What are you doing this summer?

Something to do with theatre, I hope. What? You haven’t a clue about how to include the performing arts with all that hanging out and chilling you plan to do?

Check out these four short but pithy (and inexpensive) handbooks for performing arts students (and their teachers) that have suggestions and ways of looking at ordinary summer things with your real goals in mind. These are things you might be doing anyway, so why not turn them into a learning experience that won’t feel like you are still in school. Like how hanging out with your friends can be an acting exercise. Like how arranging your sock drawer can be an exercise to develop your talent.

Here’s what you should do

Get a jump on summer right now. Even if it isn’t summer, there is plenty of information and inspiration to get going with your performing arts career right now. Go to Kindle and buy all four handbooks. Buy the handbooks and get your brain synapses firing before too much leisure time gets you stupefied.

Need to know more?

Here are the handbooks and their descriptions. There are also audio clips of me reading a short sample. Click “Listen to a sample . . . .” Click the title link or the “buy now” link to go directly to the handbook on Kindle.

Coming soon: MP3 audio versions of the four handbooks.

  1. Making your Summer Count

The structure of school breaks down in the summer, and many of us are left adrift. Here are ten practical things you can do to bring some of that structure back and to put focus on your art. Turn your summer reading into insight and inspiration and what you do outside of theatre into artistic exercises.

Listen to a sample . . .                                                                                 . . . buy now on Kindle

  1. Turning the Corner this Summer

So here you are. Another summer. And you are facing crossroads. You may already know you’d like to move on in the performing arts. You’re the person who shows up at auditions, volunteers on Saturdays to build and paint sets, or you help to hang and focus lighting instruments. You even bring costumes home to sew (or foist off on your poor mother to sew), or maybe even direct scenes for your actor-classmates. But how to prepare for what’s next for you?

Think about turning all those fuzzy ambitions into something focused. How will you choose which path to take? If you know where you are going, you’ll know which corner to turn to get there.

What can having focus do for you? It is knowing what you want to do with your life and having realistic goals for getting there.  It is planning. It is developing healthy habits. It is recognizing your strengths and building on them.

In this handbook, you’ll find some easy things you can do in your free time, this summer, or whenever you have a block of time, to help you focus on moving toward a career in the performing arts. Things like setting goals, making lists, setting up a portfolio or résumé, developing artistic taste, and other activities that will point you in the right direction and get you out of the crossroads and on to the path that leads to your right destiny.

Listen to a sample . . .                                                                                 . . . buy now on Kindle

  1. Zen and the Art of Summer

Summer is more than working and relaxing for the up-and-coming artist, and I want to give students a different perspective, one from a higher plane. Sort of as Yoda in Star Wars said: “There is no try. Only do.” Very Zen.

The idea behind the short handbook, Zen and the Art of Summer, is to give young artists a way to see what they are doing on a more mindful level. No, it isn’t a lesson about Zen or eastern philosophy, but it does clue you in that what you do today matters for a future career. That you can chill with your friends, but if you do it mindfully, you may all be contributing to each other’s artistic well-being.

Listen to a sample . . .                                                                                 . . . buy now on Kindle

  1. Using Summer to Get Ready for Fall

Fall, for the performing arts student, opens whole new possibilities. There might be the fall musical to try out for or work backstage on, to help choreograph or design. Maybe this is your last year of high school or college and you are seriously facing that Big Transition into the world of finding your place in it, perhaps making a living while you search for work in your field. Or you may already be in the Big Transition.

This can be daunting, or it can be part of your Grand Plan. I guarantee it will be daunting, especially if you don’t bother making a Grand Plan.

There is no one answer or one way that fits everyone, but this handbook will give you ways to prepare for the next step. From help with planning for tryouts, how to plan for being on your own, or how to find the right college, you’ll get some serious tips in the fall handbook, the last in the summer series.

Listen to a sample . . .                                                                                 . . . buy now on Kindle


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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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It is summer and I’m doing what I’ve been preaching. I always urge you to do something toward your theatre goals and not waste all that time just hanging out. So this summer I got involved with my community theatre so I can have first-hand knowledge again of what it is like to produce live theatre. And oh, boy, are we producing!

No shows are scheduled for the summer, but I am involved up to my (bushy) eyebrows. Stage manager for the fall show? Put me in, Coach! I was born to be a stage manager. Act in a readers theatre production? No problem! I need to brush up on my acting technique. Need a short play to take to the community in the fall? I have it covered. I’m writing about Maya Angelou for a reading of some of her poems and parts of her autobiographies.

Oh, yeah. And I need to finish an online course I’m designing and researching for use in high school performing arts classes. (See www.theatreowl.com for the course, “The Biz of Show Biz.” You teachers can get a look at one of the lessons.)

All of this is going on in what are the hottest and most humid days and nights of the Florida seasons. But no sweat! I’m doing theatre!

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Lessons from Cinderella

By Sara Turner.

For the past few weeks, I have been working on a show, which I am afraid to admit is Cinderella. Now, if you like this show, I’m sorry. I randomly decided that I wanted to help out with my community theatre in June. It worked out perfectly because they just happened to need a stage manager. I signed on for the job.

I think that if you love theatre, you should find a way to be a part of it no matter what. Also, I believe as an actor it is a good idea that you learn all the areas of theatre and experience as much of it as possible The more you know, the more useful you will be. The actors should know what it’s like to be a part of the crew and same for the crew. No divas.

So I went into this not knowing anything about being a stage manager. All I know about is being onstage and that the people backstage help me out a lot. Of course, I knew that there is a prop table and that if you work backstage you dress in black, but I didn’t know how to run a crew.

I have now learned that as the stage manager, I am in charge of putting out the fires…the metaphorical fires of course. Constantly, I am on my headset getting directions and questions that have to be answered with an immediate response and action. I love that I am in charge of running the show and helping people with whatever problems they have. There are small moments in the show where I get to help out in such a small way but it really matters. For example, every quick change, I am there to help them, which they count on from me. Also, there is a crazy waltz they have to do in a ballroom scene and I make sure I am standing by with water after it to keep people hydrated.

If you see that you’re just sitting around doing nothing, get involved in something to do with theatre. Learn a new job and help out. Every show can provide you with knowledge even if it is Cinderella…because let’s be serious here. What could I possibly learn from that show except that it makes me want to gouge my eyes out? Guess what though, I learned how to be a stage manager and have met great people.

The people who I have met have helped me grow and learn. They have helped me heal. So much so that I have been writing again in a journal, which I stopped a long time ago. I bought myself a little journal strictly for my poetry and have been writing almost every day. I don’t edit or censor myself even if it is so cheesy and full of teenage angst. I’m just writing freely.

So people, go write, go read, and go learn about theatre!

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