Losing it…Finding it (Keeping my Promise.)

Confession time.

I’ve taken a small hiatus from the library, in order to go sing myself into a frenzy in a series of concerts. Four cities, four days. That’s how we roll.

I am in the company of great singers. GREAT singers. I am supported by wonderful orchestras and a dream Musical Director. THIS is what I want to do. Lift my voice, rejoice.

And I am in trouble.

I am frightened, and that fright means that I go out there and what I rehearse is not what is coming out. And the people around me say that it’s great, and I say that it’s not and they get a bit fed up of me, and I get a lot down on myself and I tell myself that people are right.

A while ago, in another job, somebody told me that I almost didn’t get the job, because the producer thought that, as far as being a singer goes, I had ‘lost it’. This producer was someone I had known, and trusted, who complimented me to my face, and who, as far as I was being told, was tearing me down behind my back. I started the show and lo and behold, prophesy became truth.

I lost it.

My voice left me at the start of my run there and I did the entire thing, raspy, limited, relying on performance and character and every day my soul light diminished a little. By the end of that show, my soul light was out.

I did learn a few other lessons along the way. I learned that I could fail. And that I could stand with that failure. I learned to laugh at myself. Those lessons came all too easily.

But I began to think that perhaps they were right. Perhaps, I did in fact lose it, and this was somewhat confirmed when I landed a role that required no singing of me, required not much of me but attention. I could pay attention. I knew how to do that much. I was put neatly and quietly into a little corner and there I stayed. For a very long time.

And now, I have to sing. And old fears are making themselves heard and become manifest. I felt I had to write it, as I sit here with pain in my throat and no solid reason for the pain but fear alone. I had to be honest about the fact that I feel that I am failing again and proving the naysayers right.

Here’s the thing.

They may be right. Perhaps my voice, with age and use and abuse and all, has in fact given up the ghost. I know for certain that the young have come and my woulda-coulda-shouldas have been sidelined to whimsy and wistful melancholia. It’s the theatrical Circle of Life. I have been savaged by the hyenas of age. I must learn a new trick.

But I have character and experience with me. And because I have learned to laugh with myself and at myself, I invite the laughter from others too. Perhaps I am not even failing, and have set myself too hard a task, to high a summit to scale, without taking into account my own limitations. A fear becomes diminished when it is named. I do know that I have found my fear and through it a courage to play the fool in front of you, forever.

Do not expect too much from my voice. The notes may no longer reside there. But, I intend to use my voice still. Because there is still so much I have to say.

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Published in: on December 29, 2012 at 2:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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Spin cycle

I am currently doing a workshop of a new musical, written for and performed by ex-convicts with the help of professional actors.

This is an extraordinary project, done by a well meaning charity, hoping to impart life skills and lessons of team work and discipline through art to men who have gone through the prisons system and who may find it difficult to re-integrate into the larger society.

It is also a large learning curve for actors who are used to that cushy atmosphere of ‘la-di-dah, let’s make art, what’s my motivation’, it jolts us into a harsh and unrelenting reality, harsher than anything some of us have ever had to face, and it teaches us about our perceptions, preconceived notions and gives us useful coping strategies and communication techniques which we would not normally derive from our gilded world.

It is also a great place for observation.

There are things we take for granted. How we learn is one of these things. In a musical theatre setting, you are taught a vocal line, you attempt to sing it, you make a mistake, you make a joke about your failings, you try again and you get better.

With the boys, it’s different.

They are taught a vocal line, they attempt to sing it, they make a mistake, the other boys laugh at them, highlighting, spotlighting and relentlessly tearing into their failure, they get angry, the anger escalates, the tension builds, the rehearsal disintegrates.

And that cycle repeats.

It is impossible to blame them. You cannot help but sit and think about the sort of environment from which they came which did not allow them to make even the slightest mistake. The surroundings that they’re used to, where ridicule is the order of the day. The society that they must negotiate, where the only way to save face or earn respect is not through effort but through rage.

And the artistic outsider’s impotence grows…

Can a song and a scene really make a difference?

Published in: on April 20, 2011 at 5:34 pm  Comments (2)  
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Coming to the end

I am coming to the end of a most extraordinary journey.

As an actor, these ends are quite common. Sometimes you get to the finish line of your project with a sigh of relief and gratitude for the fact that you don’t have to spend another minute in the company of people who make it just a tiny bit more difficult for you to be your best self. Not that it is their fault, mind you, just that you have been overpowered by personalities and behaviours that were just too difficult to combat, you failed yourself by not putting your own self-help theory babble into practice. And other times, you see the end of an uplifting, sometimes challenging, always exciting journey, and you feel that pang of sorrow that you have to say goodbye to people who let you walk your talk, accepted it, learnt from it, taught you their own unique lessons and shared laughter with you along the way.

This is one such experience.

On a more mundane note, I have been good with money. I have saved a fair bit that will be gobbled up by a county court judgement that I have lost, but all is not lost because I will feel glad that I have the cash to pay the judgement and though I will be left at just the precise place where I started this project, I will be grateful that the project came along at the right time.

But it is the other riches that I will also cherish. The moments where I did get to put my never ending struggle of acceptance into practice, the moments where I was told that self-depracation is not always the best, or most illuminating course, the moments where the mirror was held up to me and I saw the good, the bad and the ugly about myself. These are experiences I will forever cherish.

Though my bank balance will not have been improved, my emotional balance will, for once in very blue moons, be in the black.

Published in: on January 14, 2011 at 5:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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