Sunday, March 30, 2014

What NOT to do

Sunday musings...

So often we are caught up in what we have to DO to progress, to develop,  to build the career,  to grow in our craft.  If you are like me,  you even run lists in your head while trying to fall asleep!

There are lists on stickie notes,  on your smartphone;  lots of ways of keeping track what needs done:  activities, deadlines,  appointments,  auditions,  classes and on and on.  

If you are like me,  I am AMAZINGLY GREAT at making lists.  I am also great about adding to those lists;  making more lists; 

I am not always good about changing those lists - and often I find them later - half done,  sorta done,  not done.

I get down on myself for not always following through with what I feel is necessary to get done. 

I've wondered if perhaps we sometimes should go at things from a different angle.

There are no tricks in developing craft.  Wanting to be able to "do" something isn't going to happen instantly.  However,  recognizing not just what you must do is only half of it;  recognizing what you do NOT need to do is also CRUCIAL.

So,  if you are a list person,  try creating a "I WILL NOT..." list.

What is getting in your way?   Keep it simple,  keep it clear.  Don't try to cross everything off the list immediately.  Maybe begin with several things,  and work for changing ONE THING A WEEK.

Sometimes WANTING something just isn't enough.  Sometimes DOING is confusing.  Sometimes,  recognizing what NOT TO DO/NOT TO WANT allows for more clarity.

Work it backwards.  Here is an example:

I want a job -  I need to audition.  Are you auditioning?

I know it's a schlep,  and it means often an early morning.  So,  don't decide to get up at 5 a.m. every day next week!  Make a decision to NOT hit your snooze for ONE morning next week and get your butt down to that audition.  ONE morning.

See where I am going?

Again, the "don't"s  can be as daunting as the "do"s.  So,  take it easy on yourself.

Instead of saying "Don't be so hard on myself",  specify it one step at a time:  "Don't let a negative thought enter my mind while I practice today".

I have also found - and continue to find - that a balance of "do/don't"  is crucial.

DO something for your business every day.
DO NOT ignore your gut about a possible submission.

DO practice today.
DO NOT practice longer than X number of minutes.

DO get out and work on your physical strength.
DO NOT stay up too late so you are not fatigued.

DO practice today.
DO NOT multi-task while trying to practice today.

One thing at a time.  One day at a time.  One decision at a time.

For everything you DO,  give yourself a DO NOT. 

This will allow you to focus and give yourself permission on more specificity  in your world.

Nothing worth having happens immediately.  Wanting it isn't enough.  Doing isn't enough.  Not doing isn't enough. 

Clarity of focus,  focus of action,  action without self-sabotage.

One thing at a time.  One day at a time. 

DO NOT overwhelm yourself.
DO keep breathing.

Remember what Miles Davis said  "I always listen to what I can leave out.”

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Google is your Friend...

Sunday musings...

Perhaps it is being of a pre-computer generation,  where "pounding the pavement" literally meant getting up,  and taking materials into casting offices;  where searching meant going to the library,  knowing the Dewy Decimal System and finding books with information;  when you sent inquiries via hand written letter with a stamp on it and waited for the response;

What I am finding lately,  is that the computer generation - information literally at your fingertips - is separated not by your talent per se,  but by your ability to type in your question to a search engine or not.

What has not changed,  and will not change,  is the human aspect of this:  curiosity,  and the willingness to do the work to find the answers.

Whether it is literally pounding the pavement,  or whether it is discovering the right questions to ask and where,  THIS is what often separates the wheat from the chaff.

Nobody can hand you a career.

Nobody has all the answers.

Nobody can do your work for you.

YOU have to do it.

So how do you start?

Sit on your bum,  in your pjs with your coffee beside you and begin a list of questions of things you want to know.  Let that list develop as things occur to you.

So often,  I see this "list" posted on facebook pages,  or forum message boards.  This my gentle snowflakes,  is your INSIDE list.  Nobody sees it but you.  Don't share your inside list.  You need to absorb that list and let it gestate internally with a pen and paper or on your hard drive.

As the list develops,  then start asking the questions by typing them into that search engine called Google.  Yes,  Google is your friend.  Google isn't going to say "that was a really stupid question";  Google isn't going to laugh at you;  make fun of you;  chastise you;  Google is simply going to provide you with some valuable sites it feels may answer those questions.

Then,  YOU pour over the "answers" and see if what you are reading helps your query.  Maybe it leads you to another question.  Maybe it fulfills the question.  Maybe you gain information that can allow you ask an even more specific question.

The questions you pose via anonymous forums or message boards reveal much about you.  First,  nothing is that anonymous.  Second,  the world is small.  Six degrees of Kevin Bacon remember?

How do you want to be seen?  Does your question reveal that or does it reveal something else?

If a question you ask of someone or a place is something that the more knowledgeable see as an easy "Google" question,  you are marked as lazy,  clueless,  and a whole bunch of not particularly nice words. 

People in our business are more than happy to help each other,  if they see the person asking is doing their work and finding their answers!  We are the first to smack you upside the head if we see you asking questions that are easy to Google and show your unwillingness, inability, or pure laziness, to simply type and hit send.

No question is stupid when it comes from common sense,  your ability to reach out and find answers, and truly want to know. 

Even though things have changed in how quickly we can access information,  some things have not.  It still comes down to your ability to research,  to discover,  to know how to ask the right questions,  to recognize and follow the breadcrumbs.

Don't give up.  Keep asking the questions.  Ask those questions in the right places, and absorb the answers.  Don't make excuses for the answers if you asked the question.

So pour another cup of coffee,  take a big breath,  and begin the "inside" list.  Then open that browser,  and type in that question and hit send.  You will be amazed at what you find!

Ever try to exhaust Google?  I dare you!  It will then lead you to the human beings that can specifically answer your SPECIFIC questions based not on your lack of knowledge, naivete, or laziness,  but rather, based on your research and your discoveries.

THAT is what we want to see.  Performers and artists that are willing to DISCOVER for THEMSELVES.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pregnancy, Performance & Career

Can I still have a career and have a family?

This question comes up regularly.

The answer is:  whatever you choose to make work,  you can do.

Is it easy?
Will everybody "approve"?
Will you have to make some hard decisions?

No, no, and yes.

Anybody who says you cannot have a career and a family hasn't done it.  Consider the source.

Developing a career in the business of show is difficult at best.  If you are pursuing that career, you know this. 

Why have a child?

If you want a family,  that is NO ONE'S BUSINESS BUT YOURS!!!

If you don't want a family,  or choose to not have one,  that is NO ONE'S BUSINESS BUT YOURS!!!

You make a decision based on your life and your choices.   Nobody outside of your partner and family and you has a say in that. 

So,  should you decide to have a baby,  remember that the business doesn't need to be aware of it. 

When you find out you are pregnant,  you are excited.  You will want to share.  You do.  Don't be surprised if you don't get the same excitement from people in the business that you are either working with or for, or auditioning for.  They are looking at you for a job,  not as a mother. 

So,  it's not a lie to keep the truth to yourself.

Being a mother does not have to be an issue to you auditioning or performing - as in DOING YOUR JOB.

Can you audition while you are pregnant?  Can you perform while you are pregnant?

All these questions have to be answered individually. 

Some of us are healthy and well enough to do that.  Some of us are not.  Your health and your baby's health is most important,  so health comes first.

Many of us have performed, auditioned,  been in shows, throughout our pregnancy.  It all depends on the individual.  How are you feeling?  How are you singing?  How are you showing?

Will your career be "the same" after you have the baby?

Again, that depends on what you are pursuing or what you have already established. 

Each career is unique,  and how you develop it is unique, with or without a family.

Obviously, having a child brings another dimension into your life in a very big way - and that will be something you have a full time responsibility for.  This will add another major consideration into your decision-making about what you choose to do in your career.

Yes,  you have to make some tough decisions sometimes.
Yes, you may have to stream line what you pursue, or how you pursue it.

You will not have the same "freedom"  with a family.   You will need to consider more options.  

That doesn't mean baby out with the bathwater!!!!!!

Decide what is important to you.  See where compromises are.   Decide what you want for your life.

It is your life.

It is your career.

Follow your choices,  commitment to them.   Pursuit of a career,  and a choice of having a family will only ENHANCE each not deter from either.

If you are pregnant and feeling good,  audition as you would,  but recognize time lines.  Don't put yourself or a company in compromise by auditioning for something that would open close to your due date!  That's just not smart.

Don't lead with your pregnancy in the audition room.  That's not why you are there.  Keep the boundaries clear.

Don't lead with your parenthood in rehearsal.  You are there to do a job,  and that isn't being momma in that space.

When you are mapping out your career world,  you simply have to insert the ongoing priority of family and how the two will affect each other.  Yes, you will have to make clearer choices. Yes, you will not have the freedom to choose anything that comes your way.  Yes, you will sometimes have to turn down possibilities because you are a responsible for another life.

This does not mean you cannot have a career,  and cannot perform and cannot pursue your life path.

Embrace all aspects of your life.

Remember not everybody is going to agree.

It doesn't matter.  It is your life.  YOU make it work.

People in the business may not "like" you are having a baby.

People in your personal world may not "like" you still want to pursue a career.

Last time I checked,  they aren't you.

So,  make up your mind,  wear the hats,  and remember which one you are wearing,  and when.  Don't confuse it for yourself.  Be clear about your priorities.  Focus and commit!

Is it easy?  No.  When is it easy?  Having a career isn't easy,  without a child or with a child.  Being a parent isn't easy either.

So,  when does a little work  scare you?

Make decisions for YOU and your life.   The path you create has never been walked,  so pioneer forward and live your life as you choose. 

If you want it,  you can develop the courage to make it work for you in whatever way makes sense for you and your family.

Whatever you decide to pursue,  be it career only, or family only,  or a career with a family,  simply commit to it,  don't make excuses for it,  and live your life! YOUR life.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Frustration, Rejection, Re-direction

Sunday musings...

Look at this:

Yes that's a rejection letter.  Yes, it's Bono.

Yes it's audition season.
Yes there are more people auditioning than there are roles.
Yes, you are going to get frustrated.
Yes, you will be "rejected".

What do you do with that?  Is it really rejection?

I prefer to consider it another way.  It's not that you aren't good enough,  it's that you are needing to re-direct and find out where you will be seen.

"I must be doing something wrong."

I hear that a lot.  A LOT.   Perhaps you are not.  Perhaps you are just not in the right place.  Or not revealing what IS right about you.  Perhaps your desperation is showing,  and not your openness and freedom to take on the job you want.

Or, perhaps the person behind the table can't hear/see/respond.

Or, perhaps there are just so many to choose from and you just were not chosen.

Does it suck? Sure.  But YOU chose to be there.  No one is holding a gun to your head.

So if this is YOUR choice,  then  you must claim it fully:  the good, the bad AND the ugly.

You have chosen a profession where only 5% of us are working regularly at any given time.  It has the highest unemployment rate of any profession.

It is subjective.

So,  when you aren't getting work,  or feeling frustrated, or any of the other negatives,  what do you DO?

Sit down.  Take a breath.  Be still.  Have a good cry.

And RE-DIRECT yourself.

What do you want?


What are you doing regularly to achieve it?

What are you ignoring?

Perhaps,  that which you are seeing in your peripheral vision and ignoring is really what you need to consider,  and face it, head on.

Is something nagging you?

Is something re-appearing in theme or in conversation?

Perhaps,  that is what you need to face head on,  instead of feeling the glass is half empty.

Just because one person, or one season says "no",  doesn't mean you stop trying.  It might mean you are trying in ways you need to re-evaluate.

Frustration & rejection does not have to equal failure.

That is a choice.

Frustration & rejection should lead to focus and re-direction to discover your truth and where you SHOULD be,  not where you think you want to be.  It does not mean giving up.  It does mean walking away.  It means another possibility,  a different perspective,  a walking toward something.

Yes, there are too many people auditioning.
Yes,  you will submit for many projects and never get an audition.
Yes, you will get typed out.

Yes, you will get frustrated.

Yes, your responsibility is to find out the direction you need to face,  and start walking,  and gathering momentum,  and discovering what you need to DO in order to be where you will BE.

Saying you know and DOING what you know are not the same.


And an ongoing re-direction until you figure out where you are.

Rejection does not define you,  unless you allow it to.

Re-direction allows you to re-define yourself.

Choose well.

Actors and the VOICE

Sunday musings...

I have had several actors come to me recently who have major vocal problems.  They simply have not cared for,  nor do they seem to know how to use and look after their instruments.

It bespeaks a larger issue...I see so many so-called "actors" who take business classes to try to get work,  but have completely ignored the craft of simply caring and using their instrument.

An actor does not have to take singing lessons to use his/her voice.  However, an actor should be taking VOICE lessons in order to use his/her voice in a healthy way and to learn about support,  breath and resonance,  as well as building on endurance, power,  projection and more.

I have many actors who come in to work on their speaking voices THROUGH singing work.  The singing is more athletic simply because of duration,  and so they build a larger range,  a better understanding of support and movement of breath,  and their speaking voices become much more anchored and resonant almost immediately.

I am amazed at how many actors,  stage or screen,  do NOT work warm up their instrument prior to using it.  Many just haven't thought about it.

Unless you are working in silent film,  your instrument is your voice.  Your body is your instrument.  Why wouldn't you want it to be as athletic and strong as it could be?

This is in no way a chastisement!  This is a simple nudge to encourage you to view your training and your development as an actor a little further than what many have done.

You need to understand the function of your voice.  What are your possibilities?  How strong and tangible is your breath?  What kind of range do you have vocally?  (A grunt and a squeak do not count!)   What is your resonance like?  Where does your voice naturally sit?  Does it tire easily?  Do you project without restriction?  Are you gasping for air?  Is your throat sore after you have used your voice?

We aren't even talking about the craft of ACTING.  We are simply talking about the physical instrument and all of its possibilities.  The craft of acting should wrap itself around the physicality of the voice,  and sadly, often it is ass backwards and the voice itself is forgotten.

So what should you do?  Just like take a yoga class, or a pilates class or a spin class,  you warm up first.  You do not go into a full blown attack without letting the muscles get loose and lengthen and breathe.  Just like working out in ANY athletic activity,  so should you allow the voice!

Find yourself a voice class that is structured on the instrument as focus.  Find a teacher that understands the actor's voice and can help build a regime of development for you specifically.
 Take the time to really discover your voice.  Each actor has physicality,  has breath,  has tone,  has range,  has resonance,  has language.  Wouldn't you want to discover more about that and access all of what you are?  Wouldn't you want to know how to use all these factors in order to develop MORE breath, MORE support, MORE resonance,  MORE power, MORE dynamic. MORE range and never get vocally tired?

The more you focus on the athleticism of the voice and simply develop it,  the more possibilities exist.   If there are possibilities,  then anything can happen!

Treat your voice with the respect it deserves.  It IS your instrument.  YOU are an actor.  The two are entwined.  Now is the time to get conscious about it and do something to make it MORE.  Let it reveal itself to you,  develop it, nurture it,  and CLAIM IT.

happy discovery!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Consultations/Lessons and INFORMATION

Just some information for those of you who are coming into NYC or are in NYC and want to book consultations and/or lessons.

Please send me your head shot & resume with some info about YOU.  Email me directly at:

I will answer you promptly to let you know about availability.

Please DO NOT go to the online schedule and simply book if we have not been in touch first.

Thanks for your attention on this. 

See you in the studio!


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Reading, Comprehension & Smart Questions

The musings continue...

My friend and colleague Cindy Sadler were discussing these things throughout the week.

Cindy is a brilliant artist,  who writes a great blog you need to add to your list HERE.

She also runs a marvelous opera summer program in Austin Texas called Spotlight on Opera.

As she receives applications in the hundreds,  as I receive emails and requests to study and consult,  as we comment on message boards for singers,  we have seen a trend that is pervasive in the business - be it in opera, theatre, film or TV.

There is a distinct divide between those who actually READ and COMPREHEND what they are reading before asking questions,  and those who simply are not doing this basic skill.  There is a huge difference between asking an informed question and asking a stupid question.

I know in my studio,  I tell my singers, when the door is closed, there is no stupid question.  What does that mean?  It means you are in a safe space to query about things that you might not ask anywhere else, so you have the answers you need to navigate the chaos we call the business of show (and the artistic pursuit of your craft!)


I am not sure how reading/comprehension has been lost.  It isn't all of you.  Trust me,  some of you are detail-oriented and are focused and clear.  We love hearing from you!

But, there are enough of you who do not read, comprehend nor follow directions well,  that it is putting you in jeopardy when you apply for programs,  scholarships,  submit for auditions,  etc etc.

Perhaps it is the era of "instant" that is the issue, but it does not give you a free pass.  If you want to be in ANY business you gotta read and COMPREHEND what you are reading so you are responding appropriately.

Read the application.  Thoroughly.  Make a check list if you have to, in order that you have all that is required.

Read the website.  Make sure you UNDERSTAND what is being asked of you.

You have SPELL CHECK.  USE IT.  There is absolutely NO EXCUSE for typos in this day and age.

If you have questions,  make a list and then double check for answers in the application and on the website.  Do not just start emailing questions that can be clearly answered by simply READING AND COMPREHENDING what is already there!

This does not hold you in high esteem.  Asking questions that are easily answered by reading what is there says 1. You are lazy  2.  You are not reading  3.  You are not comprehending what you read  4.  You don't want to do the basic work  5.  You want to be spoon fed  6.  You aren't ready for this application or this business.

Result: you are not taken seriously. AT ALL.  You are dismissed.

Is it in your control?  You bet it is!  If you want to be taken seriously,  earn it.  Just do the work.

The same goes for asking questions.  Ask SMART questions.  Looking "dumb"  does not make you more endearing.  It makes you look like you are not ready!  Time is valuable,  and questions that are asked inappropriately simply will be dismissed.

You either enhance or diminish your reputation with your questions.   What do you prefer?

I believe everything - including question asking - is often done so off-the-cuff,  that the person asking hasn't taken the time to see if the answer is right before him/her.  Not cool.  You MUST comprehend.

Even if the answer is NOT right in front of you - framing that question in a way that will get a proper response is crucial.


Asking a broad question like "How do I get a Broadway show?"  is going to be dismissed out of hand.  Too broad,  too general,  too green.  It reveals that you haven't done ANY research,  and wouldn't be ready for an answer.

 "Do cruise ships pay?"

  What does that reveal?  On the surface, someone who is truly clueless,  and simply hasn't done ANY research and certainly is not ready to even CONSIDER auditioning for anything in the professional world.

How could that question be re-worded?  It depends what the person answering the question is ready to READ AND COMPREHEND.

You have Google at your fingertips.  Do you homework.  Once you have done some preliminary research you might want to formulate the question as "I am looking into cruise line work and would love to know from any of you who have done it what I could expect in salary with little to no experience, should I get an audition."

That would show you have looking into the basics!  This would indicate you are respecting the time of those you are asking.  Anything less is beyond amateur,  beyond irritating, beyond...

You get the point.  I hope.

When you are applying for a program and your application is incomplete,  there is no excuse for that.  You did not read and comprehend.  If the application requires an mp3 of your work under 5 minutes, attached to the application, don't email the company and ask if you can send a YouTube clip link.

If you need THREE letters of recommendation, don't send TWO and wonder why you don't get in.  

You get the idea?

Just follow the bouncing ball.  It's not rocket science.

Read thoroughly.  Comprehend what you are reading.  Follow the instructions. 

As you are comprehending what you are reading,  make notes with any follow up questions.  As you keep reading, perhaps those follow up questions will be answered.

In this day of technology,  there is absolutely NO EXCUSE to not have basic information in hand before ANY question is asked.

This is YOUR decision and YOUR responsibility.  Do not get your back up if you are ignored for asking a question that is easily answered if you just READ and COMPREHEND, or answered curtly and told to do your research first.  That's on YOU.  Take responsibility for YOUR career development.

Being green is no excuse for being lazy.  No one is going to spoon feed you in this business.

Your reputation depends on your ability to BE smart and ACT smart.  The simple task of reading, comprehending, and putting that into action to then facilitate smart questions is the beginning of discovering where you can be!  If this simple task is not taken seriously,  you don't have a chance.

Where do you start?









(did you read and comprehend all of these???? GOOD!)

If you want a career,  it's up to you,  not up to someone else.

There are people out there who are just as talented,  who will do the work.  It's a simple CHOICE.