More on a mindful summer

Here are some of the things you can be doing now so you’ll be ready to catch the next wave of your dreams.

It continues the thread I started in “Zen and the art of summer” (May 6, 2013).

Live mindfully

Make choices with your career in mind: i.e. know that if you are to be a disciplined artist, it might not be a bad idea to start training now. I’m talking about the simple things, like when someone asks you, “Supersize those fries for you?” you don’t automatically answer, “Sure!” Instead, you take the question seriously and that gets you to realize that you need energy to build a set or paint scenery this afternoon, or rehearse a dance routine, whatever, and that you can’t afford to be bogged down with sugar and starchy carbs.

Living mindfully is to be alive to what is going on with you and the people and events around you. When you know – really see- what is happening and why, you can make whatever the situation is better, not worse. Living mindfully helps you see things realistically and helps you plan now for what will bring you closer to your goals. A person doesn’t just wake up one morning and say “I’m going to be a great set designer” and sketch out a memorable set. One wakes up one morning and says, ‘Here’s what I’m going to do today to keep myself on the path to becoming a great designer” and note a few ideas on your sketchpad. One of those notes might be to find out if you can take a drawing class next semester.

Got a job?

You may have a job this summer that has nothing to do with theatre or the performing arts. You can still do it mindfully, with your artistic goals in mind. Any job:

  • Makes you more self-sufficient
  • Gives you a chance to see how the business world works (remember that there is also the business side to any art)
  • Gives you plenty of chances to absorb human nature (how people look for the costume designer, what things they carry with them for the props person, what a work setting looks like from the perspective of a set designer, what people do and why they do it and how they act and sound doing it for the actor (any performer.)

Make good decisions

Begin to see that what you do, the decisions you make today, will expand and grow as you get older and more experienced. If you make your bed today, you are telling yourself you want to be a well-ordered person who knows where he is going and who knows how to get there. It begins with simple acts that become habits you don’t have to think about every day.

  1. Decide what areas of the performing arts interest you.

I’m going to give you an overview of the theatre called “Introduction to the Performing Arts” (I’ll give you a link to it when it’s ready), with side-trips into television and movies and dance and music when I can, to give you an idea of the kinds of things you might want to do in the performing arts. If a job interests you, you’ll be able to click the link and find out more about it.

  1. Decide on what you want to read this summer and start one of those books today. Don’t wait for the summer. Do it now, while you are motivated.
  2. Decide that you will have fun this summer but that some of this summer will be devoted to finding out more about your interests in the performing arts.

Base your choices on the areas you decided in #3 (above.)   Please, I’m talking about maybe three – you don’t want this to feel too much like school. Except: Please note, there are books colleges expect you to have read before you cross those hallowed halls, so the list I provide will have a boatload of those very must-read books.

“Motivation will almost always beat mere talent.” Norman R. Augustine

Just remember, the future is more of today, so if you are frittering away today, chances are that’s what you will do tomorrow. But what if you took a class in acrylic technique today? Probably you’ll have assignments that will keep you busy tomorrow learning how to use acrylic paints to bring your set designs alive. You’ll be getting more skill at designing, not dreaming.

More tips for the summer

  1. Read a lot of plays. (Need a hint for what to read? Check out Reading list in the menu of this blog.)
  2. Keep up with what is going on in New York and regional theatres around where you live.
  3. See plays wherever you can.
  4. See movies, watch television, only do it mindfully, not to kill time.
  5. Find new books to read and not just theatre books. You want a balanced education that deals with all aspects of human life – you are, after all, looking at the world through a developing artist’s eyes. Also, be mindful there are always reading lists you’ll have to get through if you are anticipating going to college.
  6. Discover your performing arts interests and be honest with yourself about what you like and what you’re good at. Other people are always quick to tell you what you’re good at or lousy at, but find out what you want for yourself.
  7. Find a class to take: acting, writing, drawing, singing, dancing, piano, whatever is within your major interest. Look at regional theatres or local community theatres for theatre and performing classes.
  8. If you are an actor, find and list at least 4 monologues (comedy, drama, classic, modern) that are around two minutes long that you can use for auditions. Do the same for scenes with another person you can use for class work. Learn and rehearse at least one.
  9. If you are a designer, put together a portfolio of things you could show people, such as costume sketches, set designs, lighting plot for a play your school is doing in the fall, a prompt book for a play you were stage manager for. Something like that, something you can build on. (I will try to give you more concrete information later on this summer. Stay tuned….)
  10. If you are a playwright, write a scene or a one-act and finish anything you have already started. Get it in a play format (the internet has plenty of examples.) Edit it. Get it ready to show someone. Start the next play, maybe a one-act. Same goes for comedy sketches. Finish and polish. Get them into your portfolio.
  11. Volunteer for a local production or summer theatre. If you’re an actor, try out for a part. If you are a technician or a designer, volunteer to hang and focus lights, paint the sets, sew costumes, run the light board, run props, or be part of the backstage crew.
  12. Start to think about what the next level will be for you. Is it a liberal arts education? A fine arts degree from a respected college? A conservatory where you concentrate on your art.

Remember, you have to have a concrete idea of where you are going in the performing arts to know where you need to be right now.

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