Rise and rise again .. 

One thing is true – the sun rose on a very different world this morning. I can’t imagine what it is like to be in America right now, my feed is full of people who are now feeling more isolated and are more despairing than ever before. It is true that emotions ran strongly this election – perhaps more so than in any other in recent memory. The vitriol and propaganda and hatred flowed strongly from a right-wing America who in their own way, have been left in isolation and repressed and overlooked for far too long and they took their opportunity and they pushed back. I think that the left grew complacent, they felt that the rhetoric would be enough to secure a victory. They were wrong. 

It’s also not only the US election that has many people scratching their heads about the fate of the world, the public discourse through much of the West is mind boggling and so often plays to the lowest possible denominator. Brexit in the UK was a campaign fuelled by fear and outright lies – and when it all came out (the highest google searches in the UK the day after the vote were “What is Brexit” and “What is the EU” which is .. terrifying but indicative) the people who lied just said “ah well … oops” and people accepted it and moved on. In Australia we have a perpetually low standard of politician – not just that people like Tony Abbott (clearly the best person to handle Women’s Affairs and Indigenous Affairs), but the wunderkind that are One Nation and that creature Pauline Hanson, and the now desolate Palmer United Party. We’re feeling it all over the world. 

The pain so many feel .. I understand it. I felt numb watching the results coming in. I felt sickness in my stomach as hatred and fear and bigotry and mysogeny won and won and won. Bigly. 

Then I felt something else. 

A fire lit somewhere in the back of my mind. Slowly it spread through the night, I could feel it sparking through my heart, and into my mind. Inspiration, and creativity exploded through me. I could see the next four years of my life mapped out in front of me, using my art, and my voice, and my talent. Throwing whatever I can into the world to show my brothers and my sisters out there, who feel so abandoned in this hour, that they are not alone. That they have people with them, shoulder to shoulder. 

I woke up this morning more energised than I have been in a long time. Ready to use my place in the world as an artist, and a commentator, and a motivator to step into the world and share a message of hope, unity, and limitless potential. I want to create new work, and to explore old works with a new perspective. I want to find the beauty that is so prevelant in our world and lift it up. To create more of it, to open up a discourse and shine a light in the dark places until there is no place for fear and bigotry and hatred to hide. We are better than this. We can do better than this. We should do better than this and we must. 

I wondered if I was the only person who felt this way .. then I started seeing more of the same thoughts and ideals and resistance lighting up my news feed. Including this wonderful quote by a good friend and fellow creative human Brenda Hartley who wrote; 

“Up we get. The fight begins today. Make, write, shoot, direct, sing, perform, tell, paint, share, practice – get it out, loud and proud, bright and bold. Saturate it with authenticity, anger, wit, honesty, joy, pain, despair, and love in equal spades. Mobilise whatever you’re carrying in your head and heart, give it air, let it go – repeat. Look down the barrel of that gun and face the uncertainty with courage and generosity. The opportunities we have are there for the making, and there for the taking. Do not drop out of public discourse because in my opinion (which no one has asked me for but I don’t care) you’re needed now more than ever”

I think we can lead the fight back. We can find grace, and humility, and wonder again. We, as artists and consumers of art, have the greatest role to play in the weeks, and years to come. Don’t lose the fire. Raise your voices with me. Talk to your friends and family – even those who dont think the same way as we do. Especially them. Show them they’re not alone either, and that they don’t have to be afraid. That we can be united. As artists, that may be our biggest challenge, and our highest responsibility. 

I don’t think our greatest qualities are gone away, I don’t think that this was the day that hatred won. I think this was the day that hatred made it’s last stand. And it’s going to lose. Bigly. 

S. 

My Name In Lights: Rehearsals

The rehearsal process can be labourious. It can be lengthy. It can be mind numbing and involve hours and hours of “hurry up and wait”, followed by frantically throwing yourself through your paces at maximum energy. You leave with your muscles aching, your voice stretched and knowing that tomorrow is probably a day of vocal rest, your eyes are sore,  your head is pounding, and you are soaked head to toe in sweat. At least this has been the experience for me from time to time. 

So many actors I work with hate rehearsals. Or at least seem to view them with disdain. They treat them like the optional part of the process. Turn up, or not. Prepare for them or not. So long as it all is ok by the time it gets to stage that’s fine right? 

Especially in community theatre. 

I have to say though, despite the highs and lows, working with people who don’t seem to want to be there, with directors who might not be as prepared as they should be, whose process you don’t agree with, people of varying levels of skill, who treat it as everything from a stepping stone to a hobby. I love it just as much as I love stepping out onto the stage in front of an audience. 

This weekend I had an an intensive rehearsal for the production of R&H’s Carousel with Queensland Musical Theatre. I am lucky enough to be playing the lead role of Billy Bigelow, a tragically flawed man who sings what is arguably some of the best music ever written for the male voice (I am still surprised every time I sing Soliloquy that they’re letting me sing it – but that’s the subject of another post).  

Photo Credit: Stacie Hobbs

For those of you who haven’t experienced an intensive weekend, it’s the closest that community or pro-am theatrecan get to a professional process, we turn up at 9 and leave at 5. We have sitzprobe (a sitting rehearsal where we get to sing through the show’s score with the orchestra for the first time – it’s magical and is my favourite moment of them all), we stagger through a full run of the show, we go through photoshoots and we begin to rapidly fix all of the small technical pieces of the show that are not quite right. It’s a long process, and it is exhilirating. 

Usually an intensive weekend will come just at the point in the rehearsal process where you are starting to find yourself falling out of love with the show. You’ve heard all the jokes a thousand times, you’re a little over the music, you’ve sung about clams until you’d throw up at the sight of them, and you’ve run lines with as many people as you humanly can, and the script is starting to feel like gloop in your head. then you have sitzprobe, and you run the show, and you stagger your way through and it’s wonderful. 

You defy the odds and you make it through. It may sound like a cliche but you will know more about the show, your character, and oddly enough – yourself – by the end of it. 
Waking up Tuesday morning, I was sore, dehydrated, and I regretted collapsing into bed without doing a physical and vocal warm down the night before. It told me a lot about where I am at as a performer. How stage ready I am. How mentally prepared I am (for those of you who don’t know the story of Carousel, it delves into some pretty heavy topics including domestic violence, depression, suicide, and what lies beyond this life. Which is a lot for a musical written in the 1940’s). How physically ready I am to perform this titan of a role. Most importantly though – I was reminded how much I loved what I do. Why I keep striving to be better. Why I push myself harder and harder to find my peak. 

There are so many things to love about rehearsing. If done right, it can be an artform that is breathtaking and challenging and motivates me to go beyond my boundaries. I love the smell that almost all rehearsal spaces I’ve ever been in have. I love meeting new people, working together with them to create something, striving to have a single moment of realness on the stage. Missing the hours pass easily as I lose myself in the work. The families I build that last years. The trust that I have in those people to be there to catch me every time I fall. Every single part of the blood, sweat, and tears is wonderful if I just give myself over to it.
It’s also easy for me to forget all of this. I find myself at least once a show struggling to get up off of the couch to trudge back out into the night to a rehearsal. I owe myself more than that. I love this craft beyond anything. I couldn’t stop doing it, it’s like air to me. But once a show, around the 8 – 10 week mark for rehearsals it will happen. I’ll struggle with it. Kick myself a little that I signed up to do another one. Get lost in the process of creating and I won’t be able to see the end point just yet. But then there it will be, and I’ll lie in bed at night after a rehearsal grinning to myself about what an incredile world I get to be a part of. 

Speaking of which – I have a rehearsal I should be getting ready for. 

S. 

My name in lights .. 

I’ve been wondering about the best use of this blog, and ways that I can use it to engage a readership and explore more of my journey as an actor, producer, and writer. After rereading my previous posts, and the unwritten, unfinished posts that sit half done, or as titles and themes on a list in my office – I realised that all of those dealt with parts of my journey. Dealing with things from stage fright, to what kept me coming back as an actor, what keeps my writing and struggling and reaching. 

There are reoccurring themes that I find myself running into – but to lay them out on the table and openly discuss them is confronting and I think that in that confrontation lies something worth really discussing and expanding. 

Looking back through some old photos from my trip to London last year, I came across this photo of myself standing on the stage of Les Mis and I can still feel the electricity under my skin and taste that potential. 


So to kick off a very soft relaunch and repositioning of my little online home – amusingly to bring it back to what I had intended to use it for in the first place – I will be posting weekly blogs journaling and discussing the things that I love about the acting “game”. Inside and out. These are the things that may be challenging but that keep me coming back time and again. 

Hopefully exploring this will be a little helpful to some people who are struggling with their own journey – I love the creative world. It is so rich and deep and varied and it never ceases to amaze me how inspired I can become.

The arts can, and should, and does change the world. 

There is a reason that I fell in love with it. There is a reason that I am still in love with it. There is a reason that I fall a little more in love with it every day. 

I want to share that with all of you. 

S. 

Productive Places 

Happy Monday!!! Arguably the greatest day of the week (not just because I am currently fuelled by a half dozen shots of coffee). Recently I’ve spoken about my productivity levels, my procrastination levels, and my scattered mind trying to adjust and understand the billion and a half things I have going on at the moment. As a part of this development I have spent some time reflecting on “How” I work and what impact that may make on my productivity. 

I have spent quite a few years trying to fit myself to the work style that I “thought” I should use. Trying to embrace patterns and getting up early to take advantage of the early mornings, finding my 9-5 creative groove and work the system as best I can. So after several years of that .. Yeah … No. That’s not a thing.
I’ve found that I work really well from 11pm – 5pm. I’ve found that this isn’t done well in isolation. I find it really difficult to get my mojo on (yes I have mojo – I’m basically Hermione Granger yo #ministerformagic) in a vacuum “early” in the day. Ergo I frequent lovely little cafes and public libraries. I love a space that is full of bustle and noise. I know so many people hate them, and find working in them as being far too distracting but I find them to be soothing. The grinder whirring away in the background is wonderful white noise for me and let’s my settle in with a cup of coffee (that I didn’t make myself – this is important – they’re always better) and gently ease my way into the day. I can find my rhythm in these little hubs, and if I frequent them often enough to be a regular, find wonderful opportunities for breaks with other regular costumers and staff. 

The other point of the day that I find I am equally productive in is a little harder to manage. Between the hours of 11pm and 2am the world is silent and still. My creative energies will always get a second wind and I can lose whole hours pacing the house with a notebook in my hand muttering to myself. Throw on a white noise / rain track / quiet jazz album (with no vocals – again important) and I can, and do, work until the sun creeps over the horizon and I retreat to my bed. 

The schedule is then broken up nicely, and while I don’t always maintain it (the midnight writing sessions are hard to keep up – plus the pull of Netflix is real – House of Cards – oh my god) I find a couple of night sessions a week give me a really great output of work, far more than when I was trying to manage a 9 – 5 schedule. 

S. 

Chasing cars… 

I don’t know about you guys – but sometimes I struggle a little with containing all of the thought bubbles that are floating around in my brain at any one time. I start out fine – but I end up chasing random thoughts around like a puppy chasing after a car, that then finds another car, and another, and holy wow that one is just so shiny and .. Wait .. How did I get here again? 

One of the biggest problems that I face day to day is not figuring out my plan, we’ve talked about this, I love a good plan. My biggest problem is keeping myself on track. Finding that level of mindfulness that will allow me to keep on one track and see a project, or a task through to it’s completion without being pulled entirely off topic.

For example – this blog post. What I started doing this morning was finishing putting together my 18 month calendar, which was halted when I started adding things to my list of things for today, which was stalled when I realised I needed to add something to the presents for my partner’s birthday this weekend, which moved into a Pinterest binge, which moved into a blog post on how I can’t stay focused. My computer is on top of my calendar as I write this …. 


I am fairly confident that doing this is not helpful. I am fairly confident that it leads to to taking on more than I can necessarily commit to. I am fairly confident that I should not be so confident about anything. This is not a way of achieving best practise. 

In saying all of this though – identifying the problem is the first step towards finding a solution. I will do some research and report back to you. I know you’re keen to know how I go with this.

Have a good week – you wonderful majestic human beings. 

S. 

Don’t wait till Monday … 

Sometimes I get really caught up in that cycle. I can only start a diet / work out / writing schedule / Llama Farm on a Monday. That’s how that works. The universe has spoken – they collectively decided that all good things, all of the things of worth and substance should be started on a Monday (It should be noted that if the Monday also falls on the first day of the month it’s extra magical. Bonus points will also be awarded for a Monday that is not only the first day of the month, but the first day of the year as well .. ). 

It all has a nice symmetry to it and no one really wants to mess with the system. 

Of course none of us really like Mondays (I do actually – but that’s the subject of a whole other post)  .. So it’s the perfect excuse to break whatever cycle we were planning before we even start it. I know I’ve been guilty of that – and once the cycle, which never existed, is broken .. Well I can’t start again until Monday. Them’s the rules. 

Then again, even if we do start it on a Monday, whatever our specific goal might be, we can fall off that wagon at any time. Falling off is not day specific. It can be enjoyed at any time, day or night. 

Maybe .. Just maybe .. If we didn’t wait. If we stopped eyeing off the first day of the week as the beginner of all things .. We’d stop wigging ourselves out so much. Maybe we should just start. Who knows what might happen then* .. 


*Obviously the universe will collapse. What – are you crazy?

Happy Saturday! 

S. 

Goals … They’re not even half the battle … 

Goal setting .. that’s the be all and end all fix right? You set the goal, and then *boom* like some sort of magic out of “The Secret” you have the Ferrari, the jetski and the million dollar Alpaca Farm fortune you always wanted … right? Yes? Guys …?  

 

I am discovering as I go along that it is far less about this than it should be .. it’s not even half the equation. Not even a third. The plan is necessary, the plan IS in so many ways ALL. But .. is it though? Don’t get me wrong, the ability to plan and to organise and structure a set of goals is one I have spent years working on and certainly have not yet perfected. That’s totally valid and I know many people who don’t have that ability which is .. unfortunate for them as it may stop them from having the global Alpaca empire of their dreams. 

More than that though, more than the ability to sit down and look 3, 5, or even 10 years into the future and seeing the person you want to be and the place you want to be in (having that vision and not laughing at yourself is a topic for a different blog I think …), is the ability to continuously motivate and drive yourself to work the plan. Goal setting without determination and motivation is just really complicated, confronting list making. I mean .. I love a good list, who doesn’t?  At the end of the day though – drive and belief is so much more important. The trouble can be how to maintain that. How many days can get wasted in us not living towards the best version of ourselves? 

I struggle with it I admit. I need to remind myself monthly, sometimes weekly or daily even, just how far I’ve come and how much I can achieve if I keep working. If I worked every day for a year, using my time the way it really could be used .. how much further down my road would I have traveled? Where would all of us be? 

S.