Students often wonder why we do physical warm-ups as part of our vocal training. I suppose I have been doing this so long, that I forget new students do not always understand the absolute necessity of doing so. First of all the voice IS the body. It is controlled by muscles and membrane, like any other bodily function. (Hey, why else when you get sick would you have sometimes have trouble with your voice?) Using your voice for work, as a speaker, teacher or singer/actor requires a healthy body/mind connection and being in tune with the physical sensations for producing healthy sound. It is essential for training your voice, as well. A vocal instructor cannot get inside your body (or head) and feel what you feel; she can lead you toward an understanding of what needs to happen, mostly through the use of exercises that will awaken that in you, while training your body/mind to create sound in a healthy and pleasing way. It isn’t magic, nor is it primarily intellectual, it is primarily physical.
This year in the early days of summer, I took what felt like a crazy leap into doing theater again. I whipped a few monologues into shape, a few theater songs, and started going to auditions. I just literally jumped back into something I had not done for a long time. I stopped doing theater shortly after giving birth to my son, and then life took its meandering path, as it does, leading me through many personal transformations. Although I performed a great deal, singing in a band for ten years, creating and performing at the Singer’s Salon, etc., I had no idea how I would fare at auditions. I was pleasantly surprised at how natural it felt to act again, and how quickly I started getting callbacks, and getting cast. I did a short film, and got cast in an original musical theater piece, and am now rehearsing for another play.
The musical was a great deal of fun, but fraught with a certain amount of difficulty for a variety of reasons. Throughout the rehearsal process I was constantly debating whether or not I had made the “right” decision. But once the show closed, I realized I had learned so much from the process, partly perhaps due to being at a very different stage of life. Here it is in a nutshell:
• I learned that no matter the circumstances, no matter how good or bad the show is, no matter the experience or lack thereof, of the rest of the cast, crew, directors, writers, etc., you and only you are responsible to yourself to do your own best work. Even if things are not ideal (are they ever?) you can still and always do the best you can do, then and there. And that is awesome. No one can take that away from you. Your work can and will work if you work it. Of course it’s wonderful when everyone is devoted and talented and doing amazing work. That is an absolute blessing!
• I learned or rather, was reminded, that having fun while you are working is great, but that the most fun while working is being highly focused and doing great work.
• I learned that your actor/singer preparation , while still being highly important, is also helped a great deal by being comfortable in your own skin.
• Life experience translates directly into Art. Your life experiences feed your Soul; your Soul feeds your Art.
• I realized that the reason I am not the most sociable actor in the room is because I am still and, doubtless, always will be largely introverted. I need time to myself to concentrate before and to unwind after. I am wayyyy over-stimulated by everyone else’s conversations, warm ups, hair spray and loudness. I have to create a bubble around myself in order to feel ready to go on, and it’s NOTHING PERSONAL! Just the way I’m wired.
• Being the “lead” or the one everybody is expecting to carry the load can be intimidating and a lot of pressure, but it’s always a group effort. ALWAYS!
• And FINALLY (well probably not finally but for now) I learned that being appreciated is indeed WONDERFUL and you simply must be willing to let yourself receive it! Deflecting recognition and appreciation with self depreciating criticism may be not only counter – productive, but just annoying and even rude. LET IT IN!