and who needs that?!

However, I suppose certain things need repeating, in slightly different ways, to continue to stimulate the thought process and activate the self in the moment.

So,  which path am I on again?

Oh, right:  MINE.

Wouldn't it be great to KNOW that path a little more fully?

Wouldn't it be great to be excited to be on that path all the time?

Let's be honest:  some days you wonder why you are HERE and someone else is over THERE.  Why are THEY booking and I am not?  Why am I frustrated?  Why can't I do what they are doing?

We all do it;  we've all done it.

First,  acknowledge the frustration, the confusion,  the annoyances.  Acknowledge the un-fair-ness of it all (and as my dad said many times: who said it was going to be fair?)

Get that negative annoyance out of your sphere.  Acknowledge it,  stomp your feet, whine, do what you need to scream at it,  and then let it go.  Release it,  wipe your nose,  take a deep breath and STOP.


Because that path isn't yours.  When you start looking over at someone else's path - you aren't focused on your own.  When you aren't focused on your own, you are going to miss an amazing and very important discovery that might not come back to you.

Focusing on your path doesn't mean you become a narcissistic asshole.  Acknowledge and respect another's path.  Rejoice in it, in fact.  Be aware of those around you.  And then RELEASE THEM.

Your path is your path and ONLY your path.  Just as theirs is theirs.

Re-focus on where you are.  Not on where you think you should be;  or where you would like to be;  Be exactly where you are.

I don't believe you shouldn't look back to see how far you've come.  I believe you SHOULD be aware and give yourself that credit in order to fully claim the NOW.

How did you get here?  What is here, exactly?  How have you fashioned and shaped the NOW?

What do you know?  What have you learned?  What will you NOT do moving forward, (so it doesn't pull you backward),  and even more importantly,  what WILL you do in order to move forward?

I am list person.  It helps me organize the many tabs open in my mind at all times!

If it helps to write it down or type it out so you can SEE and READ what brings you to this point, then do it.   It can help to simplify and clarity very quickly.  It is often too easy, when frustrated, to paint in a broad & often self-deprecating, brush.  Now is the time to discover the detail of your path and what will pivot you forward.

But acknowledging fully what you have done to get this point from a linear point in time - say, last year at this time - will allow you to be still,  focus on YOU, and re-claim precisely where you are.

By re-claiming,  you acknowledge your path.  Which path?  YOURS.

That path that  is walked by no one but you.  That path that has never been walked before.  You get to discover every nuance, every twist,  every rock and pebble,  and every magnificent discovery!

The Jung quote: "Who looks outside, dreams;  who looks inside, awakens."   speaks to me.  It is always a dance between the two, not one or the other.  The path allows us to dream as we look onward.  Stopping to become aware of where we are,  where we have come from,  awakens us to the possibility,  and to the achievement of NOW.

So, let those around you walk their own path.  Acknowledge they have that responsibility.

Your responsibility is to YOUR path.  It does not need explaining, it simply needs to be acknowledged and claimed.

Dream as you look ahead and awaken as you walk.  See every shift.  Stop to embrace each one - even if it feels like a road block.  That block is on YOUR path.  See it,  and clear it.  Go through it,  around it, under it,  and keep claiming each direction!

Your only competition is your previous self.  The one you released a year ago to be where you are today.   If you have grown,  you have achieved.  Nobody can mimic that or make it theirs.  That is yours and yours alone.

There are no buts,  there just IS.

Dream, awaken,  acknowledge,  breathe,  be still,  move,  re-focus,  create,  and acknowledge that crazy path is YOURS.

You are enough to walk that path.  You are creating it!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Voice Competition, The Audition = THAT ROOM

Saturday musings after reading some heated exchanges online...

What about THAT ROOM?  That room that you enter as a singer for an audition, or for that first or second round as a competitor?

THAT ROOM that those who have been asked to "judge" are sitting at a table waiting to hear you?

As someone who has frequented both sides of that table lo these many years (!),  it is a fascinating observation.

Too often,  when nervous,  when unsure,  our defenses go up and our egos take over as the adrenaline kicks in.  We often over-think,  over-analyze,  over-criticize ourselves and possibly others,  as well as just hyper-extend our energy beyond what is necessary.

So,  what about THAT ROOM for the singer?

First and foremost:  BREATHE.  Nobody is there unless you have decided to be there.  The pianist isn't going to play for a ghost.  The adjudicators, audition panel wouldn't be there unless you had shown up.  Nobody is out to get you.  Everybody is there because YOU are.

So breathe. 

Be present.  In your body.  In your breath.  In each step you take and each observation you make.

If you are prepared you will have practiced the entire process.  You know how to walk;  you know how to talk;  you know how to smile;  you know how to speak with the pianist;  you know how to prepare to sing in that moment.

However,  it is a surreal moment and it's THAT ROOM.  It can be nerve-wracking,  it can be intimidating,  it can start "those voices",  it can create anxiety,  questions,  and panic.

BUT, it doesn't have to!

Those people at the table have been where you are.  They are on your side.  In the moment, you cannot judge nor pledge their behavior.  All you can do is be present in YOUR energy and bring that in.  As soon as you start questioning THEM ("do they like me?" "why did they not look up?" "why is that person frowning?" "why did they look at me like that?")  you are not aware of YOU. 

"Self-centered"  truly must be taken seriously here in a positive way.  Center yourself.  You are not going to know what they think,  what they know,  what they want,  and I am going to tell you a little secret:  IT DOES NOT MATTER.

All that matters is that you are doing YOU.  Authentically YOU.  Real YOU.  Not what you think they want,  but what you DO and who you ARE.

You have no control over what they do,  what they know,  what they are looking for.  You DO have control over YOU.  Knowledge is power.  You know you, so DO you!

What you sometimes DO NOT know is someone on the panel may need to pee.   Someone may have low blood sugar.  Someone may have had a disagreement with a colleague on the panel prior to you walking in;  Someone may be overwhelmed;  Someone may just have resting bitch face even better than yours when they concentrate and listen!

The competition and the audition is a giant puzzle.  A panel is there to try to find pieces that fit together.  It isn't easy,  and it can cause fatigue,  frustration & and more. 

What you see or what you do not see,  on the faces of the panel,  really doesn't matter if you are doing YOU! 

Sometimes people need to snack or eat or sip their coffee.  God knows, I need my coffee if I am going to be doing a full day of adjudication or auditions.  You bring your water in,  and your panel probably needs to bring their coffee or tea or water too.  If their day is insanely busy - they need a pee break!  You want their attention,  so don't take it personally if they excuse themselves for a few minutes to use the bathroom,  or fill up their coffee mug.  You want them fresh and accessible.

I always encourage singers to sit in if possible on some auditions to allow them to see things and experience things from the other side of the table.  It can be an eye-opening experience and isn't just about "being good enough".  So many facets and pieces play into decisions made from that table.

Ultimately,  those of us sitting at that table are rooting for you!  We want your best!  We want you to succeed!  We want to encourage and give constructive criticism for you to walk away with some information that can be helpful and allow you to continue to grow!  Remember, we are simply another set of ears,  hopefully informed,  and another professional opinion.

Opinion.  Not gospel truth.  Nobody has a monopoly on that!

We hope it is an informed opinion and decision that has relevance to the level of whatever audition or  competition you are there for.

We, when sitting at the table,  must remember and conjure what it felt like to be that singer in THAT ROOM.  We have to take control of the situation if it needs an adjustment so we are comfortable,  and that the SINGER is comfortable.  This is not an opportunity to belittle,  to have an ego-attack,  to go into passive-aggressive mode or to play politics or head games. 

Those of us who sit at that table in that room have a great responsibility to teach;  to inform;  to encourage;  to reveal truth;  to LEAN FORWARD and create safety and energy that a singer can feed off of and give us their best work in that moment on that day.

We deserve respect on each side of that table.  We should show respect from each side of that table. 

THAT ROOM is filled with possibility, and no matter which side we are currently on,  we can choose to make it a moment that means something real,  or not. 

Negative knee-jerk reactions have no place in THAT ROOM;  from either side of that table. 

I remember being told a young singer said "she hates me" after I had given her adjudication.   She didn't win,  so her feelings were hurt.  However,  I chose to address it publicly as an overall observation:  I cannot hate you,  because I don't know you at all.  Not winning/not getting a callback/not getting the role doesn't mean more than you didn't win, you didn't get the callback, you didn't get the role.  If you are only concerned about whether someone who doesn't know you,  hates you or likes you,  then you aren't doing YOU while you are performing or auditioning.  You are not staying present in what you say you were prepared to DO.

Just as the singer must be present,  so must the panel sitting at the table.  If they are tired, grouchy, crabby, hungry,  needing to pee - then they must take control of the situation and take 5 minutes to re-balance in order to be fully present to hear the singer who walks in next. 

Simply saying "My apologies, my blood sugar is taking a nose-dive and I have to take 3 minutes to chew some food" to a singer will NOT send you to hell!  In fact,  a singer recognizes you as HUMAN.  What a concept THAT is! 

THAT ROOM may be surreal but it's filled with many complex human beings.  Recognizing and honoring those complexities and respecting them and the process of being there would save us all a little angst,  a little grief,  and a little panic!

THAT ROOM is created by YOU.  Honor it,  don't despise it! 
Take the process seriously and learn how to giggle at yourself;  It adds a little more joy into how you got there in the first place!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

What about YOU?

Saturday musings...

This audition season for music theatre and opera performers has been what many of you are referring to "the hunger games".

It has left so many of you exhausted, frustrated, angry, defeated, sad, and second-guessing what you are doing.

It breaks my heart.  I see your commitment,  your struggle,  your desire,  your drive...

Yes, there is much that is wrong with the system.  There are flaws in every aspect of the business.  We have little control over that, and must watch it hit critical mass before it changes,  IF it changes.

But, more importantly, what about YOU?

You the performer;  you the artist;  you the human being.

What have you done for YOU during this hunger games season?

When you feel depressed, sad, exhausted, wondering, what do you DO?

If you are a performer wanting a career,  that focus can be exhausting if you actually ignore YOU.  Now you might say,  but Susan, I am studying and taking lessons and classes and going to seminars and intensives and and and...

Okay...but I ask again,  what about YOU?

Does auditioning give you joy?  Does spending all that money on application fees make you warm and fuzzy?

These are the necessary evils to become viable in the business...this is NOT YOU.

Remember when just stretching your body and making sounds and singing gave you JOY?

What is your goal?  Yes, working and being paid for your work is a goal;  Having reliable craft is a goal;  Sustainability in your work is a goal.

What about nurturing yourself THROUGH your voice?

What made you love to sing in the first place?  Do you remember?

How did it make you FEEL?

Listen,  I am goal-oriented as the next type A personality! I get it.  However, pursuing, and working toward something, and focusing - all good things - can sometimes exhaust us.  It is outside of us, and we forget what brought us to this aspiration in the first place.

Who inspired you?

Who believed in you?

Who inspires you now?  Who believes in you now?

Do YOU inspire you?  Do YOU believe in you?

How does it FEEL to take a singing breath?  To just sing because,  oh I don't know...YOU LOVE IT.

What happens when you let all that pursuit release for a few minutes and just come to a song BECAUSE YOU WANT TO;  because you love it;  because you love how it makes you FEEL. 

Nothing more,  nothing less.  Just how it FEELS.

The depletion we feel during and after a hard audition season where we must focus on the DOING to get seen to be called back to have a chance to be hired,  can not just fatigue us;  it can get in the way of us remembering WHY we do the actual singing;  the actual acting;  the actual dancing.

If you can find the joy again and re-discover and re-commitment to the JOY we experience with no value judgement and no pressure, then perhaps there's a chance to be still enough to recuperate from the fatigue.

Maybe, just maybe,  we change our focus to ourselves in the truest form, and our artistry and commitment to the nurturing of self reveals more truths and allows us to TRUST again. 

Perhaps,  finding that space for self will allow for a still moment to release and discover why  it feels GOOD to sing;  why we wanted to in the first place!

Feeling, and letting all the real and positive and beautifully overwhelming feelings envelop us might be EXACTLY what each of us needs right now.

I dare you to nurture YOU.  Shift your focus just a little bit inward and trust it won't betray you.

I dare myself the same thing.