What’s The Story, Morning Glory?

Your reputation is important.  It’s all you have.  It’s the word on the street; your credibility.  As much as we shouldn’t care what other people think of us, we can’t help but be aware of the value of their opinions.  And likewise our opinions of others affects their reputations.

Our reputations can help us.  They can hurt us.  You can have a great audition but if your reputation in the community is not great, the casting team might think twice before hiring you.  This happened to a dancer in a show I was music directing; he came in and had an amazing audition.  The word among the choreographer and the assistants was that this dancer was difficult, to put it mildly.  It was enough to not hire this dancer.  On the flip side, when we don’t always get an audition or interview, having a good word from trusted colleagues in the field can go a long way.

We simultaneously care and don’t care what other people think of us.  It is a contradiction in practice.  I’ve heard people say things to me that were clearly untrue: about other people, about themselves, about me.  It is entertaining when you can tell people are lying through their teeth.  We cannot help what other people say, especially when it’s a lot of hot air.  And hopefully the community at large can see through them, and realize they’re not worth listening to.  This is a case of not caring what they think of us.

We should take some interest in how our words and actions affect our appearance in the professional world.  If you’re the kind of person mentioned above, who says things that are untrue (as simple as this all sounds, it baffles me that professionals do this, like children on the playground), chances are you’ll get labeled as a loud mouth.  However, if you stay true to your work and to those people around you, that also allows people to develop an image of you.  You always want to show your strongest suit in whatever you are doing.

There were two young professionals returning home from a couple of years abroad.  The first says to the second, “Oh yeah, I was performing all over Europe, winning competitions and playing all the great concert venues.”

“Oh yeah?” said the second, “I never heard about that.”

“But last night I was reading some music with a local group and wasn’t so prepared.” The first said.

“Oh yeah, I heard all about that!” The second replied.

Always show your strengths and always be prepared.  You could play the world over, but if you show up at a gig unprepared, people will hear about it.  Even in a small, local venue.  It seems to take years to build up a reputation and only a second to break it down.

We may get frustrated and irritated by the people or situation around us.  Saying the wrong thing in front of the right people can create an impression that is difficult to undo.

The hardest part of our reputation is we rarely have any idea what it is.  We can’t go around asking everyone “What do you think of me?” “What is my reputation like?”  All we can do is do the job and behave.  As simple as that sounds, it is amazing to me the number of people who cannot accomplish either of these tasks.  All we can do is our own work and rely on the sanity of the community at large to assess our work history when we are up for a job, or looking for the next gig.

Great Expectations

There was an air of expectation yesterday, the day affectionately called Black Friday. An expectation to go out and shop, buy things, get the sales.  We’re expected to shop because all the advertisers tell us too.  For some of us the expectation forces us to lock the doors, lower the blinds, and hope we will make it through the day, unnoticed, eating the remains of the holiday the day before.  For the rest of us, venturing out in the inevitable mob of bargain shoppers just seems to irresistible to pass up.  No matter which side of the issue you’re on, there’s no denying there’s a great deal of expectation built up on this “non-holiday” day.

This got me thinking about expectations in performance.  If you are a certain kind of performer, a performer who has been branded as a particular type or sound, you are expected to put out a certain kind of performance.  And likewise if you are in the audience, you expect to see a certain kind of performance when you buy your ticket.  On both sides of the stage there is an expectation: an expectation from the audience, and an expectation on the performer to deliver.

This can pose both good and bad results.  If you buy a ticket to a Broadway show or an opera at the Metropolitan Opera, you can expect a certain level of performance and production.   Sometimes those expectations are inflated by critics and by what others have said about the show.  “Oh it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen!”  “She sounded amazing!  I’ve never heard a voice like it!”  Sometimes the expectations are so high, there is no way the show or performer will live up to them.

When we pay such a high price for tickets, we want to know we’re getting what we’ve paid for.  If a show has won awards, and is critically acclaimed, there’s a good chance it will be pretty good.  If a ‘name’ performer is headlining the show, you might think it’ll be amazing.  There’s an expectation of that performer to deliver.  But nothing’s for certain.  Sometimes actors are miscast in roles to help ticket sales.  Just because they were a star in one show that suited them well, doesn’t mean the next show will serve them the same way.

This can lead to false expectations, when a performer plays a role that an audience is not used to seeing him or her portray.  Liza Minelli experienced this in “The Rink.”  She played a dramatic character, dressed plainly.   She wanted to be taken seriously in the role.  Audiences didn’t know what to make of her.  They were used to seeing her in glitter and sequins singing and dancing.   They had “trouble accepting her as a ragtag, pot-puffing flower child,” as James Leve commented in Kander and Ebb.  As wonderful as she is, it was difficult to break away from the expectations the audiences placed on her.

We see performers try to break away from expectations all the time.  Very few can move away from the role audiences have placed upon them.  It raises the question: what if we didn’t put expectations on performers?  What if they want to try a serious role when they’ve always been comedic, or vice versa; can we accept that?  Can we give a fresh look at a performer we’ve grown to expect a certain performance from?

Just because everyone is telling us we need to go shopping this weekend, do we?  When everyone tells you a show is great, or a performer is undisputedly the best ever, does that make it so?  It’s difficult when there’s so much noise surrounding us.  If you’re shopping, have at it.  If you want to see that performance, enjoy.  Look and listen.  What do we need to expect?  Or can we let go of our preconceived expectations?

Sitz Down, You’re Rockin My Probe!

Terrible title, I grant you.  I couldn’t resist.  Sitzprobes are the best/worst thing, I think, for a conductor.  I say this because it’s a chance to go through the score of a show, focusing only on the music, the orchestrations, and the singing.  It’s often stressful and everybody is focused on the conductor.  Or should be.

Literally it means a seated rehearsal, to sit and probe through the score.  It’s the one chance for the cast and orchestra to meet, and address any issues they have with the score.  When schedules are tight, and there’s no time or extra money for extra rehearsals, it’s crucial that everything get discussed and questions answered in the sitzprobe.

I’ve been involved with productions in the past where the sitzprobe is not included.  Sometimes there is just no time for a rehearsal solely focused on the music.  If the show is in good shape and everybody is feeling secure about the sound of the music and singers, they might do a wandelprobe, which literally is to incorporate the staging with the orchestra.  I used to be against a wandleprobe; there wasn’t enough focus on the music.  However over time I’ve also come to see each show for what it is, and whether a sitzprobe or a wandelprobe will best serve the production.

But if you’ve been in rehearsal for six weeks or so, why do you need a rehearsal just on the score?  Haven’t you been playing it in rehearsal over and over and over again?  When we’re rehearsing a show, the only music in the room is usually a rehearsal pianist.  This might be the music director, assistant music director, or an accompanist.  The score they are using is a reduction, or piano/vocal score.  It will have the piano and vocal parts with instrumental cues notated in the margins and around the piano score.

I used to wonder why musical theatre scores don’t use the full score of every instrument in the score.  When I look at classical scores, it has every instrument fully realized, from flutes to tuba.  Often, musical theatre scores are written to be played and conducted from the piano.  Double duty.  Plus, when we’re reading a piano/vocal score we don’t need every instrumental part written in the reduction.  It’s too much information.  Keep it simple.

Why have a sitz?  Well for one thing, there will be instruments the cast has never heard before.  Without wanting to surprise anyone, or startle an actor, it’s good to hear those new instruments in a rehearsal.  When the soprano gets up to deliver her big number, and her pitch is not coming from the piano anymore (as it was in rehearsal), but is coming from a flute, she needs to hear it.

There’s a clip of Rex Harrison working with the orchestra in “My Fair Lady,” where he was not used to the instruments playing in the orchestra, rather than on the piano.  But as he says, he’d rather just cut the orchestra altogether.

This might all seem obvious, but I cannot count the number of times I’ve beens in the discussion about whether or not to have a sitzprobe.  I find there is a period of time from learning the score, to the rehearsal process, to tech rehearsals, where the music gets a bit… lost.  Actors are inundated with staging, lights, props, costumes; they easily can forget the music they learned on day one.  Having that sitzprobe close to tech and then the opening of the show, gives everyone a chance to reconnect to the music.  Once they are up on stage, they’re focused on other things.  Sitting and rehearsing with the orchestra helps them get accustom to the new sounds and appreciate them.

 

God, That’s Good!

Happy Thanksgiving!  To all my readers, facebookers, twits and tweeters, I hope you are surrounded by good friends, loved ones, and yes even family members.  May your plate be full of turkey, turkdunken, and/or tofurky.  And may your glass be full of something medicinal.

This is the one day of the year we all collectively give thanks.  It’s that moment of pause, hopefully, where most of us have the day off.  For those in the theatre hopefully it’s a change of pace in the eight-show week, by affording a day off for the holidays.

So often artists, performers, and musicians, are working on the holidays.  Whether it’s a church service at Christmas, a special Thanksgiving Mass, or a parade we are offering up music and entertainment.

It can feel a bit backwards working on the holidays.  I suppose artists are not the only ones who find themselves in this position.  Thanks be to all the liquor store and grocery store employees who are open, even partially, on Thanksgiving Day, for that restocking of wine, and last-minute ingredient you needed.  Thanks to all the transportation workers who get us safely to our destination by plane, train, or automobile.

As we leave our work the night before, put down the pen and turn off the computer we say, “Happy Thanksgiving” to everyone around us.  And as we spend the holiday with relatives we love and hate, and love to hate, we are afforded a bit of perspective on our own lives.  Hopefully we can appreciate what we have and where we are; we swear we’ll spend more time with that cousin we really want to see more of, and wonder how we’ll get through dessert with that relative we never can agree with.

No matter the situation, take comfort in the fact that it’s only a day.  With all the running around and craziness our media puts on us, both of the social and political variety, we should try to maintain a level head.  It’s amazes me that in our American culture, the day of greatest thanks is immediately followed by the day of greatest consumerism, advertising the things we still need to get.  Take a breath.  Take a break.

Enjoy everyone around you and have a little pie.  Savour the moment knowing you’ll get back to work soon enough.  You’ll get back to the piano, the rehearsal, the drawing board, the dance studio.  Put down the iPhone; it’ll be there when you get back from dinner.

And if you’re reading this blog post and some of the other articles I’ve posted, thanks.  Now turn off your computer and spend some time with your family, and eat some food.  God, that’s good.

Type After Type

We are faced with the question of type all the time.  I was sitting in auditions for a Broadway musical, and the creative team behind the table took out all the headshots of the actors.  The director turned to the team and said, “I want a certain look to the show.”  And with that he took out all the headshots with people of certain complexions, hair color, eye color, etc.  He wanted the look of the cast to match that of his vision for the whole look of the show.

Harsh, you say?  When putting together a musical, or any visual performance, we have to consider the look.  Performance is a visual art form.  Sounds shallow?  Well, ask yourself: would you rather see beautiful well-dressed performers on stage, or overweight, slovenly unkempt performers on stage?  Especially in musical theatre, in a chorus of dancers, lets say, they are going to be a certain size, height weight.  It’s not uncommon for a director and/or a choreographer to demand a height of all the men and women in the chorus.  It’s also not uncommon for the casting team to demand certain kind of look: tall, dark, blonde, short, black, white, etc.

When looking at casting shows, and getting hired, it is a two-way street.  It is the casting director and director’s job to look for the right performers for their show, looking at all the criteria they have assembled in their designs.  It’s also the performer’s job to know their type: what they look like and what they’d be right for.

So what is type?  Are you the funny gal who’s always quirky and gets the laughs?  Are you the strapping tall, dashing, good-looking guy?  Are you the damsel in distress?  I need to interrupt this to say: type has nothing to do with you.  Type is what the casting team sees, it’s how people see you on stage.  It also can be your voice type.

I knew an actor who wanted desperately to play the villain.  All the auditions he would go to, he wanted to be cast as the bad guy.  The bad guy does get a lot of fun material.  But my friend was cute and loveable.  Who’s going to cast the cute and loveable looking guy as Jud?  Or Sweeney?

Likewise I recall a singer who really wanted to sing Rossini, Verdi and Wagner.  He has a light voice, not suited for that heavy repertoire.  And suppose a 6’ 4” athlete wanted to be a gymnast, or jockey?  He’d have a hard time of it.  And I’m not one for squashing other peoples’ dreams.  On the contrary, I’m all for it; if you want something bad enough and nothing else will do I say go for it.

There is an amount of measuring expectations with reality that also comes into play.  The reality is: the actor is too sweet looking to be a villain, the singer’s voice would be damaged if he sang the heavy repertoire, and the 6’ 4” athlete may find it difficult to compete in the gymnast events, let alone ride a horse competitively.  So what is the answer?

We all may face this at one point or another in our professional lives.  And we meet people whose goals and expectations have been tempered by reality.  Certain goals look great on the onset, but when you look deeper there’s more to them then meet the eye.

There are ‘types’ of performers in theatre.  I hear often of actors going to auditions and being ‘typed’ out.  If there is not enough time to see everyone in the day, the casting director will line up the auditionees, and excuse anyone who just doesn’t fit the description of the characters, or do not fit the director’s criteria.  And it’s as frustrating as it sounds: showing up and not even being seen.   Not much can be done about that aspect of the process.

However you need to know your type.  Working with acting coaches, vocal coaches, directors and colleagues will help performers understand themselves better from an outside point of view.  The more you know about your type, what other people perceive you to be on stage, in a role, the better chance you have at discerning the roles you should and could go for.

I Remember Lines

We all have different processes in learning and retaining information.  When it comes to remembering your lines in a show it could be anything from speed reading through them over and over to speed up your memory on what is coming next, or copying out the lines, word for word.  Whatever your process may be, you have to have one.  You also have to remember your lines.

Unless you’re in a one-man/woman show, you have other actors on stage.  Unless it’s improv theatre, you most likely have lines.  Other actors rely on you to deliver those lines so they can react.  Acting is reacting, right?  If you don’t know your lines or never quite get them right, it makes it incredibly difficult for your co-stars to do their part.

You are a piece of a bigger puzzle.  As the saying goes: “there are no small parts, only small people.” Even having just one line can change the course of the play.  And if you have a great deal of lines, the more the production relies on you getting the lines right.

There are so many people on and off stage counting on the right lines.  There’s the stage manager calling the light cues, sound cues, change of set.  There’s the music director who has the intro to the next song, and is waiting for you to deliver the cue line.   And then there is the dialogue within a song.  There is music that underscores these lines, and if lines are dropped or changed, it makes the flow of the music that much more difficult to time out.

As the rehearsal process goes on, there are two types of performers.  There are those who work steadily, making progress and slowly but surely getting off book.  Then there are the performers who seem to need more time, and have a longer process of learning lines.  While everyone as a different process, this slows down the rehearsals.  It becomes especially noticeable when the production is running the show and heading into full performances.  The performer who hasn’t quite learned the lines and is still being prompted affects everyone else in the production.

I often wonder what the hold up is.  Are they waiting for an invitation?   An invitation to be told: “learn your lines”?  For some people, they are genuinely working hard at memorization.  And it’s not easy; it’s one of the reasons I sit at the piano with a score in front of me, and not on the stage with a script in my head.  While I do have the score in my head, it’s a relief there’s also a copy sitting on the piano.

But there are some who hope and pray that magically they’ll get all their lines.  and if it were to happen wouldn’t that be marvelous?  “Look, so-and-so got the lines right.  That’s incredible!”  Well what about the cast members who worked to get their lines two weeks ago, ad have steadily been doing they job?  Don’t base your performance on hope and prayers.

Procrastination is not something worth waiting for.  The sooner you commit to a role, the lines, the movement and singing, the sooner the creative team and the rest of the cast can explore the characters and the story.  If you’re not quite ready to commit to the material that way, how can you possibly gain a deeper understanding of the role with a script in hand?  How can the blocking be solid in your body, when you’re calling for line every five minutes.

Consider that every job, particularly in a show, is part of a bigger picture.  We all have jobs to do, but more importantly, it’s doing our job that allows others to do their’s.

What More Do I Need (To Do)? 

You did it.  You booked the show.  And for the longest time this has been all you could think about.  Whether it’s an eight week summer stock season, or a long running Broadway show or tour, you’re booked.  So often we don’t know what we’re doing next month, next week or even tomorrow.  There’s a sigh of relief that accompanies booking a gig.

Recently I’ve chatted with some friends who are in long running shows.  There are these phenomenal productions of shows lasting years: Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Mamma Mia, and Jersey Boys, to name a few.  And it’s a blessing to be in the companies for years.  Likewise there are touring productions, regional theatres, where actors, musicians, technicians and producers work in year after year.

It all sounds perfect, right?  But what’s next?  What is the daily routine?  Is there a daily routine?  And once you’ve got that dream gig, that show that is your security and structure, what else do you need?

I run into performers in these situations, who while not purposely doing it, have stopped their training.  They’ve stopped practicing and warming up.  One performer told me she knows what she needs to do for her track, her role in the show, so why do more?

There’s so much more that needs to be done, than the show every night.  It’s like an athlete who only works out his biceps because that’s all he uses in the game.  You gotta have a day for legs too.  Performers should keep all aspects of themselves in shape.

A choreographer I spoke with put it best: being a dancer in a show doesn’t always afford you the exercise you’re going to need to stay in shape.  There were some young dancers he noticed who were dumbfounded that they were gaining weight while performing in a show.  They needed to go to the gym and stay fit.  There’s so much more that goes into it than being a show.

A singer sings one track in a show.  It’s high, or it’s low.  It’s belted or it’s head voice.  Whatever the track may be, it’s only using part of her voice.  She needs to warm up the rest of the voice she isn’t using in the show.

Why?  Because it’s a muscle that needs exercise just like everything else.  It’s like a singer who only sings high and never vocalizes low.  The voice will not stay healthy if only half of it’s being used.  Likewise, if you’re dancing a show but not exercising the muscles outside of the show, there’s more chance of injury and stiffness in the muscles.

On the flip side there are many performers taking advantage of their situation.  They do other gigs, sing other music, write, create, collaborate.  They are using their creative and artistic energies outside of their show.  And while their show is great, after eight times a week for years on end, it’s nice to have other outlets.

And wouldn’t you want to take advantage of that situation?  You’ve got a show, structure and financial stability (hopefully.  Save your pennies).  When you get a show, use it.  Save the money and keep studying.  Take voice lessons, dance classes, and acting classes.  Take advantage and invest in yourself.  Invest in improving your goods.  Now you’ve got the chance.

Let’s Start At The Very Beginning…

When does the audition start?  Is it when you enter the room with florescent lighting, and a long walk to the table of the casting team?  Is it when you step over to the accompanist, deliver your music and discuss the cuts?  Or perhaps it’s when you stand on your mark, looking over the heads of the table, and open your mouth to sing?

So often I think any one of these things is the start.  And I’m often reminded that none of them are correct.  If you really think about the moments leading up to the morning, or afternoon of your audition, it starts sooner than you think.

Many of us head to the same buildings for our auditions.  If you’re living as an artist or performer in and around New York, there’s a good chance you’re not alone.  Leaving your apartment, walking to the subway, traveling to the audition site; we all make that trip.

And then there is the long wait in the hall or holding room before your audition.  You’re surrounded by friends and peers.  Everyone shares the nerves, no matter how they show them, or don’t.  Everyone is thinking about his or her audition; many people are hard to talk to while they are waiting for their name to be called.

When does the audition start?  Walking down the halls in any number of studios in New York, you’re bound to bump into a director, a choreographer, a casting director or actor.  As simple as it sounds, even these are moments of networking, connecting.

The audition begins the moment you step out of your apartment.  You could go even further; it begins as you wake up and prepare for the day: working out, getting dressed, and preparing your materials.  I’ve been reminded of this many times as I walk down the street to the auditions.  I run into people I know, people I don’t know, and people I recognize from Facebook or that photoshoot from Playbill.com.

The actual audition is a fraction of the real audition.  And it’s an important part; the audition room is a chance to show your work, your abilities as a performer and artist.  The walk to the studio, the appearance we give outside the room is equally important in helping others form an opinion about you.

And isn’t that what an audition is: a chance for others to form an opinion about you?  And truly, we want them to form an opinion – a positive opinion at best.

As a music director and pianist I rarely get the chance to truly audition.  Every gig, every show, and every audition I play is a chance to show my goods, as it were.  But you hardly ever see a casting call for music directors or pianists.  And in that regard I envy actors who get the chance to get up and deliver themselves.

I hear many of my actor friends laughing at this thought.  It’s true.  But then again the audition is not just in the audition room.  That is true for all of us.  And it goes beyond the arts; in any profession we are constantly showing what we are capable of.

With that, it’s important to look good.  Smell good.  Casting is a show is like putting together a family that is going to work, eat, and breathe together intensely for 6 to 8 weeks depending.  As one casting director pointed out: “I don’t want to hire someone who doesn’t smell good.” Dressing well and looking good, is as much a part of the audition as the song and monologue you’ve prepared.

This concept is not lost on most actors, given our need to present and look good.  But so many of them are unaware as they walk in the audition building, taking the elevator with a handful of other creatives, who might be working on the very show they’re auditioning for!

All of the side comments, the conversations, and the way you handle yourself in these instances says volumes about you as a person.  Seeing you under pressure (if auditions are a source of stress), tells the casting team a lot about how you’ll behave in the rehearsal room and on stage.  Waiting for hours in the hallway as you go through your materials can say as much or more as when you go to deliver in the room.

Consider that the audition does not begin and end when you enter and leave the room.  It begins when you walk out your front door.

Side note: when I wrote this article, on my way to a full day of EPA auditions, I noticed a group of young people I assumed to be actors.  Sure enough each one of them stepped into the audition room one by one later that day.  What are the odds?

A Fine, Fine Chorus Line

I was teaching a class to a group of high schoolers from around the world.  They came to New York to work with professionals and to experience dance class and audition technique.  I was co-teaching with a dancer who was choreographing a number for them.

Collaboration on every level is a balance.  It is a compromise.  It’s rarely easy.  What made this particular experience tricky was walking in the rehearsal studio, not knowing the other teacher, being able to teach together,  and ultimately have a unified front with the students.

As I began teaching the music, my co-teacher could not help but to interject every step of the way.  It became unmanageable; it was to the point that I wasn’t teaching the music to the students.  The co-teacher pulled out a phone and played the song from the original cast album.  Well, what was I needed for, then?  It was hard to stand there in front of the students, who were not stupid, and let the dancer try and teach the music… from a phone.  My co-teacher also started to plunk out on the piano a version of the melody.  I had to sit back and watch.

There’s a fine, fine line to collaboration.  I spoke with the representative running the workshop, with whom I’ve worked for many years.  What she saw was collaboration in the works.  There has to be give and take, she said to me.  My immediate response was, I’d never walk to the center of the dance studio and try to teach the dance, or step in the way of the choreographer.

I keep saying it: it’s such a tricky thing, this collaboration.  Should I have shoved my co-teacher off the piano and screamed: “No!  You’re doing it wrong”?  I actually would love to stage an episode of a comedy series with that as the scene.  When do you assert yourself?  Or do you just move out of the way and let the choreographer try to play the piano.  Well, as the saying goes, give someone enough rope and they’ll tie their own noose.

Given this was our first time working in this capacity, first impressions are so important.  Every response, conversation, behavior speaks volumes.  I asked questions trying to get information about the cut of the song, what were teaching the students; everything was greeting with condescension and hostility.

As I started to play the routine, my co-teacher was short and abrupt with me.  That doesn’t bother me much, but for the class it created tension.  The representative acknowledged the tension, thinking I was equally culpable.  I had no intention of creating tension.  What could be done?   There was tension because I really didn’t want to roll over and be treated badly by a fellow artist.  No one deserves to be treated badly.  However, I did speak up for myself outside of the room, with my representative.  Nothing could be done about it, of course, except to go back in the room and smile.

We are constantly gauging the situation.  When do we react?  When do we simply just let the cards fall where they will?  Maybe my co-teacher was right to play the song from the phone.  Maybe the point of playing something on the piano, however badly, was my co-teacher’s way of asserting authority; if that was necessary, so be it.  But it’s just fascinating how people behave, and what behavior seems acceptable to some, and absolutely inappropriate to others.

My impression was my co-teacher had a great deal of insecurity if it was necessary to act out in this way.  And if that was the truth, then it was better I let it all happen.  It’s just a class.  And at the end of the day it’s making an experience for the students.  Sometimes that is hard.  But it all worked out.  Just keep smiling and do the gig.  Sometimes collaboration works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

I Don’t Wanna Show Off… 

I was invited to a concert of contemporary musical theatre music.  A friend was presenting and playing, and I wanted to support.  I knew some of the other writers as well; some I liked, some I didn’t.  To protect the innocent and the blithely idiotic alike, no names will be mentioned.  However, both were present at the event.

They say ignorance is bliss.  I believe it.  I wish, sometimes, I didn’t know certain things.  For example, I don’t want to read the ingredient list on the bag of Milano cookies I can’t stop eating.  I was going to use Oreos as an example, but I read that ingredient list.

Sitting in the audience at this performance, there was a part of me that wished I didn’t read music.  I wish I wasn’t classically trained, or knew the theory behind music.  I say this because I’ve attended many of these concerts where the music is trite and the lyrics are sophomoric, and everybody loves it.  And as the crowd cheers, I sit there wondering, did I miss something?  Ever felt this in your field?

I accept this sounds rather harsh or event elitist.  But it’s true.  Maybe I just need to not take it so seriously, or listen so carefully to the songs.  After a while, I began to lighten up, as I realized this was the better course for me to take; and since I was there to support my friend, whose music was amazing by the way, I had to make the best of the evening.

Enough.  The real point here, is one of the performers got up to perform, and he was so humble.  I mean this guy was humble.  He was thankful, and gracious, and warm, and lovely, and humble, and generous.  Shall I go on?  If reading this is painful, I assure you it was not nearly as painful as witnessing this performer on stage.  I think he would go in the ‘blithely idiotic’ column.

He spent the majority of his set thanking everybody.  I mean, everybody.  And he wasn’t the emcee, he wasn’t a host or in any way connected to the event, other than standing there professing his gratitude.  It was nauseating.  After a few more “thank you’s” I heard myself mumble: “just play the damn song already.”

Give credit when credit is due.  Right?  Say “thank you.”  In this moment, this performer took the stage and rattled off a list of people no one knew.  He kept asking the audience to applaud over and over and over, which in my opinion was wrong.  Then went on and on about how grateful he was.  He was grateful.  He was thankful.  He was just singing a song in a line up of several other performers and writers.

On top of that, this performer and others in the evening, were apologizing for their work.  “Gee, here’s a song I wrote, sorry if it sucks.”  That sort of feigned humility and apologetic attitude makes my skin crawl.  You’ve invited us to your show, we’ve come out for it, and paid the ticket, and/or drink minimum.  Don’t make us regret it by telling us it’s going to suck!

I get it – you’re nervous.  I get that it’s terrifying.  It is.  The bravado and ego that surround these nerves can shadow the quality of the work.  They can distract us from the content of what you’re trying to show us.

Trust your work.  Did you spend time on it?  Do you believe in the song you wrote, or the song you’re about to sing?  Then get up there and sing it.  As the saying goes “shit or get off the pot.” A little crude, but you get the idea.  Another saying in theatre: “Don’t tell us, show us.”  Don’t tell us you’re grateful, be grateful.  Then sing the song and get off the stage.