Time Machine

Lately, I’ve taken a bit of a break from writing at Skydiving for Pearls, to focus on my crossover efforts from opera to musical theatre and film and television. I’ve also started gearing up for a very big project to come, called The Peace of Persistence, which I intend to unveil fully in September. In the meantime, I’m singing and acting up a storm, excitedly awaiting the start of rehearsals for the New York Philharmonic’s Carousel while filling in for an injured friend in the opening weekend of the return of Don Cristóbal, now through Sunday.

Speaking of returns, Kara Morgan is back! She’s moved to Los Angeles to more fully pursue her dreams in acting and singing, while I miss her shining face, I wish her all the best. PS, Kara, feel free to hire me when you make it big out there. I couldn’t resist sharing her newest episode, Time Machine. Enjoy!

Dropping the Curtain on a Tiny Universe

Photo by Brian Geltner
Photo by Brian Geltner

How does one sum up months of rehearsal and ten successful, almost entirely sold out performances of an original, musical puppet play, based on the writings of Federico Garcia Lorca? Magic. In this world, thirteen cast members, three pit musicians, a composer, director/creator, assistant director, lighting, costumes, sound, friends, and unseen helpers brought to life puppets who in this story even brought themselves to life.

I do not speak Spanish. Neither did many of our audience members. Regardless of some not very subtle shadow puppetry and at least half of the performance in English, the purely Spanish moments read so clearly. Unmistakably familiar emotions translated across the audience and cast as Lorca, Rima Fand, and Erin Orr weaved their webs of comedy and incredibly human grief, as felt by the puppet Don Cristóbal.

When a new friend discovers the truth of my new adventures in puppetry, he inevitably wants more information. How? With whom? When? Where? I have yet to hear the missing question. Somehow whether young or old, everyone seems to relate to well-acted puppets telling a meaningful tale. Within the span of less than two hours, our audience connected to the point of caring about the heart of a wooden puppet. Each night as the puppet maker replaced Don Cristobal’s heart, I listened to hear their reaction. Sad sighs of empathy and occasional laughter as Don Woodsman, the puppet maker, held the broken heart of a puppet in his hands.

In those moments, I knew we had done our jobs as actors, transforming a small theater on Suffolk Street into a world in which strangers might empathize with the emotions of a self-aware puppet who had impossibly fallen in love and, as a result, felt “terrible.” I listen to the music still, even now on my ipod as I ride the subway. Familiar melodies and a beautifully touching story refuse to dissipate from the forefront of my memory, persisting in a way for which I give thanks.

After the close of such a captivating show with such a talented team of artists, and even tonight at the start of Orfeo at the Metropolitan Opera, knowing we have only four performances remaining, I feel akin to Don Cristóbal. Somewhat heartbroken, everything hurts sometimes when such magical universes come to a close for performers. “¡Ay! What a hard time I have loving you as I love you…”

Yet the next gig arrives already before the first ends, and I move on to another audience and another inspiring work of art. Don Cristóbal will hopefully one day return to the stage, and I already have the fortune of working with composer Rima Fand for Tableau Vivant this month. I will rejoice if I again work with Erin Orr and everyone on the insanely gifted cast and crew someday. In the meantime, visions of the moon, the midnight hours, the Rio Guadalquivir, and a brilliant production will have to suffice.

Photo by Brian Geltner
Photo by Brian Geltner

Tableau Slideshow Saturday ~ 176

Inhale, exhale, rinse, repeat. A fantastically busy week deserves at least an update. At least four posts to come include a great concert in which I sang on Valentine’s Day for the Cornelia Street Café, my first scuba diving class with Pan Aqua, a second StripXpertease class (this time an unbelievably challenging exercise class in heels – read about the first class here), and a concert I attended by Roomful of Teeth. I already know I have to use the word “badass” in my review of that night of singers and composers who perform fearlessly. Such an inspiration!

In the meantime, thanks to The Opera Insider for giving me the chance to attend and review an inspiring concert at Carnegie Hall last week! My friend Suzanne Schwing and I enjoyed excellent seats for Natalie Mann and Jeffrey Panko‘s recital at Weill Hall, and The Opera Insider has posted my review on their blog and Facebook page! Although I still have no news regarding my article on Sarah Small‘s Tableau Vivant, I hope to publish it here, if it doesn’t find a home elsewhere soon.

Because of a weekend packed with rehearsals for our upcoming puppet opera, Don Cristòbal, and next Wednesday’s performance of L’Africaine at Avery Fisher Hall, I’ll have to miss a fun event featuring Sarah Small and Tableau. In Brooklyn on Saturday at 7:30pm, 3rd Ward will host a slideshow, live bluegrass music, and a chili cookoff with beer from Brooklyn Brewery. Yum. Although the festivities start at 7:30, the slideshow itself starts around 9pm and features thirty images from our last Tableau Vivant at BathHouse Studios and a movie clip from the event. This short clip reveals the previously undisclosed location for Sarah’s largest Tableau Vivant in May, with one hundred twenty models in total.

Rehearsal Photo from BathHouse Studios Tableau Vivant
Rehearsal Photo by Glen Glasser

If you have the opportunity to venture to 3rd Ward for Saturday’s event, you’ll see work from at least twenty-five other artists now listed on the Facebook Event Page. Wishing I could join the celebration, I may have to live vicariously through anyone else who can attend. Please let us know here if you have the chance to experience it yourself. With so many great experiences for myself this month, I look forward to whatever comes this weekend and wish Sarah Small a successful slideshow and some excellent chili!

Sideluck Bushwick

Irresistible Investments ~ 149

Visiting my friend and photographer David Michael‘s most recent website update, I paused to see his use of the word “investment” when referring to his fees for photographs and photo sessions. As my friend, David has used this word rather often over the years when speaking of friendships, relationships, and our careers as singers. Unfortunately, understanding the concept surprisingly doesn’t necessarily lead to keeping it in mind as a general practice.

I wonder how many performers purchasing a photo session pause to think of this yet another business expense as an exciting investment, rather than an annoyance, a financial burden, or one of the many initiation rites involved in keeping oneself current as an artist. Furthermore, how many dates give one the impression of purchasing dinner, paying her cover charge, and buying her drinks to invest in the future of a potential relationship? When someone flew 2500 miles to visit me this New Year’s Eve after only knowing me for a week, I began to understand the concept. Arriving a few days after his departure, two dozen red roses made his message ever clearer.

When faced with the option of making bold gestures and sizable undertakings with our finances, time, efforts, or talents, many of us pause in fearful protest, “I’m not ready for this.”  Teaching and looking after six to ten children per week, nearly twenty-four hours each day, I clearly remember not feeling prepared for the task of working as a camp counselor at seventeen. Of all of the many lessons I learned those two extremely rewarding summers, I regularly recall the priceless value of making even a seemingly risky investment in something truly worthwhile.

Handing out my first business card at my first rehearsal for my first puppet opera (Don Cristòbal, with ten performances this spring), I couldn’t help but contemplate the investments I have recently made of my money, time, and talents. Although I definitely need to monitor my finances and debt in order to survive as a performing artist, I don’t regret having spent money on new headshots, union dues, trade publications, opera tickets, etc. I did gasp for a moment when a promotional box of matches arrived in the mail with a 5×7 photo, both of which had an image of four women including myself (yes, nude) from Sarah Small’s Tableau Vivant in September.

After my initial shock, I weighed my experience with Living Picture Projects, new skills and strengths discovered, and my belief in Sarah’s vision against the handful of those who might innocently judge what they don’t understand. I realized that if I intended to continue appearing in her performances, with one later this month and another in May, I needed to embrace and celebrate overcoming such a challenge as part of my life. Now, the box of matches lies in plain sight next to a candle in my bathroom for any visitors to see.

To remind myself of the extreme personal profit I gain each time I defy the inner voice who constantly chimes, “I’m not ready,” I displayed the 5×7 of my first Tableau Vivant, framed on the wall by my bed, under another photo from this summer’s skydive. Hung for inspiration every day, they may help me remember to face the cold a bit more happily tomorrow to sing at church, act and puppeteer with some brilliant artists, and enjoy the fruits of everyone’s labor at the 3rd Ward Moviehouse for the premiere of Wolfy’s Journey at 8pm.

Wolfy’s creator, Leat Klingman, knows all about investment. She has done everything on this project and for many months has given her time, money, effort, love, and sleep to creating something magical, beautiful, and original. Presenting timeless themes of searching, loneliness, meaningful art, faith, and community, I expect the film to give back generously to the audience and its creator. As for me, I have already received so much more than the hours and effort donated to Wolfy’s Journey in skills learned and friends encountered. With an exciting day ahead of me tomorrow, I confess I most look forward to seeing how the journey ends – mine and Wolfy’s. Hope to see you there.

Winds of Fate and Puppetry, Day 107

As Leat Klingman and I sit in Brooklyn at The Hook recording studio listening to the final touches of one of the songs in her upcoming puppet film, I stand again in amazement at her specific vision and talent as a visionary. She devotes an almost overwhelming amount of her energy, time, and finances to furthering her art. In truth, I admire her so much that I feel compelled to stay and watch like some silly groupie, hours after finishing my portion in one unusually successful take.

Admittedly, some small part of this impulse could stem from pure vanity, as I shockingly listen to how great I sound singing in a musical theater-like style. Fantastic encouragement as I continue diversifying my performance skills!  As a further reinforcement of said goal, our remarkably talented songwriter, pianist, violinist, and accordionist Rima Fand offered me a position as actor, singer, and puppeteer in next spring’s production of Don Cristóbal.  Overall, I welcome the chance to meet and work with more creatively artistic people associated with such talented women.

Moving to New York to sing at the Metropolitan Opera almost three short years ago, I never foresaw myself finding and embracing so many off-the-beaten-path opportunities and working in so many different arenas with such great people.  I think I might have sadly mourned the idea of not having a full time position by the start of my fourth season, had I thought about it then.  Now, although I would still love to have such a coveted job as a full time chorus member at the Met, I can’t help but enjoy my life’s unexpected direction and its occasionally whimsical work.  Who could complain about such favorable winds of fate?  Not me.