31 December, 2013

Thank you, 2013

Dear 2013,
Thank you.
You were, in many many ways, the best one yet.
Here's to more adventures.

More...

Healing
Teaching
Circus time (though probably no more circus folk)
Las Vegas
Blizzards
VERY serious homemade educational videos
Singing
Creation
Polka dots
Parsifal
Business with the sea
Margaritas
Snowmen with friends
LA
Opening nights at Carnegie Hall
Orchestras
SERIOUSLY SANGING
New York City
Allowing
Miami
Renewing old friendship
Creating new friendship
Letting go
Getting better
Random acts of kindness
Dreams coming true
Tying up loose ends from the past
Multitasking
Big big birthdays!
San Francisco
"Aunt Al"
Quality time with family
Finishing of novels
Spontaneous road trips
Skinning dipping in the middle of the night
Photographs
"Slutty Slutty Lemonade"
Weddings
Putting 'the past' in the past.
Slumber parties
Lip-syncing
Reunions.
Smoothies
Trips to the Cider Mill
Kick ass parties at my house
Drives to Cape Cod.
Solo adventure days in new cities
DIY
Brand new material
Difficult choices
Wonderland
Detroit
Saying "Yes" and "Why the heck not?"
Giving Thanks
Learning all over again
Learning about constructive confrontation
Scene work
TRUTH
Taking real time to reflect.


Sincerely,

Al

xo


 
Thank you 2013. X from Alexandra Silber on Vimeo.

30 December, 2013

Ask Al: 'Hydrogen'

So often, I get asked a similar version of basically what I consider to be the same artistic question.

Variants include:

  • How does one make boundaries between bringing one's own life experiences in to their work?
  • Who do you trust? 
  • What is enough homework?
  • When are you "done?" 
  • Where is the "line?"
  • What is "good" versus "bad" acting/singing/art?
Wanna know what? I don't know.

A couple of months ago a student pleaded for me to give her a concrete answer about emotional memory. She loves black and white answers--and she is not alone! A lot of people do.

     "Where do you draw the line?" she asked.

I sighed.
Because creation is never about the concrete answers, the knowns, or the black and white.

I looked at her and smiled before I said.
     "I don't know. Where do YOU?"

This is Art.
The Answer is NOT 'Hydrogen.'

Artists must (and generally speaking, human beings probably should) be willing to live in the "grey zone." To not only live there, but set up camp there! To revel in the unknowns. To bask in the reality that artistic creation, just like life, is not a science, it is an art.

Not everything can be weighted and measured, observed objectively and empirically, nor should it have to be. The truth is: there is no formula for creating the perfect work of art.
Would a "paint-by-number" be considered a work of creative art for a visual artist?
Probably not.
It doesn't work that way.
There is no ideal portrayal.
No quintessential composition or peerless poem.
And why? Because art, by its very nature, is subjective.
The lines are blurry. The areas grey.
Because the answer is not hydrogen

Thus, when endeavoring to be a better artist, once must accept that there is no perfection to attain. There is no "A" to get.
There is no race being run.
There is no chemical recipe you can whip up to "complete the assignment."
If you think there is, I would wager (and wager a lot) that you are the one creating those restrictions, and that reality around yourself.

If one accepts those truths, there will be freedom.
Where previously there was effort, there will be energy.
Where once there was stridency, there will be allowance.
Not only will your work be better, but YOU will be better.

It's not that Art isn't about hard work--because it is.
But Art is about the right kind of work. 

The answer in ART is NEVER 'Hydrogen.'
The answer in LIFE is hardly ever 'Hydrogen...'

... Except, ya know... when it is.

Such as here:
What is the only element with three naturally occurring isotopes?
And here:
What is the lightest gas?
And here:
What is the element which derives its name from the phrase "water forming"?

And on the Match Game.
...except the answer is actually "peroxide..."
So...
The Answer is Not Hydrogen there either.
This clip is merely amusing.

24 December, 2013

'The Maid-Servant At The Inn' by Dorothy Parker

"It's queer," she said; "I see the light
As plain as I beheld it then,
All silver-like and calm and bright-
We've not had stars like that again!

"And she was such a gentle thing
To birth a baby in the cold.
The barn was dark and frightening-
This new one's better than the old.

"I mind my eyes were full of tears,
For I was young, and quick distressed,
But she was less than me in years
That held a son against her breast.

"I never saw a sweeter child-
The little one, the darling one!-
I mind I told her, when he smiled
You'd know he was his mother's son.

"It's queer that I should see them so-
The time they came to Bethlehem
Was more than thirty years ago;
I've prayed that all is well with them."

- Dorothy Parker

15 December, 2013

Friends I Admire (and Why) - Part 3

Frances Thorburn
  • Just the most creative, deeply feeling, and beautiful soul I've ever met.
  • Frances Thorburn has THE BEST LAUGH I've ever heard.
  • She is self-proclaimed to be "delightfully bizare."
  • She writes stunningly beautiful music and poetry. 
  • When she is proud of you--you feel it in your cells.  
  • Did you tune in for "Dum Dee Tweedle?" Well... she is the direct inspiration for Tweedle Dee. As in: ...I basically copied her voice. Her adorable self, with her Glaswegian brogue and signature enthusiasm for mischief. 
  • One time, we discovered that strawberries look like tongues!
  • She has endured, without question, the most senseless, profoundly difficult circumstances and still managed to soar. 
  • She loves her food. Particularly blueberries! And "quiche for one!"
  • Psssst.... Franny's a bit of a Scottish celebrity doncha know. Well... at least she is to me. What do I mean by that? When I was a still a student in Glasgow I attended the theatre all the time, and Frances Thorburn ALWAYS. MANAGED. to be in the cast. I am not exaggerating! That lassie was everywhere! "Frances Thorburn" became synonymous with "Scottish Theatre Actress." So when I saw her on the first day of rehearsals for Fiddler on the Roof, I freaked! I knew so much about her work. I tried to play it cool (but we all know how that goes for Al Silber...) Thus began the Tevye's Daughters' catchphrase: Frances Throburn: Scottish Celebrity.
  • When Franny and I first met, we were both in the throws of a great deal of personal "shrapnel--" by which I mean, in recent years we had both dealt with extremities of human experience. We were both raw and quite tender. And even though we had a lot in common, we also handled and viewed life with a lot of outward differences. We both worked quite hard to overcome our natural social tendencies, cultural differences, as well as a strength-and-sensitivity balance to forge one of the most successful, fruitful and important friendships in our both of our lives. Franny is one of my best friends on earth. I have never felt far from her-- no matter how much time passes, no matter how far away we are geographically. She is truly a sister--and I am certain it was because of the efforts we made all those years ago.

Nick Westrate
  • He is the Lenin to my Trotsky. (Meaning: we are partners in 'crime'-- prescribing to the same artistic philosophy, but we go about it in different ways. I wanna talk it all out and feel my feelings, and Nick likes to do all that plus blow up the building...)
  • My true “teaching partner.”
  • He is the friend who tells you the truth even when it may be hard to say and hear. 
  • He is one of those friends you learn from all the time. Nick Westrate is the friend that 'makes me better.' 
  • He supports the artistic endeavors of his friends at every level, in the most gracious manner possible. (He gives you that standing ovation [if you deserve it], and has applauded me both in the West End and waaaaaaaay downtown...)
  • He took a bus to come to my father's funeral....so... 'Nuff said.
  • He has a cat named Jane. Her full name is Queen Elizabeth Nancy Pelosi Pussy Jones. Jane for short... Of course.  
  • Believes there is nothing a good dirty martini can't cure.
  • He fights with all his soul for causes he believes in. Fights to the death.
  • He is from Southwest Lower Michigan... which means he knows the 'Glove Love...' WORD.
  • Without a doubt, the peer artist I probably revere and look up to more than any other.

Alley Scott
  • ALWAYS 'there' (at both, say “the hospital” as well as at, you know: Carnegie Hall)
  • World class snuggler
  • We are Team AMS! We are both "Alexandras" with middle names beginning with M, and surnames beginning with S... thus, we are "Team AMS!" Our motto? GO TEAM! 
  • She is THE BEST HIGH-FIVER I have ever seem in my life. She High Fives with more enthusiasm then a head-cheerleader on a caffeine trip. 
  • Throws one helluva party. 
  • Enjoys a Christmas Tree ornament collection (that is, for the record, mighty impressive.)
  • She is 1/3 of "The Alexandra Sisters."
  • One helluva cook. (Her philosophy is "Fat. Salt. Sugar. Done."
  • In fact, she is that friend you call 24 hours before a party you are throwing for waaaay too many guests and emit your emergency cry for help of "MUSKRAT!" Then, instead of just talking you off a ledge? She offers to COOK ALL THE FOOD FOR YOU...  
  • She is the most extraordinarily gifted visual artist.
  • ...as well as insanely photogenic.
  • She is that friend you can call upon to 
  1. drive you to the airport at 6am on a Thursday
  2. or last-minute read with you at an audition 
  3. or pick up your mail from the hateful Queens post office 
  4. or drink a bottle of tequila with... ya know--BECAUSE, 
  5. or cry andcryandcryandcry and then laugh with, because if she has driven you to the airport at 6am on a Thursday there is nothing left to hold back.
  • She is my emergency contact. That sh** is real.
  • She is both left-handed AND a red-head... and you know how I feel about aaaaall of that...


More friends I admire:

Part 1
Part 2

11 December, 2013

The Laugh

(3 seconds after the reception)


The Funeral Reception of Doom did—eventually—end.

dessert at Fran's: WORD.
After an hour or so, our numbers dwindled. The remainder of our group (which included my mother’s friends, as well as a handful of mine who had gotten the entire weekend off from college), piled provisions and headed over to The Steinman’s house for what could only be described as an epic dessert wake. It was time to cut loose at our very own “Second Funeral Reception,” which eliminated the crazy people and included everyone’s very favorite thing: dessert.

 Those Upstairs People needed to get lost before we all kicked off our Sunday shoes right onto their shiny Cadillacs. Before a rogue Sunday shoe knocked some ancestral luminary over and broke a hip. I quashed the impulse to shout, Look, I know all of these bozos came to this funeral thinking they were going to corner me and force me to apologize, but I’m not going to do that. 
Furthermore I actually need to go somewhere. 
Somewhere important
Like Fran’s house for cheesecake...

That evening at The Steinman’s was the reception I will always choose to remember—when everyone relaxed and smiled and celebrated not only Dad’s life, but life itself—friends gathered together from every corner of the country, eating delicious food, telling stories, recalling memories, and performing parlor tricks as only theatre people can. If one had looked into the window of The Steinman’s house that evening, to see our faces you never would have guessed it was a funeral—exactly the kind of party Dad would have hosted.

But that had to end too.

After we helped Fran clean up and pack away the treats, everyone had to head back to their hotels, schools, or lives, and only a remaining few of us ambled back to 1367; full, and numb, and literally everything in between.


*


With our numbers dwindled and our bellies full of flambé, the remainder of us at 1367 gathered in the very seats the Enemy Forces had occupied hours earlier.

After a while we decided we needed “real food.” So Mom made guacamole. (What? That is real food.) Utilizing thirty or so avocados, she whipped up her—pardon the expression—killer recipe and put it in a giant salad bowl (accompanied by two bags of donation tortilla chips someone had given us), and we inhaled this all on the hand-painted Haitian coffee table my parents acquired in Port Au Prince circa the late-70s.

Besides Grey, Lilly and Kent, only Jessica and Jeremey were to remain at 1367 for the night. Jeremey was occupying the place with a sense of real ownership—I suppose at the time he knew the place far better than anyone. He belonged there.

Jessica did too—she was the unofficial 'Mayor' of our inner circle and my other dearest friend. Jess and I had a proclivity for long journeys taken together deep into the night. The previous summer we’d roomed together while working at the Interlochen summer camp, and had driven to lakes for midnight swims, to the “E-Z mart” for emergency Popcicles. No to mention a magical drive to Honor, Michigan where we stared at the stars on the hood of her vintage pickup truck.

We decided to take a walk in the oddly warm October evening. It smelled of first fires and Michigan musk, the kind of evening that makes you think you are within the pages of a nostalgic novel. The sky was like a painting—deepest purple at the edges with a brick-colored moon, and leaves dried, glittering like precious metals of gold, amber and ruby. In hindsight I think Jess was trying to give me permission to let go with her, to give me safe passage away from the public stage of grief and family and even our friends.

But the truth was, even if I had wanted to let it go I didn’t know how.

Saying as much, she took my hand and we walked in silence before coming upon the local High School Homecoming dance, which we promptly went to (for about twenty minutes), laughing our heads off at the oddity of it all before turning back. To this day, we fondly recall the night of my Dad's funeral where we...ya know, went to Homecoming.

Last to arrive home were Grey, Kent and Lilly— they’d dropped everyone off at their buses, airports or various hotels.
     “We come bearing more food” Grey droned. They entered holding enormous bags of food from their various drop-off points, though no bags larger than the ones beneath their eyes, “luckily the German couple down the street also plied us with fancy 17% alcohol lager which I will now be setting a direct I.V. up to if anyone else is interested…”
     “Me...” muttered Kent, and the boys withdrew to the kitchen to do exactly that.

Lilly was silent as she entered the front doorway, soundlessly removing her clogs, sighing as she tucked her short hair behind each ear with her precise wood-winder’s fingers. She made her way up the three little steps from the entrance to the main living room. She looked exhaustedly over all of us, looking exhaustedly back at her. No one spoke. It was hard to discern what Lilly was about to do.
Then, in her own bewitching way, Lilly did something that in hindsight seems so achingly inevitable it is a wonder we ever hesitated to wonder otherwise:

She laughed.

It started modestly— a little chortle in her distinctive way, all charm and delight and Virginian sunshine fed by exhaustion, sorrow and utter disbelief at all that had transpired. The look on her face as the laughter escaped her open mouth was brighter than any sunlight, and it flooded through the living room, drenching us with its radiance. Lilly laughed and laughed, hysterically cackling into her hands until she ugly cried.
How could we not join her?


Something had tilted. This was it— the end of the line. You are here the imaginary sign proclaimed! We had reached it— this burnt out, fully smoked, nothing-left-but-the-filter, cigarette stub of this raw, preposterous week had come to an end.

Lilly’s laughter spread, and caught us all. The room erupted, everyone clutching at the arms and legs of another member of this ragtag crew, not ceasing, but growing, the sound of it mounting as tears flooded down our faces and we hit our chests in a desperate attempt to breathe.

     “What’s so funny?” the boys asked, entering from the kitchen.
Soon they were guffawing too. Overwhelmedness took us over, and, in safe company at long last we were free to share in a seismic earth tremor of sleep-deprived hysteria.

We all knew we were gathered for a sober purpose, but holy hell did it felt good.
Even at the end of this horrible day, we found a way to laugh.
All together.
To eat guacamole.
Because that is how any day should end— whether it be a funeral, a hanging, a luau, your quinceañera or just Tuesday.
And though I have never been part of a street gang, I would wager that this kind of camaraderie felt pretty close— the kind of feel good we-sure-weathered-that-storm-together type togetherness that put one in the mood to play chicken and steal a stop-sign.


I never would have believed it, but as I rolled on the floor, face aching, lungs positively burning from the sheer strength and necessity of the laughter, I knew:
     somehow,
     someday,
     it was all going to be alright.




06 December, 2013

100%


Give all you have today. 
That is all you can give.
But do give it all. 


03 December, 2013

Longing

Shura watched him from a distance. Leaning hard against the barn (anxious for any fragment she could gather), she examined every detail as he devoured a heavy book.

She loved how the broadness of his shoulders curved above the volume as if cradling the very thoughts upon the pages.  She could have remained there, eyes intent upon him, forever but for the gust of wind that whipped her rippling blanket of hair across her body. It forced her to gather it up quickly, then tuck it in a woven knot beneath her headscarf. 

When she looked up once again she saw that Mikhail was no longer gazing into his book: he was gazing at her.

Caught, like a startled animal, she was all at once self-consciously aware of her stance: of her long, obliviously elegant body half-draped along the door-frame. Of her neck exposed from the openness of her work-shirt, of her breasts pressed flat against the door as if holding in every urge and sweltering feeling. She backed away from the intensity of his stare—her eyes challenging him.

But he stepped toward her. Crossing the damp morning earth, he tilted his head and a made a little bow.

    “What are you doing?” she said, incredulous.
But he merely moved past her on through the woods and out of sight.

Whatever that had been, it had rocked her.


She would position herself to overhear his lessons with her little sisters and heatedly berate him with  questions, poking holes in all his theories.
But he would smile and respond. Engaging her. Like an equal.
She felt wide-awake for the first time in all her life. 

Who was this man?
Where had he come from?
Would it change him and all he was?
Would it matter?
No, she thought.
No. 
She did not need to know.


One morning, she watched him as he washed himself: the particular angles of his neck, the way his hair fell into his face when his head was uncovered, the arch of his brow, the natural openness of his face, the now familiar and distinctive sadness in his eyes.
Her breath caught.

That morning Shura saw nothing but the radiance of a blend of different lights: the reflection of sun upon the earth, the bright orange of the sky, but above all: the light from within him—the amalgamated glow of that particular morning shone so tenderly upon the earth she felt as if there were nothing beyond this scene, nothing beyond him at all but a senseless vacancy.


Soon, they were walking for hours. He would tell her of life in the cities, of politics and economics. Shura would listen before dryly reminding him of the humanity behind his rhetoric. He spoke not of dreams but of what he would do—and in challenging him she made his thoughts stronger, his plans more vivid. 

It went unuttered, but in their own quiet ways, they knew—they felt the same.



*


There were flickering lights in the distance dotted like sprinkled stars from the dying fires and candles of the homes across the landscape. The train was to arrive in minutes. They waited there together, feeling the warmth from within those homes; children fast asleep, families together, bodies weary and resting. The lights made the place more desolate.

There was a feeling in the air—every gesture, movement, slash of light and roar of wind was charged: The way he gathered his belongings into a satchel. The way he held her hand, caressing her fingers with one thoughtful stroke of his thumb. They sat in silence, side by side, waiting. The sounds were those only ever palpable in stillness: of breaths,and the synchronous beating of their hearts. The sky was cracking in its clarity.

Shura glanced over at him: his gaze was outward, his face calm. The train was approaching in the distance. He must have felt her look upon him for he moved his eyes from the horizon and looked deeply into her.

    “It is time.”
    “Yes.”
    “Believe me, Shura,” he said, “this is easier for me.”
    “Oh?”
    “Yes. It is so much harder to be left behind.“    

The space between them was suddenly heated, ablaze with intimacy.

She could not stand it a moment longer— she rushed her body toward him, head burrowed into his shoulder, her arms fiercely wrapped around his body in an act of both complete adoration and anguish. With one arm around her frame, he lifted his other to cradle her head and draw her closer, inhaling deeply the scent of her hair, along with her very essence. It was an exhilaration almost too great to bear.

    “Oh Shura,” he said, voice flooded with love, “we cannot be stopped.”
    “Your revolution?”
    “No” he said, “…you and I.


01 December, 2013

Wolfgang & Wonderland


LIVE TODAY at 3 pm EST (GMT-5) on www.dso.org/live

I am so excited to return to the Motor City to create the role of The Narrator in this world premiere of 'Dum Dee Tweedle' on tomorrow's live webcast. It's a crazy and amazing role (featuring my first-ever use of Glaswegian accent for Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee!), and I cannot wait to share it with you all! 

Watch & listen free, Sunday at 3 pm EST (GMT-5) on www.dso.org/live.
[Live from Orchestra Hall is presented by Ford Motor Company Fund and made possible by generous support from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.]



Maestro Leonard Slatkin leads the live webcast of 'Wolfgang & Wonderland!' 

DSO Concertmaster Yoonshin Song plays Mozart's second violin concerto, and an all-star cast performs the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize winning David Del Tredici's Alice in Wonderland-inspired 'Dum Dee Tweedle.'



Music Director Leonard Slatkin's championing the use of technology here in Detroit and across the pond at Orchestre national de Lyon to share live presentations of music with the world is a marvel. 

Read his latest HuffPost Arts & Culture blog about live webcasting and the orchestra's "move to the Internet."
 


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