Monday, March 30, 2015

Where Did You Put The Tickets?

People are frequently astonished that I have never seen Breaking Bad, Orange Is The New Black or even Titanic. Yes, it is true.  I've never seen this moment:

Until recently, I couldn't figure out why. At first I blamed it on living in a testoterone-filled house, where there's always a sporting event appearing on at least one screen. But then I realized there are plenty of other screens available for my viewing pleasure.

And then I figured it out. I was missing out on all these small-screen shows and movies because


Obviously, attending live performances is a priority for me. As it should be. I'm a performer and I train performers. I better get out there and see what's going on.

Some of you are able to attend live performances AND watch all of the latest Netflix series. Good for you. Let me know how that works out when you end up with a more-than-full-time career, a husband, a kid AND a house in your life.

I also know that many of you don't attend live performances because you think you're tired, you think you don't have enough money, you get depressed because you're not on the stage, or, because that party your friend is throwing just feels so much more important.

I'm going to encourage you to change your thinking. Here's why:

Enjoyment – When you work as an artist, it is easy to forget that you actually enjoy the art. At least I hope you do. I frequently think of the colleague from my opera years who told me she never attended live performances because she didn't really like opera. I never understood that. Why would she give so much of her time and energy to an art form she didn't like? Especially one as demanding as opera? No offense, but it's not like being an accountant.

I go to performances because I love seeing humans express themselves. I am continually taken with the various ways humans, as a species, have found to express and communicate. Don't you love that feeling of joy or of being moved to tears by a piece of art right in front of your face?

I recently attended a performance of the opera Manon at the Met. I don't like this opera, mostly because I don't like the character Manon. She makes life choices that I cannot understand and I have never found the music that compelling. Well, the performance I recently saw changed my mind. It was everything opera should be – a captivating story well-told through great singing, a great orchestra, a wonderful concept carried out in excellent costumes and sets – but that wasn't the best part. The best part was the last moment of the opera when the character Des Grieux is kneeling over the love of his life, Manon, as she lays dying. (It's an opera, get over it.)  This singer, Vittorio Grigolo let out a cry that was so honest, so compelling, so human. I couldn't help myself. It brought tears to my eyes. It was real.

Everything had been fantastic that afternoon. But that cry....that's why we go, folks.

I am also continually taken with the way we, as consumers of art, respond to live performances. Why do some people respond to one song and not the other? Why do some people love the ballet and not the tango? As a working artist, that's important, because I need to be able to:

Discern – it is true that some of the performances I attend are not of the highest quality. Instead of mentally snarking my way through, I ask myself what would make the performance better. Is it the performers? Is it the direction? Is there a different way to present this same piece of art? Is it the work itself? Is it the venue? I don't stop there. I take it to that next, important step, and I ask myself – how does this apply to my creative work? This is, I suppose, a form of:

Professional Enrichment – which is me using big words. Let me translate. There are wonderful new creative ideas out there, waiting for you, hanging out in the places you haven't thought of yet. They will enrich your work and transform your life. Go find them.  See above story.

Support – I attend many events because I want people to know that I believe in them and I believe that what they have to say is of value. Maybe they don't get it right all of the time, but they're trying. Maybe they'll say one phrase, play one note, move one move that will transform my life. In my book, that's worth sitting through okay moments. In my book, that merits my support. Yours too. And you know what else? Sometimes looking out there and seeing that one face makes all the difference. Be the face.

Yes, frequently I do not want to leave my comfortable house. I still go. It's the Golden Rule in action. Remember that one? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Yes, it's true. If you want people to attend your performances, you need to attend theirs.

It's cultivating an attitude of generosity. It's opening yourself up to experiencing something different, to being a good colleague. Besides, you never know who else is going to be in attendance, which means you might have the opportunity to:

Network – That's right, when you attend performances, you're going to rub shoulders with other people in your industry. Most of them tend to be impressed when they meet you at a performance. It says you care, it says you're invested in the form. This is particularly advantageous when you encounter the people who make the hiring decisions. They tend to appear at performances. Rarely do they appear in your living room.

The spring is a wonderful time to attend performances. There's many to choose from and the weather is usually better. So here's your Creatavita challenge.

Attend a live performance or event.  For a double challenge, attend an event that presents a new form to you.

Go to a book signing.  Go hear a singer-songwriter.  Go to an opera. Try something different.

Post your comments here on the blog.  Don't put them on Facebook or Twitter, because not every Creataviter can see them.  I bet we'll get some cool experiences.

Oh, if you need assistance choosing an event, I'm glad to help. You know where to find me.

Gotta go. The show starts in 7 minutes.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Only Thing

we have to fear is fear itself.

Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke those words 81 years ago, almost to the day, on March 4, 1933.  It was the first of his four presidential inaugurations.

Boy, is that ever appropriate these days, on so many levels.

First of all, the world. If you pay attention to most media sources, you'd think that Destruction and Chaos have camped out at your local Starbucks and are waiting for the perfect opportunity to rob you of all your possessions. Recently, I had someone tell me that the world banking system was going to collapse within the next 6 months. She shared the source of this news with me, which was, of course, a video making the rounds on the Internet. I had to point out to her that the video was initially published in April of 2014. And it is now March of 2015. Last time I counted, that was more than six months.

This article from the March issue of The Atlantic does an excellent job of explaining our unnecessary fear.

I'm not saying everything is hunky dory in the world; indeed, bad guys and problems abound. But they always have and they always will. You can't change that, but you can change your attitude.

Turn off the news, walk away from your screen, or if you're going to sit at your screen, watch the Hanover Eagle Cam. It's much more breath-taking than Facebook, especially when both of the eagles are there.

You know what I do every morning? I don't let my feet hit the ground until I think of three things for which I am grateful. They can be as simple as the fact that I am breathing, the sun came up again and my bed is warm. This way, I start every day with positivity. Establishing the habit has taken, oh 730 days, but it has made a huge difference in my life.

Then there's the fear of taking a chance. I'm surrounded by people who are asking “should I go to that audition or the other one?”, “what if they don't hire me?”, “should I send my manuscript to that publisher?”, “should I leave the job I hate even though it pays well?” and on and on. The real questions that are being asked are:

What if I'm rejected


What if I fail

Here's the truth. I'm not sure what will happen. But I do know this. You are destined to be rejected and to fail by the very act of not acting. When you don't take that leap of faith, when you don't put yourself out there, failure is guaranteed.

If you've done your preparation, heck, even if you've done a portion of the necessary preparation, I am here to tell you – GO. LEAP. JUMP.

The only way you'll find out is if you act.

I speak from experience. Lately, I've been doing quite a bit of leaping, jumping and facing fear. In January, for the first time in my life, I did an entire solo cabaret. I sang and played the piano for the entire program. Was I scared? Yes. But I did excellent preparation, including hours of mindful practice and a trial performance for friends. That was key. I sat by myself before the show started, allowed myself to be scared for 2 minutes and then I was done. I walked out on that stage, I leaped and the sold-out house loved it. So did I, because there's nothing like facing your fears and having them run away.

The following week I started taking an audition class. What?!?! Why are you taking an audition class? Because there is always more to learn. What a humbling experience. I'm the oldest person in the room by decades. I'm supposed to know what I'm doing. But there's a big difference between telling someone what to do and doing it in front of a group of people who are just as focused as I am. I have fallen in this class, but when that happens, I get up and do it again. It's exhausting, it has challenged me to the core and I love it.

I'm taking this audition class because I've returned to the world of auditioning, a world I haven't visited on a regular basis for a good 15 years. These days, you'll often find me schlepping up and down the Northeast Corridor with my audition binder, changing from travel clothes to audition outfits in public bathrooms, hanging out in coffee shops or hallways with mostly twenty-somethings and giving what I've got today. Is it scary? Not anymore. If anything, it feels a little awkward. But I'm facing those fears and once again, they're running away.

I'm not telling you this so you think I'm amazing. I'm not telling you this so you email me or post a comment telling me you admire me. You can do that if you want, but the truth is, I'm rather ordinary. I'm telling you this because I want you to know that you can do it too. You can take that chance, whatever it may be. You will get scared, you will have setbacks and you might question your sanity, but you can do it.

The last fear I want to write about is the fear of growing old. Now, if you're under 30, there's a good chance this makes no sense to you. Good. Until recently, it didn't mean bupkus to me either. I'm quite happy about that.

But if you're one of the ones who are afraid of growing old, I have news for you. Just like every other human who has lived before you, who is living with you now and who will live after you, you are growing old. We all are. From the day of our birth, what happens? We get older.

You have a choice. You can embrace the beauty of being older, like not caring as much what others think or doing the things you've always wanted to do but were too, ahem, afraid to do, or you can whine away your days complaining about the aches, pains and difficulties. Yes, they're real, but they don't have to stop you. That's a choice you are making.

Get out there. Take a chance. Leap. The sun is shining. Life is short. Make the most of it.

Because like FDR said, the only thing we have to fear.....