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!