Taking Stock

It's the 11th of December. (which, according to TimeHop, means that I should have my annual sinus infection/cough/bout of laryngitis. AND LO AND BEHOLD IT WAS SO.)

It's the 11th of December. And life is pretty good, and also pretty lame. I'm not whooping it up much (see paragraph #1), but even without the sequins, life is pretty ok.

  • The pup is rabble-rousing like a non-surgically-violated puppy, so I'm guessing that he's feeling better. Which is awesome.
  • As far as work, I've got a truly kick-ass group of young singers on the docket for next summer. We are going to have some ridiculous fun!
  • Also as far as work, I've got this new classical music project that I'm super stoked for. SUPER. STOKED. And, in my nefarious plan to conquer the world and learn many things while I do it, I'm not only getting to know a very cool artist, but am learning to listen in a different way. It's ├╝ber-nerdy, and I'm loving the whole process.
  • Two more work things: 
    • We have decorated the basement with lights and trees and such, and it is A Holiday FESTIVAL. 
    • KPW is going to be a grandma in a week! And Tim the Builder is expecting child #2 shortly thereafter! We're going to have Trap babies next summer, which is the Christmas gift that will keep on giving. 
I have a metric shit-ton of Pierogi to make in the next few days...and the part of my brain that likes to avoid hard work is throwing me distracting messages, like "you need to go buy more supplies JUST IN CASE" and "What if you can't find cute containers to pack them in? They'll be ghetto pierogies and no one will ever eat them." Which makes me think I'll likely wake up tomorrow, drink some coffee, brush my teeth and start the first batch of dough, before I have time to consider alternatives.

It's pazzo. Had you asked me 20, 15, 10, even 5 years ago I would've not have expected being here, in this place, now.  Life is nothing - really, nothing  like I would've ever expected it to be. 

And yet, it's still a wonderful fit. 

My five:
  1. Codeine cough syrup. (#betterlivingthroughchemistry)
  2. West Wing reruns.
  3. Flour. Damn you, low carb everything.
  4. Slippers with fleecy insoles.
  5. Hats. Life is better with my hair hidden under a toasty cap.


bullet points.

  • I found a dog in the park yesterday as I was walking Boo. He was skinny, but friendly and adorable in a pet-fox kind of way. He had three leashes attached to his halter, and was dragging them through the park. I tried to walk him with Boo, to see if I could find where he might live, but his energy (and desire to constantly hump my dog, who was a good 40 lbs heavier and having NONE OF IT) meant that we didn't get very far. Some nice neighbors held him while I called Hubs to pick Boo up, and then I walked our Mystery Guest around the neighborhood, seeing if he'd drag me somewhere or if I would hear someone calling for him. No dice. He refused kibble (also brought by Hubs on another drive-by), and  I finally turned him over to the police after about 2 hours walking. They took him to see if he'd been chipped, and then he was going to the shelter. At least he'll get some food and maybe a checkup...it's all I can do to not call and check in, even though with the gimpy puppy at our house there's no way we can take him. But if you're in the market for a skinny sweet Akita, check with the Vienna pound. He'd be great with a family!
  • After the whole dog thing, I came home to start cooking. Because, even though we don't go anywhere for Turkey Day, it doesn't mean that mama doesn't cook! A small turkey, dressing, taters, cranberry jelly and an apple crisp with salted caramel sauce...and green beans and brussels sprouts that never made it into the oven when I saw exactly how much food I had made for only 2 of us. (The sad thing? The leftovers are almost gone. HOW CAN THAT BEEEEE???)
  • Had an x-ray of my knees done last week, because they were hurting almost constantly. The x-ray came back showing some damage, but not as much as would explain the pain...which means (to me, anyways) that I need to take some weight off and that all the bitching I was doing about not being able to run is 100% null and void. Ran through the cold rain on Wednesday, went again this morning. I'm starting all over again with a couch to 5k program, but it feels pretty easy physically - which is great, because it's a HUGE lesson in humility. Hoping to get back into the mindset by signing up for some short race sometime soon, just to get back into it. I forgot how running in the cold makes me feel doubly like a badass, even when I'm super slow.
  • Made an appointment to give blood tomorrow. Early workout, donate some red stuff, and then start making pierogi guts. Fair warning: if we usually exchange gifts, I can all but guarantee that this year, mine to you will not be gluten or lactose free. Sorry.
Hoping you enjoyed your stuffing/turkey/pie breakfast as much as I did. Happy weekending!



I'm either a little early or quite late in jumping on the Gratitude train, but either way I'm solidly on board today.

The audition tour is over, and we're on our way to populating a season that, in any one of the possible iterations, is going to be fan-flipping-TAStic. We heard some really wonderful singing, some delightful/compelling monologues, and hear from a number of auditioners who had positive experiences singing for us, irrespective of casting decisions.

It's enough to give an old grump the warm fuzzies. Feeling grateful to have carved a career that allows me to intersect often with people of artistry and generosity, and to have lovely colleagues that make even the most intense times fun and interesting.

On a personal note, we've been putting off having a fairly invasive surgical procedure done on Henry, our lab puppy. It's been worrisome, because the problem was becoming more consistent, the scheduling was tough due to our summer season and the audition tour, and partially because he's just a baby! But we finally bit the bullet, and he went in yesterday to have both elbows cleaned out and get fixed. He's traumatized at both ends, poor guy, but he's now home, snoring happily in his crate. I was a dummy to think that it wasn't going to be a big deal for the other creatures in the house - Hubs and myself, and the other dog & cat. But everyone was really off their game yesterday (I think I slept for a total of 13 hours. Avoidance, thy name is Lethe. Or 'napping.'), and even the critters seem to be relieved that Lil' Nibs is back home.

Feeling grateful for his safe return, and to be able to (eventually...) improve his quality of life through the procedure. (Wish us luck on keeping a labrador puppy fairly still for 8 weeks...)

Hoping to advance several things this week from the home office, including 2015 Opera Studio matters and 15-16 Chamber Music matters. Lots to do, but it's all fun stuff. My pantry is stocked for both Thanksgiving and the Great Pierogi Fest slated for the weekend after turkey day. The house is toasty warm, I've got a cup of tea and a book and a pair of wooly socks.

Life is good. And I am, indeed grateful.


Is this real life?

The Audition Tour for the 2015 season is over. GLORY, HALLELUJAH.

Seems like life should be easy now, right? But my mind and ears are so full that I'm not actually really able to carry on a conversation that isn't about opera or casting.  I am officially the worst dinner guest ever. Good thing I'm staying in tonight, right?

To counteract the ear fatigue (and the brain fatigue, obvs), I spent most of the day writing my documents for my annual review (GAH), and nesting in a big way. My house? SPOTLESS. Stem to stern. Dusted, vacuumed, mopped, organized. I should throw a dinner party tonight, it looks so good! (Trouble is, I'm in my yoga pants and a knit cap, and I will not be putting on a lady face for any reason. Also, I made meatloaf and ate enough of it that I may never eat again.)

But the day wasn't without excitement.

  • A shelf in my pantry broke. Dishes everywhere, and one of my favorite pieces of cookery sustained a broken lid.
    • Superglue to the rescue! Lid saved!
    • But wait...lid stuck to the kitchen counter? LID STUCK TO THE KITCHEN COUNTER. #fixitfail
    • Acetone to the rescue! (I could just imagine the convo with the hubby, and the mix of amusement and frustration that would likely roll across his face.)
  • Our pup Henry found a new favorite spot - on the bed in the guest room!
    • Henry is afraid of the bed in the guest room, and won't get down. (Terrifying, all that carpet...)
    • Henry sang the song of his people for 10-15 minutes (because I couldn't believe he was stuck) before I hoisted the little tub off the bed. 
    • Henry immediately ran downstairs and peed on the (newly vacuumed) living room carpet. (BAD PUPPY.)
    • an hour later, Henry treed himself on the same guest room bed. Again. A Rhodes scholar, he is not. I, however, can be taught...the door to the guest room is now closed. 
None of the "excitement" was musical or operatic or, in truth, particularly exciting. But it provided just enough adrenalin to get all of the items on the 'to do' list checked off. And, with the cold weather finally hitting the DC area, I'm looking forward to spending the weekend writing, reading, and getting reacquainted with my piano while Old Man Winter breezes into town.   

Grateful for:
  1. Candlelight.
  2. The return of hat weather. (I should blow off the salon until May...)
  3. Meatloaf. Comfort food is a wonderful thing!
  4. A clean house. 
  5. Almond milk lattes. Peet's rocks my world.


It's the fatigue talking.

(I'm tired, and I should likely not be typing: please indulge me if you're reading this, and know that I'm a little more sensitive than I might be with more rest.)

It's a little before midnight on an autumn Sunday night. My day started when the alarm went off at 5am. A road trip to and from Philadelphia was on the schedule for today, with 8 hours of auditions sandwiched in the middle. It was a long day, don't get me wrong. I was very happy at the end of it to pull into my own driveway, & walk into a house with my hubby and pets and bathrobe and cup of tea.

But it was a good day. Art was made, and some of it was really fantastic! I was pleasantly surprised by repertoire - both spoken and sung - performances, and personalities. There were bold choices being made; they didn't always pan out, but when they did it was amazing.

But I'm feeling discouraged, at the very time in our highly individualized casting process where I should be getting excited. After all, we're about halfway through our auditions, and while there are still a million scenarios that could play out for our summer season there are several that are starting to rise to the top...the "what-if" game is never more fun to play than right now!

I'm struggling, every time I get on social media, with the grumpier, louder voices who seem to dominate the conversation: on one hand the singers are upset about audition fees, and suggest solutions that show very little understanding of the financial workings of our program and I'd guess many others. On the other, discussions from admins about the obvious shortcomings of the current crop of singers: intonation issues, singing rep that's two sizes to big & doing so poorly. It's a lot of negativity being tossed around. And it resembles, in some fledgling way, the struggles at the big house that we've all been talking about, and at a number of smaller houses across the country

I realize that it's a huge privilege to do what I do, to sit on the silent side of the table. It's not come without sacrifices. I've been through the audition season on the other side of the table, and I know it's a struggle. I paid for auditions that I didn't get with beer money that I very much wanted to drink, especially after getting the PFO, believe me. I also in the past have had my salary frozen to allow my company to keep their artistic programs viable. But here's the thing: it's an investment. Everyone - regardless of which side of the table - who gets into the business is doing so for the love of it, and not to get rich off the backs of others. We all pay for the privilege.

My inner Pollyanna hatehatehates these clashes. I realize that behind each side are folks who want to be understood, to have someone acknowledge the struggles that they are facing. And the struggles are very real. But no one is feeling as if they're being heard.

I'd submit that there aren't two sides to this debate: there's only one. And if we've learned nothing from the current state of classical music and opera, I'd hope that it would at least be apparent that we are stronger when we collaborate.

Going to bed. Sunnier outlook promised for the morning.


Monologues: Friend or Foe?

I know you’re thinking about it. You’re a Studio applicant, and you’ve received an audition for Wolf Trap. And you scan the audition requirements and see that there’s a required contemporary monologue.

Dang. (You may choose stronger expletives, but we’ll keep it family-friendly here.)

“Why in heavens name do they make us memorize monologues?” you think, knowing that memorizing text without a tune is so much more difficult than memorizing arias and song.

We all know that we’re not auditioning you as a straight actor. So what could our motive be, and how can you hack the situation to your advantage? Here’s the rationale, and what we’re really looking for from your monologue. Demystified!

1.     We’re trying to get to know you. Your 1st selection in an audition is fraught with all kinds of noise: stress from getting to the site, nerves from the whole audition process; technical issues and dramatic issues and musical issues. Most folks surf two out of the last three items pretty well, but the dramatic piece is usually the part thatis subsumed by technical and musical concerns. (Rightly so; please concentrate on singing beautifully and in tune!) So, with a monologue, we get to explore the dramatic piece of the pie.
2.     We want to hear you express yourself in contemporary language. This is why monologues from Chekhov and Wilde – while wonderful pieces – are not our preference. I don’t want to hear you imitate a Downton accent, I want to see you wrestle with your own language, and more importantly to really communicate with me. The accents and affectations just make it more difficult to learn who you are. So sit down with your favorite movie or TV show and memorize a favorite character’s speech – it’ll be more fun for you, and I promise we’ll enjoy it more than Mabel lamenting Tommy’s proposal styles.
3.     We want to learn as much as we can about you. Let’s be frank: we see you for a song, maybe two if time allows. The monologue allows us to see your body language, your personal aesthetic; it gives us a different window into who you are as an artist and performer.
4.     I want to see how your artistry transcends genres. Play around in another genre. You are an artist; I want to see as many of your artistic faces as time allows.

We’ve been lucky so far: some wonderful monologues have come through the doors here in New York. My notes are incomplete, but here are some of my favorites:

For the guys:
From Laughing Wild by Christopher Durang, about seeing one’s father in a restaurant baked potato. Weird, but wonderful!

David from The Four of Us by Itamar Moses, about looking (and finding) love.

 by Eric Berlin – about being a nice guy.

Eating Up Profits by Milstein, about an overzealous bakery employee.

This is our Youth by Lonergan, a pot dealer having a come-to-Jesus moment with some of his clients.

For the ladies:
Well by Lisa Kron – about choosing a Halloween costume on criteria other than being “pretty.”

Harper from Tony Kushner's Angels in America – a beautiful contemplation of the ozone layer and death. 

Sylvia by A.R. Guerney –   this falls into the “Know your audience” bin, as it’s from a dog’s perspective. Having two large mutts at home, I found this wholly entertaining!

Georgie from Spike Heels by Theresa Rebeck.  The scales fall from a woman’s eyes.

“I cannot love a weak man” from Patter for the Floating Lady by Steve Martin. (Yes, he’s a comedian, but this piece is a heartbreaker.)

Pieces I could do without hearing again. (Ever. I might have these memorized quite frankly.)
·      Mabel from An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde. C’mon y’all – he’s been dead for over 100 years. It would be like me swapping out Pitbull for Irving Berlin.  Choose a playwright writing during your lifetime!
·     Luisa from The Fantasticks,   only because its much harder to do than you think. And the whole “I love to taste my tears” thing always comes across as indulgent and soporific.
·      Chekhov, Dostoyevsky. They’re AWESOME. But let’s refer to the Wilde rule: 100 years since death = not the kind of language we’re looking for. I’m looking for something less removed from your own experience.


Audition Recap

We leave for auditions in a week! My pal Kim has posted an awful lot about auditions, and really, if you're auditioning this fall you owe it to yourself to read her thoughts and those great aria lists.

I've written a little bit about the auditions in the past, mostly from a less-reverent POV.  They're not wholly recent (something I'll try to remedy this fall), but for what they're worth, they're here: