Thursday, March 19, 2015

What Makes a Lion a Lion?

I don't often write about my singers specifically.  I write about what I see they deal with, discover, and what themes seem to rise through a week - cause there is ALWAYS a theme if you are paying attention!

However, after seeing THE LION again last night,  in its off-Broadway space at the Lynn Redgrave Theater on Bleeker Street,  I had to write about Benjamin Scheuer.

I am honored to have worked with Benjamin as this transformative and incredible piece of theatre has developed and deepened and taken roots.  His story,  his voice called The Lion.

Sean Daniels,  an innovative director with sensitivity, humor & vision,  took the reins and created the framework with Benjamin and this collaboration began to spin magic everywhere it went.  Sean now takes the reins as Artistic Director at Merrimack Repertory and you will be hearing from him and about him for a very long time  I have no doubt.

THE LION has been roaring everywhere it has been, and even where it hasn't been seen, is being felt.

The New York Times has raved;  The Huffington Post has raved;  The West End has raved;  Audiences are moved and lives are changed.

Am I over-exaggerating?

No I am not.

The Lion is transformative.  It is about becoming a man.  It is about Benjamin becoming a man. It is intimate and honest, raw and poignant, holds humor and tears,  and reveals shadows and light.

It oozes the truth of artistry.  Benjamin Scheuer is an artist.

What makes an artist an artist?

You cannot teach someone to become an artist.  They are born with that DNA.  Some artists perform, some do not.  It is how they live their lives.  It is how they view life.  It is how they choose to mold their journey called life and how they find that path to journey.

I am always humbled when an artist walks through my door and asks for my input.  That is a gift beyond words.  It is a responsibility that demands my truth, my commitment and my full attention.

Benjamin has everything.  He doesn't take it for granted.  He works at his craft.  Every day.  His musicality is so organic it's part of how he breathes.  His craft has developed to the point that it is simply an extension of his body.  His guitar playing isn't playing - it is a physical manifestation of the artistic energy that vibrates through his being.  He writes for his voice, and he finds the colors and timbres and textures because he works on it EVERY DAY.

It takes time to find out how to play like yourself.  Benjamin speaks of that in the show.  And he does. He plays, he sings, he reveals, as artist, as man, as forever evolving human being.

He is an old soul.  His artistry is timeless.  His absolute love affair with his music is visceral.

While working on the set of The Lion,  where it is just Benjamin,  and all those beautiful guitars,  he introduced me to that set by saying:  "Look at those guitars Susan, now THAT is sexy."

His love affair with his music is timeless.  He can make those guitars sing like no one else.  They SING for him.

So what makes an artist an artist?

What makes a lion a lion?

What makes Benjamin Scheuer,  Benjamin Scheuer?

Finding it each and every day.  Living it each and every day.  Being honest with it each and every day.

That lion needs to learn to roar.  Every day.

The artistry of Benjamin Scheuer could never be taught.  It needed and needs nurturing and breath and vibration so it keeps creating and renewing and growing.  He knows how to do that,  where to find that,  who to surround himself with to challenge him to keep honing that artistry and the craft it manifests in.

True artistry is complex but it doesn't need to be complicated.  It just needs a medium that allows it be seen, felt and heard.

When it is real, it doesn't need flash pots or jazz hands or anything blowing up.  It just needs to be about something real;  needs to reveal something real;  needs to tell us a story that makes us feel.

When you are in the presence of a lion,  you stay still and take in the majesty.  It isn't about you.  It is about the magnificence of something larger than you are.

When you are in the presence of artistry, you stay still and take in the miracle, knowing it is larger than you are.

When you are in the presence of Benjamin Scheuer,  you recognize the artistry,  the man, the spirit, the humanity, the humor, the depth and the warmth that touches you.  You are still because you know an artist like this is rarely seen in a lifetime.

The Lion is Ben.  It is his story.  Yet his story is larger than he is.  His talent and artistry is larger than he even fathoms.  His humbleness reveals that.  

And all those components were recognized and nurtured, along with director Sean Daniels, to take stage and dare theatre to get back to the truth of telling a story that reveals truth, human nature, human complexities, life, death, fear, humor, possibility, humor, tears, and laughter. 

Benjamin Scheuer is the embodiment of a 21st century troubadour.  He weaves a story through haunting musical language, and lyrics that will find their way into music history, with his voice, and his hands on those guitars. It is integrated, it is organic, it is real.  THAT is timeless.

And what do I do as voice consultant?  I just get out of the way.  I tweak.  I suggest.  I quietly work with the organic through the physicality of breath and language to give an artist more access to what they already know to do.  I try to simply reflect them, so they can see themselves and embrace it even further.

What makes a lion a lion?

You can still experience that for yourself in New York City at the Lynn Redgrave Theater til March 29th.    And when it goes on tour if you are even somewhere close to where it's playing,  please go and have your life changed.  One of the real reasons we go to theatre:  to be challenged, and forever changed. 

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