Year In Review

Everywhere I look, everyone is taking stock in their year.  For many of us, we measure the success of the year by how much work we had, how much money we made, how much we accomplished.  And with the new year approaching, there are many promises being made, resolutions and goals set forth, in hopes of fulfilling them.

I am grateful for what this year entailed.  Every opportunity, big and small can be used to learn and grow.  Thinking on the gigs, performances and music I was able to take part in, there were many wonderful moments and many moments offering a chance to improve.

Thanks for reading, and more importantly, thank you for the feedback.  I feel the more people I hear from, the more I understand what to write about and how to better communicate.  If I could summarize the meaning of this blog in one word, it would be: communication.  Many of the posts deal with communication, both in and out of the artistic world.  Hindsight being 20/20, there are always better ways to word topics, introduce anecdotes and make a valid point that helps inform rather than to criticize.

Have a wonderful and constructive start to 2016.  Looking forward to communicating more.

Do, Or Do Not

There are many skills in life we cannot improve upon without doing them.  You can read about riding a bike, but until you feel what it means to balance and actually ride a bike, you won’t know how to ride a bike.

The same is true for the performing arts.  As we perform we learn.  One part of the process of a new show, which sadly gets truncated in many productions, is the previewing of a live audience.  Only by an audience’s reaction can we really know what works, what doesn’t, what’s funny, what’s not.  Having the audience is a crucial step in figuring out how to write and rewrite.

Writing is another skill that improves by doing.  I have found in writing there are great moments and some not so great.  Many times what was a great idea, or meant to inspire a conversation, has left much to be desired.  And from that there is experience to be gained.

I realize that the only way to get at the heart of the matter, whatever the matter may be, is by doing.  We cannot only think of the great things yet to be written, created or performed.  They have to be done.  As Yoda would tell us, do or do not.  There is no try.

Consider The Artwork

Everybody thinks they have good taste. And it is a matter of perspective. It’s a matter of taste. Whether we admit it or not, we cling to what’s good and what’s not, in our own minds; for many of us, our opinions stem from what the experts say. When judging a new work of art, it’s often what the critic says that allows us to form our own opinions.

Thank God for the critics, am I right? God forbid we make up our own minds, or cultivate our own aesthetic and tastes.

All kidding aside, I would also argue that the critic has the informed opinion and can inform the general public. Sadly too many works of art, like musicals and plays, which are many times works in progress, are DOA due to a bad review by a critic.

In musical theatre, where tickets are too expensive, audiences won’t see a show that is poorly reviewed.

Perhaps there is the approach of forming ones own opinion for new works. You don’t need to love it or hate it; simply consider it. Even if you end up hating a new piece, you’ve given it the chance to be seen and heard.

Green Grows The Grass

From someone else’s point of view, you probably have a sweet gig.  Being a freelancer, I find myself constantly comparing my position with others; it’s easy to compare.  Who’s got the better job, who’s getting the better pay and schedules?  I tend to think the regular 9[5 job would be easier than the freelance lifestyle.

Inevitable I begin to weigh the pros and cons.  When I talk to other professionals who work a 9-5 job, they seem to envy my position.  And vice versa.

Which is better?  Depends what you’re willing to live with, and what your priorities are.  I envy the stability and regularity of the regular job.  I also think if I was in that position I might get cabin fever.

But the instability and the insecurity of freelancing from gig to gig, is what makes it frustrating and exciting.  Like many in the performing arts, we are reinventing ourselves, redefining our talents and positions in the workplace.  There is a sense of spontaneity at times, that makes the work enjoyable. There is also the question of “what’s next?” that makes it incredibly daunting and unpredictable.

U & Me

You know what they say when you assume.  The propensity of making an ass out of one’s self by assuming something which may or may not be true is inevitable.  With the amount of chatter, gossip, shooting the breeze, dirt and other forms of spreading (mis)information, it’s no wonder we gather the evidence and hearsay to form opinions and thoughts, which are based on assumptions.

What can be done?  On a daily basis, more like an hourly basis some days, I catch myself making assumptions; there are assumptions about what other people know, or don’t know, what was truly meant by a text, email or phone conversation.  You name it.

And the saying “to assume makes an ass out of you and me,” is true in a number of situations.  Recently I was in a situation with professional colleagues, in which gross assumptions were made, affecting how individuals were viewed.  While it is infuriating and makes for blog fodder and rants with friends, it is hard to correct assumptions made by others.

People are going to believe what they want to believe.  And if we find ourselves too lazy or indifferent, making an assumption saves us time and the facts.

If we are going to assume anything, how about we assume the best?  It sounds terribly naive and simple, but assuming the worst only makes us paranoid and suspicious of one another.  Assuming the best allows us to see past each others’ short comings and failures.  It allows us to forgive for our mistakes, and assume that we will learn and improve.

Seasons Of Love

Perhaps it’s cliche to mention and be reminded of the spirit of the season.  Working in the performing arts leads to a variety of jobs in a variety of positions.  It’s easy to forget, or be blind-sided.

If you’ve partaken in the holidays, perhaps you’ve run across one of the many interpretations of A Christmas Carol.  The message is clear: it’s never too late to celebrate.  I think about the work, and the times when differences between artists have arisen.  Artistic difference perhaps.  It’s easy to hold a grudge; emotions often lead us to say and do things we can quickly regret.

Maybe you’ve experienced this in your work.  Every so often we run across individuals with whom we struggle to see eye-to-eye with.  Then I’m reminded of what this time of year can mean.  A new beginning, a new start to relationships with professionals, and personal connections.  There are Scrooges in the real world.  There are people you never expect to hear from.  And if you do hear from them, take it as a chance to say hello.  Happy Holidays.

As In Olden Days

This time of year, this date, everyone talks of the meaning of Christmas, the meaning of the season. All of that is embodied in the music. Try celebrating the holidays without the songs; they are intrinsic to the feeling of the season.

Yet, after walking through a department store, we can quickly tire of the bad renditions of the songs we love. The words and music can sometimes lose their meaning when we hear them over and over and over again.

When everyone and everything is under the pressure of travels and schedules during this time of year, it’s easy to feel the barrage of music ranging for the very best to the very worst. Here’s to the best music that helps give meaning to the season.

Silent Night

When was the last time you experienced true silence? No white noise, background noise, the radio (or Spotify), just true, peaceful silence? I was recently reminded of the value of silence.

We occupy ourselves with distractions; our phones are attached to use like appendages, and we seem to rarely go without earbuds jammed on our ears.

As much as we want to fill every moment with the music of the season and loud celebrations (some of us do), a little silence every now and then can do a body good. When there is silence there is a chance for your thoughts to be heard.

Silence can center our thoughts and minds; this time of year we can’t help but find distractions, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But in finding what is meaningful to you in the noise can sometimes mean silencing the chatter, and enjoying the absence of sound. Then when you hear the music you love, the music that celebrates the holiday, it matters more.

Do You See What I See?

Authentic communication is quite possibly one of the most valuable and yet underrated assets in the world today.  Whether we are trying to interpret a text message, or discussing the true meaning of a word, let’s say, ‘terrorism,’ facts get skewed to serve agendas.  What is more troubling, is when others twist the meaning of your words, to serve their ends.

On more than one occasion I’ve experienced the trouble with communication in technology.  An email gets misread, a text message is found to be humorless when it really was meant to be chock-full of humor.  And the temptation I feel, as I’m sure others do, is to go on the defense.  “No, that’s not what I really meant, what I meant was…”

Sometimes people miss the point.  They grab hold of a catch phrase or buzz-word, and they’re off to the races, gaining a passionate fury at what they think the point really was.

This happens in religion and politics.  This happens in the art world constantly; we can stare at the same painting and see two different ideas, two different messages.  We can both read about peace, hope, joy and love, but completely disagree as to what is the most important message in major religions.

People read what they want to read; they see what they want to see.  Through trial and error, I find emails are notoriously misread and pulled apart by the receiver.  This is why remaining calm and emotionless helps get the point across; we all love to spill our guts on the bright computer screen, giving that someone a piece of our mind, but sadly that doesn’t help matters.

Oh Lord, Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

J. R. R. Tolkien perhaps said it best in a poem from The Lord of The Rings, “Not all those who wander are lost.”  Living in New York, it is easy to think that everyone around me has a clear path in mind, both literally and figuratively.  You need only to walk out of your apartment to witness the direction with which everyone else is moving; you are taught to walk with purpose and speed, lest you get knocked over by someone walking faster than you.  Likewise, we are conditioned to have the quick response ready when asked, “What are you working on?”

Whether or not we have true direction, we are expected to have a direction.  We might fake it, masking it with bravado and ego.  The confidence comes (hopefully), when we no longer have to fake the direction, but actually have it.  The same is true with intention.  We can say and do a great deal, before unmasking our true intention.

I find in theatre we are tasked with answering the question: what is your intention?  Whether a performer or creator of the work, the intention must be clear.  One of the biggest criticisms of shows not coming together, is that the writing team did not write the same show; their intention was not clear.

I have found, in the process of writing, to sometimes allow the intention to get lost, and to be muddled.  Whether by emotion, or superfluous information, the direction of this blog has sometimes taken a circuitous route; the intention has always been to inspire thoughtful dialogue and encourage transparency in the artistic process.

When we take on a project, a production or a new collaboration, the initial intent can get sidetracked.  Like a photocopy of the original picture, with each copy of photocopy, it loses the luster of the original.  With every creative step in the process, keep asking, what is the intent?