Yesterday was our final performance of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at the Westchester Sandbox Theatre in Mamaroneck, New York. What a joy this production was! I cannot express properly how talented and amazing this cast was to work with. Everyone brought so much to the table in creating these absolutely lovely characters to share this story. What I loved too was that we all held each other to a high level of performance quality that we collectively and instinctively wanted to represent in this piece. We knew we had the talent to create a great musical, and we did everything we could to do just that together. In turn, we heard yesterday from Jason Summers - the artistic director of the WST - that “Spelling Bee” was the most successful main-stage production the theatre has put on when looking at the net profit and amount of seats filled. What a treat to be a part of!
Not only was this cast an absolute joy to work with onstage, we also just had a fantabulous time offstage. Yes. I said fantabulous, and that barely conveys how much fun we had. I don’t think we ever stopped laughing really. The amount of memories and fun times we had could sustain my happiness for months to come. I already miss everyone so much but know that we will all be back together again soon whether on or off the stage. It’s gonna take a lot to keep us apart.
In other news, I just started a workshop this past week that I am super excited about. It’s called, “Produce Your Own Work” and is taught by my friend Molly Pearson. Molly was one of the producers of, “The Green” (the film I worked on this summer in Guilford... Be sure to check out the the trailer and the website for news and information about the movie: www.thegreenthemovie.com).
Knowing that I had moved to the city and had done some cabaret work, Molly reached out to me with information about her workshop: “I think you'd have a blast, and we could really work together to develop a musical revue/cabaret/play/short etc to help you generate more industry attention and keep growing as an artist. I'd be so thrilled to have you in the workshop.” So, with a little re-budgeting, I was able to put my name in to be a part of this workshop.
What really drew me to this class was that it is not only about the artistic side, but also the business side of it all. So we learn really how to be a producer for our own work and to be successful in getting it out there for the public and industry members to see.
Right after the first class, I knew that this is exactly what I should be doing. When it comes down to it, just auditioning to be in shows is not what I want to be doing. While I know auditioning is a big part of this business, I know that a lot of my time will be just auditioning and not actually acting. So I want to find other ways to work, and I’m going to do that by creating my own work.
As part of my first assignment for the workshop, I had to write out the “heart of the project”, also know as “the why”, the reasons I want to create and perform a revisited and revamped version of my solo cabaret, “Another Staged Experience”. I feel what came out when I was writing truly expresses what I want to be as an artist through this kind of self-created work, so I though I’d share it here...
Just recently playing Chip Tolentino in "Spelling Bee", I kept thinking about how I didn't want to be spending the rest of my artistic career trying to be cast to play and tell others' stories when I have stories that I want to share just as much, if not more, with the World. Having now had performed my cabaret three different times for three very different audiences and receiving great feedback after each of them, I see that I have stories from my own experiences that are worth sharing and that people are actually interested in hearing them.
I am now able to compare what it feels like to perform in another show after having done my cabaret, and I have to say there is something very different having come off the stage having played Chip compared with telling my stories. I loved playing Chip. The whole experience working with an amazing cast and creating this wonderfully funny and heart-felt show was a pure joy.
On the other hand, each time I finished a performance of my cabaret, I had a new sense of joy and freedom, a feeling I had had only once before. It was after my performances of my senior thesis work at Middlebury. I had put together a night of scenes and songs of a large variety of characters - everything from a drag queen to a masochistic man - and finished the evening with my own autobiographical piece. When people came and talked with me about my show, all they could talk about was how my autobiographical piece really moved them. I was in shock; I had no idea that my experiences, my words, would have that much of an effect. All I wanted to do was be to me onstage, and just doing that made a much bigger impression that I thought possible.
Now similarly with my cabaret, I leave the stage and am able to hear the audience's reactions to my stories, bringing them into their own experiences, and talk about that transition with them to further see how my stories make them feel. I felt I was starting a conversation that will and can only change lives. That's what I truly believe art is here for. This doesn't mean I think I'll be doing autobiographical work my entire life, but for right now autobiographical work is where I feel I can create the most authentic art from and start the most conversations from.
Ever since I was little, I have loved reading non-fiction books. There is something truly amazing to me about reading other people's real experiences, knowing that what I was on those pages actually happened, that someone really felt that, that someone made that leap. I feel our perception of reality has been skewed drastically since the creation of "Reality TV". I want to bring "reality" back to it's true meaning through my art, my own creative powers. And what I'm seeing is that my own life is a great place to start from.
I am looking so forward to the rest of the sessions with Molly and the other individuals taking the class. It not only will get me on a schedule to actually get this cabaret performed in the city, I will also be learning so much about producing along with acquiring many new contacts and ideas from others. I really feel this is the perfect place for me to be at this point of my artistic career. I don’t want there to be any moment when I can fall into complacency and despair when it comes to my art due to not being cast in a show. It is my duty to myself, to the artist within me to allow as many opportunities for my artist to shine. That means staying a step ahead of the game at all times and having a show or two in my back pocket. Molly’s workshop is helping me do just that and so much more.
With an end always comes a new beginning. Let’s go!