Sunday, June 19, 2011

God I Really Want it!

God, I really want it!
God, I hope I get it!

(Thanks Chorus Line for the desperation!)

I was reminded again this week with ongoing discussions with my husband, and with a singer I work with about that want/hope factor.

Often,  as performers,  we get frustrated with the perceived lack of work/advancement/recognition we see coming our way.  Our way of deflecting is to say "but I want it just as much as so-and-so who works all the time"  or "she's just lucky I guess".

And here is the reminder:  you can want, hope, crave, whine, cry and make excuses. This is not the point.

Do you want it badly enough is not the point.

The point is this:  have you chosen it?

You can want/desire/yearn something, but ultimately it means nothing if you do not CHOOSE it.

Choice requires a real sense of responsibility.  Choice does not allow you to deflect.  Choice can issue no blame.  Choice is action.

"You are so lucky."  Really?  Luck has nothing to do with reality. 
"The business chose me, I didn't really choose this career."  Bullshit.  It may have come to you, but you had to CHOOSE to follow through.

Want, desire and all those "feelings" can move into desperation mode so quickly.  It can cause panic.  And when one is panicked, one looks outside for the answers, and the blame.

"Why is SHE getting work and I am not, when I WANT THIS SO BADLY?"  focus: on HER.

"Why is HE so lucky and I work SO HARD and get nothing?"  focus: on HIM.

It's a fine line isn't it?

Want and desire without personal responsibility gives you an out.  It gives you an excuse if it doesn't "work out".   And if you enter with excuses only, and deflection of self, you never truly commit and you never truly CHOOSE to be where you say you want to be.

Wanting a career is one thing.  Choice is another.  Standing there, in front of a mirror and saying out loud "I CHOOSE this" is frightening, but also strengthening.

"I CHOOSE" gives you responsibility.  "I CHOOSE" gives you power.  "I CHOOSE" gives you strength.  It does not allow for excuses,  and leaves no room for "I WISH".

I wish, I want is an amateur's thought process.  I CHOOSE is a professional's necessity for success.

Ultimately, if you CHOOSE it,  you choose everything about it.  You choose the lifestyle, the consequences, the process.  You choose the decisions and the responsibility of those decisions.  There is no blame in choice.  There is just an acknowledgement of the choice, the consequence, and the ongoing momentum into another choice.

Desperation has no place in choice.  Blame has no place in choice.  What-ifs have no place in choice.

I CHOOSE this journey.  Action.  No negativity,  no blame.

God I hope I get it?  Perhaps.  After you CHOOSE it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Post Tony Awards

Monday musings...
I keep a running commentary on my facebook status during awards shows.  Some of my friends sweetly refer to it as "The Susan Channel".  Last night was no exception.  However, I had the mute handy as in other years, I have used it more than once, and often gone to another room when it just got too much for me!

This is not a review.  However, it was one of the best Tonys I have seen in a very long time.  The production values were excellent and well shaped - a solid opening number and fabulous closing number (read Lin-Manuel Miranda's rap delivered by the fabulous Neil Patrick Harris in transcript here:

They buried the crap in the middle (yes, a horrid duet from Spiderman which proves that $80 million buys nothing).

Some amazing acceptance speeches, some moving ones,  some self-indulgent ones.  Some great production numbers.  A show completely shut out (Scottsboro Boys).   A new home, in The Beacon Theater,  which I think is a perfect match.

The orchestrations for the evening were incredible, the orchestra was incredible!  And no auto-tune or lipsynch. 

So why write a blog if it's not going to be a review?

This is more of a reminder of what we pursue in the name of craft and art.  A simple reminder true craft takes TIME.  The first category last night was for Featured Actress in a Play.  All the nominees were first time Tony nominees and all have been working on their craft for a long time.  There were no 20somethings, or even 30somethings....

True craft needs life.  Pure and simple.  Life takes time to live.  To live your craft means to study it, to absorb it,  to sit with it and let it wash over you and through you and affect you. 

Graduating from a theatre program does not make you ready.  It is only the beginning of a life-long process that YOU put in motion.  Waking up and deciding you want to perform does not make you ready.

If you say you are a singer, then sing.  If you say you are a dancer, then dance.  If you say you are an actor, act.  Don't get caught up in the scams, the hustlers, the conartists, but seek out the guidance and the knowledge that allows you to DO what you say you ARE.

Craft and discipline means daily observation.  It means commitment.  It means focus.  It means paying attention to the red flags that are trying to pull focus and putting them in their place.  It means putting the excuses of why you are NOT doing, away. 

Real craft and artistry allows for longevity.  Talent is not craft.  Talent is just a beginning.  A fully formed artist doesn't happen at 21 or 23 or 25 - or maybe never.  However, more fully formed artists happen when the craft has time to gestate, develop and gain life.

So,  get thee to your voice lessons, your coaches, your dance classes, your acting classes.  Read, listen to music, and live your lives.  Laugh, fall in love, get angry,  cry.  Breathe your life, embrace it and pursue your craft fully as you develop from a talent to an artist.

If you call yourself a singer or dancer or actor - then simply DO it. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Where Has the Craft Gone?

Sunday musings...

I heard some young performers this week.  It left me angered, dismayed, and frankly exhausted.  Why?  Most of them had simply no craft. 

Craft needs time to build,  and it affects every facet of the singing performer. True craft needs thought, practice, gestation, decision, re-practice, exploration and more!

First and foremost,  the craft of the vocal technical behavior is CRUCIAL to any performer.  Without it there is no place for a song to inhabit physically.  Loud is not technique.  Screaming or yelling is not technique.  How can you move in to inhabit a space that is not yet built?  This is what is exposed when one tries to sing something that is beyond the technical ability of a singer:  the immediate indication that the voice simply cannot handle it physically.  If the physical instrument cannot handle the demands of the material one should not be singing it. Simple.  I don't care if you want to sing it!  If you cannot sing it,  you shouldn't be.  Why expose to the world what you cannot do?  Why expose to the world your lack of awareness of what your voice is capable of? And why show such disrespect to the process?  To the song?  To the composer who wrote it and had an expectation in mind?

There is the craft of the song.  What are the stylistic and musical demands of that song?  Can you meet them?  Are you simply in tune?!?!?  Do you know how to create dynamics with your voice (goes back to that technical behavior doesn't it?!).  Do you know how the structure of the song is created? Are you aware of the stylistic demands of the song, of the show it is from, of the composer who wrote it, of the time it was written?  Do you understand the rhythms, the subdivisions, the phrasing, the shape of the physical structure of said song?

There is craft of language.  Do you know how to shape language with breath and get it into your mouth?  Do you know how to articulate fully? Can you actually discover how the rhythmic and textural rhythms marry each other? And then can you execute it?  Are you continually discovering and re-discovering the detail of this in order for those words to come off the page in a physical way?

There is craft of dramatic intention and character.  Who sings this?  Why?  What is the context stylistically?  What is the subtext?  Where are the dramatic tensions and releases musically? Dramatically?  Texturally?  Where are the dramatic beats?  How are they best physicalized?  How are they best punctuated?  Can you embody this character realistically? Are you able to discover a reality for this dramatic craft to live on stage, or is it simply pretending?  Acting isn't pretending. Acting isn't jazz hands.  Acting is behavior.

So, you see, simply picking a song because you like it, simply isn't a good idea.  Beginning to explore a song because it speaks to you in some way is a BEGINNING.  As you begin to expose yourself to it honestly, you will see if it is truly a good and right choice to be singing now.  It is okay to simply tuck it away for later, or for never.

THIS is where craft begins and develops from.  THIS is what is lacking in the attitude of the "16 bars and a cloud of dust - let me impress you with how loud I can scream".  That is not craft.  That is not singing.

Disregard of the craft, in any of its forms, of anything true in the development of a song shows the lack of authenticity in the so-called performer.  That lack of authenticity only furthers the illumination of someone willing and able to do the work and follow you on stage or in the audition room. 

No matter your talent or your prowess, you have a choice.  You can either slum and pretend to be an artist and expose yourself thoroughly as such, or you can simply get to work and LEARN the craft and begin to develop what you have and what you could have to its fullest.  The work will be authentic and therefore your choices will be real. 

It's your choice of course.  There are so many out there who are willing and able to help you discover. All you have to do is ask, and commit to the work.  What is so difficult about that? 

Craft defies time.  We live in an instant society.  Craft is not.  Are you willing to take that stand and find it,  whatever it takes?  Only you can answer that.