Lifetime Investments

Child's Play

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how life has changed since childhood. We spend many of our days indoors, and most of us wouldn’t dream of recessing ourselves outside for any length of time in the winter, unless skiing or absolutely necessary. Most of us have our times at the gym or elsewhere to keep in shape, but the days of monkey bars and dangling by our knees feel like a lifetime ago (unless of course, you perform in Cirque du Soleil or hang out with the folks at the Circus Warehouse). Why?

Yesterday, I remeber waxing poetic about my fitness and flexibility as a child, receiving physical education and recess every single day, in addition to the time spent on the playground alone or with friends. Then, I decided to run over the Queensboro Bridge. I would, after all, have to run there during the marathon one month from now. As I ascended, I felt a sense of accomplishment and enjoyed the day, despite the overcast and drizzly weather and the somewhat inconvenient construction which had stripped away all of the pavement on the pedestrian/bicycle path.

Bam! As I flew through the air and promptly landed on my hands and knees, I tore the new capris intended for the marathon, bruised and cut my legs, and ripped open my right hand in a rather unattractive way. Looking up, I saw a concerned cyclist and the raised patch of metal that had caused my tumble and felt childishly offended, as though the universe had cruelly inured poor little me. Somehow, this felt oddly familiar.

Ah yes, it felt like childhood! Running another three miles after briefly cleaning up and begging for bandages at the nearest Starbucks, I pondered my silly though painful fall from grace. My ego cried a little about my mean and unfair boo-boos, and upon arrival at home, I had to take myself to the pharmacy for supplies, clean out my own wounds, dry my own tears, and wash the dirt and blood out of my own tattered clothes. After a few hours, I learned the lesson a teacher or parent no longer needed to instruct.

Kids run and play. They also bring home grass stains and broken limbs. With increased activity comes increased risk and investment. Take, for example, the ridiculous disclaimer I had to sign before skydiving. That said, while wounds may take longer to heal as adults, the lessons sink in faster, and the rewards are honestly priceless. As I sit today outside Lincoln Center, I know I will have many trials in life, more skinned knees, and likely bruised egos. Some years bring more challenges than others, and all of them bring opportunities for growth, investments, and action.

Here’s to the eight-year-olds on the playground and the octogenarian skydivers and triathletes – those who live all of their lives fully without excuses or fear of falling, or in spite of any such fear. Yes, I ran twenty miles in one day this week but a year ago, I wouldn’t have dreamt of it. I’m so glad I took the risk to run this amazing race of life. Yesterday, I fell flat on my face. Today, I took my bruised knees and bandaged hands to the Metropolitan Opera, put on a wig and a dress, and performed on one of the greatest stages on earth. Sometimes the greatest investment we can make in life is to get up, try again, and hang from the jungle gym.

Otello at the Metropolitan Opera

What I Really Think about InvestiDate and More Important Questions

Perhaps I waited too long to write my follow up on InvestiDate and figured the news segments would speak for themselves. Since at least one of my friends seems to believe that Maria Coder is brooding fear by teaching people tools to investigate their potential dates, I think the time has come for me to speak honestly and clearly about my experiences and her class. When I met Maria Coder and decided to attend her first of likely countless classes she will teach, I didn’t know what to expect. With an intentionally open-minded outlook on life most days, I thought it couldn’t hurt, and perhaps I might learn something, as a single woman living alone in a big city. I did.

InvestiDate helps you stay safe

Two classes and two interviews later (Catch my Today Show segment here and my meeting with ABC Eyewitness News anchor Sandra Bookman above.), I have an opinion. Crazy or cautious? Well, the psychologist who commented on my segment of the Today Show would have you see me as one of the “paranoid” types of women who would take “that kind of class.”

Although I’ve never before admitted this in public, I have had some difficulties here and there, growing up, dating, and even just going out with friends in public spaces. Despite having had some incredible experiences meeting, loving, and knowing people in my lifetime, I’ve also loved someone who lied to me for many years, had someone slip a roofie in my drink (thankfully without the intended outcome, thanks to the presence of a very dear friend), and suffered a separate date rape many years ago. In reality, I’ve chosen to leave plenty of equally trying experiences out of this discussion. Were I afraid now, I would have every right. I suppose, not knowing me closely enough to see the personal growth I’ve experienced since then, one might easily suspect me of at least paranoia.

If, however, you’ve read any of my other blog posts or know my life, you know I do not tend to err on the side of paranoia, no less caution. I went skydiving because it scared me. Singing a cappella opera, nude, as all of the other models leave the stage in Sarah Small’s Tableau Vivant of the Delirium Constructions and publicly writing about it has left me with an incredible influx of amazing fans and some less flattering folks exhibiting some stalker-like behavior. Not exactly the action of a paranoid woman, and certainly one of the most challenging but meaningful things I’ve done in my lifetime thus far.

Anyway, I won’t lie and try to say that dating hasn’t presented its share of challenges too. Sure, sometimes I need to regroup after a hard breakup and take a little time. Skeptics of InvestiDate, now is the time to read carefully. Initially, after Maria’s class, I questioned my readiness to restart dating. When a dog leaned up against me on the street that night to get me to pet him, I thought, “May be I should just stick to dogs.” Surprisingly though, over the course of the next two weeks, the seed that had been planted at the first class began to sprout thoughts in my head about dating websites and that really nice guy in the neighborhood. Before I knew what had influenced me, I had already updated my profile on okcupid and started checking out new sites. I again somehow had the confidence to date.

Maria teaches tools to keep people informed and safe, not hidden away in their apartments, afraid of a connection with another human being. She actually approves of dating on Craigslist and recommends ways to do it safely. These are not the actions of a fear monger. She is not teaching us how to put duct tape and water bottles in a box in case Al Qaeda attacks. Like a teacher of a self defense class, she instructs each student regardless of gender, background, confidence or fear.

If a somewhat fearful person attends InvestiDate and, by making sure her date isn’t a sexual predator, feels better about allowing a little more trust and vulnerability when meeting a stranger in the city, good for her! For the record, I don’t intend to use most of the tools she teaches, but I will employ some. Honestly, when a video of me singing nude has circulated to hundreds of thousands of people already, on its way to a documentary, I think I’m a fool if I don’t take any precautions here or there. Still, even Maria Coder admits on the most recent news segment that the point is “to give you the power to make an informed dating decision.”

On a day like today, when the whole world seems bent on having an opinion, let’s make them count. Be clear, be unified where you can, and above all, please don’t waste time worrying about people who only want to empower us to move forward with our lives. While we’re at it, may be we can figure out some ways to help each other live our lives together more easily and fruitfully. I don’t have the answers. I don’t know who does. I do know there are better things to question. I wonder, “What will happen at the Brooklyn Bridge at 5pm, and what happens if the super-committee doesn’t reach its deadline?”

For Now

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On the A train this morning, I overheard a lovely German woman offering a toy to another passenger’s child. “Would you like a car for now?” she asked, although it seemed apparent she wouldn’t wouldn’t expect him to return it at the end of the trip. My particular journey today involved quite a bit of letting go and enjoying the “now,” and I think her reminder of the impermanence of things helped my mindset throughout the day.

Attending a medical class for an upcoming procedure (something positive, on which I promise to write more specifically in future posts) made me cringe for a while at the thought of having to administer my own medications. Fear of screwing up, pain and unlikely complications probably elevated my blood pressure here and there. Regardless, I left feeling more confident in myself and my doctors, excited to leave the fear behind for now.

Involving finances and a stressful schedule, my next two errands challenged me perhaps more than necessary. I never thought I would worry about seeing the dentist, the doctor, or an optometrist. With some imperceptible judgment, I perceived “people like that” as silly. After four long years, I gave up on my stubborn procrastination to go to a new eye doctor. When my dear friend Morgan said to me, “Aren’t those the contacts you’ve been wearing since 1987?” I figured I needed to make myself take action.

Several hundred dollars and a very complicated order precisely timed to arrive in Annandale-on-Hudson one day after I do (for Bard Summerscape), I have a new eye doctor, and contacts and lenses for my glasses will follow suit. Did I get the best deal? On the exam and contacts, yes. On the lenses for my glasses, probably not. I could go with the old “two out of three ain’t bad” or “I did my best” adages to feel better about having spent so much money I don’t have, again. Instead, I’ve decided to rest in the moment, knowing that I set my fear of being wrong about how much to spend, which doctor to choose, aside and lived my life.

Also with today came some more decisions, appointments to schedule, errands to run, gigs to accept or reject, a phone call with the director of a canceled project, and overall, lots of chances for stress. I even jumped on board for our next skydiving trip (purchased for a steal on Groupon a few months ago), scheduled for Sunday, September 10. I love everything I did today, from my ridiculous errands to finally going back to the gym tonight after weeks of inactivity and illness. Having turned off my television again and welcomed all that happened or needed to happen gave me a surprising feeling of power I really did not expect.

Yesterday, I performed a somewhat scatterbrained audition for a small company, and I went to bed afterwards feeling anything but powerful. In some sort of haze after rejecting so many moments and losing myself in the soothing addiction of television once more, I managed to make musical mistakes I usually would not, along with apologizing like a desperate date and forgetting my resume at home and my umbrella and waterbottle at the audition. Spending hours afterwards beating myself up didn’t help either; my only remedy seems to have involved coming back to embracing each moment and relinquishing even the smallest fears of daily life.

Want to know what I have planned for tomorrow? An early morning (yes, really), Danish choral music rehearsal, and standing in line at the DMV. Afterwards, the gym and if I’m lucky, I’ll motivate myself to chip away a little further on my taxes. It all sounds too exciting, right? Actually, yes… for now.

A Pinky-swear Beats a Resolution Any Day of the Year ~ 148

Pinky Swear

Six years ago, on a very memorable New Year’s Eve, I needed a fresh start more than oxygen. Traveling to New York City and meeting a friend for the ultimate ball drop in Times Square, I converted myself to the worship of this annual holiday and sought to celebrate each year in style ever since. As for resolutions, I’ve lost weight, changed relationship status, exercised more, visited grandparents, made fewer excuses, and oh yeah, started a blog.

Beginning a journey of writing about abandoning excuses and embracing change led to regular resolutions, which changed my life and path and made the need for an annual “New Year’s resolution” a bit trite and, after a busy season of work and travel, unnecessarily exhausting. This year, I felt a bit under the weather and actually turned down party invitations to (gasp!) stay in with someone special, rest, and watch the ball of newly swirling lights descend above the crowd from the comfort of my upper Manhattan apartment. Despite my best attempts, the relaxation and healing ended a bit prematurely as I traveled on Sunday to Philadelphia after my church job to hear my friends sing an incredibly worthwhile concert with The Crossing Choir, conducted by Donald Nally.

Still recovering from this cold that thankfully waited for a short break in gigs and rehearsals to attack, I have now have a bit of enforced downtime to reflect, and the concert proved well worth the extra effort and travel despite the minor health consequence. Having sung for several years in Philadelphia, I sat in the audience at my old church job and home at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian and missed the acoustics, the beauty of the space, the clear and inspired conducting of Donald Nally, and the uniquely beautiful voices of my friends who perfectly blended to give life to all of the recently-composed works. Afterwards, I refrained from alcohol but not from colleagues or good company, as I enjoyed the brief time to reacquaint myself with some dear and beloved musicians and friends.

Somewhere amidst the din of the reception, I stumbled upon the best and most motivational impetus for resolutions imaginable : the shared goals of my competition. You may imagine classical singers sabotaging one another’s auditions, withholding valuable advice and information, secretly wishing for the other to fail. Although I too have heard the urban legend of pianists booby trapping the pianos at Juilliard with razor blades, I literally can only remember one instance of another singer intentionally giving me bad information since I began singing (from the womb), and I didn’t know her at all. Very much to the contrary, other professionals in my fach (voice type) have given me good advice on agents, jobs, upcoming auditions, networking, and just about every opportunity imaginable.

A few weeks ago, my dear roommate and fellow mezzo soprano Ariana Chris began turning my accountability wheels when she suggested reminding each other about important goals, from sleep schedules to marketing. Sorry Ariana, but I have stayed up way past my bedtime tonight and will have to work on that one yet again tomorrow. In the meantime, I have spent a bit of time thinking about my successes with Skydiving for Pearls and realized that with a few small exceptions, I have not accomplished the very longtime and important goal of increasing my number and quality of auditions, one of the many demons I still hope to face here. Enter Super Maren.

Maren Montalbano sings and writes, brilliantly, in Philadelphia. While that somewhat places us in different markets, we each have sung in the other’s city, share the same voice type and interests, and could shy away from encouraging the other to succeed in order to maintain some kind of edge. Not for a second. Instead, we decided to keep each other motivated and auditioning with a pact. Actually pinky swearing, we pledged to initiate a minimum of five contacts per month, either applying for auditions or completing them. While this number pales in comparison to some incredibly motivated actors in New York who manage to audition at least that many times per week, I find it both realistic and a less overwhelming place to begin.

Born with a desire to perform in almost all aspects, I find my career bewildering at times with choices, options, obstacles, and rejections. On the docket for ways to improve my career this new year includes far more time in deep practice, improved preparation, and increased visibility in networks, auditions, and media. I sing, act, and write. Apparently, in the new year, I also research and learn as much as necessary to act as my own agent, publicity and press manager, and perhaps most importantly, strategist. Already swimming with infinite possibilities and fears, my brain has much to assimilate, understand, and initiate. Still, I hope it helps you as my readers if I share sort through some of it here, reporting my progress and findings along the way. In the meantime, I thank God for my friends who share my burdens, goals and dreams. In the end, you make each year and every day worth the reinvention and resolution.

If You Don’t Vote, Who Will? Day 138

My friends on Facebook know that I tend to post about non-political issues these days. Once upon a time, I made the mistake of saying that I believe all Americans should have access to healthcare, a statement I found rather non-controversial. Eighty-five comments later, I had to delete the entire thread and de-friend a somewhat newer acquaintance who had threatened another of my dearest friends.

Truthfully, we do live in a passionate country, and I rejoice over that enthusiasm when we as a society funnel our efforts into helpful and positive causes and endeavors. Unfortunately, from certain cities’ sports fans to other political hotbeds, our energy can go painfully awry. Take for example the Rand Paul rally last week where supporter Tim Profitt stepped on protester Lauren Vale’s head, causing a concussion. Yes, bar fights and sports riots happen, unfortunately. We all studied the French Revolution and know that sometimes violence accompanies politics, but really? As we complain about terrorists and extremism, could our country potentially head further in this direction, promoting people to attack peaceful young female protesters or worse?

My point? As I run out to the post office to mail my absentee ballot, I encourage everyone to embrace their right to vote today. Voting makes me uncomfortable, in all honesty. I don’t feel the least qualified to sit on a committee of thousands or millions to hire the next New York Senator, Congressman, Attorney General, or Comptroller. Studying my ballot last night, I carefully reviewed all of the dynamics of the races one more time, realizing how important a position like Comptroller becomes in an economically difficult time and how party lines in many cases really don’t tell the whole story.

Regardless of the complications involved in choosing a political candidate, we live in a country where each citizen has the right (and appointed privilege) to participate in making incredibly important and difficult decisions, regularly. I adore my friends and colleagues, and I know incredibly intelligent people on both sides of the conservative versus liberal spectrum. Truthfully, I have little fear about intelligent, thoughtful Americans standing in the election booths today. I earnestly hope as many of them as possible do. The real question remains, if you don’t vote, who will?

Pope! The Musical – It’s Not Too Late

While still at the Bard Festival, performing some of the most challenging and rewarding pieces of my career thus far, I received a wonderful but sadly neglected blog post from my friend about her experiences preparing for and promoting her fringe festival play, Pope! The Musical. After the Fringe Festival had ended, I regretted having missed the opportunity to share it with my readers in time to promote her show as well. Thanks to the Fringe Encore series, Pope continues through this Sunday!  So without any further delay, a show struggling to attempt a very little bit of controversy in a world of fear and Tea Parties…

Anonymous
Our show was asked by CBS to come stand outside and be promoted. We were one of twenty productions chosen out of one hundred fifty from The Fringe. The guidelines were to wear either entire costumes, or bits and pieces, and to bring posters and postcards to wave and handout. We were to be interviewed by the morning show team. When we showed up we were told to remove our costumes (the girls had wimples and veils and the boys had papal caps- one boy was wearing a white beard) because it was offensive, but not to worry, we could still hold the posters. Then another man came over and we were were told that we were not allowed to hold our posters because the title “Pope!” was offensive. He said “either stand there holding nothing, or leave;” both options, of course, would do nothing for us. I offered to compromise; we’d keep the costumes off,  but hold the posters. I continued to say that if CBS was worried that we’d be misconstrued by their audience; which they shouldn’t insult by pandering to the lowest common denominator, we’d be more than happy to explain ourselves on air – as we were asked to do in the first place. Our blurb was to be as follows: “Pope!” is a musical comedy about a man named Pope, who becomes Pope and eradicates the world of evil.

We then watched the camera people and anchors as they were told to avoid us. We continued to watch as the first interview went to women wearing fishnet stockings, mustaches, and writing across their chests that said “Friend of Dorothy” (Not offensive or a hot button issue at all, I guess). Then another show tried to hand out t-shirts to the anchors. The anchors said “We can’t take anything on air that wasn’t made in America. Was this?” The cast said “yes”, and sure enough when we went back on air, they took the shirts. Yet, when I said our show wasn’t incendiary in any way, my word wasn’t good enough.

CBS has every right not to film whatever they want. However, we were invited. If the level of research their staff does is “Is this made in America?” it’s pretty clear why our time was wasted. It would have taken one conversation for us to be prepared to promote ourselves in another way.

If you’d like to come as press to “Pope”- please do. We are the show the CBS called (and this is a direct quote) “too controversial.” We’re trying to invite people to come and judge for themselves.

Three shows remain this weekend, on Friday, September 24 at 7pm, Saturday, September 25 at 10:30pm (enough time to attend Tableau Vivant and Pope! The Musical), and Sunday, September 26 at 4pm at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. Purchase tickets at http://popethemusical.com or through Fringe Encores.

Whose Life is This? Day 123

After only eight months of revising the role of Yes Man, pursuing like Alice the white rabbit down his hole, I find myself seriously asking, “Whose life is this?” Tonight, I stood soaking wet on a crowded bus to the Bronx, surrounded by screaming passengers as lightning struck nearby on my way to discuss modeling for a body art and face painting workshop at Frank Bee Clown Studio. Before dying, my phone delivered to me an email from Chrissie Rouse (Program Manager for Sarah Small), informing me that Sarah wants to use me as a nude singer in her Mini-Tableau Vivant next weekend. Losing the blog post I had written for Thursday (now Friday) when my phone died, it seemed every odd accident happened around me this evening. When we finally passed an MTA bus on fire on the third leg of my trip, my mind exploded simultaneously, landing somewhere between feeling overwhelmed and unbelievably blessed.

Somewhere in the midst of the madness of embracing change, I’ve stumbled upon a surprising stability previously unknown. Sleep sometimes escapes me as I try to balance learning new skills and abandoning excuses in my life with actually earning a living and paying bills. With little room for recollection of upcoming events, I rarely know what tomorrow holds for me until just before bed when I remind myself with Google Calendar. Strangely, it doesn’t matter; I feel safer, stronger, healthier, and happier than ever (knock on wood), not in spite of my newly open-minded and action-packed lifestyle but as a direct result of it. I even felt more confident at an early music audition on Wednesday because of the nude audition I performed on Friday for Sarah Small.

Moving to New York City three years ago, I felt a certain desperation to land a full time job or a lasting relationship. When I couldn’t seem to achieve either goal, I maintained the expected “young opera singer” appearance physically and relationally and felt uneasily unlike myself spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. Now even I sometimes don’t recognize my life on the outside! Yes, actor and singer still dominate my career definition and personality, but nude model? Skydiver? Puppeteer who likes to frequent social media events? Musical theater singer and member of Actor’s Equity?

I love it! Internally, I have never felt better, and the energy I’ve gained opening up my life to so many new possibilities leaves me breathless and yearning for more. A chronic abuser of excuses, I used to fear the unfamiliar and sometimes still do; yet, somehow change has become my constant, and that gives me more peace than I could have ever expected to feel. My advice to anyone still afraid of change (including myself as I prepare to sing, nude, for an audience on the 25th of September):

  • Acknowledge your weaknesses (including fear)
  • Realize that you can almost always find a way to overcome or subvert them.
  • Make a plan that will inspire you to seek change beyond your excuses. I chose writing with a goal each day to leave my comfort zone. Milton Sheppard started a clown studio in the Bronx to teach others how to bring joy to their own lives and the lives of others while earning a living. My talented friend David Michael continues to learn to master photography and creates a new business for himself on top of his opera career while helping to raise his family. To each his own. Find yours.
  • Keep going. Phyllis Greene, at ninety, writes a blog to keep life joyful and productive during hospice care.

I have a lot to learn. Life presents its difficulties, and one never knows the future. Somehow, direction changes everything though, and optimism enters my mind even at the end of this bizarre and never-ending day. May tomorrow always be as fruitful .