The Contrast

The Contrast
Lift Big, Sing Big, Look Great Doing It.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Do Your Job

The following is general musings and thoughts on the process of obtaining jobs as a singing actor. It's not intended as advice, but more self reflection. Some of it meant to be humorous, some facts, some personal stuff. Take from it what you will.


As a performer, and a young one who is at a stage in his performing career where he is constantly looking for performing opportunities, I'm having to put myself in situations to be judged by a panel of people who may or may not have the slightest clue who I am, nor will some of them care. Some of the rare exceptional casting bodies will absolutely love listening to piece after piece, others tolerate it, and then there are the ones looking to cut the process to be as short and painless as possible. (Goooood luck.)


Preparation


You spend a lot of time preparing, scraping shit together, putting yourself in a position to be judged fully and completely, from what you wear to how you walk into a room. Clutching a picture of your face, and a sheet of your meager accolades. Trying to convey an awkward blend of confidence, professionalism and affability. Like a guy you could have a beer with but wouldn't drink too much and talk about his insane sexcapades or suddenly gain 10lbs after you hire him to sing your leading man.



You say your name, trying to not throw your voice out of balance, but still sound like you have a God mic hidden in your special audition suit that you had hand tailored to fit your body...a month ago. But you've been so stressed that you've lost your appetite, which is fine because you can't feed yourself anyway. So, it hangs a little weird now, but you're not gonna let that throw you. First (aria, cut, monologue) goes well...I mean, you think it did. Did it? Shit. Before you know it you've done the whole shebang, and you're out the door. Cold sweat on forehead, you got that strange heart palpitation thing again.


The Waiting Game


You've done your part, now you face the sea of doubt, you pray and beg and plead with God because you really really want this. You don't want this to pass through your fingers. You just want...validation...that you're not a fuck up waste of time and space. You don't want to be just good and to have done well for yourself. You want the win, that big "W," something to take back home and stick on your refrigerator. Your pride needs that gluey oil that spills from feeling good about your actions to a statement, a certificate that states "This is true. I'm worth it."

Reflection


I remember when I first started having to compete for things as a little violist how wonderful I felt whenever I would win. Getting first chair at NCHO, I stood next to my car that night, stared at the biggest fuckin full moon I ever saw and thought that this was the start of everything amazing that was going to happen in my career. I placed a world of significance on that event, but now I laugh at how little I knew, but I admire my capacity to care and love it. It had so much innocence in that moment. 



Years later when I became a singer, I remember feeling so bummed about singing. I really wanted a role in Le Nozze di Figaro and I slaved and stressed about it for months, working on my audition cut ad naseum. Audition came and went. Didn't get. Nothing. I remember looking at my ex fiancé and saying with tears in my eyes "I need a win."

And I got my win...

I got to sing my first role ever. Leon Czolgosz in Sondheim's Assassins. I didn't even expect that it was even an option for me. I was an opera singer, I didn't sing in musicals. But I did my obligatory Musical Theater audition at school, sang my shitty little cut and got a callback and the role. Did I deserve it? No. Had I payed my dues? Not at all. But I was at the right place at the right time, and I was fortunate enough to be pretty much perfect for the role without even knowing it.



I'd like to say that nothing worth having was ever just given to you, it's earned in some regard, but we all know that's not true. Lots of people have been handed things they' haven't earned, we've all been lucky and unlucky, or lived that #blessed life or felt like the world was against us. However, the feeling of success against odds is pretty empowering, and it's enough to create millions of us egotistical monsters who think we're good enough to pay our bills with dress up and singy time. 



I'm not going to pretend like I have all or any of the answers to this kind of struggle, it's something that all performers go through. The ups and downs of fortune and famine. It gives me comfort to know that a great deal of my heroes in the dramatic community struggled and fought their way into their place. Not that I think that I'm of their caliber or would turn away a nice big shovel of dumb luck to the face, but it does flavor my admiration for them with a bit more respect. 


Examples:




Morgan Freeman's film career really kicked off 40 years ago, but before that, he was literally a starving artist, taking small uncredited roles (yes, Morgan Freeman, uncredited!) to gain membership into Hollywood unions.



Waiting for his big break, Jon Hamm taught drama to 13 to 14-year-olds and took a job as a set decorator on soft porn movies. He says it was his ‘lowest point. I made decent money, but it was gross and sad.’ Interestingly, the role he enjoyed the most was in a restaurant as he came out of his depression.  ‘I was a dishwasher in a local Greek restaurant. No money, but it was something to do. It got me out of bed. I like restaurants. They become these weird families and you get very close to people.’ 



Harrison Ford was hired to build cabinets for director George Lucas, which led to his subsequent casting as the lead in “Star Wars” at the age of 33. Lucas asked Ford to read lines for Han Solo, and was so won over by his portrayal that he offered the role to Ford. Since then, Ford was cast as the lead in the “Indiana Jones” franchise, solidifying his position as a leading man.  

You get the idea...


Do Your Job


I've recently tried to take what Bryan Cranston said to heart...
 

This is my job. This is what I do. The minute I try to make it an issue about my person or personality is when I've sunk so much emotional baggage into the outcome that only one potential turn out will satisfy. That's a lot of heart break, and it's a huge learning curve that a lot of us go through. I can only prepare, present, and create in the atmosphere provided with my current abilities, not the ones I wish I had, and if I try to control things that I simply cannot, I will only deviate from my product.

Until next time, try not to take things too personally, create the best product you can this very moment, and do your job...and as always...

Lift Big, Sing Big, and Look Great Doing It.

The Opera Bro


P.S.

Here's a little humor...

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