Monday, July 25, 2011

Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?

Here's what she said to me......

Um, it is 1:30 in the afternoon and I am in my nightgown, listening to the sweet, sweet sound of the baby finally falling asleep (can I get an amen?) Hubby's just put her down, to great wailing and nashing of teeth, and her signature tossing of the binky into the air as protest.

I have an injury, and opening night is Thursday. It's not small. I have a bit of a "tricky calf" meaning that 6 years ago in NYC I ripped the muscle, my foot turning blue with the blood in my leg, the pain unbelievably sharp and unstoppable. I spent 5 weeks on crutches.

Last night, amidst hopping and doing the Charleston as Katisha, my 3 inch platform shoe broke. And then I felt a pop, and then happiness as we know it did a grand pregnant pause. I hadn't been having a good night--the director barked at me twice for walking the wrong direction onstage and because of poor time management on someone's (cough cough) part, it was the FIRST time I'd ever run the scene on stage. Confusion? Ahem, of course. I hadn't even gotten to run that scene for 3 days, so no big surprise, right? I don't like being barked at.

So the injury is not as bad (by any means) as the one I'd previously described. Already, after about 12 hours of R.I.C.E. I am feeling a little better, and can easily walk to the kitchen. I can't speak for my charleston, though, and I'm a little worried. Thursday? Doable. Tonight's dress? Eh.

The baby saw her first movie last night, though I wasn't there. Winnie the Pooh. Had my mother not been an hour early for the film, it would have gone better. She hated the previews, apparently. But sat, unflinching, from 7:15 to 8:10. My mother said she had to check her for signs of sleep. Then at 8:10, tired of the whole thing, and got up to leave, so my mother did too.

I lost a pound this week! YAY! That makes 3. Each one worked for like crazy. What makes me especially sad is that my 5 intense workouts at the gym are probably responsible (at least in part) for both the weight loss and the leg injury. hardly seems worth it, you say? BIte your tongue. This pound is a long time coming.

So I'm frightened, and I don't know what's coming next, ugh. Who likes that? I have been reading singers' bios today, feeling jealous, I guess a bit. Nothing like when I was younger. At some point, i guess it's kind of like winning the lottery...I mean, you can hardly be jealous of the guy down the street who just won the lottery, right? Fate. Whatnot.

It set me off a bit that a guy yesterday in rehearsal (a sweetheart of a man) told me that I had a "robust" voice, and then laughed nervously, as if he had just told the biggest-chested woman he'd ever met that she was "busty". . . so I took the compliment, the awkwardness actually improving it. Then I wondered for a while, how do you sell a big voice? He made recommendations for the local Iowa auditions, most of which I'd done. Of course, the Verdi requiem solo that the Iowa City Chamber Choir just did was sung by a lady who sings at the Met I can't really compete with that, Right?

At what point, might they want me because I've got chops? I've come to think just about never.

So in the meantime, I keep singing, and icing my leg. I am enjoying the moment. Preparing for another audition, throwing my hat into the ring and wishing for the best. Que sera, sera. (sing it!)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This Time Around

I am currently looking at doing another audition in August. It's 7 hours away, and most of me does not want to do it. But I believe a very necessary part of "mainting the craft" is auditioning. Kind of like the lottery slogan "you can't win if you don't play." So, I'm planning it.

This show has been so exhausting. I can't decide if it's the drive down or the schedule outside of the show, or just me? I just bought a bottle of Vitamin B supplements, hoping that will help with my energy. I just feel like sleeping half the day. I also miss the baby, and she misses me. I am currently indulging her in an hour of Sesame Street (also known as "Elmo") while downing a bottle of chocolate milk (something I should, perhaps, have never exposed her to) and sitting on mom's lap. Of course, it's more like crushing mom. She likes to lay back and push her head into mine as far as it will go. Super unpleasant. And right now she is elbowing my stomach. But she hasn't had mommy time in so long that I feel she should get it.

When my mother drove her to a babysitter yesterday she spent half the ride yelling "Bubby Stop, Bubby Stop" because she didn't want to leave me. Heartwrenching.

She has really been staying up late, which is not helpful for any of us. Last night it was about midnight before she went down, which means inevitably 1am for me and 2am for hubby. Ugh. I am not sure if she's staying up to hang out with me, but honestly after rehearsal I'd really rather crash a lot faster.

There is a whole world that opens up when your toddler falls asleep, a million things you've been waiting to do. In the past 2 years I've grown accustomed to looking at my husband and holding up my arms in "victory" when baby S finally falls asleep....I imagine that will last a while.

Ok--Elmo's over. Tears and gnashing of teeth. We may eventually need to hold an intervention.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Center Stage

Ahhh, it is late and I feel exhausted but far from sleep. I worked out (hard) and had a HUGE coffee before rehearsal at seemed at the time to be necessary but now I'm a little worried that tomorrow will start too late. It's a hard balance--the late rehearsals and the early start to being a mom and teacher each day.

This was the first night in a while that I came home to a sleeping baby....blissss.

TOnight's run-through was surprisingly smooth. For a piece that is as specifically directed as this one, each scene is like a memory test, and somehow to stay in character is a real challenge for me. I am frightened of the huge costume (the wig which must weigh 10 pounds and the 3 inch tall shoes) and the dancing! Ugh...somehow I know it will work. I will never forget listening in to a rehearsal of young college students years ago trying to learn a Mozart quartet and the music director (possibly half drunk) saying to them, "Stupider people than you have learned this quartet." Sometimes I say that to myself when a show seems too difficult.

The most challenging part, the thing which made me want to write a blog entry tonight, was the notes. The run-through finished early and the director (a very kind and patient, sweetly funny man) gave copious notes. Mine seemed mostly positive, and I was encouraged. And then he lightly said, "You know, I have never seen a mezzo stay away from center stage more than you." He joked that most opera singers are drawn into center stage, and the room laughed, and my chest fell. I cried on the way home. Somehow, I wanted to ask myself, "is this it? IS this me? Am I just still so lacking in internal confidence at this point that I don't want to be center stage?"

In real life I feel like I am so much more "look at me look at me" than anyone I meet...but in the opera world, I want to hang out in the corner, seriously learn my part, skip the drinks at dinner, schmooze little, and avoid affairs with the tenor or flirting with the entire cast. And I ask myself if THIS part of me, this non-opera person that I still seem to be in this environment, is a big part of why I'm not as successful as I once dreamed of being.

I wonder if, at an audition, some part of me says, "I don't belong in center stage. Maybe someone else here will look more like they deserve to be there."

When I came home and cried it to hubby, he said gently that he didn't want to hurt me, but the truth is I am always looking for some sort of answer. Is it my weight? Is it my technique? Is it my confidence? And at some point I just have to stop looking for the answers and just love the thing I love.

He is so right about this. I am center stage right now. LOVE IT, PIPES. LOVE IT.

worry about the shoes instead or something. Right?

Friday, July 15, 2011


I was thinking of blogging tonight about more of the stuff I'm struggling with, about the exhaustion, about my feelings of worthlessness regarding my weight, about how wonderful my husband is and about how I'm missing my daughter lately, being busy and rehearsing in every free hour.

But instead, I'm going to write about directors.

I find generally (in my world) there are 3 types of directors.

1. The opera director. These guys are usually older, flamboyant, possibly with foreign accents, and almost always men. They like few rehearsals, and are much more interested in painting visual pictures with singers than exploring the characters. They know the terms, they know the music, but there aren't many new ideas. They try to pull off big stuff--like 80 person choruses or live animals, but miss things like the complexity of relationships on stage.

2. The theater director. Everything is about character with these guys--they believe the whole thing is driven by the cast and stage embodying this experience. They like a lot of rehearsals. They want time to flesh things out. THey don't tell you much about what to do beyond the "blocking" (the places to stand) and then they encourage the actor/singer to find the magic. They are patient, but occasionally annoying as they don't seem to manage time as well, being more indulgent with just about everything. (generally, they often smoke).

3. The musical theater/operetta director. These folks are high energy, and seem to have the biggest job here--they have to get a real feeling of the characters while also finding "buttons" (the places in the music where you create a sudden, perfect picture on stage). They are often manic, often change their ideas, and usually explode at some point during the production. They are occasionally brilliant, I think often because they have chosen this difficult way of expressing themselves.

My favorite thing to do is usually to be directed in a musical theater or opera production by a theater director (the type 2). This is because I like having some freedom. I don't like micromanagement on stage. Generally, though, I tend to get frustrated with them by the end, as they run out of time--it's 3 days left before the dress rehearsal and there's a whole chunk of the staging that they haven't dealt with. The lack of time management is hard.

I don't care if they don't know the word "aria". Some opera singers seem annoyed when the directors don't know musical terms. I have never found that to be a hindrance to a great show.

My least favorite is the opera director. I can't tell you how many times I've had to "re-direct" myself as part of an opera chorus where the director literally learned NO ONE's name who wasn't a lead in the show. I have spent HOURS in boring rehearsals where directors were indulged by casts as they played with the pictures and never once talked about the fun--the story, the characters, the lifeblood of the show.

The musical theater director is in the middle for me. I worked once with a famous one who changed things up until the very last second of rehearsals--trying to fine tune, to innovate. I have worked with those who seemed to direct and choreograph our every move. These folks are just EXHAUSTING. But like I said before, sometimes a little trust and you see brilliance.

I suppose these types have a little to do with background and a little more to do with where the directors find they "fit". They cross over each other all the time. But just like singers, eventually they seem to land somewhere that makes sense for them.

I am so exhausted tonight after working the Act I finale for this show. The director has demanded bigger, bigger, bigger. But by the time I get to stand up, I've been sitting and drinking coffee for 4 hours, just trying to stay awake, missing my baby. I know this is a challenge for the role, that she doesn't appear until the whole first act is almost over. . . but someone, please.. . help a mama out.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mall of America

The last few vacations have been my "brain children".. . meaning the ideas originated with me and I saw them through to the actual trips. But I promised hubby that come the 3rd anniversary of our marriage (wow....does it feel like just three years or should I say how could it be 3 years already?) he could pick the trip. And in keeping with our marriage theme of "we don't really like the same stuff" he picked the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.


So for the last few months I have been saving for a trip to the big mall. Consumerism is alive and well, apparently, as this four story mall with an amusement park in the center was THRIVING on a random Tuesday in July. It was not just teens, not just kids, not just families, not just Americans. It was really--um, everybody.

The trip was really nice. The hotel we stayed in GORGEOUS, with two indoor swimming pools and a hot tub (all enjoyed by us, very nice) a bed you wanted to run away with, and generally a pretty good deal, including mall coupons and a really good free breakfast. It was also 4 hours in the car (each way) which normally would be fairly awful, but was actually not that bad. We have trained ourselves by doing 10 hour trips with a baby and two dogs, so that now 5 hours is actually not that bad!

We talked about our daughter for most of the trip--and about half of what we bought there were things for her. We stopped at that by pledging to each other that we wouldn't buy anything else for her. I noticed we also did a lot of impressions of her, and pretty much everything had some sort of baby reference. I was dying to get away with her and in less than 48 hours missed her. Weird.

I am coming back to the SHOW, which is fun and frustrating. They changed a few schedules this week and seem to have trouble understanding that my original list of conflicts and their original schedules were VERY IMPORTANT CONCEPTS. So once again, I feel like someone thinks my time is worthless, and that honestly is crap. Even in the arts, time is paid for with cash. And I find that anything you give someone for free becomes intrinsically worthlesss. UGH.

I received an email from one of the girls in the cast that she wanted to collect $10 from each person to get gifts for the director, music director, conductor, pianist, and stage manageers. All of whom are being paid for their services. When we are not. Does that sound right? I am trying to figure out how to diplomatically decline. I am happy to give you a gift--when I feel you haven't been compensated well enough for what you did. These folks are compensated plenty. And not one of them has volunteered to pay my gas. Especially when they call me to drive down for 30 minutes and then don't manage their time well enough to use me in the rehearsal. DO I sound bitter?

It's still fun. Katisha= fun, fun fun. At the end of the day, whether I like the cast or not, or the admin, or the stage manager, I am in love with the role. That's the thing that will make me long for it the moment that curtain hits the ground.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Big But

It's late, and I can't believe we're in our second week of July. I know a few people who died tragically young in July. I guess--that sounds like I'm not making enough of the loss of each person. But that is not the point at all, I guess it's just that this month is filled with lots of remembering and a certain type of melancholy. On July 12, I lost Dari, my lifelong friend who at times I loved so much I thought I could forego a husband and run away with her. Dari was life itself, full of ideas and fun and love. But she also was always being chased by demons, things she couldn't escape. And her risks were always so if pushed from behind by fear or memories or compulsion. We fought over this. It was so hard to be her friend and not constantly want to save her. And that's how we lost her. In an accident that will forever make me conscious of head injuries.

I lost a friend from grad school, Susan, to Leukemia in July a few years ago. The year I moved to NYC, I had no one to love there, and my birthday came around. That morning, I got a package at the door of my apartment, and it was an enormous beautiful bouquet of flowers--sent by Susan, whom I felt I'd hardly known. She wrote me supportive emails, I sang at her wedding, and she filled every day with laughter. I think she made it past 40, barely.

My friend Jennifer from high school died a few years after her wedding. She was in a coma so long that I couldn't remember if she actually passed in July, it might have been June. But it was definitely mid-summer. She did amazing animal impressions, could recite most of the Wizard of Oz by heart, and invited me into her heart and life more than once. When I think of her husband, and how he must still grieve, I usually tear up.

So here's an odd turn in this email. I have this life so packed with joy, and I often don't let myself experience it because of my weight. I have, in the past two years, had this weight problem that will NOT budge. I have been true to diets, exercised, written down my food, seen a counselor, and I called my husband from an opera rehearsal tonight, in tears, telling him that it was the last straw, and I needed him to get me to lap band surgery--because I can't seem to get myself there. I am so afraid of everyone saying I gave up, I couldn't try, I didn't "do it" the way I was supposed to.

And that is my big but. That is the thing that keeps me from enjoying a night like tonight, where I sang a role I've always wanted to do in a rehearsal with a director who was amazingly full of ideas and inspiration. It is the thing that keeps me from fully living right now, from wanting to wear sexy stuff for my hubby, from fully engaging with my genius little daughter. It is the thing that interrupts my relationship with God, and makes me feel in rehearsal like I'm the biggest woman there, and therefore not really as worthy as everyone else--despite my multiple compliments and my pure, pure joy in being there.

I don't know what's next. All I can do is throw myself prostrate at the medical community and God's hope and ask for something that will make this nightmare end. And yet, part of me just wishes I would just be fat, live with it, die a little younger, and not live every moment of my life in penance of this thing at which I feel I've failed.

And I guess the other point is this: All of those beautiful women at the beginning of this email are not remembered for their size. They were all different sizes, and all 3 causes of death had not a thing to do with whether their guts were big. And sure as I write this, anyone who adored them would gratefully add 100 pounds to their weight and have them back in their lives.

So somehow...SOMEHOW I have to learn that life must fully go on and be filled with satisfaction and happiness regardless of whether I am the heaviest I have ever been. It must, somehow, not eat me alive, so to speak. I have to somehow, someway learn to deal with my big but.