June 27, 2012

Be brave. Expand your life.

"Life expands according to your courage," I read this once. Today, this idea came into perspective as I drove home from the last session of an 8-week acting class. My thoughts resulted in this...

In life we are given a host of variables on any one day. Sometimes they are favorable, sometimes not. Sometimes, they are fun and interesting while other times they are challenging and not at all happy. And, as we live, we learn more about the infinite variables that establish our daily lives, routines, and habits. 

But, when we desire to understand more and the patterns of daily life become too familiar, we quietly ask ourselves, "Is there more..." or "how can today be different...how can I grow?" With this question we ultimately ask, "how can I amplify my life, feel something new, and conquer different ambitions. Essentially this curiosity begs us to understand, "what all am I really made of?"

The answer, life expands according to courage, the ability to cast away routine, explore a different choice, and shake away thinking that binds us to our habits and safenesses. We are innately courageous beings, life won't have it any other way. Yet, sometimes, we forget. We forget how brave we are and deny the sparkling well of bravery, curiosity, improvisation, and experimentation surging within us.

Life calls to us every moment of the day. We are beckoned to ask, to participate, and to explore. We are encouraged to live. We must remember, we are alive; we are brave.

June 20, 2012

Swim, don't pee in the water...

It's hot! Summer is here and we are all looking to cool off and keep in shape. But the typical gym routine is becoming played out? There are only so many reps, so many lunges, and so many miles we can run on the treadmill before the body says "something different, please." Crazy fitness videos like P90x or INSANITY are interesting, but who has space and equipment in the living room?

Two thumbs up for SWIMMING, a health-seeker's new best friend and a singer's superior way to whip that breath support into wicked shape. Until four months ago, swimming was a complete myth to me. People did it, but somehow it wasn't real. Swimming was only for the arthritic, the constipated, or the pariahs of the gym trying to tread back to the locker room. That all changed. I gave it a shot and am learning a lot.  

Swimming technique boils down to breathing and coordination, the link between respiration, how it's used, and how it relates to the body. While swimming the body must be ridiculously relaxed while at the same time resiliently powerful and full of energy. Singers, sound familiar? Swimming puts breathing into action. I once read that swimming is one of the best activities singers can do. I'm a witness and will testify before God or audition panel. After swimming laps, breathing is much deeper, breath moves more freely, and there is more awareness of the breathing cycle. I almost feel...alive!

Swimming helps burn body fat, build muscle, lengthen the body, and increase endurance and stamina. Granted, it will take a few trips to the pool before you're able to identify these benefits. You might feel completely exhausted after your first 3 minutes and battle cardiac and respiratory mutiny, but stick with it. It's really really good for you. Baby steps in the beginning. In fact, most sources suggest simply wadding in the water or dipping in and out before learning strokes or swimming laps.    
Only YouTube and people-that-look-like-they-know have coached me on the basics. It is a very friendly and fit community that continues to welcome me. Great information is available online. Search for some. As a precaution talk with your doctor before do anything cray-cray. By the way, don't pee in the water.

June 18, 2012

Really, What's stopping you?

Often we dream about all the things we want in life, whether it's owning a new car, living in a foreign country, or starting a successful business. Dreams are exciting, they're big, and they contain reflections of the people we want to be. We each dream uniquely and differently. After all, the ambitions of a six-year-old are rarely the same as someone thirty years older. But the main point emphasized is that all people regardless of age, locale, race, sex, or belief, desire accomplishment in life, and this sense of accomplishment is manifested in the dreams we hold. We consider climbing Everest, a wedding in Fiji, or winning the Met Council auditions because these concepts are not beyond us. A familiar and quiet whisper inside always urges us to excel, to try, to conquer, always saying, "yes, actually you can."

With age and time we dream a little less. Life demands our attention in other serious ways and we start to believe that what we want is outside of ourselves. That only people of extreme luck, or elaborate career networks, or heirs to large fortunes or thrones can have the things we want. What we want becomes impossible, beyond us, and outside of reach.

But sometimes we forget the world is actually a finite place but of infinite possibility. When we mute our dreams because of inexperience, because we feel too old, or because we're afraid, we dismiss all possibility. We dismiss our passport to life and forgo the momentum pushing us along the path toward our ambitions. We smite the potential to really know, to really understand, or to really conquer, each being the ultimate theme of that faint whisper inside.

"The inevitable arrival of Death should be every man's motivator." ~Anonymous.

June 14, 2012

Connecting some dots

Life is perhaps the greatest inspiration for any staged work and maybe it's true that art actually mimics life. Thinking through this, singers and actors alike should feel a great deal of comfort and confidence; there is nothing contained in a score or script beyond one's personal experience. Since appearing naturally and presenting the circumstance of one's character easily and progressively is the goal, then artists might consider actual life as the creative teaching model. The method we progress through emotion is not unlike the manner characters do on stage. We've all been angry, lost jobs, been in love, had our hearts broken, lost a loved one, been full of bliss, etc... Therefore these are the creative lines we must draw to make effective drama and comedy. The creative work we accomplish is closely linked to the actual emotions, feelings, and habits of daily life; they sit side by side. The more this idea is practiced the more naturally we create staged work, whether simple or epic, with ease and believability. Bottom line, theater and opera are not worlds away from everyday life or interaction. It's our job to connect the dots.

June 13, 2012

Career advice and Porno

Someone once mentioned to me that being a singer is perhaps, "the most difficult job in the entire world," that I am a part of something of "tremendous hurdles and impossibility."  I snickered a little and shrugged since this individual is prone to dramatic sensibilities. Granted, it's not easy to always pay the bills, save for retirement, or go on that dream vacation at the start of one's vocal career; but, is it easy to do that anyway, regardless of one's profession? My vote is no. After all, singing is not neurosurgery, finding cures, or initiating world peace. As singers, or any artist for that matter, we aren't responsible for people's lives. When we create work, planes don't crash, babies don't die, and diseases don't spread! Every career path will have difficulty, no matter what.

In broader terms, what does mounting a successful career really take, despite the field a person is in? Some say luck....hmm, bleh. Others, might say networking...perhaps. And some might even say fate or destiny...ok. In some capacity all these ingredients are necessary, BUT in less lofty and esoteric ways these terms can be whittled down, leaving something simpler, basic, and more identifiable in their place.

Step 1: What on earth do you want?
Answering this question honestly and openly is, literally, 95% of the battle and this is the most general area from which a career is born. In quiet moments, we learn that what we really want are the very things that also make us happy and enrich our lives and professions. Once you've done your work here, say it out loud and right it down somewhere.

Step 2: What do you love?
The key word is love. Not like, enjoy, or appreciate, but outright LOVE. Without this special something you literally go crazy and would volunteer to pull your teeth out. Write it down in the same place, after saying it out loud. 

Step 3: What are you really good at doing?
For one week, look in the mirror once a day, and ask yourself this. I guarantee that by week's end you'll be a lot closer to knowing, if you didn't already. What are you good at? Figure it out, write it down in that same place...affirm it by saying it out loud.

Step 4: Say all your words out loud. 
This is a tell-all step. Once your words are on paper starting back at you, look at them, scrutinize them. Do they make sense? If not, go back and rethink any ambivalent area. Ideally, these thoughts should be a sound place for identifying your ambitions.

It's not always an easy to hash out answer to these questions; in fact sometimes you might find that the answers you derive contrast and do not relate. This is normal, a way the brain is attempting to make connections for you. Have patience and really commit to finding answers. With time this simple exercise will help you discover something. If not, maybe this anecdote will help:

I once had the chance to meet a very famous adult film star. We chatted for a few minuets before he was whisked away to an interview. Before we parted I ask him, "...Why porn? How did you decide on this career?" He put down his martini, flicked his bangs, cleared his throat and gave me a firm but friendly glare." ...because I love sex; I'm terrific at what I do, and fortunately it makes me a lot of money too."