Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sing Loud, and Proud, and Wrong

My instruction this week from my vocal teacher is to sing loud and proud and I'll probably be wrong on more notes than usual.  It's not bad advice since I tend to sing really quietly for fear of screwing up.  I'll never be able to sing louder until I do it and discover where my problems are. 

But it also makes me think about stage managing in an odd sort of way.  I went to a party on Saturday night at the home of a friend with whom I worked at People's Light and Theater Co (out in Malvern, PA).  I didn't stage manage there, I worked in the Education Department.  But, stage managing called again and I couldn't stay away.  I spend half my life trying not to stage manage; I love doing it but the hours suck.

At this party, I ran into another stage manager and we traded war stories which sent me down memory lane.  I've been lucky enough to have had several people tell me to my face that I am a good stage manager.  When I hear this compliment I always chuckle because I think to myself, I hope I'm at least half way decent with all the mistakes I made.  Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the compliment since an SM's work is not always noticed.  But I am one of those creatures who learns by fucking up.  And sometimes, fucking up big. 

Here's a quick example: years and years ago, while I was still in college, I held an entire audience in black for 90 seconds because I hadn't bothered to check with backstage to make sure the actor was ready to get into his place.  He was still in the dressing room.  To this day, if a cast has to get into place in a blackout, I have to time it because I will jump the gun.

And, I still screw up occasionally (at least I hope it's only occasionally), and I think to myself, Seriously Kate, really?  You didn't know better?  But it's always a learning process with new situations to encounter and (bringing it all back home) new notes to sing.

So what I find pretty funny is that I am more than willing to mess up as a stage manager when it affects other people but I'm too scared to sing loudly in the comfort of my own home. 
But now it's time to get over my bad self.  If you hear anything weird coming out of Glenside, PA, in the next few weeks it's just me singing, loud, and proud, and probably wrong.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Burger Blog

I was a vegetarian for 13 years or there abouts.  I became a vegetarian because I realized I had to think about my food choices more and therefore ate better.  At a deli, I'd think, well, since I've skipped the processed meat (but not the processed cheese) I might as well have an apple instead of chips.  Plus, vegetarianism seemed cool at the time.

After a while, vegetarianism became a habit.  I never thought about it, I just did it; like putting on underwear everyday.  When someone asked me why I didn't eat meat, I'd say, I didn't see any reason to.  I had a boyfriend who thought my response was pretentious and perhaps it was.  But, to me, it wasn't.  At that time, I just didn't need to eat meat, so I didn't.  But I did need to wear underwear, still do.  Perhaps he thought it was pretentious because he was a loser.  Or maybe, he was thinking of the numerous people who, upon learning that I didn't eat meat, would describe, in detail, how much meat they ate during the week.  Like that made them a better person in my eyes.  But seriously, I could give a rat's ass how much meat someone eats in a week.  I didn't eat meat, but not due to religious, moral or ethical reasons.

Anyway, I stopped being a vegetarian for almost the same reason that I became one.  About 5 or 6 years ago, I was working out more and hungry all the time.  I ate what felt like slabs and slabs of fat.  I have eggs slathered in cheese and brownies with peanut butter on them.  Then I'd feel like crap but I never felt full.  Plus, I craved meat.  So I started eating meat again (still wearing the underwear in case you were wondering).  Oh, but I didn't just dip my toes in the pool.  Oh no, I cannonballed.  I went right to hamburgers and steaks.  I mean, I like chicken and pork is fine, whatever, but give me a Filet Mignon (medium rare), a green salad, and a glass of red wine and I'm in heaven.

So here's my problem:  I love burgers but sometimes they are too tall to fit in my mouth.  What is up with that?  I know that working ground beef too much can cause the burgers to be overcooked or hard.  But why do they have to be so tall that with a bun and some cheese, a person would need Keith Jagger's jaw to take a bite?  Brian and I were in Village Whiskey the other day.  This is a new bar in Philly, very retro with a tin bar and old fashioned cocktails, etc.  The burgers, which were written up in Bon Appetit, were just too tall and stuff was falling out all over.  It's just not fun and, not to mention, very messy to eat.  To be honest, the burgers were okay but not the best I've eaten.  And, it wasn't just because they were too tall.  The best burgers I've had were at a bar next door to Capital Rep Theatre in Albany, where I used to work.  Soooo good.  And, I might add, not too tall.

Do you know?  Do you care?  Do you eat meat?  Do you want to know how much meat I eat in a week?  Do you still wear underwear?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

This Post is Brought to You by the Note A

As some of you know, I have been taking singing lessons for a while now.  Almost a year.  And it has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done.  When I started, I expected to be belting out karaoke by June.  Not so much.

Mostly, I have to train my ear.  Growing up, I never sang as a child.  No one in my family did.  And the neighborhood was probably better off for it.  So I started lessons knowing 2 notes and both of them were flat.

Every time I think I'm finally making great progress, I stumble and get all frustrated again.  One time, I told my teacher I tried to sing a song with my sister-in-law.  My niece who was listening said I was singing harmony.  I sang the song for him and he said, "No, you were just singing the wrong notes."  I know, learning is never linear.  I'm using muscles I never knew that I owned and they don't like being discovered. 

It's not to say that I have not made progress, I have.  I used to need my teacher to play the notes of the song very loudly on the piano for me to follow along.  Now, I can follow an accompaniment (with the vocal notes of course) on my MP3 player.  And yes, I wander around the house belting out tunes pretending I'm in a smokey jazz club (oh, and I have fantastic hair by the way). 

But I'm still having trouble hitting the notes without help.  Especially "A."  For some reason this note gives me the most trouble and when I don't hit it right, all the following notes just suck (there is no better term for it).  Turns out, that is the note where I change from my lower/chest voice to my head voice.  Whatever, I just hate that note.  What have I ever done to it that it gives me such trouble?

Oh, and, because I never really sang before, I have a really weak, airy voice so I have to learn "how to sing."  This means singing with my throat open and my tongue on the bottom of the mouth and not blocking my throat and all this technical stuff designed to give my voice more power.  I made the mistake of asking my teacher about the people who naturally have a good voice.  He told me that those people already do all that technical stuff instinctively.  Man, I hate them.  They probably have no problem with the A note.

Despite how excruciatingly frustrating it is, I stick with it.  I really want to learn and I know I'm making progress, even if it is at a snail's pace.  But I know, someday, somehow, right here on this blog, I'll post about going out in public and doing karaoke or even an open mic night.  I may even post a recording of myself singing.  You never know so stay tuned.  Oh, and I'll have fantastic hair!