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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What’s happening this summer?

It is already June, and I am soooo behind. My goal for this summer was to publish four handbooks, charging very little for them, so you could have a kind of road map to how a more productive and active summer than might be usual for those of you who just want to chill out for a few months.

Handbooks for the summer on Kindle

So how am I doing? I do have two handbooks finished and published in the Kindle bookstore. Two more scheduled now for late summer, but I take heart that maybe they won’t be so late after all because one of them is about what you can do to prepare for fall, whether you are in school still or not.

In case there is still time for performing arts career direction, even though you might already be immersed in summer activities, here they are:

You can check them out by following the links to my Kindle bookshelf.

Online Theatre Repertory

What is it that has made these handbooks so late? Yes, I do live within walking distance of the beach, but at my age, sun is not my friend. No, I have been indoors, at this computer, writing original dialogue for what I call podcasts, but which are audio versions of theatre repertory. The dialogue ties together pieces and cuttings from novels and short stories, poems, plays, and essays around a theme. This next podcast is about the Summer Olympics in Rio. George wants to go to Rio. Martha, his wife, just laughs at him, knowing he expects the Girl from Ipanema will materialize on the beaches there.

I bet none of you know who the heck that is. Ask someone older.

So the podcast involves finding a theme, then finding and cutting pieces we can use (without infringing on copyright), rehearsing with me directing and acting, and teaching what I know about the techniques of oral interpretation of literature. Then we record it all and edit the recordings,

We’ve done three so far. You can catch the latest on www.theatrefollies.com.

I am also preparing a workshop for my community theatre on how to do Readers Theatre, a form of theatre I really enjoy because it makes good use of the voice.  It will be ready this fall and I plan to make it available online. You teachers out there may want to check it out on www.theatreowl.com.

If this issue sounds like a pitch to sell, or as the Car Talk brothers call it, “shameless commerce,” it is. Lots have gone into these projects and I would like to know that maybe some of it is useful or instructive, or merely entertaining for you.

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!

What are you doing?

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Theatre is a business

It may come as a surprise that I sometimes talk about theatre as a business. If you are interested in pursuing theatre and have already taken theatre classes, they most likely emphasized the creative and artistic side. All very good, but even the most creative and artistic people eventually have to make business decisions and when are hired to perform and find themselves having to fit into a reporting structure, something typical of business.  It also will give you a greater appreciation of how the performing arts fits into our lives.

As most artists find out, there are always career decisions to make. For example, let’s say you want to be a costume designer. If you are serious about it, there are steps you would do well to follow: take drawing classes so you will be able to sketch your creations, maybe take fashion design so you know what goes into designing clothes and accessories.  History classes are a must to not only find out what people in all levels of society were wearing, but even more important why those particular clothes. Did you know that there are thoughts, even philosophies behind what we wear? You’ll take theatre classes, become familiar with plays from different periods, and when you can, sew costumes, become an assistant to a designer, and learn as much as you can about the theatre and the performing arts. Oh, yes, and a little talent and lots of the right personality traits would also help.

Mapping out a strategy to get to where you want to go follows a business model. And if you are an artist, these steps and strategies won’t take anything away from your innate talent one little bit. It will make you hirable. Or at the very least, a more informed theatregoer.

And guess what? Summer and maybe more free time is almost here. The perfect time to get busy and to map out your strategy to meet your goals, whether in the performing arts or where ever you want your life to take you.

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The Big Transition: summer and beyond

There comes a time when school ends and you are faced with Your Life: a new reality series starring you. It was fun while it lasted but now you are faced with being tossed into college or out into the world where you are expected to support yourself, make good choices, and kick-start your career as an actor, dancer, musician, scene designer, stage manager, etc. etc.

Do you have a plan?

If you have a plan for your career, you have already decided where you belong in the performing arts and you have begun following up with classes and what you do for the local productions you are involved in. You have people who can advise you and you listen to them, acting on some of the advice, rejecting some of it (for now.) If you have followed a strategy and were able to put your goals together at some point and thought about “what if…” you have already gotten a start managing your career.

You know, for instance, what that next big step is and you are not among those “OMG-ers” who are wailing that the college they got accepted to doesn’t have the classes they need, or they are in the Big Transition and are howling about having to get a job and support themselves while auditioning.

You have already confronted this Big Transition and have some plans for it. While you are not quite sure how it will go, you have a good idea about what you need to do and that you must stay positive and focused.

Put together a strategy

If you have put together a plan for your career, you are already managing it.

For instance, you are managing if you already:

  • Have saved some money to tide you over for a few months after college or a conservatory.
  • Have a workable physical fitness regime.
  • Are already living within a budget and are ready for the inevitable adjustments to this budget (food, shelter, and transportation at least will change.)
  • Decide what city you will live in and what opportunities are there.
  • Know what kind of housing you need.
  • Have an idea of what it’s going to cost (housing, food, transportation etc.) to live in that city.
  • Have put together a few audition pieces or a design portfolio.
  • Have professional and current headshots.
  • Have an updated resume.
  • Have a way to organize and store auditions information:
    • What, when, where.
    • Dates.
    • What materials did you use? Was it a cold reading?
    • Casting director’s name and contact info.
    • When are callbacks?
    • When should you hear back?
    • Any follow-up on your part?
    • What was the outcome?
  • Are familiar enough with unions to know how and when you should join.
  • Understand about personal representation and when and how to get an agent.
  • Have a professional email address that you check often.
  • Have a reliable mobile phone that you keep charged and usable, and that you check regularly for calls and messages.
  • Know that it is performing that keeps you alive, so performing becomes your focus:
    • Work on audition material.
    • Take classes; develop technique and skills.
    • Work for free if it means adding something meaningful to your resume and adding to your experience (workshops, student film, stuff like that).
    • Put yourself in with other positive people in your situation who have something useful to add to your plan and who keep you in touch with your performing arts community.
    • Stay away from the negatives – people, places, behaviors, and substances – whatever is a major distraction from your focus. You must stay in shape – physically and emotionally for your art.

If this is all new to you, maybe before that next Big Transition, you’ll give it some thought and formulate your own strategy. Do it right now and stick to it, change it when circumstances call for it, and add to it when you can. Find people who can help – like, oh, parents, teachers, guidance counselors, therapists, life coaches, mentors, and financial advisors (my Uncle Andy was my financial advisor) who can help with a budget and a plan for your financial future.

Just know that others have done it before you, had your breaks and hardships or others just like them. Just know that with realistic planning and knowing where you are going, you can get there just like those before you.

See also: Are you in “Woe is Me” mode?

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Wanting a career in the performing arts

Just wanting it isn’t enough. There is wishful thinking and there is intention. You may see yourself getting curtain call after curtain call, getting your due for the talent you possess.

And what happens when you don’t get cast in the Fall musical? Some people think this is a wake-up call to give up these silly dreams and go do something practical. Like study quantum mechanics.

I got news for you. It is a wakeup call but it has nothing to do with talent or sex appeal or even wishful thinking. If you want a career in the arts, you must be willing to turn that dreaming into practical intention.

There is a big difference between thinking about doing something and your intent to do it. Just look at the law. You can go to jail for planning to harm someone. They call it “intent.” You won’t go to jail for having a random thought about how life would be without that annoying someone around you. The “intent” is only wishful thinking.

This brings up that pesky word “planning.” This is a word right out of a business model where if a company wants to make better and cheaper widgets and corner a market on them, they have to do some “planning” that takes it out of the wishful stage and puts it squarely on a course to succeed. What happens between the wishful – gee, I “wish” I could be in the movies – to taking an acting class? You have thought about the steps it takes to be an actor and turned dreaming into practical intent.

I had a discussion with my hairdresser – a talented person if ever there was one – about why she was not cutting hair in Hollywood for the movies, something she has wanted to do forever. It all boiled down to not wanting to take seriously the business end of creativity. She didn’t like having to “marketing” herself. She is a creative person and “marketing” is something she thinks she couldn’t possibly be good at. It was all about business. Like working in a salon isn’t business? And she said this after handing me her business card, something she had designed herself.

Here’s the thing about performance art and marketing. I have a friend who acts in Chicago. She relentlessly sends out postcards to producers and casting directors that has a head shot on the front and what role she is doing or has done recently. She asks them to come and see her in whatever the current thing is. I got more news for you. That is marketing and my friend has worked almost non-stop in professional theatre – with awards and everything – for almost 30 years.

I think the reason my hairdresser doesn’t like the business end is because she was told or tells herself that business is directly opposite to what is artistic. What we aren’t taught – in high school, anyway – is that business and art go hand in hand.  Just watch Nashville if you want to get up close and personal with the business end of show business, in this case the country music industry.

So I guess the question for you is, “What are you doing today that is on your plan for a career in the performing arts?”

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Find your specialty this summer (especially the non-performers among you)

You love the theatre. You love the performing arts. But you don’t want to act, sing, dance, tell jokes, juggle, or do anything that puts you front and center on a stage with a live audience. Or in front of a camera, for that matter.

But you love the theatre.

What do you do?

You find out more about what the performing arts are and where you might fit in.

You figure out:

  1. What you like about the performing arts
  2. What you like to do (say, for instance, you like working with light and how it changes things and creates moods, but you don’t know anything about stage lighting)
  3. What you think would be a great job later on (such as running the light board)

I suggest that you use the flexible time this summer to find out some details about the performing arts and begin to narrow down what it is that is so exciting about the theatre and what “speaks to you” (like in those Pier One commercials??).

The thing about focusing in on something is one of those good news/bad news things.

Focus as good news

On the good news side, if you focus in on something now, you:

  1. Can focus in on what you want to do, which will, in turn, help you focus on looking for the next level of education (college, conservatory, technical schools)
  2. Get to be really good at something by the time you need to go out and look for a job
  3. Will have learned to be, well, focused rather than to approach life in a hodge-podge higgily-piggily (don’t you love those non-words, you writers out there?) way. Being focused isn’t being obsessive/compulsive. It is knowing where you are going and taking the time and effort to identify the ways to get there.

Focus as bad news

On the bad news side, it may seem futile to focus on anything now, at your age, when you are just getting confident that you what things are “out there.” So, ok. These are my thoughts, not yours. But there is a very real possibility that no matter how committed you think you are to theatre, it could all change, maybe sooner than later. I am asking you to use part of this summer to explore what is available for you. You think you know the performing arts, but I would bet there are still some things you don’t know about yet. Do something to find out if the performing arts are for you.

An example of what could happen if you commit

The thing is, if you commit to something, like costume design for example, you may find that what you really like about costumes is that it gives you an opportunity to create clothes. In the theatre, you see fashion through the prism of what is going on now in front of a backdrop of what people were wearing at other times in history, and more interestingly, why and how those things came into fashion. In the theatre, a director has some idea of what he or she wants the clothes to look like but it will come, maybe, in the form of, “We’re doing this play set in ancient Rome.” You have to take that meagre idea, read the play, get an idea of the style of the production, see what the set designer is doing, and away you go. You maybe see that you can blend ancient Rome with some clothes you saw in an anime and come up with an idea that is unique and you. Oh, and the director will like.

But if you think that history is a drag and that you could care less about ancient Rome, and that plays always seem rooted in some kind of style that isn’t you, then maybe you need to be somewhere else. So you switch to fashion design and don’t give theatre another thought. At least you know now rather than as you are about to graduate from a performing arts department.

My point is that if you investigate the areas of theatre production and performance now, it may lead to a solid career in the theatre or will point you in another direction entirely. It is better to know that sooner than later before you spend time, money, ambition, interest on something that isn’t going to work for you.

But no matter what you find out about theatre, whether it is for you or not, you will have been focused, you will have learned how to draw, to make sketches, to use colors, to understand how light changes everything and best of all, you learned the value of planning ahead and to get the kind of discipline to stick to your plans. This is what any artist must learn to do if he or she wants a career in the arts.

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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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Zen and the art of summer

Some things you can do this summer that will help you toward a career in the performing arts aren’t easy to pin down, nor are they anything you’re likely to go wild over. These things are quiet, small things, but they are a way of looking at ordinary things with the creative eyes of the artist. I’m calling them Zen-like because they will teach you planning and patience. These things just are. And they are things that will work for you no matter what profession you finally go into.

So if they are not all that, why would you even want to consider doing them? As Monk in the TV show of the same name used to say, “You’ll thank me later.”

1. Learn how to plan.

I want to write a play. What do I do now? I make a plan. This is my plan, not anyone else’s. Other people need to do make their own plan using their own strategy. This is going to be mine.

My strategy is to know where I’m going with this writing project and I’ll let the details guide me each day. This is my preliminary plan:

  1. To review what it takes to write a play, I’m going to reread Syd Field’s The Foundations of Screenwriting, which came highly recommended in a playwriting class I took.
  2. I’m going to take my idea and outline the scenes I think I’ll need. I can add more scenes or take some away later as I get into it.
  3. I’ll flesh out my scenes and rearrange them to give the play shape and then rewrite like crazy.
  4. I’ll estimate how long this play will take to write. I have a goal to enter it into a playwriting contest I found when I was researching.
    1. How do I know how to estimate? I go by how long it took me to develop a scene for that playwriting class and multiply it by the number of scenes in my outline and then add a few weeks for a cushion. I add another three months for rewriting. Another month for editing and rewriting the final draft.
    2. I now realize that I’ll have to enter next year’s contest because no way is this play going to be ready in time for this year’s.
    3. I set aside time – the same time every day – for the actual writing. I will adhere to this even if it means spending time sitting in front of the computer screen staring at a blank Word page. Eventually some words will appear and I’ll be off and running.

When I plan, my vision comes alive. Little by little my vision becomes real and almost a living, breathing thing that needs care and feeding.

When you plan, you put your intentions out there into the Universe where all that energy can put your project in motion and help you get it done in a satisfactory way. The Universe isn’t going to put a prizewinning play in a nice neat package on your desk for you, but things begin to work toward that. I know now I can do it, even if it is going to take at least a year to get it done. What I can’t predict or make happen is if I will win. I can only write it to the best of my ability. I can finish it.

2. Live mindfully

The second thing to do starting now is to look, really look at things. At everything you see. At whatever emotions come up. Your thoughts. See them. Feel them. Right now. It is the present that feeds your creative soul, not what you think you’ll do some day. Your future is more of you are doing today. So watch, observe with the eyes of an artist. Write these observations down, if you can. Or sketch them. You want to preserve impressions. These are the observations that fuel your art.

3. Look for things to sync up

You begin to see ideas everywhere. You begin to see that obstacles are actually opportunities. The old adage heard over and over in detective and crime shows is “There are no coincidences.” And so it becomes for you.

Here’s what I mean. Let’s say your intention is to write comedy sketches and your plan is to get as much writing in as possible wherever and whenever you can. A trip to see plays in New York for two weeks threatens to derail your plans. But you remember that obstacles are also opportunities so you take your tablet with you on the plane. You have an idea you want to write about and there is no time to lose.

You get on the plane and into your seat. The plane takes off and you begin typing up a storm. You are on a roll. But an obstacle is looming. Someone sitting next to you interrupts to inquire about what you’re doing. You tell him. He asks you to read some of it.  You do. He laughs. You are surprised. He hands you a business card. Turns out he’s Tina Fey’s or Fred Armisen’s or someone like that’s agent and asks you to send him a sample of your work.

You don’t panic, because part of your plan has been to write a lot and also to take the time to format it and make the best ones look good so you’ll always have a ready-made samples. You have plenty you can send him.

A coincidence? Really?

The Universe provides what you need, but you’ve got to put it out there, “it” being your intentions and the planned follow-through these intentions deserve.

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Summer crossroads

You’ve come to a crossroad. You thought you knew where you were going, but now that this school year is ending, you aren’t so sure anymore.

You thought you wanted to be an actor, so you got yourself a supporting part in the school play. You were ok, but nothing to write home about. In fact, you found the whole experience deflating. While waiting backstage for your entrances, you found yourself taking in the seeming chaos all around you. People acting like they didn’t know what came next. You found yourself wanting to organize it. You’d put the props on a table, spread out in the order they were to be used. You’d make sure they were put back where they belonged. You would get people on stage without any lags. You would sharpen up those light cues that were too slow for the scene. You would make sure actors would be able to change costumes faster. When you thought about it, you could care less if you ever had to learn another bit of dialog ever again. Yep, no dialogue, but someone should really let you get this place back here organized.

Now what do you do?

I’d advise you to take a step back. Take a look at the whole picture and realize there is much more to this theatre thing than the performers in front of the audience. Or maybe you already knew that, but dang, you aren’t sure just where you fit in and where your real interests lie.

Summer is a great time to find your groove, as we used to say. Even if you are sure you know what you want to pursue, the space of summer gives you opportunities to find out more about other related performing arts.

Here’s an example

Maybe you are sure you want to act. But one of the things that actors regularly make use of besides costumes and props, is stage lighting. The director is always telling actors to find the “hot spot.” Maybe you could learn more about lighting and what goes into it. To do that, you could:

  1. Read a book about lighting or the stage crafts that has a lighting section. Suggestion: Jean Rosenthal’s The Magic of Light.
  2. Talk to someone who designs lighting and find out how you do that.
  3. Find a summer production (professional or amateur) and volunteer to work the lights. (Don’t worry – someone, probably the lightening designer, will show you how.)

If you actually work on lighting with an eye to why and how it gets designed and implemented, you’ll see what the actor doesn’t see and maybe should in order to use lighting effectively for the acting performance.

You could do the same with costumes, props, sets. Or if you are still interested in organizing, maybe volunteer for an assistant to the stage manager or the director.

Whatever experience, whether reading about it or doing it, you should come away with a better idea of where and how you fit in. If nothing else, you’ll have a much better appreciation for how live theatre gets done. And later on, you will begin to see these same jobs reappearing in other media like movies and television and even the web. Your whole perspective will open up and with it, the sharpening of your skills and your will.

So here’s what you can do

  1. Read
  2. Talk to people
  3. Volunteer for backstage work at a summer theatre
  4. Do some online research
  5. See plays, musicals, opera, a concert, anything that features the performing arts
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