Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I Feel Pretty

The theatre world is filled with some of the most insecure people I have ever met in my life. It doesn’t make sense, does it? These people go out in front of anywhere from dozens to thousands of strangers and bare their souls and talents on a stage! But it’s true, at least in my limited experience.

Some people are obvious about it, and in an obnoxious way. I swear if I hear one more 5’9” dancer who weighs 110 lbs soaking wet say, “God my thighs are huge,” while standing in front of the mirror, I will take off my one of my character shoes and aim it forcefully at her protruding rib cage. Others aren’t quite as obvious about their insecurities, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist – it just means they’ve learned to hide them or, at the very least, shut up about them in social settings.

Why, as performers, do we do this? Do we honestly just need the constant validation from others? Is it because the industry really is that cutthroat and we feel like we need reassurance or, in worst cases, to go to extreme measures to ensure future casting and hiring? Or have we just gotten into the habit of obnoxiously fishing out compliments and waving away the ones that are volunteered with a sarcastic or self-deprecating comment?

I was speaking with a friend today (we’ll call her Josephine to protect the innocence) about upcoming auditions and what we hope to do this spring and summer. We marveled at our completely opposite audition fears: she quakes at the singing part and flies through cold-readings with ease; I will sing my heart out confidently, but I break into hives at the thought of cold readings.

Then the conversation took a turn when Josephine said, “You know what’s sad? I’d audition for a lot more if I weren’t so insecure. For example, I almost auditioned for _______, but the most age-appropriate character’s description said: ‘a beautiful woman.’ So I didn’t go.” Of course, as her friend, I chided her and told her she’s nuts. But the truth is I’m just as guilty of doing the same type of thing.

No matter what my talent level is, no matter how interesting or lovely the timbre of my singing voice, no matter how energetic I feel my stage presence may be, the reality is the same: I am a dime a dozen in the theatre world, and I’m very aware of it. It’s my job to find a certain something about myself that will make me stand out at a cattle call or open audition, yes, but sometimes the director wants a certain look/height/type/voice/weight. Or the script just calls for it and that’s just the way it is. Let me give an example.

(Okay, so this blog ended up going in a totally different direction than what I originally intended, but I’m okay with that. I’m just gonna go with it.)

Recently I was in a production of Chicago, and I played Matron “Mama” Morton. Any female who auditions for that show will naturally want to play Roxie, Velma, or one of the six Merry Murderesses. At first glance, they’re the obvious choices. They’re lead or featured roles, and they get to dance their butts off and have a lot of fun, right? Of course! However, the reality is, if you line up ten equally talented singers and actresses and dancers, eventually you have to narrow it down and be true to the style of the piece and the nature of beast that is Fosse choreography. Even if I can do some fierce [insert difficult dance move here], if I’m 5’3” and weigh….what I weigh…I’m not going to be chosen for one of these roles.

I actually spoke to my director of Chicago about this on a break one evening during rehearsal. There was a very large (no pun intended) turnout at auditions for this production. It turns out that many women turned down callbacks or roles offered because they only wanted to play one of the two leads. I asked him how they narrowed it down, and he was kind enough to be completely honest with me. He said something akin to (and I’m paraphrasing), “As someone who has struggled with weight issues, I would never automatically rule out a talented woman based on her size. However. The Fosse style of dance requires certain lines and angles of the body can only be affectively achieved by certain body types.” There you go. Like it or not, sometimes body type is a major factor.

Sometimes it’s not only about weight. If I’m 5’3” and can belt my face off or float a soaring high B-flat with ease and the director thinks I’m adorable? Great! But…none of that will matter if the very best option for a leading man is 6’3”, and that role carries the weight of the show (again…no pun intended).

What I’m trying to say is this: while I know there are exceptions all over the place to this rule, the fact of the matter is that not being hired or cast is not a reflection of your talent, or lack thereof. It’s a sad truth that looks do matter, but does that mean you should stop auditioning? No, of course not. It just means that you have to find your strengths, broaden your horizons, and stretch your abilities. But for Pete’s sake (and the sake of others around you), stop complaining or making excuses or fishing for compliments when things aren’t going the way you want them to.

Also, learn to find the fun in featured roles. I played three in 2009, and they were more fun than any leading role I’ve had. Stop thinking that you only matter if you’re playing a leading role.

Finally, whatever you do, do not change yourself for auditions by losing or gaining drastic amounts of weight, dyeing or cutting your hair, etc. in the hopes that this will increase your chances of being cast. Be you and go into the audition room as yourself. Trust that, if you come prepared, your abilities will shine and the director or choreographer or producer will be able to see what he or she needs to see. Trust that the production team knows what is best for the production, and don’t be so sensitive or blame “theatre politics” if that doesn’t include you this time.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Back in (Concert) Style

Hello out there! I'll jump right in with what's going on...

For about a week and a half now, I've been involved in rehearsals for Lyric Stage of Irving's production of the original 1927 Show Boat in concert style. "What the heck does 'concert style' mean?" you may be asking. Well...I'll tell you.

Basically, what we're doing is having a very large ensemble of singers (who are all incredibly talented, might I add. It's amazing to be in a group of about 60 people or more and efficiently learn a TON of music in about 4 days. And learn it well. No plunking out the alto part 17 times in this group. But, I digress...) onstage at all times, which creates an INCREDIBLE sound. The principle actors are also onstage at all times, and we're all seated. There is staging, yes, but at most times it's only the principles or actors with lines who leave our seated areas (so far....we're still staging). We're not in costumes, there are no big sets (only props and a few pieces here and there....again, so far...), etc. It's very minimalistic, but the message, in my opinion, of the show and the music is even stronger as a result.

I can't even tell you how much I am loving this experience...and I still kind of shake my head and laugh at the surreality of the fact that I'm getting paid to do this. I honestly am in awe of all the people around me and the situation itself. I feel so grateful that I was asked to be a part of this production. I've met a lot of really great people, and I cannot wait to see what the next week and a half brings.

Did I mention it opens a week from today?? Yes, that will have made less than 3 weeks of rehearsal...by FAR the most quick and efficient rehearsal process I have ever been a part of....well, aside from learning the role for Chicago in 3 days, but that was a whole separate issue of course!

I think, right now, I am most looking forward to hearing the 40-piece orchestra that the brilliant Jay Dias is putting together for this production. I may die a little just listening to the overture. After doing a show last year that was performed to "canned" music, I almost feel like God is rewarding me with this. :)

There are only FOUR performances of Show Boat, and I hear they are selling out quickly, so get your tickets soon! http://www.lyricstage.org/2010_showboat.shtml

Friday, January 8, 2010

2009 - Year in Review

This is a little bit late, but here it is anyway. 2009: A Year in Review (and in pictures)!
January -March: COMPANY
Role: Amy
Company: Music Theatre of Denton

March - May: CRAZY FOR YOU
Role: Irene Roth
Company: Music Theatre of Denton

Role: Assistant Stage Manager
Company: Denton Community Theatre

Role: Performer
Company: Denton Community Theatre

Role: Milly
Company: Denton Community Theatre

Let's not forget Pottygate 2009:

In October, I trashed my wedding dress with my wedding photographer, Lynn Michelle, and we ended up on a nationally televised segment of The Today Show:

Screen shots:

Video on YouTube of segment:

Photo Evidence:

October: CHICAGO
Role: Matron "Mama" Morton
Company: Music Theatre of Denton

Role: Dayna
Company: Fight Boy Theatre

Role: Assistant Stage Manager
Company: Denton Community Theatre

December: One for Mahler (a musical cabaret)
Role: Founder and Performer
TWITA (This Week in the Arts) Podcast & Interview Here

I also wrote the following reviews for John Garcia's THE COLUMN:

Oliver! (Theatre Coppell)

The Spitfire Grill (Stage West)

Man of La Mancha (OnStage in Bedford)

My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra (Rover Dramawerks)

Funny Girl (Lyric Stage)

Christmas My Way (Garland Civic Theatre)

A Christmas Survival Guide (Runway Theatre)

I unofficially wrote my thoughts on these shows, as well:

Carousel (Denton Community Theatre)

A Feminine Ending (Water Tower Theatre)

Evil Dead: The Musical (Level Ground Arts)

Crushing Grain (Level Ground Arts)


Whew!! No wonder I was so exhausted at the end of 2009! But what an AMAZING and successful year! Here's to even more fun in 2010! Happy New Year!