That would be me

That would be me

Saturday, September 4, 2010

There is a fine line between pleasure and pain


 [brey-vuh-ree, breyv-ree]
–noun, plural -er·ies.
brave spirit or conduct; courage; valor.

2. showiness; splendor; magnificence.
Origin: 1540–50;  prob. < It braveria,  equiv. to brav are ) to brave + -eria -ery
—Related forms
o·ver·brav·er·y, noun
—Can be confused: bravery, bravadobravura.
1.  intrepidity, fearlessness, boldness, daring, prowess, heroism, pluck, spirit, audacity, nerve, mettle, spunk.
1.  cowardice.

Last night, I did one of the scariest things I have ever done in my life. Last night, we opened our production of "The Last 5 Years" which is a two-person musical with one of the harder scores in the musical theatre canon. And somehow I lived through it.

So what is the big deal about that?

I have spent the better part of my life TERRIFIED of singing. I don't mean that it makes me nervous. I mean that there are days I would rather jump off of the Aurora Bridge than open my mouth and try to squeak out something resembling a tune without the benefit of other voices or earplugs to drown me out. 

I HATE the sound of my voice. Hate it. It is one of the few things that I am still an over-sensitive, neurotic adolescent girl about. My voice. And even more than I hate my voice, I hate the FACT that I hate my voice and how it just FREEZES me during auditions and performances.

So I had to do something about it.

I have taken voice lessons for about 20 years. I have been in about 25 musicals (mostly as ensemble). I used to be in bands, sing karaoke, perform singing telegrams, anything I could think of to get over the fear. I figured if I could sing Happy Birthday while wearing a banana suit, then I could handle a musical theatre audition, right?


Granted, I have been much LESS crazy than I used to be. It has been a few years since puking immediately before or after (or unfortunately DURING) a singing audition. I managed to be able to sing a song loud enough to actually be heard over the piano. But still, my chest would tighten and sheer panic would set in.

I turn the Big 4-0 in a few months and did NOT want to go into "official adulthood" with childish fears holding me back. Time to take action.

I am an actress so I figured if I could find a show that was more about the "acting" and less about the "singing," then maybe – just maybe, I could finally get the hell over myself. In a fortunate turn of events, I found myself with access to a free performance space and I thought, "that's it. This is my sign." I actually decided ON THE SPOT to do the hardest show I could think of (that still fell within my singing range but was just rangy enough to make me work for it).

I asked a dear friend (who is an amazing singer) to please do the show with me. In a leap of faith (having never even heard me sing NOR heard the show!), he agreed and we were on our way.

We compiled a group of people that I trusted to completely fail in front of. We secured rights. We promoted the living daylights out of it (mostly to ensure that I didn't chicken out last minute). And we rehearsed.

I am pretty sure than my team was scared, at first, of how I would handle things. I would be physically shaking during music rehearsals; I begged to not have to perform promotional "pre-production" shows. Even my voice teacher seemed less than confident in my ability to "pull it off."

But as rehearsals progressed, I found my "voice" and found all the reasons FOR what the character was saying. It became less about hitting that E and more about WHY she was flipping out at that moment. I am not saying the singing aspect became less scary, but it did become less important.

Going into tech week, I knew my words and I knew I knew my notes (even if I wasn't completely sure I was always on pitch). Mostly I knew WHY my character was going through things and that became my complete focus.

So last night, at opening, I sat backstage before we started (the 10 minute hold for the audience did NOT help matters) with my stomach acids rising and tried NOT to focus on the fact that I was about to have 7 solos and 2 duets in front of people. People who PAID to hear me sing.

And it wasn't terrible.

I think the stomach acids and nerves did a little number on the voice and I did not quite hit the notes the way I wanted to, but it didn't kill me. The Gods of Musical Theatre didn't smite me on the spot for having the audacity to try to play with their ball. I adjusted and got through it.

Of course, afterwards, I stood backstage in TEARS fearing I had destroyed the show and wasted everyone's time. I hesitantly went out into the theatre (after changing and pulling myself together) and was greeted by an audience member who just stood and stared at me. In complete tears.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

"It was just so real," she replied and asked for a hug – she needed assurance that I was okay. She was so caught up in the emotion of what I had just done that it overwhelmed her. I held her and realized that she didn't care that I had to mix that note rather than belt it or that I may have been just under this note. She loved the show and it had touched her.

And isn't THAT the point?

So, am I "over myself?" Hell, no. 

Does it matter that I am not vocally perfect? Not anymore.

Mission accomplished.


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