Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Persisting Brings Joy

Yes, that's the theatre.
The Poly Theatre Shenzhen.

Creataviters, it happened. One of my Guiding Star Touchstones, Persisting Brings Joy, worked.

After 100 performances covering the role of Mother Superior and appearing nightly in the Ensemble of Sister Act, I finally went on as Mother Superior.

Ni hao Shenzhen.

I've been wanting to tell this woman's story ever since I met her. I'll admit, when I was offered my current contract (covering the role, not performing it regularly), I was disappointed. I even shed a few tears. This woman lives in my soul. I know her like the back of my hand. We have much in common. But I sucked it up, realized my good fortune and opportunity, and moved through the disappointment so I could come to Asia with a bunch of really good folk.

Going on is always full of emotion. Somebody else is sick or injured. And in this case I really, really, really like (okay, let's call it love) this person - Rebecca Mason-Wygal. If you look up the word professional in the dictionary, there's a picture of Rebecca. But guess what. She gave me advance notice, she sent me hints telling me to make sure to find the handkerchief and crucifix, she even gave me a present! That's right, no petty jealousy here.

Then there's the other cover, my best friend on this tour, Megan Opalinski. Like me, she's also covered this role before and not gone on. Only by the luck of the draw (we'll be switching the roles we're covering very soon) did I go on this week.  Guess who came up to me during the show with many thumbs up and "you're doing greats"? Guess who was the first one to hug me after the curtain dropped?  And I don't mean a fake, sure you were okay, I'll take one for the team hug. I mean an authentic, boy, am I proud of you, congratulations hug. Yup, Megan. Her picture is right next to Rebecca's in that dictionary.

What did I realize from this experience?

Discipline Works. You know, I don't think of myself as disciplined, but I am. I have a very specific routine as a cover (which is coming in another post). I'll tell you right now, it involves daily review of my lines and staging, as well as daily vocal work. It also means I am keeping myself rested and as healthy as possible. That means making choices about when to socialize and when to go to bed. Not always fun, but I'm here to perform a show first and enjoy myself second.

Together We Are Strong. I used to fail at this concept. Epically. I felt so insecure, I thought I had to hang onto all of the marbles for myself. I would close off from colleagues who were just trying to be my friend. Thank God I've figured out what a waste of energy that was. Rebecca and Megan were not the only colleagues who stood next to me, gave me encouragement or offered to help. And what a difference that made.

That's a wig.
Be Prepared. Which is really an offspring of Discipline Works. Will I go on again? One never knows when one is a cover. My job is to be prepared and that's what I do. I wake up every day and know that my priority is to be prepared. The rest is up to someone else, so I don't even think about it. I have enough to do making sure I'm prepared.

That's Megan behind with the big authentic smile on her face.
I have so much more to tell you, but it is time for me to rest. Now you get out there and persist. Because joy is around the corner waiting for you.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Day In The Life, Part 1

In May, I asked you what you were curious about. What did you want to know from Creatavita? One of you (thank you for the comment, Unknown) requested a post about my daily life. As I said in my comment, I didn't think that would be of interest. I was glad to find out it would least to Unknown. I started composing a draft about my daily life and was quickly stymied. Writing this was more challenging than I anticipated. How DO I spend my time? How do I write about it without sounding inane (10:45 - bathroom break)?

So, another series of posts is born, because the daily life of a touring performer differs greatly, depending on what part of the process the project is in.

Today, I'll start with a day in the life when I am in rehearsals. I'm intending to write at least 3 more posts in this series. Why? My schedule is a bouncing ball and I believe knowing about said schedule would provide insight for many of you.

I'll start with a day in the life, New York City rehearsal style, in April 2017.

6:30 am - The alarm goes off. I always start everyday with my gratitude practice (I focus on my Guiding Star slogan and think of three things for which I am grateful). Once that's done, my feet willingly hit the floor.

I can't believe my good fortune. I'm staying at the East Side apartment of a very generous friend. The apartment, like most Manhattan apartments, isn't large, but it is comfortable. When my friend is in town for work, I sleep on the pullout sofa (it's really comfortable). When she's isn't here, I get the bed. She's high up in the corporate world, so her hours are even longer than mine. Consequently, when I'm here, I'm usually alone.

I prefer to start the day quietly and slowly, Hence, the next two hours are filled with:
Coffee and reading the paper (yes, I still read the paper, and you should too)
Prepare lunch
Shower, dress and pack for the day (I've usually prepped the night before)
Vocalize and review material for today’s rehearsal.

8:45 am - Most days I walk to work. I allow 45 minutes so I'm sure to be early. If I choose to stop for coffee, or walk a different route, I know I'll have time. I also use this time to talk to Beloved. Occasionally, I take the subway, but since I enjoy the morning walk and find it an excellent easy stretch, that's my first choice.

9:30 am - I arrive at the rehearsal studio. Rehearsal doesn't start until 10:00 am, but I HATE BEING LATE. I find it beneficial to have this time to take care of questions or just socialize with my new colleagues. Then there's going to the bathroom. While this might seem severe, leaving rehearsal to go to the bathroom is frowned upon. Texting or taking a phone call is also a huge no-no; it's best to take care of all personal business before rehearsals start.

10:00 am - Alright, let's head into the first rehearsal session of the day. Usually, there is a 10-minute break every 50 minutes, but since this is a non-union production, that is not required. As we get further into the process, we're more likely to work through break times.

Rehearsal for a show like Sister Act (specifically, for the Nuns) is intense. We have intricate vocal harmonies, which switches from 2 parts to 3 parts to 4 parts and back again, all in one song. We have "ography"; while the movement for this show isn't classified as dance, it is complex and there is a LOT of it. Then there's the scenes where we aren't dancing, but we are singing or just being. We start the rehearsal period working each element separately, combining them by the 5th day of rehearsal.

Because this show requires so much movement, there's no dressing up for work. My uniform consists of workout clothes and sneakers. Comfort is a must. At first, this is great. Even though I splurged and bought most of my rehearsal clothes at Athleta, by the end of week 2, I'm tired of them. I'm dying to wear real clothes.

This is us in April.

This is us in May.

One of the travails of this rehearsal period is the climate control in the rehearsal studio. First cold, then hot. Those of us moving are hot, while those sitting are cold. The door has to stay closed because of the sound and that heats up the room. Just right doesn't exist.

2:00 pm - Lunch. We get 60 minutes for lunch, which can get easily swallowed up. I usually like to get some fresh air on a lunch break, but the area around this studio is congested with no green spaces close by. Most days I bring my lunch and stay in the building. This gives me more time to eat (standing in NYC food lines can suck up a lot of time) and leaves more money in my pocket. This is also the only opportunity of the day to return phone calls, emails, texts, etc. Brush my teeth, use the restroom, chat with my colleagues and we're back. The 60 minutes zooms by.

3:00 pm - Back to work. It's a repeat of the morning.

6:00 pm - Rehearsal day is done. I take the subway home or walk, possibly run an errand (hello CVS) and eat dinner. Most nights after dinner, I study. That's right, I study. Because I do my best work up on my feet,
I rearrange the furniture so I can get up and practice blocking and choreography, being careful not to break anything! I take breaks to work out, write for Creatavita, and interact in my digital world.

I'm in New York, so you'd think I'd see some theatre or get out. I do. I get to two shows and I see friends for dinner three times. Yes, that's all. Disappointing, right? Folks, I'm just too tired at the end of the day! Besides, I know I need to use the energy I have left to work on the material for the next day. I'm here to do a job and it is my intention to do the best job possible every day. Being prepared is key to making that happen.

10:30 pm - I'm done. I crawl into bed with a book, content with a good day's work, ready to rest my body and brain.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Glamorous Life Guangzhou Style

I know the videos aren't working.
I'll see what I can do when I get back from my 2-show day.
In the meantime, enjoy Guangzhou with me!

Well Creataviters, here we go. China.

I can't tell you how many times Beloved and I have started to plan a trip to this country. Every time we have been sidetracked. Visiting China felt so overwhelming. We didn't know where to start. All the questions - what cities do we visit? how long do we stay? do we visit Tibet? do we visit Mongolia? do we do it alone? - would stop us in our tracks. Hence, one of the main reasons I took this Sister Act contract was to get to China. I would have a purpose and an itinerary. I'd see at least some of the country (as will Beloved. He'll be joining me for 2 weeks). I am, at the end of the first week of a 10-week stay. The itinerary is here.

Next to our very Western hotel. More bikes to come.

One week in, here are some initial impressions, along with photos, because I know some of you love photos:

I get a sense of a country as soon as I step out of the airport. There's something in the air. My sense of China? Much better than I anticipated. There's a hustle and bustle here in Guanzhou, but I'm not overwhelmed. I assume that will change when we get to Beijing.

The people move with a purpose, but the notorious Chinese rudeness has not appeared...yet. I was told that due to my Western physical structure and blonde hair, I would draw attention. I see the occasional child look at me, and I saw one man take photos of a group of us, but that's been it. I sense that people are, as we say, living their best lives, and aren't necessarily concerned about others that look different.

One of the scattered photos.
This from our trek at the Baiyun Scenic Area.
Guangzhou is cleaner than I expected. The air is cleaner, as is the ground. I expected thick smog, unkempt public places and disgusting smells. I am surprised by the amount of green. On Tuesday, I trekked with five of my colleagues to the Baiyun Scenic Area. We climbed steps, we walked, we got lost, we sweated, we couldn't get a cab, we finally found a bus home, we had a great time. There are photos scattered throughout this post.

Language and cultural misunderstandings are going to be a part of life. I need to get over it and eat the dumplings, even if it isn't exactly what I thought I was ordering.

Connectivity is currently slightly challenging.  Our hotel has great wifi with a built-in VPN. In most cases, accessing free wifi requires a Chinese phone number (you need a verification code, even at Starbucks), which I don't have yet. While there is internet in the theatre, we are not allowed to use it. I'm not sure why, and to tell you the truth, I kind of like being disconnected. I'm forced to look around me and talk to people, or read a book or knit instead of mindlessly scrolling Facebook.

Speaking of the theatre, wow. Incredible building surrounded by more incredible buildings, a beautiful huge pedestrian plaza with fountains and small green areas (complete with walkways) and access to food. Lots of food - interesting, not interesting (hello McDonald's and Starbucks), and very reasonably priced.

I wanted you to see the beautiful ceiling.

The opera house is behind me.
The weather is currently VERY hot (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday and today), which would be okay, but the air quality disintegrates quickly. Yesterday and today are both rated as unhealthy by my app, AirVisual. So far I'm okay, with just a bit of burning sensation in my eyes, but some of my colleagues are really struggling. 
This was a good air quality day.

Don't forget the green when the air is nasty.
So much more I have to tell you! Stay tuned.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lessons From The Boss

I found an article in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer that merits passing on. There's some valuable ideas in here; it's definitely worth the click.

Don't let the title (10 Business Tips from Bruce Springsteen) scare you away. These tips are gold for a creator like you.

My two favorites won't surprise anyone who is a regular reader of Creatavita. They are Learning for A Lifetime and Have a Hungry Heart. What are your favorites?

You'll find the article here.

Off to China next week!

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Glamorous Life Manila Style Chapter 2

Last Monday, after 5 days of jet-lagged rehearsals, press events and performances, we were released from Queen of Angels convent for THREE entire days. During a run of a show, it is typical to get only one entire day off, but we had 2 performances cancelled here in Manila. While I love performing this show, I was thrilled to have the extra time off to breathe unfiltered air and explore the city.

My colleague, Ashley Masula, found a fantastic tour guide and away six of us went on Monday.  The first observation I have for you - you're not alone. I thought I was the only one dying to get outside. Nope! The first stop was Rizal Park and as each one of us stepped out of the van into the hot, muggy air, most of us took a deep breath and sighed, "ah, fresh air".  I know, I know, your idea of fresh air is not a tropical urban environment. But after 5 days of filtered air systems, authentic air felt great!

One of the many impressive statues in Rizal Park.

Don't forget, we're in a developing country. 

Come on, I'm hungry!

Fort Santiago, from the Spanish colonial period.

Looks trendy now, but as recently as WWII,
this dungeon was used for crimes against humanity.

Lunch was the best - a stop at a seafood center, the type where you pick out your fresh seafood on one side and head to a restaurant on the other side (we went to Seazar's Seafood), tell them how you want it prepared and have a feast. We had grouper, mussels, shrimp, crab, calamari, seaweed (tasted a bit like a pickle to me), spinach, vegetables (we're always trying to find good vegetables) and fresh coconut water. I was too busy eating to take photos of the food. Trust me when I tell you it was fantastic. AND...$16.00 per person.

We did not eat this gorgeous lobster.
We DID have fun with Arthur.

Some of the choices.
Decisions, decisions.

Fresh coconuts!!!

We also visited a Jeepney "factory" and the world's only bamboo organ.

Super-styling Jeepney.

No video allowed during the organ performance.
Let's just say a few beats were dropped in Amazing Grace.
Still, a very mellow sound.

I am so lucky to have wonderful colleagues and traveling companions.
One of the perks of being over 40 is the many people you meet in life. This perk worked out beautifully for me Monday evening, as I was taken out on the town by a friend of a friend, Arnel Banas. Arnel and our mutual friend, Andre Acosta, (who lives 5 minutes from me in the States), had plotted and planned to make sure I would enjoy a marvelous Filipino dinner. Which I did.

Andre insisted that I have a mango shake.

Just SOME of the food. See the beautiful setting?
This restaurant, as you can see, sits out in Manila Bay.

One must eat dessert in Manila. Or two.
Cafe Adriatico, again insisted upon by Andre.
Good choice!

To wrap up this post, just a few more photos.

Filipinos love to take photos.
This display is set up outside of MOA - Mall of Asia!

Halo-halo, another delicious dessert.
Think parfait with flan, sweet gel pieces, syrup and ice cream.

Um...yeah, I had another mango shake or two.

The biggest rice basket I've ever seen in my life!

I'm leaving Manila this evening. I have been touched by the graciousness and ease of the Filipino people. While this country, like so many countries, has serious problems, the people are its finest asset.

Salamat Manila!

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Glamorous Life Manila Style

 I know you think I have a glamorous life.

I know you think I spend my days lounging, then being carted off in a limousine to my private dressing room before I am greeted with cheers from a grateful audience.

You would be wrong.

We arrived in Manila at 5:00 am last Wednesday, after 32 hours of travel, which included a delayed flight, which prompted a missed flight, which meant 6 hours hanging out in the Dubai airport. I bet at least one of you (I'm talking to you, Anonymous) is wondering why we didn't escape the airport and head into Dubai. We didn't because 8 hours is the recommended amount of time needed to get into the city and back through security. I did take advantage of the free showers with no towels. That was interesting. Drip drying in Dubai.

But I digress. Back to the 5:00 am arrival in Manila. By 5:00 pm we were in the theatre. For the next 5 days, my life consisted of the hotel, the bus and the theatre. Here are some photos:

OKAY, THE HOTEL PHOTO SHOULD GO HERE, BUT I FORGOT TO TAKE ONE AND I REALLY WANT TO GET THIS POSTED. We're staying at the Diamond Hotel and it is actually as nice as the website photos. The spa/gym area is particularly fantastic, as is the breakfast bar. Oh, and the male staff members put their hands on their hearts when they say hello.

The bus. It's a bus. That is all.
Sightseeing, tour style. Captured this from the bus one day.
Notice the Krispy Kreme banner.
The Theatre at the Solaire.
As in Singapore, this theatre is in a casino/mall complex.
Welcome to Asia!
Finally, we're on the posters in the lobby!
It took me 4 days to get up here.
Of course I took the obligatory photo with my self.

Here's something else you might find interesting. While I do have a dressing room, it isn't private, as you can see here:
Taylor, with Megan and others in the background.
No, she isn't always this cheery, but she is ALWAYS easy to be around.

Even more interesting, we don't use the dressing room to put on our costumes. We do that backstage, in a place affectionately referred to as Gondola Row ( those big trunks are called gondolas).

Did I mention that our dressing room is in the basement, far away from the stage? It was the same in Singapore, except the dressing room was on the second floor. At least it's clean, and, I am getting my steps.

My costumes are in there.

This is actually where I dress, as does the rest of the ensemble.

Aha. The private dressing room.

Okay, that's enough for this post. Next up - days off in Manila.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

So Where IS Heidi?

There she is, in the top row, second nun from the end on the right side.

I have heard from so many of you, asking for the dates and locations of my current project, the Asian Sister Act tour. First of all, thanks for your support!  Secondly, it has taken me a while to get this information because there are many pieces to this puzzle - American production company, Asian production company, a different promoter in each country, travel, rehearsals, performances Here, at last, is as much information as I have:

Guangzhou July 25 - August 6
Shenzhen August 9 - 13
Beijing August 18 - September 3
Shanghai September 7 - 17
Hangzhou September 20 - 24
Xiamen - September 28 - October 1

Tokyo October 25 - November 12

Seoul November 24 - January 21, 2018

I love meeting people, so feel free to pass these dates on to friends and family living in these cities, so they can get tickets and we can meet up.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Parallel Career Possibilities

Looking for that ideal parallel career?

Take a look at this recent article from the Washington Post.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Stick To The Plan

Let us travel back in time today to early December of 2016.  The world has gone through a paradigm shift which doesn't feel good, at least to me. My career also has me in a funk. While my arts education career continues to thrive, my performing career is in slow gear. Prospects for the future look slim. I have one cabaret gig in early January; after that, nothing.  Auditions are nonexistent. Colleagues tell me this is normal for the holiday season. I don't buy it.  

Of course the ancient crusty voices in my head begin their familiar litany: "Who do you think you are? You aren't meant for this work. Give up."  The fresh new voices are trying to counteract: "I can do this. I'm in this for the long haul. Grit and persistence are my best friends", but they are struggling to be heard through the whiny cacophony of old habits. I know the new voices are right, but no matter how hard I try, I cannot get them to drown out the ancient ones.

Even a 4-day escape to my Secret Spot
couldn't bring me out of my funk.
Despite this inner struggle, I consciously decide to take my own advice and continue to follow my carefully-crafted career plan. This plan is very specific: I am devoting the next 5 years to getting hired for 3 quality performing musical theatre gigs every year. I even have a specific date when this plan started: January 17, 2015. This means performing, refining my skills, auditioning and networking until January 15, 2020. Then I will reevaluate. Until then, get to work.

I sit down and reflect. What was going well?  Let's see, every Monday morning, I am prowling the Internet for auditions and submitting to those that seem right for my skills, and even a few that aren't. The audition tracking spreadsheet I have created is current and well-used. Every Tuesday, I am spending 30-60 minutes practicing - reviewing my audition songs, adding new ones AND working on monologues.  I have contacted a new vocal coach; we have agreed to start working together in the New Year.  There is one area that I could spend more time on - my dance skills.  I recognize I haven't been working on that skill as much as I could, and should. The excuses begin to flood my brain - it's hard to find the right class, getting to a good class takes time and money, I'm really not that good, so why bother? And that's my turning point.

"Why", I ask myself, "wait for the panic that is inevitable when an audition appears?"  Why not be proactive?  Why sit around thinking "I'm never going to work again"? Instead, why not think "The call is going to come and I need to be ready". I immediately thought of a slew of colleagues who have this attitude. I realized they get more work than I do. They also seem to roll with the ebbing and flowing of this career more easily.

That's all it took. "I'm never going to work again" transformed into "The work is around the corner and I need to be ready". Hence my next move is to find a dance class and put it into my calendar. Right then. I don't wait. I'm done waiting.

Lo and behold, this attitude adjustment is reinforced a few days later, as I'm reading about the rebuilding of my beloved Philadelphia Phillies:

"When we look at teams that have successfully rebuilt their organizations, they were teams that started with a plan, followed their plan and maintained their discipline throughout their plan and, almost without fail, they were rewarded in the end," General Manager Matt Klentak said. "The most recent examples are the Cubs, the Astros, the Pirates, the Orioles, and the Royals."

Not one of those teams.

There it is. Exactly what I need as well.  I need to stick to my plan.

And I do. I continue the work, with a different attitude. I now work expectantly, knowing that work is coming soon. Yes, there are days when that feels ridiculous, but I an now able to ignore that feeling and continue to work. 

Let's now fast forward to the present.

Within six weeks of my epiphany, auditions and then an offer came my way for a very nice gig. Which is why I am now performing throughout Asia back in the musical Sister Act for the next seven months. Yes, I am performing and traveling - two passions that are at the top of my life list.

Did my realization manifest this gig? Not completely, BUT, I know I went into those auditions with a much better attitude. My skills were freshly trained  and raring to go. I was open, I was upbeat, I wasn't angsty. I knew this was an ideal opportunity for me and more importantly, I was ready for it. That gave me the confidence to be me in the audition room. 

The moral of the post? Stick to your plan. Even when it seems hopeless.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Archive Time

I'm working on some new posts, but they're not ready yet.
In the meantime, here's one that was a big hit.

A Day at the Office

Once upon a time, I was a young and enthusiastic opera singer.  I embraced the opera world fully. Even auditioning.  I'd truck up to New York, my bag filled with high heels, makeup, fancy dresses, rhinestone jewelry, binders, resumes, maybe a granola bar.  And water.  Always water.  It was an exciting time for me.  I was well-prepared and my resume was spit spot perfect.  Didn't have much on it, but it was perfect.  More about that perfection problem later.

However, there was one area where I was woefully, inadequately, unbelievably, how-did-this-happen prepared - my mental attitude.

You see, at first, I did most auditions on a lark.  I really didn't think I stood a chance (this is where a lack of self-awareness can be dangerously helpful), so I'd bust into the room without a care in the world, sing my aria and just be thrilled that I was singing an audition in the Big Apple.  This attitude actually worked beautifully for me.  Without even trying, I had found the ideal level of "don't careness".  Hence, the music would shine through.  I got lots of interest and quite a few jobs.

Yup, that's me.  Singing Sandman in Hansel & Gretel with Tulsa Opera.  
Just a few years ago.

That success made me care more.  Once you get to sit at the big girl's table, you don't want to leave.  In caring more, I made a huge mistake.  I started to wrap my own self-esteem into each audition experience until every audition became a do or die proposition.  Do an audition.  Die until they call you.  Die when they don't call you.  Spend weeks getting over the disappointment.  Repeat.

Then, one day, I was walking down 7th Avenue, headed to an audition, when I ran into the husband of a colleague.  Tim was further along in his career than I was in mine.  He had sung leading roles in both the US and Europe. People in the business knew Tim and his work. I knew him as Jody's husband.

Like a little puppy dog, I said hello. Everything about me oozed inexperience and naivete.  I asked Tim what he was doing in New York and he said he also had an audition.

"Are you nervous?" I asked,  assuming I'd find a comrade for my nervous state.

"Na," he said.  "It's a day at the office.  See you later.  Oh - toi toi toi."

And he crossed the street.

A day at the office.  Those words hit me like a bullet to the forehead.  Wow.  Even though I was in the early years of my career, I could tell that attitude was important.

You see, for Tim, auditioning was something he did all the time.  He didn't wait for the feedback, the phone call, the email before he went to the next audition.  He did an audition, walked out of the room and moved on to the next one.

It took me years to cultivate this attitude.  I still fail sometimes.  But I always return to Tim's words.

A day at the office.

Still me. Still singing.  Well, okay, I'm holding a ruler, but I also sang.
Viola Swamp in Miss Nelson Is Missing at the Nut.
Guys, guess what? 
Creatavita is 5 years old this Saturday, June 17, 2017!
I can't believe it's been 5 years already.
Thanks for reading and sending me all your fantastic thoughts and ideas.
Keep 'em coming, because I am grateful for all of it.
Here's to many more!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Sounds from the World

Wandered out to find the world
Caught a glimpse of you

Wearing your baseball hat
Playing your ancient instrument

Told myself to move on
I'd find the time soon

Life got in the way
Found myself trapped 

Looking out my window 
Was all I could do

Circumstances altered
I wandered back again

Lingered and listened
Let your sounds take over

Lost myself 
Found the world

What if I had never wandered?
What if I had never heard you?

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