April 12, 2012


Movies are an expert source of creative inspiration, especially dramas and contemporary biographies. Watching film is one method of keeping the acting chops alive and buoyant, and watching an amazing actor/actress is simply icing on an already dense and decadent cake.

The extent to which some performers tread to find the characters they represent is a lesson in patience and diligence. It's a mystery, that fine line between being aware as a performer and being completely absorbed as one's character, giving an often fictional being a pulse, desire, and purpose. This duality is intriguing and not always the easiest task to make believable.

In a quest to heighten these ideas on the operatic stage, a few basic conclusions derived from movies and films I've seen or revisited in recent months....

Iron Lady--

Exploit your character's strengths and be mindful of their weaknesses. After all, they are "human." Characters are real beings with real feelings that exist in worlds that are, often, very unlike our own.

The Help--

What is the driving force of your character? It's not enough to simply discover a motivation; that's too short-lived. As performers, we must define the very reason why our character is alive and wants the things they do. Ask, why?

Dancer in the Dark--

Have conviction! There are many types of people in the world and doubly as many for the stage. Just as we are all unique, our characters must also be unique creatures containing independent thoughts and actions.

Latter Days--

Inner development must manifest outwardly. How a character evolves is crucial. Rarely are the characters we become the same people at the start of the movie/opera as in the end. How does this change manifest?


Be ugly, determined and visceral. The feelings our characters have are never wrong. There is no right and wrong when characterizing. Every emotion has its place and each feeling has an infinite spectrum of intensity and meaning.

Hotel Rwanda--

Rely on the talents of your team. No production is presented alone and good artists understand they are only part of huge whole. Rely and trust the talent of your colleagues to better understand your character's circumstance.

Whore's Son--

Our characters must inhabit their own emotions. The way we personally feel must never interfere with the way our characters feel; we are not our characters and they are not us. As singers/actors we work hard to represent who we believe these people to be. Therefore, they must always be independent of ourselves.


Celebrate your character no matter who they are. The ultimate aim of characterization is not only to bring a fictional being into life and to give them purpose; but, it is important to present their point-of-view and help them to be understood for better or worse.

April 2, 2012

Fear and Imagination

I recently saw the 3rd installment of Paranormal Activity, written by Christopher Lanoon and directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. One question, did the movie have me loading the shot gun, cleaning the crucifixes, and buying holy water after my friend left last night? ...Yep!

Everyone knows that I am somewhat of a horror/thriller buff and enjoy a good scare. Call me odd. The PA films are known for their gritty, real-life, as-the-action-happens style. No CGI, no big Hollywood sets; in fact, the set of each movie takes place in a house never leaving its different rooms. We simply experience the hair raising events that unfold for this family, which might I add, are pretty darn frightening. It's not a series for the faint of heart. Even I, a thriller lovin' fiend, found myself clutching the pearls and tossing and turning at night. So, all this got me to thinking....what is fear, really?

Fear takes shape in many forms. It's sometimes heavy, haunting, and horrific, taking our breath away like in the movies I described. Other times, it's just the opposite, abrupt and sudden catching us off guard or by surprise. Fear sometimes sits right beside us and sometimes it's intangible, existing in another universe all together. Sometimes we can only see it; sometimes it's only felt; sometimes it's both! Fear is complex inspiring both the good and bad in us all. But, if I had to bottom line it I'd say, ultimately, fear is proof of the exponential power of our minds and the breadth our imaginations. It's far more harrowing to imagine what's lurking under the bed than to actually see it. Fear is indestructibly bound to imagination, and since imagination can never be fully quantified, both coexist allowing the mind to travel in the most extreme and unbridled directions.

This is pure fuel for the performing artist!