Is higher education right for you? How to find the best fit

o mind here, as well as Viola Davis and many others. But don’t start writing your acceptance speech just yet. First, get the skills and practice you need, and that may mean higher education.

What is right for you here and now, based on what you’ve achieved so far, what skills you’ve mastered, and your temperament (are you outgoing or a bit of an introvert like me?) may work fine in high school, but college will most likely be a different experience. And you may need even more skills to hold your own.

How does that translate into where to get a higher education? Here are some things to keep in mind as you look for the where you belong:

  • Large or small?
  • Are you sure about what your specialty may be? If not, maybe a large performing arts department will give you the chance to dabble a bit before landing on what is right for you.
  • If you are sure about your talents and interests, do you know which of the colleges you are considering will give you the background to become your kind of professional? If you don’t know, now is the time to:
    • Research what professionals in your field actually do, and what courses they suggest you take.
    • List courses that you have to take. Then list courses you’d like to take.
    • Compare your course list to those offered at the universities, colleges, and conservatories you are considering.

Not sure whether a university, college, or conservatory is right for you? Read on.

University

You like crowds? You like being surrounded by loads of people who are either as competitive as hell or think higher education is a marking time device? Or large departments with lots of research, taught by people who have worked in the performing arts? A large and maybe prestigious theatre, film, dance, and music departments with plenty of people to compete with for the lead role? I’m sure Jessica Chastain could hold her own in that environment, but what about what you need? Is it too big, too impersonal? Too competitive?

College

College. Something smaller, with more personal attention, where it isn’t about competition but rather about picking up the skills and techniques you need. Now we are going from the large university, to something smaller and maybe more manageable: colleges within the university or stand-alone colleges.

Colleges—maybe something called the College of the Performing Arts—might be part of a large university, where you can get the university life along with personal attention. Or, as was my college, a liberal arts stand-alone college with a major in theatre.

With either a university or a college, you can earn a four-year degree, such as Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Don’t forget the two-year college, but if you want to go on to a four-year degree, be sure you know what courses will transfer and what courses are required for the degree from the four-year college you’re thinking about.

Conservatory

A conservatory is a place where excellence in the arts is at its core and it’s smaller than a university. You’ll take some general education courses, but nowhere near the requirements of the university and college degrees. A conservatory concentrates on the arts and the skills you need to achieve a career in the performing arts. Jessica Chastain and Viola Davis both went to Julliard, a conservatory. You get a degree, but your education is pretty much condensed to what you need to be a good artist. You spend more time on your art and less on academics. My niece, Sara, went to a conservatory (SCAD), and she is a bright, outgoing, talented, educated person, and has gotten the skills she needs to not only act, but to get into the profession of acting.

Liberal arts

Here comes my bias. A liberal arts college with emphasis on your art, is something any artist ought to consider.

At the heart of art, of making something that asks people to think about their lives, to feel empathy for other people’s trials, and to feel emotions in perhaps a stronger way than most people do in the course of their daily existence, an artist has to understand about the civilizations humans have created and evolved over time and why. Why do they change?

How do you make art that moves people? How do you capture someone’s soul, then recreate it for others in the way that moves them? By knowing what it is to be human. That takes education, observation, empathy, and thinking. Now we are talking about the kind of courses that takes in history, literature, music, science, psychology, philosophy, and the host of achievements and failures of human existence. A liberal arts–generalized studies–helps enormously in understanding what you are creating, why, what form it might take, how it fits in today’s civilization, and where it might be tomorrow.

If you found that last sentence out of your realm of expectations, maybe you are aiming too low. As Les Brown (motivational speaker) said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Get the wisdom from choices already made

Ask your coach/teachers, guidance counselors, and people who have gone ahead of you what you need for the next level. Ask them to help you see things realistically.

I follow Sara and some of her friends on Facebook, and am able to see where the twists and turns their choices take them, and it is enlightening. The point is, ask for help in deciding what comes next. Ask others about their experiences and see how that might affect your decisions.

Your decision: are you up for it?

My liberal arts bias aside, what your authentic person wants to do is personal. It is up to you. At the heart of this kind of decision making shouldn’t be: What would Jessica or Viola do? But what do you need, right now, to get to the next level? What do you want to do? What is your next level?

Keep at it. You don’t make this kind of decision overnight. Know yourself, what makes you get up in the morning, what feels right, what you need to get where you’re going, and what kind of environment you need to get there. This is not about what your friends need or even your parents or teachers. This is not a right or wrong decision. It is a decision that needs self-knowledge, self-awareness, and mindfulness to make.

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5 How the audience responds to focus

The audience sits. Waits. Lights come up on a group of actors, some sitting on stools, some standing on platforms of varying heights. All have scripts in their hands. The audience leans forward in anticipation. Let the scene begin! It does. The audience leans back. The characters aren’t looking at each other. There is a narrator. What is this?  they think. Yet another version of Our Town?

The scene progresses. The readers aren’t really reading but it isn’t like a play where they look at each other and speak memorized lines. Instead, they glance briefly at the script and look up over the audience’s heads. Not at each other. What is going on? Why aren’t the characters looking at each other the way they’re supposed to?

What is going on is that in Readers Theatre, most often, the actors use an offstage focus to better let the audience know that this is not a staged play but a reading and that the text is what matters and is what they are recreating for them. It is a genuine tool of this art form that what the author wrote, the context, the ideas, the themes, the vivid characters, setting descriptions, all must be recreated in the minds of the audience.

Onstage focus, the kind where character talks to character by looking at each other, lets the audience know that the action is happening on the stage.

In Readers Theatre, we want what is happening to be pictured, not reenacted. Theatre of the Mind. Offstage focus.

Presentational theatre

In many plays we’ve seen, the audience needs to believe what is happening on stage is really happening. Call it realism. Or naturalism. Suspend all disbelief for a few hours. You came in through a lobby, down an aisle, maybe music playing to get you into the right frame of mind. You sit. You wait. You are in some halfway house, being prepped to accept what is coming. The house lights go down and the stage lights come up. You already know what your roll is. You paid good money to be lulled into another world, one that is unraveling right in front of you. You believe that you are peering into someone’s life and that you get to see and feel and hear what they are seeing and feeling and hearing, and that you believe, for the length of the play and until the house lights come up again, that it is happening right here, right now. In front of you.

Representational theatre

In a conventional play, in presentational theatre, you know the audience’s role. But what if, just as you get into the scene, one of the actors bursts into a cowboy song? Now the game has changed. We were just in someone’s living room, but the walls fade away and one of the characters, a woman, puts on a cowboy hat and sings a lullaby to the other character, also a woman. But she is looking out over the audience, not at the other character. We know who she’s singing to by facial expression, movement, and how the other character is reacting, even though both are looking out over the audience in the same spot, visualizing the scene in their heads and from their character’s point of view.

Realism is gone with representational theatre. Presenting an actual, naturalistic scene is no longer desirable in representational theatre. Here, the audience is forced to come out of its conventional complacency and to actively take part in what is happening. To make sense of it. They are reminded that this is just a play, but one, apparently, that wants to shake them up. To make sense of what they are seeing, they have to participate.

Readers Theatre as a representational art form

Readers Theatre wants to recreate a literary work in the minds of the audience. It does not ask the audience to believe what is happening on stage is really happening, that a fourth wall has been removed so that the audience feels like it is eavesdropping on a reality show.

In Readers Theatre, we don’t ask the audience to believe that what they are seeing is really happening. Instead, we want them to see what is happeningꟷthe scenes, the plot, the charactersꟷis all happening in their minds. We don’t want them to look in on it. We want them to participate in what we, the actors/readers see in our minds and are recreating for them.

How does focus work?

Pick a logical spot out over the audience, where each scene is going to be played. When characters interact or the narrator comments, it is done looking at that particular place. Every time the scene changes, so does the focal point. Here are simple pictures of onstage and offstage focus:

focus

Let’s try it. I’m still working with The Charge of the Light Brigade and I have three groups of actors who are the soldiers. Group 1 is sitting downstage right. Group 2 is on a platform upstage center. Group 3 is sitting downstage left. All three groups are looking straight ahead, focusing over the audience.

No one sees the whole valley and what is to come, yet, except Lord Raglan, off by himself. The soldiers are about to realize they are surrounded. They don’t even realize they are in a valley yet.

I am going to help the audience picture just when the soldiers do see they are in a valley and that they are surrounded. I’ll do it through focus.

When the poem gets to the third stanza each group reacts by changing the offstage focus:

Cannon to right of them,

Cannon to left of them,

Cannon in front of them

Volleyed and thundered;

Now Group 1 looks off over the audience left and they look up and down at the valley walls and react to the bursts of cannon coming from that place. Group 3 looks off right, and Group 2 stays with the center focus. The actors/readers show fear and confusion through facial expressions and body attitudes and we begin to see the walls of the valley betraying the soldiers.

The audience is now able to picture the valley and can see in their minds the soldiers are surrounded. This, without the actors having to move from their stools.

We are asking the audience to picture what we are reading in their minds, not on the stage.

There’s more to staging Readers Theatre, of course. Next time: More about movement.

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Working hard this summer

Yesterday, I published my third summer handbook for you performing arts students who want to do something toward building a career.

The handbooks are funny, chatty, and full of practical and maybe even spiritual things to do that will make your summer mean more to your future than only hanging out would do.

And I realized that the opposite is true, too. That working all the time to establish yourself as a theatre and performing artist, is kinda out of balance, too. That’s when I said, “Aha!” because here I was, publishing the handbook, writing this blog, planning my next podcast, and wondering when I’ll have time to get to the grocery store. (My two dwarf rabbits are almost out of greens! Call 911!)

So what should I do? Cut back on my work? Yes. Do less? Yes. Do work in the morning? Yes. Shop for bunny food in the afternoons? Clean the house? Yes, yes.

But what is missing from this self-assessment is that nowhere do I list what fun things I can do every day. I need to relax every day. Smell the roses (if only I had time to plant any). I need a good way to Chill that doesn’t involve food or Candy Crush.

Hmmm. Can I count television? Probably not. Much as I enjoy television, I watch it from a drama critic’s point of view. Same for movies. More work.

So what to do? Any suggestions?

Meanwhile, check out my work: the handbooks on Kindle.  The one I just published is called Zen and the Art of Summer, where you can get laid-back helpful hints on arts activities and what to do to relax. They could help you out of whatever funk you may be in.

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The Blame Game and the Playwright

I’d like to blame it all on the person who is in charge of our readers theatre group. She tanked my play reading.

We all love to place blame and who can blame us? Blame must be found somewhere and it surely can’t be heaped on ourselves. Blaming ourselves would make us less than perfect (human, in other words) and would attract all sorts of negative vibrations lurking about the universe. Can’t have that. So let’s blame someone else.

Blame for what?

My group staged a reading for the board of directors of the community theatre that has agreed to produce it. My play had a very bad reading for the board. We read the play so the board could decide whether to produce it next spring. We read the play after a work day, after a two-hour board meeting, and in a room so dimly lighted, you could barely read the scripts. Also, (back to blame) it was miscast, un-directed, under-rehearsed, and just plain boring. Very little acting. Very little expression in that dim light. I was mortified. Poor me! And I wasn’t to blame!

Or was I.

My first take, blaming myself after all, was that how did I not know that I wrote a play that was too boring for words?

But wait.

How did blame get into this at all? Nothing to be gained by placing blame. To cast about to find culprits to heap blame upon, even myself, does absolutely nothing but make everyone feel bad. In this blame game, there are winners. If there are winners, there are also losers.

Winners and losers does not make the play more producible.

First, it wasn’t a successful reading. Second, the audience was bored to tears. That is the truth of it, and to acknowledge it, is not the same as placing blame.

Why didn’t it work? Is a better question than trying to assign blame. Because if I ask that question, it all comes right back to me. But not to blame me, but to see what I can learn about this magnificent failure.

Why?

Because I lost control of the project and I gave it away willingly. I knew down deep where I live, that reading the play without much rehearsal in a dimly lighted room, by a cast who had no experience with this kind of thing, to a handful of people who had just had a two-hour meeting also in this deadly dim room at night, after a their day jobs, was never a good idea.

Nor was me directing it a good idea. I needed to learn and see for myself what a director might make of the play. The thing is, the person who insisted on taking the directing away from me and direct it herself, did no job at all: called two rehearsals, had two read-throughs, and dismissed everyone without so much as a note for improvement.

But I gave it away, all because I didn’t want to direct it, with all the work that brings. I wanted to be finished with this project, to move on to writing the next play, which already has a good start.

The administrative side to the arts has to ask, “If I make this choice, what will happen to the product or service? What will happen to the customers or clients?”

I didn’t ask that and that is at the heart of this failure. Not to direct it, to make it as good a performance as we were able, was to let it fail.

Playwright’s responsibility

My responsibility, if I am going to bring a new art work into this world, is to give it the best launch possible.

The thing about writing is that the writer’s administrative responsibilities flow all through the process and the process consists of much more than writing. The writing, the product, is only the beginning, because what good is that product if it doesn’t do what it was meant to do. A car is made to get a person from place-to-place safely.

A play is meant to be acted and be seen, to hold up some kind of mirror to what it means to be human.

And all of that means, you must follow the whole process, all of it, pleasant or unpleasant.

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Absorbing the slings and arrows

My play is getting a reading and maybe even a full-blown production. That’s nice.

I am getting criticism at every turn. That’s nice.

The play is still being tweaked by my readers. One fellow, a natural-born fact checker, found two historical mistakes. I welcomed that. Things can get by an author.

There were more comments, of course. These generous people were helping make the play better by pointing out what didn’t work for them and what did. For the first time ever, I allowed myself to hear the good, as well as the bad.

I also realized these comments weren’t directed at me. In other words, I am not the play. It is a thing “out there” and is a kind of product that I brought into being.

But lately, some comments have been sharp and seemed to be aimed at me, personally. “Oh, you can’t direct like that. Our people just want to do it the way we always do it.” These weren’t the exact words, but how I interpreted them. What our leader who said them meant that she would direct the play herself. I felt the usual shame and inner dialogue: “Why didn’t I get it perfect! What’s wrong with me! I can’t write worth a damn!” Notice how “I”, or my ego has gotten right in the middle of this. It is “me” who isn’t worth a damn, etc etc.

And outside the play criticism, I have taken hits. We are to give a kind of holiday performance. “Something entertaining! Skits!” our leader urged us. “Something fun!”

I had always wanted to read A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. The language is so rich and flowing, it is perfect for oral interpretation. “No, no,” sternly, and giving me the up-and-down look reserved for a fashion faux pas. “Too highbrow.” Said like no matter what I suggested, it would go right over the audience’s heads. Said like, “I’ve got your number, you… you intellectual!”

Again, I felt shame. Why couldn’t I be just a regular person and like what everybody likes? Nothing wrong with skits except they bore me silly.

Again, I put “me” right in it.

And then, talking to a non-theatre friend about the play and the rehearsals and how I’m designing a new web site for my plays and novels, her cheery comment was how much she admired how “busy” I kept myself. I was some poor creature who needed a good pat on the head for staying out of trouble.

Good grief! “Busy?” I am dealing with meaningful art, I hope, and have set about inspiring others to pursue their goals in the performing arts, and to have some success of my own in the arts.

But once again, “me” got right in the middle of it.

But even as I felt bad, I had to admit that things are changing. I wallowed in my misery, all right, but this time it didn’t last. In the past, it would be weeks, months, a year, before I could bring myself to write anything. I wasn’t cutting it. I was being ridiculed as a pretender. Poor me!

No matter what my ego was whispering, I could not sustain the misery of feeling ashamed and believing I had no right to a life in art. It went away, even as my ego struggled to keep it going. Instead, I had to wonder if I was clairvoyant or something that I was so sure I knew that people were talking about my shortcomings 24/7. Am I really that important to people? Nope. That’s just storytelling.

But being told I kept “busy” forced me to reconsider my goals. I read them over and even my ego couldn’t dismiss any of them as “busy.” Therefore “busy” has nothing to do with my true self and Martha Beck’s North Star that I’m following. But this episode did prompt me to strengthen my goals and my resolve to see them through. And to see there can be a good side of criticism.

I have come to realize that I am an artist, maybe not a household name, but I am creative and can write fairly well and am getting better all the time. For every writer (even the great Steven Sondheim) knows it could always be better, which inspires one to get on with the next play or novel or blog or whatever.

The other effects of criticism

What has changed for me about these critical hits is that:

  1. I now find these comments only mildly annoying.
  2. The comments exist outside of my true self.
  3. I can make things better/different in some way because of them.
  4. There are just as many positive comments, but this time, I am listening to those, too.
  5. (DRUM ROLL!) The hidden good news underneath these comments and criticism, harsh or mild, have nothing to do with my true self, but all to do with the fact that I am in the game. I am a player. I have something “out there” that has gotten notice. I am creating things that other people have seen.

I win!

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The community part of community theatre

My community theatre is where I am thriving. After too many years trying to make a living away from theatre, now that I am retired, I’m back with a vengeance to make up for lost time. I found just the place to do it: community theatre. I act, direct, and write. What more could I ask for? And I get plenty of support and encouragement from everyone there.

Community theatre is a natural outgrowth of the Little Theatre movement (1930s-1940s). Little theatres sprung up all over the US in protest against formulaic plays, as the ever popular melodramas were (don’t knock ‘em – there’s plenty of pot-boilers on TV that are so much fun.) And the theatre Syndicate not only dictated what was produced on Broadway, but monopolized touring companies and owned most of the theatres these shows would play in. You see where the bottom line comes in.

Community theatres will often do plays that were hits on Broadway, but many of them, like my Flagler Playhouse, are open to developing new artistic endeavors. We have a group of over-50 that does readers theatre with a flair and with theatrical experience behind us. The Playhouse has an education program in the summer to develop young talent and is now expanding to develop new playwrights, just as many of the original little theatres did.

Enter me. I have written a site-specific play that the Playhouse is very willing to workshop so that I can finish it with real actors and directors contributing insight and comments. This workshop experience is invaluable to a playwright. And I am not the only one. Another fellow has come to the Playhouse to have his play read. I see a trend here.

This is exactly what a community theatre does. It doesn’t stagnate producing only popular musicals and hit plays from Broadway. It takes chances, because it can. Along with the traditional, it finds alternative theatre so that the audience gets challenged, so that young people feel like they have something to say that will be heard, and so that the local culture gets enriched and expanded.

And also, so that the older audience isn’t patronized. So many times I hear something like: “We have to do this play. Our audience expects it. They will withdraw their support if we do anything that isn’t popular.”

Who is this audience? They will answer that they have an “older” audience. I got news for them. I am a member of this “older” audience, as are my readers theatre group, and so many of us want something more than just hits. We want quality theatre, new theatre, challenging theatre, with traditional theatre sprinkled in. We want it all and we do not want to be condescended to.

I don’t mind things that I don’t agree with or things that will generate controversy. I recently brought some friends to see American Sniper and found it hard to watch in places and when it was over, I apologized to my friends for dragging them through the unpleasant scenes. My motive was to see a mature Bradley Cooper do what may be his most challenging work so far. It certainly was not to subject anyone, myself included, to the horrors of an actual war. But as we started to talk, I realized that even though there were scenes that were hard to watch, the movie brought out controversy about snipers and war and we were airing that out and having a real discussion about it that had transcended good movie/bad movie. Who cares that some of it was tough going? Having something meaningful to talk about afterwards was worth it.

Isn’t that what art is supposed to do? Show us the way we are and ask us if that’s the way we want to be? The Little Theatre movement, which turned into what we know as community theatre, led the way to producing quality plays locally, for developing new talent, and for letting the cosmopolitan community decide what is relevant. It took theatre out of the hands of some Syndicate producer in New York City, who had a bottom line in place of an artistic soul.

The older audience may want to be entertained but they are not alone in that. Lots of young people and middle-aged want to be taken away from their mundane cares for a few hours. Fine and good. Plenty of popular entertainment does that and does it well.

But what about that large segment of people who are ready for something more than mindless entertainment and want something substantial? What about those people who are drawn to theatre as an expression of ideas, concepts, and community, only to find theatre has nothing to say to them? Since when? There has always been theatre and it has always reflected the community.

Bring on the community theatre in all its glory. The production values are sometimes lacking the usual Broadway hoard of money being thrown at it. But what you do see is sincere effort and a will to do their very best. The play is the thing, not the special effects. That sincerity often trumps production values and what remains is something real and meaningful.

Flagler Playhouse isn’t stagnating. It is giving all of us in the community something to talk about.

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Odus the Diva

I have an Odus on my crew for the Community Theater’s production that I am stage managing.

If you play Candy Crush, you’ll find a second level of games that challenge you to clear out all the jelly candies or the candy ingredients. Only this version adds one more thing: an owl, Odus, perched on a branch. You have to keep him from falling off the branch while having a certain number of moves to clear what needs clearing to win the level so you can go on to the next level. Keeping cute little Odus safe on his branch means you have to waste moves that would otherwise go toward the goal: to clear those jellies and ingredients.

I have an Odus in my props crew. A cute teenage boy, full of himself, to be sure, who is under the wing of one of the more influential board members. Does that give him immunity? Possibly.

I have to waste valuable time, energy, and resources to a) appease him when he feels put upon, i.e. when I ask him to set the props for Act I, which is his job, and b) to watch what he does so that he doesn’t get himself into compromising situations, like waiting in the semi-dark parking lot after the rehearsal for a ride.

What else? This Odus spends a lot of energy texting. I know when I see him text, that I can expect a phone call soon from the important board member. I will have to explain how Odus misunderstood, misread, missed out, on what was really going on, being said, etc.

What can I do? Like Odus, this boy is permanently there and I have to deal with him. But I need to minimize his disruptions.

I have a goal for each rehearsal. This week, we are adding some sound, real food and drink, and all of the costumes. The set is being painted. I need to work toward those goals and hope that Odus’ thumb gets tired.

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What do you do when you have too much to do? Part II

I started listing my problems in the last post, “What do you do when you have too much to do?” and promised I’d tell you how I dealt with them.

Here’s a day in my life: Pick up the new bunny – a two-hour drive across the state to get a little cutie to be a bunny buddy to my Buttons. Need time – days, weeks, months, however long it takes – to introduce them and give them reasons to bond. Not all rabbits like all other rabbits. They can be as finicky as those Mean Girls in school. Then head off to a production meeting. Then learn lines for something else. Then study the set design so I can spike the rehearsal area. You get the picture.

It isn’t going well. Sweet Buttons, who wants a bunny buddy to bond with, is being snubbed and outright attacked by my new Bunny from Hell. The new bunny, Snap I’m calling her because it goes with Buttons and because she uses the snap to her advantage as she bites me every time I come near her, is only a baby – 6 months old – and hasn’t yet learned how to play well with others. Patience is what is needed from me and to watch her and see what she needs, like maybe a bigger cage and a lot of exercise out on my porch. So my bunnies are working it out on the porch while I write this post.

Meanwhile, I have made a list of all the things I want to accomplish in September and I am tired and confused just thinking about them. I am very involved in my stage manager job for the first main stage production and find that I can fritter away a whole morning just sending emails back and forth between cast and director trying to accommodate a rehearsal date change for one of the cast. It is community theatre, after all, and people (unlike some professionals) have lives.

Bunny standoff

Bunny standoff

So what do I do with too much to do? First, I will drop those things that aren’t contributing my overall goals. (I mean, do I need to spend an hour a day playing Candy Crush?)

Then I’ll deal with stress. I know one thing: feeling stressed out only defeats whatever I want to accomplish, so I will drop the notion that I am stressed and take a walk to the beach, where I’ll mull over what archetype I should become instead of this poor victim who is so stressed out. I get the archetype descriptions from Carl Jung, Martha Beck, Deepak Chopra, and Joseph Campbell. (Drama students should look these people up – you should know who they are, even if you don’t take the lessons they teach us.) The archetype I choose is the Hero. This guy/gal is in every action movie you’ve ever seen.

It goes like this (writers take note): The Hero sets out to accomplish something. Things are good. Looks like a clear shot to the end. But. Things get messy. All kinds of obstacles come up and these obstacles turn into Trials. The Hero has to navigate through the Trials, solving them, letting them go when that is all he/she can do (this I picked up from Divergent.) Searching, striving, and battling through to the end goal. This is the rewarding part. With it can come enlightenment and much more than the Hero expected when he/she set out. The Hero is changed, made into a more understanding, sometimes compassionate, confident human being. The next Quest? No problem. Got it covered.

So it is with all that I have to do. I will see it as a Quest whose outcomes I can’t be sure of. But I will go through all the Labors of Hercules forging onward. I can’t control the outcome, but I sure can put in the effort and drop stress off on my way. Stress serves no real purpose except maybe as a wake-up call that something is amiss.

I will organize everything into neat chunks and whittle away at them. For example, my bunnies will have to work out their bonding rituals on their own, with help and nourishment and encouragement from me. But whether they ever actually bond, is none of my business. It’s theirs. Just watching them running freely on my porch is enough for today.

The play will come out as it will, but I will do my best to stage manage it to a successful outcome. I will act to the best that I can and people will like my performance or they won’t, but I will enjoy the effort I am making. In fact, I will enjoy each Trial as it comes up.

I will look for similarities – what have people done before me? I will take their lessons and learn from them and apply them to my own Trials. And I will delegate what I can’t do and trust that it will all come out the way the Universe intended.

Excelsior!

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What do you do when you have too much to do? Part I

School is back on again. Too soon for some of you. There are preparations: clothes, books, supplies to buy; summer friends and flirtations to say goodbye to; start on that reading list you neglected all summer; find a way to pretend that none of this even makes you break a sweat.

I feel you.

So here’s what I’ve got going. It’s all happening at the same, hence my “OMG!” moment.

  1. Stage manager for a main stage community theatre production and there’s a production meeting tonight and the first rehearsal later on this week.
  2. A rehearsal for a Readers Theatre two-person production of a famous author’s work. Not only am I acting as the narrator, I am also writing the narration that will theatrically (I hope) introduce the selections I have picked out for the other actor to read. Oh, did I mention, besides writing, adapting, and acting, I am the director and producer?  Plus, I’ve got to get permission to use this material. Oy!
  3. A rehearsal at the end of the week of The Importance of Being Earnest for which I am acting the role of Miss Prism. Gotta learn me some lines!
  4. My little bunny, a butterscotch fluff-ball named Buttons, is mourning her bunny pal who died last weekend and needs bunny companionship tout de suite. Finding the right bunny for her took some time. No bunny breeders or pet stores for me—I want a rabbit that needs a home, so tomorrow, I’m off to the nearest rabbit rescue, which is a 2-hour drive. Now I have to spend tomorrow bringing home the bunny of our dreams. Then introducing them to each other in such a way that they won’t rip each other’s faces off. Rabbits love other rabbits, mostly, but it is also possible that these sweet creatures will turn into Mean Girls. Did I mention “poop wars?”
  5. Pet my cat and feed him when he meows loudly, announcing to one and all that it’s “Suppertime.” (Gorgeous Russian Blue mix.)
  6. Write this blog. I know it is too long between posts. Also, I need to make it more readable. Jazz it up a little. Any advice?
  7. I want to teach and write scholarly papers about theatre at the college level. So I am composing and sending a follow-up email for a college teaching job for which I believe I am particularly well-suited. But the people doing the hiring need to be as convinced of that as I am.
  8. Also, I have a great and abiding need to work as a voice actor, so I have voice and body exercises to do, a demo reel to make, an agent to find. Not going to happen overnight.
  9. Keep my living space and the bunny hutch and the cat litter clean.
  10. Plan meals so I can stick to my food plan in spite of odd-hour rehearsals, car travel, bunny bonding, learning lines, writing this blog, and the rest of it. Actually, this should be at the top of my list – top priority – because I have lost gobs of weight over the last few years and that and the fact that I did it through a sensible and regular food plan and not a diet, means that to keep it off I must not stray from my food plan – and believe me, nothing in the above list is even remotely possible for me should I not stick to the plan. So planning meals is key for me.
  11. Meditate. Got to. There is nothing more to say about that right now.
  12. Keep up with the Little League World Series. What does that have to do with anything? Beats me. I like watching these fast-moving and exciting baseball games—it is summer, after all—and I still and if I don’t watch, I’ll be missing part of what makes life good and fun.
  13. Keep up with reading.
  14. Keep up with season 4 of The Killing. Just have to. Nothing more to say about that, either.
  15. Keep up with Candy Crush. (Don’t ask….)

How would you handle all this? Any advice for me?

I keep lists. I have goals and objectives. I work project management magic to get through grocery shopping. Is anything going to help?

Buttons and Rhonda

Buttons and Rhonda

Next time: How I going to survive, have fun, while
giving it my best efforts
.

Also next time: A picture of the new bunny, Snap, getting along—or not—with Buttons.

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The artistic stage manager

SM1I have recently gotten involved with a local community theatre and find myself doing theatre from many angles: I am acting in a readers theatre production of The Importance of Being Ernest, adapting, writing, directing, and acting in a two-person a reminiscence of Maya Angelou. I am also stage managing a main stage production.

Stage managing, I always say, is my favorite thing to do in a production company and I am delighted to be a stage manager once again, but oh, man! Is it consuming!

I should have my head examined. I’m that Keyboard Nerd, that person who likes nothing better that be sitting in front of my computer all day working on interesting things like this blog. Like writing articles on theatre history. Playwriting. Not dashing off to rehearsal and staving off crisis after crisis. Or more to what a stage manager does mostly: planning how to avoid the next crisis.

But here I am the stage manager and we’re in the audition process. I’m all set with my two cents as to who I think should be cast. After all, I claim in my online performing arts course, The Business of Show Business, that there are two sides to the key jobs in the performing arts:  an artistic and a managerial side. The stage manager, whose work it is to make the production run smoothly, also has an artistic side. A person who wants to be a director often apprentice as a stage manager where you can see a director in action. To me, a stage manager is in a perfect position to have artistic opinions. And so here’s me, itching to lob a few opinions the director’s way.

But not so fast. First, no one at these auditions was a bit interested in my opinion as to who to cast. I realized very quickly that for me to volunteer my opinion would have been inappropriate. Had I been a long-time member of this theatre community and someone who had earned the right to have an opinion, then maybe someone would have brought me into the process. But I am new to this theater group. They don’t know me, so why would they ask my opinion? I have learned patience and so it is patience that I must practice here. If I keep on doing the things that need doing and do them well and stick to it, eventually I will become a trusted member of this community.

Still, that artistic vibe was humming within me. I got to hear and see how the director and the producer went about selecting a cast and it was instructional. I would have cast differently, but patience reigned me in again. I began to see that here, as in so many theatre companies with plays to be cast, that there are many factors that come into it, only one of which is “Who is the more talented, skillful, actor.”

Two people give two very different readings for the major female lead. Both seem right for the part, both seemed to have talent. Who do you cast?

In this instance, the girl who was cast was the person who: 1) looked good with the fellow who was a shoe-in as the leading man, and 2) had done other roles for this theatre company. The girl who wasn’t cast was an unknown entity, even though I found her resume impressive and her reading fresh.

If the girl who wasn’t cast asked my opinion (and she didn’t), I would have told her what I’m telling you. Casting has little to do with you or your talent or you confidence level or whatever. It all has to do with what the director and producer are looking for you. Understand that, learn from each audition you go to, and move on! I don’t want to hear any mention of “down” or “depression.”  Casting is not personal and unless you deliberately sabotaged yourself (you didn’t prepare, you partied the night before, etc.), it has nothing to do with you personally.

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