For the child in us all, Jim Henson’s Muppets have left memorable impact for generations now. From the original world of Sesame Street, to Fraggle Rock, to Kermit to Elmo. It is often hard to believe that these small creatures are not livable human beings like ourselves.
Even though the latest version of the Muppets tanked on television, I am thrilled to know they are moving forward in their next incarnation. The lovely and talented Julie Andrews is on board as they are jumping ship to Netflix. Another win for me and something to add to my extensively long queue. It will be called Julie’s Greenrooom and will premiere in 2017. It is promising a new tribe of cloth urchins as well as a slate of guest stars like Sara Bareilles, Idina Menzel, Josh Groban and of course Carol Burnett. And it is set in a school for the Performing Arts. Talk about a trifecta for theater people!
Julie already has a pedigree as a noted children’s author. I still have her on DVD from her original appearances on the Muppets. This sounds like a match made in theater heaven.
At some point in our lives we have all felt like the Odd Man Out. Especially those of us in theater who usually march to the beat of our own drum. If we are lucky, we are march onward with strength and determination. But others may not have that resilience or confidence.
Willowgrove Elementary school in Saskatoon Canada of all places, came up with what I thought was a genius solution for the soul that might be feeling like a loner on any given day. They have a Buddy Bench on their playground. When a student feels left out, isolated or lonely, they pull up a seat on the Buddy Bench. As other students become aware of the occupied seat, they make a special effort to head over and offer an invitation to play or even just sit and talk.
I think this is a wonderful lesson in empathy. It makes everyone aware of more than their single circle and reminds how important inclusion can be at that age. And it takes very little effort – just a seed planted and an observation. We could use these at work or even at large in a public park. We have all been THAT person at one point or another.
This is the game of Life. It is usually even more so a dilemma for anyone making the bold choice to pursue their heart with a career in the arts. Most of our young artists plot very carefully to find the right training program for theater, television or the technical elements. At stake are years of student loans for a career that is likely going to bring in merely a living wage on top of whatever other freelance or temp work they can find. Just like the Board Game, we have to make decisions on what sort of balance will affect our happiness.
For the meager few that manage to find artistic success, only a handful will turn out to be the inevitable stars who are bankable and can truly live comfortably. This recent shared YouTube clip posted by Think For Yourself gives a glimpse of how that can also be a double-edged sword. From Russell Brand to Cameron Diaz, this small sampling talks about how it is then also possible to lose sight of your original drive that fueled you in the first place. For any of our young talent out there, this might be a gentle wisdom reminder to ponder.
More education tidbits to pass along to you. Summer classes are up and we are ready for the taking. So all of you musical theater types – go to the website.
Here is a great article that gives insight as you are dreaming of being that Broadway star. Just this week I heard girls in rehearsal belting out the songs from the new Hamilton recording. We just saw some of the crash and burns on the Grammy’s. And recent live telecasts of both Grease and the Wiz. Of course we want to be that “person.” So we keep pushing higher and harder to sing these nearly impossible notes and phrases just like when we hear Idina Menzel knock them out of the park right?
Not so fast. Read this great blog article that talks about the missing link in this equation. The element of sound production and a good tonemeister at the board make us all sound MUCH better than we really are. Trust me, I have been there myself. If you have ever been out to Chan where each actor is wired with their own mic and a wizard is controlling all the knobs that make it sound perfect. There is reverb, wind screens, treble and bass adjustments, and even autotune – wonderful and fabulous tools that make most of us sound better than we really are. So make sure you are not trying to achieve the impossible on your own. Sing with clarity and intention, not a desire to blow your vocal cords out by the age of 18. Even Lea Michele is not as perfect as she sounds. Check out the video for some before and after shots that are eye opening.
Between our two shows in production, we are seeing a lot of actors around YPC on a daily basis. Coupled with the onslaught of many our students involved in both Spring Musicals or SPCPA J term projects – everyone seems to be cast in something or other.
Here is a bit of theater wisdom from Bryan Cranston and his slow-to-come fame via Breaking Bad after years in supporting or non-speaking roles. He speaks to the audition process and looking at the “business” of landing a job. It is the nemesis that belittles the creative work we intend to do. Our “job” is create and then walk away. We always forget that there are TONS of variables that stand in our way. But we have to realize that ultimately – we can only control what we bring to the table and leave it at that. The trick is to not get consumed by resentment or self esteem.
For those of you that are about to be graduating in the next year or two, and are planning to pursue a training program afterward – this is a GREAT article of insight for you. It is written by a former classmate of mine at SUNY Fredonia where I got great Musical Theater training decades back. It was a safe setting, but there was also the edge of juries and being judged or evaluated along the way. But this article is also great in that it looks at BOTH sides of the audition situation and gives perspective to the process of selecting students themselves.
From the student standpoint; It talks about slotting, keeping options open and also being perceptive to little clues along the way. Authentic is a KEY word and it is important to showcase yourself as well as your talents. It speaks about owning the room and also being open to criticism and direction during the brief time there.
BUT, it also talks about the panel on the other side of the table too; It reminds them to be open to POTENTIAL and not perfection. These kids are only 17 and if they had totally professional skills, they would not need a training program! It should be about the student and not them and their agenda. Remember that everyone coming in does not have access to professional coaching and years of private lessons. And why come up with Do Not Sing lists that seem to be so prevalent?
I know that working with youth, it comes up commonly that this younger generation is indulged with entitlement. This comes from both enabling parents and a society that seems to award every child for minimal efforts at best. Everyone goes home a winner.
But as we prepare for our run of Just Before Sleep, which deals with homelessness, there is also an opportunity for pause and being grateful for the abundance most of us take for granted. Here is a blog posting via Riflebird to share that gives definition to many of our terms that originated in the Depression Era of the Dust Bowl. These families did not have the luxury of a warm shower and a bath was a rare occurrence. All family members shared the same basin and the baby was the last one. By then, the water was likely black with dirt and thus the term “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” How many of you are old enough to remember “lead poisoning?” 100 years back we had no clue about this and drinking cups and mugs were often lead based. When combined with alcohol it would often knock someone out for days at a time. A “wake” was then a ritual to see if they were actually dead or if they would revive. Bacon is a trend right now, but back then bacon was also a luxury. “Bringing home the bacon” or “chewing the fat” both alluded to wealth and sharing with guests.
Read the entire blog post for plenty more startling revelations. And most importantly, be thankful for the little things in our daily life.