Messy

Your why for doing something doesn’t need to be neat and perfect.  It doesn’t need to be some kinda thesis statement.  Or Power Point.  Or catchy, one sentence tag line.  

Far from it.

It just needs to mean something to you.  And hopefully radiate passion to those you enlist on your artistic journey.

Maybe your why is messy.

I don’t why I’m doing this.  I just uh…I don’t…I can’t put it into words exactly.  I just have to…Not doing it would be soul crushing.

That’s powerful.  That’s passionate.  That’s enough.

You got me.

“So, what did you think?”

What a dangerous question for the performer to ask the audience member. Or for the writer to ask the reader. Or the artist to ask the recipient.

Do you really want to know?  Are you looking for constructive feedback to make your work better?

Or are you just looking for approval?

A friend of mine–brutally honest, sometimes to a fault–would get invited to see his friends productions. (In his defense, he’s equally effusive in his praise as he is damning with his criticism.) He has trouble hiding his opinions, but does his best. But if anyone asks him, “So, what’d you think?” after a show, he’ll tell them. He’ll tell them the truth or more accurately, his truth. Often the friends would get frustrated and upset hearing his truth.

Finally he started advising them ahead of time, “I’ll come see your play.  I’ll support you. But please don’t ask me what I think afterwards.  Unless you really want to know. Cool?”

He stopped getting invited to see shows.

Think big. Act SMALL.

David Schwartz in his book, The Magic Of Thinking Big, writes, “The size of your success is determined by the size of your belief. Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success…Big ideas and big plans are often easier—certainly no more difficult—than small ideas and small plans.”

This is certainly sound advice. If thoughts control your actions and you can think anything you want, then you might as well think big. right? Especially when you consider that the level of effort required to accomplish anything, big or small, is roughly the same. Why not go for broke?

But big is not enough.

You need the SMALL too. The on-the-surface boring, daily, repetitive actions; you need the process, to accomplish anything. As Aristotle advised, “We are what we repeatedly do.”

So, get fired up with big dreams and thoughts. Let that motivate you and everyone around you. But then also be prepared to take tons of small, daily actions. And to do those to the best of your ability.

Big and SMALL. Working together. Now you’re talking.

Be Mine

Dear Passion Project,

I was just wondering if you’d…uh…maybe, like…uh…be my Valentine?

I know you prolly have a lot of people interested in you. But uh…I promise, if you’ll be mine, I’ll be yours.

I will be true to you.

I will give you all my attention, time and energy.

I will leave no stone unturned.

I will be super enthusiastic! I’ll tell everyone I know that they gotta come see us.

I will make sure that everyone involved–actors, cast, designers, crew, and especially the audience– will have a blast.

I will give you my whole heart and soul.

Will you be mine?…

The Details

Some acting advice from the great Quentin Tarantino…

INT.  MEN'S ROOM - L.A. TRAIN STATION - NIGHT

       Freddy and Holdaway at one of their many rendezvous.
       Holdaway wears an extra large Lakers sweatshirt.  Freddy
       sits on one of the sinks, wearing his high school jacket,
       looking at pieces of paper stapled together.

                              FREDDY
                 What's this?

                              HOLDAWAY
                 It's a scene.  Memorize it.

                              FREDDY
                 What?

                              HOLDAWAY
                 A undercover cop has got to be
                 Marlon Brando.  To do this job you
                 got to be a great actor.  You got
                 to be naturalistic.  You got to be
                 naturalistic as hell.  If you
                 ain't a great actor you're a bad
                 actor, and bad acting is bull shit
                 in this job.

                              FREDDY
                         (referring to the
                          papers)
                 But what is this?

                              HOLDAWAY
                 It's a amusing anecdote about a
                 drug deal.

                              FREDDY
                 What?

                              HOLDAWAY
                 Something funny that happened to
                 you while you were doing a job.

                              FREDDY
                 I gotta memorize all this shit?

                              HOLDAWAY
                 It's like a joke.  You remember
                 what's important, and the rest you
                 make your own.  The only way to
                 make it your own is to keep sayin
                 it, and sayin it, and sayin it,
                 and sayin it, and sayin it.

                              FREDDY
                 I can do that.

                              HOLDAWAY
                 The things you gotta remember are
                 the details.  It's the details
                 that sell your story.  Now this
                 story takes place in this men's
                 room.  So you gotta know the
                 details about this men's room.
                 You gotta know they got a blower
                 instead of a towel to dry your
                 hands.  You gotta know the stalls
                 ain't got no doors.  You gotta
                 know whether they got liquid or
                 powdered soap, whether they got
                 hot water or not, 'cause if you do
                 your job when you tell your story,
                 everybody should believe it.  And
                 if you tell your story to somebody
                 who's actually taken a piss in
                 this men's room, and you get one
                 detail they remember right,
                 they'll swear by you.

Here’s the scene from RESERVOIR DOGS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7P-f-nzOTV4

Until You Can’t Get It Wrong

“You keep going until you get it right, then you keep going until you can’t get it wrong.” -Monica Aldama

If you haven’t heard of Monica Aldama, be sure to check out the terrific Netflix doc, Cheer.

Monica heads Navarro College’s competitive cheer squad. She is fierce and her desire for excellence burns bright. She’s largely responsible for transforming a small, unknown, Texas junior college into a perennial champion. A true underdog story.

Her quote reinforces why we rehearse a play. Often for a long period of time.

Yes, it might sound great at the first table read. Everyone feels confident and amazing! Often you’ll hear, “we could put this up right now.”

And that might be true.

But can you be amazing on opening night with the pressure of all your friends, loved ones, respected colleagues and critics in the house?

Can you be amazing in Week 3 of the run when the house is half full and you didn’t get a good night sleep the night before?

Can you be amazing when your emotional reservoir runs dry? When adrenaline is nowhere to be found? When you’re just not “feelin’ it”?

Can you be amazing when someone drops a line or another “happy accident” happens on stage?

Can you be amazing when the audience is checked out?

Yes, you can.

Because you rehearsed. Because you worked your butt off. Because you kept going until you couldn’t get it wrong.

The Voice

I recently had the following exchange with a writer friend of mine.

Writer: “I could never do what you do. I could never act. Definitely not on stage.”

Me: “Why not? I actually think you’d make a pretty good actor.”

Writer: “Nah. The whole time I’d be out there on stage, I’d be thinking how awful I was. This voice would be like, ‘You suck. That’s stupid. What are you even doing?’…It’d be paralyzing.”

Me: “Right. I understand.”

And I do. Understand.

Because that voice never goes away. It’s omnipresent and can be oppressive if not held in check. It’s what Michael Singer termed “the annoying roommate who won’t ever shut up” in his brilliant book, The Untethered Soul.

Maybe the reason to act then, to get up on stage, is all in the attempt. The attempt to be fully present. The attempt to be so committed to the story, your character, the given circumstances, and most importantly, what you desperately need and want from the other person, that for those two hours…

…you don’t hear the voice at all.

25 and Counting

Just received a notification that I’ve written 25 blog posts so far.

On your artistic journey, it’s important to take time out to celebrate the small accomplishments. The little wins. The milestones. Keep yourself fresh and rejuvenated.

Thank you everyone for reading, for subscribing, for caring. I’ve loved doing the blog and will continue to pour my heart into it.

See you at 50.