10.19.2014

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.

10.05.2014

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.




9.29.2014

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:


9.28.2014

Gaaaaah.

We're about ready to start hearing auditions. Which means I am nesting like an m-er f-er. Cooking, cleaning, swapping summer and winter clothes out (on a sunny, 80-degree day. #fail), eschewing my car for my feet; chatting with neighbors, taking long walks, doing yoga. All that good stuff.

Hubs has a big week at work, until October starts(end of the gov't fiscal year). So his job eases up on October 1, and I leave on October 2. Not great timing, although he'll likely be pretty OK watching ESPN nonstop and ordering takeout for the next several weeks.

We start the audition tour in New York, which is by far the easiest in terms of logistics: a three-hour train ride, a familiar hotel, a neighborhood we know and a facility that's easy to listen in. The only difficult thing is to find time to fit in visits with folks that I love who are there - there's simply never enough time. 

Applications to screen tomorrow morning. (note: Oscar Wilde died 114 years ago, and therefore I would not consider his writings to be contemporary English, as far as monologues are concerned...something from Scandal or hell, even Captain America would likely be a better monologue choice for us than "Tommy has proposed to me again." Heck, even song lyrics are better. Please break up with Tommy.) 

I've been inspired by MB, my new colleague, who is a light packer. (I am not a light packer...I pack ALL THE THINGS FOR ALL THE TRIPS.) Spending some time with the list this evening to see if I can really pare things down to necessities... thinking that streamlining the duds might streamline the trip. (We'll see if the hypothesis holds up...and if I can be disciplined enough to really pare things down.)

Heading to bed early. Hope y'all have a lovely week! Next update from Gotham.


9.12.2014

TGIF

I'm writing this at 8:51pm on a Friday night. Things should just be getting started, right?

Wrong. So, so wrong.

After a 4:30am wake up from the boys (they wake up WAY too early. Good thing they're cute.)

I've walked. Taken photos. Written in my journal. Crunched numbers. Screened applications. Walked the hounds. Made dinner.

DONE ALL THE THINGS.

I'm tired.

Tomorrow is the Wolf Trap Ball, which is a lovely evening out with the hubs and some of my favorite colleagues. But, in order to sparkle tomorrow, mama's going to need some serious shut-eye tomorrow.

(How long do I have to sleep before I look like the 29-year-old me? Hell, I'd even settle for the 35-year-old me. She was pretty foxy, right?)

Three weeks until the audition tour starts. A few precious weekends before the road beckons. When I'm not gussied up in my fancy clothes, I'll be in my yoga pants, hanging with my boys, reading and writing and cooking and ignoring the monsters in the back of the fridge and the dust bunnies in the corners.

Hope you'll be spending the weekend doing the things you love to do. (If you need permission? Consider it granted.)

9.05.2014

It's as easy as riding a bike.

Which, sometimes isn't all that easy.

I used to love riding. Many of my favorite childhood memories are accompanied by my trusty bike: at first, a pink one-speed with hot-rod handlebars and a polka-dotted banana seat, and when I hit middle school a red Huffy ten-speed. Riding around the neighborhood in gangs, to the pool, Covey's (the corner candy store), it was my favorite mode of transportation.

I liked to ride FAST.

But I took a nasty spill...one that landed me in the hospital twice. It was traumatic, and I turned my back on any kind of biking. Just temporarily, I thought...but weeks turned into months turned into years.

Like, over 20 years.

In the meantime, I married a bike guy - someone who loves to ride, and really, really wanted me to ride with him. He bought me a bike - a nice one, but not too expensive so I wouldn't feel guilty for ignoring it. (which I did. constantly.) He put cages on the pedals, but then I got stuck in them and fell over on my one attempt, so he took them off. He got it serviced every year, just in case I wanted to ride sometime. Once or twice we took them to the beach so i could noodle around.

It was too much pressure.

I avoided the damn bike.

But then several things happened:

  • I stopped going to the gym.
  • My knees started to hurt every time I tried to run.
  • I started walking every morning.
The walking made me realize that I really love to be outside, rather than in a class. I loved seeing other parts of the neighborhood, watching the small changes in the scenery. 
But, unless I dedicate hours every day, my walks take me in a fairly small radius; I want to see more. 

And, I still dream of going FAST.

So today, when hubs was at work, I took the bike out. Just for a short ride, to see how I'd do.
After five miles, I learned some things:
  • Boy, a lot does come back really quickly!
  • Some things don't. I still can't balance without both hands on the bars. It made signaling really tough.
  • My turning radius sucks. 
  • My seat (both bicycle and personal, if I'm being truthful) are a little low.
  • I still like to go FAST.
I didn't realize that I had something to conquer, but it seems like I indeed did. 
Looking forward very much to getting back on the bike tomorrow. 

9.02.2014

Article: One is Not Enough

Have you all read this article?

It's all about creative people needing to have more than one outlet for their creativity. And the joy that comes from creating something that exists outside of one's primary discipline.

I totally get it.

I want to be really good - no, excellent - in the creative areas in which I work. The standards are high. But it doesn't mean that I don't like to work in other mediums. Au contraire, mon frere! I have at least three different projects on burners during the months I'm not in season at work...anything from writing fiction to preparing a Beethoven sonata to drawing every day, or instagramming the bejeezus out of my fairly mundane existance. I'm currently on staycation, but I'm also editing a story I started over a year ago, doing a little bit of songwriting, and playing around with some images for an album cover. I've signed up for a course to make a stained glass window later this month, and am SO excited about it!

These projects energize me - much more so than just watching tv or zoning out. Whether they have value to anyone other than me is secondary; the primary purpose - for me -  is simply to make.

I'm not alone.

My pal Paolo, who started life as a visual artist, is also an amateur shoemaker. Kat plays cello in her spare time - she's a scenic designer and painter by trade. Writers, visual artists, musicians...almost everyone I know has a primary arts field and a secondary one in which they dabble.

Today, I got a delivery from another one of the tribe: soprano Tracy Cox, who is a gifted, award-winning soprano and one of the coolest ladies on the planet. She also makes AMAZING jewelry. I had been struggling to find a statement necklace: necklaces aren't really my thing, but I would like them to become my thing. When Tracy offered to help, I was really excited.

And I was even moreso today, when she delivered the finished products:




I am super thrilled with what she made, and feel pretty fortunate to have such wonderful, custom pieces from a multi-talented artist. 

(You can check out more of her work here, or email her at neonbeautiful@gmail.com for inquiries.) 

Do you have your hands full with artistic pursuits? Tell me all about them!

Edited to add the link to Neon Beautiful Designs instagram page. Check it out!