Occupational Hazard, Day 18
I woke up to the sight of a beautiful blizzard outside my window and an email rescheduling my rehearsal for this weekend’s performance at Symphony Space, where I’ll sing with the New York Virtuoso Singers in Orpheus Lex. Oh, I love that feeling of excitement at a genuine snow day, when I have every excuse to stay indoors and do nothing. Instead, while indeed staying inside, I downloaded some musical theater and jazz songs to hear and learn for a new song book for auditions. I even – gasp – warmed up, practiced, and learned a new jazz standard/ballad for potential gigs and auditions.
After singing professionally for years, many singers can feel perhaps a little too comfortable with their instrument, forgetting the importance of regular warmups, rehearsals, and lessons. Unfortunately, resisting the necessity of that upkeep can result in virtual vocal suicide, as the technique weakens and bad habits then rule over time. I hate practicing almost as much as paying for voice lessons with money I really don’t have (though my amazing teacher, W. Stephen Smith, deserves every penny and then some). Having taken a couple of days off from singing, it took my voice a little longer to warm up than usual, which reminded me not to try that too often; however, learning the new ballad proved to be the true occupational hazard of the day.
Let me just say that I am aware, very aware, that I asked for it last week on day 15, “A Need to Suffer.” I truly should have known better, and probably did, when typing the title of that post. I love my life and have no regrets about how my experiences have shaped me. Having said that, I must admit to have suffered through varying degrees of rough patches, like many others. In order to press on in life, I try my best to fully grasp and deal with a painful event, learn from it, and mourn a loss if necessary. On occasion, despite my best efforts to understand and grow, I naively bury a memory in the backyard of my mind, expecting it to remain there undisturbed.
Acting is not for the faint of heart, and naivete does not endure. In pursuing truth in acting, I can’t use generic, less emotionally-committed objectives when performing a character in despair – at least, not if I want to get the gig or to move the audience in any way. Of course, the first ballad I picked up to learn tonight exudes desperation and emptiness. After really examining the lyrics several times, committing the melody to memory, and finally acting it out with clear objectives in mind, I opened the door and Pavlov’s dogs ran out to play, again digging up some of those memories I thought I’d buried so well.
Earlier this week, some personal events almost brought the same recollections to the forefront, and I admittedly pounded a little on the dirt to keep them below ground. I should have known they would surface all the same, especially in my renewed dedication to acting. As actors and singers, we don’t have the luxury of constant contentment, and drama will try to seep in from our lives to the theater and from the theater to our lives. What to do? I don’t know, but I imagine that admitting it doesn’t hurt and that trying to keep my life separate but one will challenge me throughout my career. I do know that backing away from that challenge is not an option. I also believe that I have an important talent and perspective to share, and playing it safe accomplishes nothing.