31 May, 2017

‘The Journey’ by Mary Oliver

‘THE JOURNEY’ by Mary Oliver
from New and Selected Poems, Volume 2

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

©Emma Mead

29 May, 2017

The Death Bed

(7 weeks on)


A week or so after the incident with the cat Grey headed home for Thanksgiving, slated to return to his creative den as soon as possible to continue work on his model for NIDA[1] .

Left alone to our own devices, Kent suggested it might be time to start thinking about changing The Death Room— to look forward.

    “A new bed, for sure” he said, “perhaps some paint, a little classic Cath-ay DIY?”
    “Great idea” Mom said, and three hours later, Kent and I returned from grocery shopping to find that mom has discovered beautiful solid hardwood floors beneath the early 90s carpet, ripped all of it up, rolled it up and taken it out to the curb. Now, she was already hard at work on the hallway, breathless, sweating and determined. All of this served to reaffirm a notion I already knew about Mom: once you put an idea in her head— there’s (possibly literally) no stopping her...[2]

The three of us spent the remainder of the night ripping up that hideous death-beige carpet and hauling it out to the curb with the bathwater. By 3am we had disposed of the detritus of our former life upon the lips of our lawn filled with an odd sense of higher purpose— we were not scavengers rummaging through the ruins of a fallen city. We were excavators! Like Heinrich Schliemann! Below the carpets lay new, undiscovered Troys and we would be the team to peel away the rubble, reveal the past and simultaneously, the future, just like the anthropologists of yore![3]

When we woke the following morning, the artifacts were gone— taken to the same unnameable place all life’s mysteries disappear to.

But we were not empty, we were lighter somehow.

The top floor of 1367 had been stripped bare to make room for new life, and we dressed that morning with a purpose— we were going to buy a new bed.

*

Art Van on Woodward at 14 Mile was the first and only thought that sprang to mind. It was constantly blaring its name on radio and local television commercials, and besides, it was on the same strip of Woodward as Dairy Deluxe, which gave it street-cred, not to mention 0% financing til 2004... Word.

Art Van as it would turn out, was above a Mercedes dealership, to be entered by sky-scraping escalator which crested onto a cavernous warehouse of fluorescently lit sofas, dinettes, media stations and bed frames (ostensibly, a well-furnished piranha tank).

Mom, Kent and I were each splayed—snow angel style—on a series of mattresses,
     gazing upward at the humming lights.
No, this was not a party at Elton John’s house— this was Art Van.

    “Too firm over here—” Kent called out.
    “Al?”
    “S’okay. A bit squishy.”
    “I’m on one of those individual coil ones over here,” Mom said, “the one from that commercial with the glass of wine and the bowling ball.”
    “Oh yeah!”
    “How is it?”
    “It’s great. It’s just right," she pronounced, “It’s a Sealy...

Just then Mort, a short, middle-aged gentleman whose comb over, jacket, smile, and every gesture indicated that he was an Art Van salesman, leaned over into my vision, blocking my view of the fluorescent lights like a slightly-malevolent dentist, and, hands clasped behind his back, chimed,
    “Anything I can do for you?”
He smiled a slow motion smile like a cartoon drawing from the 80s.
Nobody moved.

    “We were just waiting for our porridge to cool” I said.

Mort’s smile was as frozen upon his face as our extremities were to the mattresses, only our eyes shifted, locking on him.

    “We’ll take this one” Mom said.

Throw in three bowls of porridge and a blonde girl and we’d have had ourselves a fairy tale ending.

   “Excellent” said Mort, straightening upward, eying us still. “You’re certain of the Queen?”
    “No doubt about the Queen” Kent smiled at Mom. Plus downsizing from the King-sized Death Bed felt right.
    “And we’ll take this frame” said Mom, “I like it— it looks like a sleigh.”

It did—a chestnut, caramel-stained Queen-sized sleigh.

    “I’ll draw up the papers” said Mort, as he turned on his tiny feet, hands still behind his back.

As Mort trotted away, comb-over blinding us, we turned to Mom, who was deep in thought.
    “A new bed…” I said.
    “Yes” she said, running her hand along the hip of the frame.
    “Happy?” Kent asked in a low voice.

Mom thought a moment before answering. Of course she was not happy, her one and only love was gone— gone almost as callously as the upstairs carpets. Our family was evil and the government unhelpful. She was lost, abandoned once again, and living in Detroit with a gaggle of equally lost teenagers. It all crossed her mind, you could see it in her face, and in the thoughtful hand still caressing the chestnut bed frame.

At last the hand stopped, Mom paused and clutched the wood, felt its solid weight. She focused on the bed—her brand new Queen sized chestnut sleigh bed, with thick orthopedic mattress, box spring and 20% Thanksgiving discount, all fit for a Queen.

    “Happy...” she said.

This was a step.
A Baby Step, as Bob would say,
     toward the next stage of our new life,
and that made her happy. 
That fact.



[1] The National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney, Australia
[2] do not get between my mother and a power tool
[3] There was also an element of peeling off the used layer of a lint roller… But I’ll stick with Trojan excavation metaphor for now. However grand.

26 May, 2017

#LoveList - Stuff I Love (& actually use) - LIFESTYLE

1.  THINX -  @shethinx

Now don’t freak out: but menstruation has long been a taboo subject in society, yet, it is one of the oldest and most natural things in the history of the world. Long has “the period” been the butt of terrible jokes, totally normal hormonal fluctuations blamed for totally unreasonable female insanity, and the very practical, natural, and totally universal ins and outs of the PERIOD approached with disgust, embarrassment and taboo.

No longer. Not according to Thinx.

I won’t go on, but I will say: it is high time we all get over it and recognize that everybody poops, and half the world gets their period.

Thinx is a Brooklyn based company that is run by silly and ferociously intelligent ladies whom I have never met, but hope to because I own very single one of their products and ain’t shuttin' up about how much I love their mission statement, green vision, and taboo-bursting, general badassery.

Here is what their (super cute) website says:
We're guessin' you heard about THINX through the grapevine (Grapefruit vine? had to).
The humans behind THINX are smart and funny and a little bit silly (okay, a lot silly).
But we've been hard at work breaking the period taboo since January 2014. But our story starts like, way way back. (Three friends) + (some gnarly period accidents) + (100 million girls missing school just b/c of their periods) + (3.5 years of R&D) + (like, 30 badass team members) = the THINX you know and love and bleed into today.
We're givin' back across the globe with THINX Foundation (who run the world?! GIRLS). Join the revolution at thinx.org!


2.  URBAN EARS - @Urbanears

These headphones are not only comfortable, loaded with personality, and brightly colored (I own three pairs— seriously), but there is something about the brand: Urban ears possesses a profound understanding of how headphones are used, worn and WHY.

Urbanears is a collective based out of Scandinavia, motivated by a common interest in global relationships, a deeper connection to color, form and people, all while providing the freedom to transcend individuality and unify the sound *experience.*

In their words:
Our vision is to add a number of elements to the concept of performance. Beyond the obvious sound rendition we have a vision of making headphones that feel more like clothes than chromed plastics. We design headphones with respect to what they are expected to be, but with great attention to the details. An Urbanears headphone is always describable as a classic headphone, rather than a bold design statement redefining the product category. We spend much time making our headphones affordable. Still we want each product to always come with a little extra functionality you wouldn’t expect. And deliver great audio as well as ergonomics. Equally important, we work hard at making Urbanears available in a store near you. The evolution of music formats has allowed you to carry your full collection in the pocket. Music has migrated from designated players into cell phones. It just seems stupid not to add a microphone and a remote, allowing you to pick up calls and communicate. We try to make your Urbanears function with the most possible devices out there.

Quality. Color. Affordability. I’m sold time and time again. From Lemon to Red to Cobalt.



3.  MOLESKINE - @moleskine

THE LEGENDARY NOTEBOOK! I have been using Moleskin journals (and weekly planners, for that matter!) literally my entire adult life. Every time I branch out to another brand of notebook, I feel like I am cheating on my spouse, and I long to return to the ever-so-perfect weight, paper density, perfect proportions, line-width (or, on occasion, grid-size), and colors (my favorite being red).

“It all started many years ago, with a pocket-sized black object, the product of a great tradition. The Moleskine notebook is, in fact, the heir and successor to the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers over the past two centuries: among them Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Bruce Chatwin.

A simple black rectangle with rounded corners, an elastic page-holder, and an internal expandable pocket: a nameless object with a spare perfection all its own, produced for over a century by a small French bookbinder that supplied the stationery shops of Paris, where the artistic and literary avant-gardes of the world browsed and bought them. A trusted and handy travel companion, the notebook held invaluable sketches, notes, stories, and ideas that would one day become famous paintings or the pages of beloved books.

In 1997, a small Milanese publisher brought the legendary notebook back to life, and selected this name with a literary pedigree to revive an extraordinary tradition. Following in Chatwin's footsteps, Moleskine notebooks have resumed their travels, providing an indispensable counterpart to the new and portable technology of today. Capturing reality in movement, glimpsing and recording details, inscribing the unique nature of experience on paper: the Moleskine notebook becomes a battery that stores ideas and feelings, releasing its energy over time.”
My moleskin has accompanied me from San Francisco to Glasgow to The Isle of Olkohn in Siberia (literally), and has ever let me down as my constant companion and vessel for my every thought, idea, whim, doodle and ventilation.


4.  GERMGUARDIAN 3-IN-1 AIR CLEANING SYSTEM

Investing (and not really even that much actual money, might I add) in air filters has been the single best addition to my healthcare regime in the last year, and after truly exhaustive research (also on the part of internet wizard MamaSilbs thankyouverymuch), this model rose to tippy top and has never let me down. I own three in my (very) large one bedroom apartment in Astoria— living room, bedroom and kitchen— covering the gamut of my entire living space.

Last year my doctor quite wisely pointed out that we fight inflammatory triggers not on a daily, but on a minute-by-minute basis, and turning on an air filter removes a huge part of that! If your body doesn’t have to fight air pollution in your home (where most people spend the majority of their lives, particularly the multiple hours they spend sleeping), then your body can use its resources to fight the more vital triggers such as disease! Why make your body work any harder than it has to when all you have to do is plug something in? No brainer.

Why GERMGAURDIAN (which sounds like a Transformer, amiright?)

Well because it has the following sexy attributes: a Pet Pure True HEPA Filter, a UV-C Sanitizer, an Allergen and Odor Reduction system (which works, my downstairs neighbors smokes like a chimney and I don’t breathe a whiff of it!), 5 speeds (including an ultra-quiet sleep mode), and a 28-Inch Digital Air Purifier.

Their words:
"The 3-in-1 Air Cleaning System is perfect for allergy sufferers. True HEPA captures 99.97% of allergens including pet dander, dust mites and pollen. The Pet Pure is an antimicrobial agent added to the filter to inhibit the growth of mold, mildew and odor-causing bacteria on the surface of the filter. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, doctors recommend HEPA air filtration to reduce exposure to indoor asthma triggers. More than just a filter, the UV-C light kills germs, while the charcoal filter captures odors. CADR Rated 125+ and standing 28 inches tall, it is lightweight and ideal to use in both medium to large rooms. The easy to use digital display panel includes UV-C control, a filter change indicator and an up to 8 hour timer. 5 speeds provide high speed allergen control down to ultra-quiet sleep mode."

Best money you will ever spend.


5.  LE PEN
The (currently MOST unfortunately named —because of the racist xenophobic French political Marine LePen naturellement) LePen pens have a smooth-writing, micro-fine plastic point and a sleek barrel design. The ink is acid free and non-toxic. Available in a bazillion fun colors (including some new Neon ones!).  Also really love that the ink colors actually match barrel colors.

They are travel-able, long-lasting, acid free, non-toxic, and smudge-proof. They are perfect for journaling (my favorite), letter-writing, business forms, notebooks, diaries, memo pads, yearbooks, and scrapbooks. I use them in my Moleskin... To write about my feelings, ideas and Tati and Angela Lansbury of course. Because I am nothing if not both obsessive, loyal, and consistent. 
Enjoy!



24 May, 2017

Seeing the final book for the very first time...

The final hardback copy of AFTER ANATEVKA arrived today from Pegasus Books.

Dear Hard-working dreamers everywhere,

Dreams come true.

Keep dreaming.

Don't wait for permission.

Work Hard.

Above all?

...Keep going. 

 

22 May, 2017

Ask Al: Vocal Health Part 2: MAINTENANCE

Dear Al,


Yay! Healthy vocal cords!
Once you get the hang of protecting your vocal health, and actively preventing disease, how do you go about maintaining that quality of health day to day? 

Thank you!

Max

*

Dear Max,

Such a terrific question!

Norman Hogikyan and his colleagues at the University of Michigan Health System state quite rightly that "Your voice is your ambassador to the outside world. It portrays your personality and emotions. People make assessments about you based on your voice, so it is very important when you're speaking or singing to think about what people are really hearing. Problems with your voice also can have a tremendous impact on your life."

Protection / prevention and maintenance are healthy cousins, different but related, but both lead to the same goal. So let's keep learning!

Also, I want to be clear: I mention a few specific brands in this post. Know that I am not sponsored by any of them! The products I mention and link are genuinely what I use and believe in!
 
Good health to you, and happy singing,

Al

*

PART 2: MAINTENANCE

COMMON SENSE
•    Rest, moisture, and muscle tone are the three key ingredients to good vocal health.
•    Remember always: your singing voice is an extension of your speaking voice.
•    If you abuse your voice speaking, your singing will naturally, be negatively affected. Never yell or scream in conversation, especially in dry climates.
•    In the same spirit of prevention, maintenance requires you to get a lot of sleep, drink plenty of water, and participate in exercise.
•    Going in and out of changing climates (cold/dry/warm) irritates vocal cords—always be prepared.
•    Smoke is the biggest enemy. Aside from all the obvious health issues associated with smoking, it immediately dries and irritates the throat. Talking while smoking is exceptionally damaging.
•    Alcohol dries the throat. It is a major enemy to the singing voice.
•    Caffeine is a drying agent. Avoid it or limit your intake.
•    It is in your best interest to have an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Doctor that you trust and believe in. They will be able to guide you through your personal journey of vocal health, scope you when necessary to judge levels of inflammation, possible damage and make informed suggestions to help you plan ahead and stay on top of your health. Just like any medical situation, it is always preferable to have a doctor you trust before you are in crisis, not when you are. Ask around, meet a few, and never stay with a professional that doesn't make you feel 100% at ease.


HYDRATION AND CIRCULATION
•      Circulation is a very important health consideration for singing, especially in the morning. Doing some light aerobic exercises (and supplementing it by drinking plenty of water) will hugely help if you have to sing early in the day.
•      The human body is all about flow, and singing and speaking are no different. Blood and fluids must FLOW to the throat. 
•      Too much coffee and tea can not only dry you out but can also make you a little anxious. 
•      Be sure to check THOROUGHLY the side effects of any and all medications that you take (including over the counter medications and herbal supplements).


MOISTURE
•    Moisture is the key to maintaining healthy vocal cords.
•    Drink adequate water intermittently all day. 
•    Use a vaporizer when living in dry climates, every day.
•    Place a vaporizer about two feet away from your head when you sleep.
•    And, don’t put and fragrances or additives in the vaporizer- never eucalyptus – which dry out the voice.
•    Cool mist vaporizer is better than hot mist because it does not promote bacteria growth.
•    I could not recommend using a Neti Pot more. I use mine twice a day to lubricate, cleanse, naturally clear my sinus passages (which are prone to infection). Follow all the instructions carefully and know that it can take a few trys to get your system down, but it is worth it! It has been a game-changer for my overall health, not just my singing. To quote the Himalayan Institute's website:
a Neti pot
"The Neti Pot naturally cleanses, refreshes, and protects the nasal passages, one of our body’s first lines of defense against illness. Recommended today by doctors and pharmacists worldwide, the Neti Pot™ has been used for thousands of years in ayurvedic medicine to alleviate sinus and allergy problems."

•    Drink plain water to keep your vocal cords moist (the cords need to be hydrated from absorption through your system, and there is nothing that replaces consuming a lot of water!)
•    Sip water on breaks when singing.
•    Water dilutes and flushes mucous in the throat, so it will prevent immediate “garbage” build-up on the vocal cords.

•    For a dry throat, use glycerin based lozenges such as Grether’s Black Currant Pastilles, Pine Brothers Honey, or my favorite of all products: the Olbas pastille. 


STEAMING
•    When we drink water it doesn’t ACTUALLY pass over our vocal folds (if it did we would choke) and when we drink it, the moisture benefits do not actually get to your vocal cords for quite a while because our body needs time to absorb it.
•    Therefore, steaming is the best, most-direct, and most efficient way to get direct hydration to your vocal cords ASAP. As you breathe in the steam the moisture will reach your vocal cords and help to re-hydrate, soothe them, help reduce pain and swelling in over-used chords, and generally help to improve the condition of your voice.
•    The most efficient way to steam is with a steam inhaler (every singer owns a steamer—or two!), you can get them either very inexpensively or more expensively, depending on the model, available online or at a pharmacy. For an investment purchase I love MyPureMist and the very simple Vicks steamer is my dressing room go-to. 
•    When you steam you don’t want to use boiling water, you want it just off the boil.
•    Make sure to create a good seal with the steam inhaler with your mouth to ensure you inhale as much steam as possible.
•    Be sure not to add any oils or menthol/eucalyptus to the water as this can aggravate the voice.
•    Some say not to whisper for at least 20 minutes after, I recommend light humming after steaming to encourage the voice’s elasticity.
•    Steam showers and steam rooms help, and,
•    you can easily boil a pot of water, remain at a safe distance and sometimes utilize a towel over your head to contain the vapors. Breathe the vapors by coming over it slowly and carefully to make sure you are not close enough to burn. (Old school methods work just fine!)
•    Always remember you are working with very hot water! Just. Guys: don't be that person in the emergency room...

        

19 May, 2017

"The Stillness of the Office" from After Anatevka in Concert

Jessica Fontana and Ellie Fishman
"The Stillness of the Office" from AFTER ANATEVKA IN CONCERT at Symphony Space, 2017 based on and read by AFTER ANATEVKA by ALEXANDRA SILBER from Pegasus Books

Music by Juilanne Wick Davis, lyrics by Maggie-Kate Coleman

Performed by Jessica Fontana (Hodel) and Ellie Fishman (Irina)

*

Chapter 37: Gone

     Hodel used to find The Gentleman’s office quite peaceful in its near silence—the imposing regulation clock with its harsh utilitarian angles, audibly ticking as if it echoed the sonorous heartbeats of the hutch’s inhabitants. But tonight, as she and Irina worked side by side, the quiet unnerved her. Everything was stillness but for the etching of the fountain pens, the gentle thud of books as they were stacked. A flutter of papers, a drawer closed, a breath. Tonight, the din felt constant. The air was taut with it. Only the drained color in Irina’s face indicated the fretting of her mind; every other gesture maintained her customary efficiency.

THE GENTLEMAN: Irina, the Irkutsk export files, please.  
IRINA: Yes, sir

     Hodel watched the scene as if she were watching it from very far away. She observed The Gentleman in all his flawless machinations: the compulsive starch of his shirts, the shining shirt buttons, the blinding polish of his boots.


[The Gentleman’s voice brings them back to the work at hand:]

THE GENTLEMAN: Hodel—my inkwell is low. Fetch replacement and do be quick about it.
HODEL: Of course, sir.

     [Irina held a bundle of letters, hiding them from view. As the Gentleman left the main office, she thrusts them at Hodel.]

HODEL: I do not work for or with my husband. I know nothing about—
IRINA: They are not for him. They are for you. Letters from your family, Hodel. I thought it time you had them.
HODEL: How?
IRINA: Officers often intercept personal post—I found them a while back, in the storeroom in the post office. I saw they were addressed to you, so I set them aside. I could have given them to you earlier, but...one never knows how one feels about their family. Especially when one is interred.
HODEL: Thank you. 

16 May, 2017

Adult-ing: Part 5

21. Limit your exposure to toxic, unhelpful and un-supportive people.
    In Robert Greene’s The 48 Law of Power,  Law #10 states “Avoid the unhappy and unlucky:”
There is are, of course, caveats, but first read Greene’s word:
    “You can die from someone else's misery—emotional states are as infectious as diseases. You may feel you are helping the drowning man but you are only precipitating your own disaster. The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves; they will also draw it on you. Associate with the happy and fortunate instead.”
    Human behavior is very infectious, and on the opposite end of negative, miserly and miserable-by-choice people, are those people who attract happiness through their outlook, good cheer, natural buoyancy. They are not only a source of pleasure, but associating with them is to share in the prosperity they draw upon themselves. All positive qualities can infect us, but taking advantage of the emotional side of this osmosis is an active choice.
     Now, this is not a permission slip to be a jerk! There are people out there who genuinely need our help, support, and guidance; a shoulder to cry on, or sometimes very serious professional help. Some of these people are the people we love and cherish the most, and often cannot be avoided.
    But I believe the principal here is to limit how much we allow, permit, and sometimes even enable their negativity and toxicity to be “dumped” upon on, and when to self-protect, delegate, and offer suggestions for better helping options.  Taking on other people’s toxic garbage is not only the opposite of genuine empathy, it can make the “dumpee” anxious, stressed, negative, and sometimes (and this has happened to me!) physically sick. We are no good to anyone on this planet if we are constantly fighting to energetically get back on top.
Which brings me to…


22.  Just like on the airplane with the oxygen mask— take care of yourself before assisting others.
    Self-Care is not only not self-ISH, it is vital and necessary to living a full and rewarding life. You’ve been there: you are on the airplane, and the flight attendant goes through the motions of the safety procedures, instructing you to always put your oxygen mask on first, before assisting others.  Why is this an important rule for ensuring survival?  Because if you run out of oxygen, you can’t help anyone else. You no good to anybody IF YOU ARE PASSED OUT DEAD GURL.
    This is an important metaphor for those of you who run around taking care of everything and everyone else except yourself. It is not altruistic or noble, it is a false sense of “busy” substituting for “important meaning.” At a certain point, self-sacrifice can become self-indulgent.
    People have deep problems with self-care—believe me, 2 years ago I was one of them— now I have the zeal of the converted! And I have been infinitely better able to offer the world my gifts because of it!
    If you don’t take care of yourself, you can experience burnout, stress, fatigue, reduced mental effectiveness, health problems, anxiety, frustration, and total inability to sleep.


23. Don’t Shoot the “Second Arrow”
The Buddhists say that any time we suffer misfortune, two arrows fly our way.
The first arrow, the pain, is the actual bad event.
The second arrow, the suffering, is our reaction to the bad event, the way we chose to respond emotionally.

It looks like this inside our heads:
    Arrow #1:  “I am crying"
and
    Arrow #2: “AND ONLY A WEAK GIRLY TOTAL WRECK OF A HUMAN WOULD CRY."

The first arrow often is unavoidable.
The second arrow often is self-inflicted.
The "second arrow" isn't actually helpful-- it is full of our judgements about our thoughts and feelings and prevents us from
    1. truly feeling them or
    2. learning anything from those feelings.

One does not avoid the second arrow by denial, but by being fully present, acknowledging and truly (and I mean actually not faking it) experiencing the difficult emotion, maybe even befriending it? Then allowing it to crest and ebb like a wave. Avoiding blaming yourself for having emotions/the second arrow requires some toughies: self-love, acceptance, emotional vigilance and a healthy dose of self-awareness. The best antidote to the second arrow is self-awareness, self-permission to BE A PERSON, stop punishing, judging, and wallowing,
Then? Simply make the gentle correction.

And example of giving yourself permission:
    “Wow. My boss was genuinely disrespectful to me in that meeting and I feel humiliated and ashamed. His behavior might not have been about me, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. I am reacting appropriately to this situation. I will experience my humiliating feelings, maybe cry, primal scream or hit a pillow, and then I will move on an address the behavior from a place of peace. But there is noting wrong with my very human, emotional response.

Or, the drama school version:

    “That feeling drained and thoughtful after an emotional acting class is a totally appropriate response to unpacking big, personal and emotional subjects through my art. That we should allow these feelings to just exist instead of beating ourselves up about it. If we cry in later in ballet class or at dinner—then so be it. No biggie! We’ve never done this before, we’re in theatre school this is how it goes!

When the pain comes to mind, acknowledge it in its fullness, embrace it. But then bid it adieu and move on with your day.  What you truly accept, without over-thinking, will eventually dissipate of its own accord.  It’s like really allowing a massage therapist to get into your muscle tension without fighting them. Deep breaths, working with them, through the pain, not against it.  Time does heal many wounds if only we allow, and do not continually re-open the wound with anger or resentment or guilt or other dysfunctional “coping” mechanisms brought on by a sea of Second Arrows.

Pain is certain, suffering is optional.” – Buddha


There is a huge distinction between
    PAIN - an affliction
and,
    our SUFFERING from pain— how we experience of pain.
Pain is often inevitable, but the suffering is a choice. Our choices and energy around our pain can discomfit, frustrate or agonize us.

Don’t do that.
Make a different choice.
Don’t shoot the second arrow.
Why get hurt twice?


24. “Act 3.”
Years ago, my very first leading lady, West End star and dear friend Ruthie Henshall taught me all about “Act 3.” What she believes is that the stage door experience is a vital and important part of being gracious with the fans courageous enough to meet you face to face, and express their appreciation and gratitude for your work. You’ve done Acts 1 and 2, this is Act 3. When it is complete, you can fully relax and head home.

Her use of the term “Act 3” provides an interesting and important boundary however— the concept being that it is PART of the work. You are not being fake, dishonest or disingenuous, but what is being provided in those personal but work based situations is not the full 100% of you that you would offer your intimate friends and family. There is a difference between being friend-LY and being friends. For me, I call this person Alexandra Silber” — she is me! In a slightly fancier outfit! Just a very narrow percentage of the Me Pie Chart—she is who you meet at stage door and on a red carpet. “AL” — there vulnerable Al, is reserved for my intimate people, those who truly have seen and held my inner world. And the people on that list is actually very small. All people can experience us as authentic and genuine, but not everyone needs our full shame story, or has earned our intimacy.

It is important to maintain a healthy boundary in all of life’s “Act 3” moments, and I encourage you to identify and stand up for them.



25.  Moisturize
— and don’t forget your neck.
You’re later-in-life mug will really thank me. Trust.


Adult-ing - Part 1
Adult-ing - Part 2
Adult-ing - Part 3
Adult-ing - Part 4



12 May, 2017

Ask Al: Vocal Health Part 1: PROTECTION

Dear Al,

I am a young singer studying vocal performance. I am constantly having vocal issues navigating everything from allergies to phlegm, to hoarseness and dryness, and of course, the subsequent tension and unhealthy compositions that come with it!

How do you keep your voice safe?

Sincerely,

Natalia


*

Dear Natalia,

A fantastic question! And a wonderful opportunity for me to record my top tips!

Below is as comprehensive a list of remedies, exercises and solutions I have come up with, but first a few thoughts on general vocal health. 

I will focus this post (Part of one of the Vocal Health 'Ask Al' series) on the concept of Protecting one's Vocal Health (Part 2 will be Maintenance, Part 3, Healing) .

The difference between protection/prevention and maintenance isn’t always crystal clear, but the main point is to marry healthy prevention-focused behavior like avoiding not talking or yelling too much, getting enough sleep and staying hydrated, with maintenance-based thinking like avoiding inflammatory foods and good vocal practice habits. There is a Venn-diagram of behaviors that are common sense, but I try to break them down and be almost overly specific here.

I hope it helps!


Sincerely,

Al


* * *

PART 1: PROTECT

People who use their voices professionally as singers, musicians, teachers, public speaker and actors are susceptible to numerous vocal disorders. Vocal health is important for everyone, and thinking long-term is absolutely essential to lifelong health and success. So many vocal disorders and conditions are preventable and/or treatable, and learning how our day-to-day decisions impact our vocal health, both now and in the future can be the difference between a lifelong joy and a lifelong struggle.

When we are young, we often don’t “need” to stretch before we exercise, but we feel the lack of good habits as we age. Start those healthy habits early in your life, and they will become second nature. Prevention is better than any cure.


PRACTICE & REHEARSAL
•      Remember that rehearsing and performing speech and music is incredibly physically demanding. Never over-exert.
•      Sufficient warm-up time is important. Know what works for you.
•      Begin warming up mid-range, and then slowly work outward to your vocal pitch extremes.
•      When working on said extremes, know that correct coordination is always preferable to perfect “result.” If you have good coordination and technique, the results will likely fall into place eventually. There is no need to strain or deliver when warming up. This is after all, the warm up, not the work out.
•      Good posture, adequate breath support, and correct physical technique are essential.
•      Regular breaks during practice and rehearsal are vital in order to prevent undue physical or vocal stress and strain.
•      Constantly hydrate.
•      It is important to set a reasonable limit on the amount of time that you will practice in a day.
•      Avoid sudden increases in practice times.
•      Know your voice and its limits, and avoid overdoing it or misusing it.


THE ‘VOCALIST’ LIFESTYLE
•      Maintain all practical healthy habits. Safeguard your physical and mental health.
•      Drink plenty of water in order to keep your vocal folds adequately lubricated. Limit your use of alcohol, and (obviously) avoid smoking.
•     Avoid shouting, screaming, or other strenuous vocal use.
•      The right team is important from coach (repertoire expert), teacher (technique expert), and medical professionals (ENT). If you are concerned about your vocal health in relationship to any of the above, discreetly consult the appropriate contact person and address the issue quickly and responsibly. There is no need to remain with someone who does not serve your ultimate best interests. Use your judgement and follow your intuition.
•      If you are concerned about your personal vocal health, talk with a medical professional.


DIET
•      Healthy proteins that are hopefully organic can include lean poultry, fish, meat (not necessary), legumes, beans, with brown rice or quinoa combined with greens and favorable vegetables.  All of these will provide stamina and sustained energy for performance and maintain stable blood sugar levels. 
•      Low blood sugar and the resulting drowsy fatigue is caused most often by white foods, especially refined sugars, flours, breads, white rice, potatoes, corn, or any high-glycemic indexed foods, including sugary cereal, oatmeal, honey, bananas, etc.
•      Every human body has different needs, I myself am a Paleo eater, but it is vital to marshal your own needs and be self-aware about what works best for YOUR body and no one else’s. Once you figure out the best “fuel for your machine,” be vigilant about maintaining it. 
•      For some people, avoiding dairy products helps significantly.  Others are bothered by various foods before singing which can cause reflux and throat congestion. The trick is to calmly observe and know what affects you and to become aware of the relationship you have with diet, sleep, exercise, and even things such as fresh paint, chemicals, fabric dyes,  preservatives, additives, hormones, food coloring, air-conditioners or heaters, dust, eating late at night, pollen, air pollution, etc.


IMMUNITY
•      We all get run down, and singers are the first to get colds in the chest, ear, nose and throat. I have benefitted hugely from the use of Zinc, as well as Airborne and also Wellness Formula available at most pharmacies and online. These should be used as soon as you experience symptoms of a cold or a sore throat, or prophylactically if there is a risk of being exposed to a myriad of new germs (such as on an airplane, subway, or with children). 


Happy Vocal Health!


Read More (coming soon!):
     Part 2: Maintenance
     Part 3: Healing


09 May, 2017

TodaTix Campaign

I am so excited to announce that I (me?!) am one of the faces of the fresh new TodayTix campaign.

It was an unspeakable honor to be included in this ground-breaking new platform, a digital theater-loving company that wants theater to be accessible to everyone! TodayTix t is a brand I know and really love (and actually use in real life, by the way!)

This new  campaign is focused on diversity, affordable culture, accessibility, bringing new energy and new theater-goers into theaters across the globe, and all done in an absolutely stunning aesthetic, with photographs by acclaimed international photographer Billy Kidd.

I am so honored to join New York theater luminaries Ariana DeBose, Darren Criss, Gideon Glick, Eva Maria Noblezada, Sophia Anne Caruso, Tonya Pinkins, and Ramin Karimloo. (Nooooot sure what I'm doing on the list but, I'll take it! Also I got to wear a plastic bag dress and a giant purple sheep skin coat and the hair stylist extraordinaire cut my hair LIKEABOSS.)

Information about the campaign is below, and please let me know if you how you #SeeTheaterDifferently!

* * *

From: NEW YORK--()

Theater Ticketing Platform TodayTix Surpasses $100 Million in Sales and Unveils New Visual Identity

TodayTix, the international ticketing platform on a mission to redefine the way people see theater, today announced it has surpassed $100 million in sales and has unveiled its new visual identity. Extending on its mission to connect the next generation of culture lovers to theater, TodayTix’s refreshed brand and mobile apps make discovering and attending extraordinary performances even more accessible - and now include the ability to plan theater-going adventures up to 30 days ahead of time.

Since launching in 2013, the arts-meets-technology startup has upended the $50 billion yearly global theater industry initially by launching the first and only free mobile apps for iOS and Android and subsequently launching the industry’s first mobile lotteries on Broadway and in the West End - offering steep discounts to the most anticipated shows. In this timeframe, TodayTix has also expanded rapidly to 10 regions across the U.S. and U.K. and bolstered its partnerships to over 450 leading theater institutions around the globe.
“Reaching over $100 million in sales is an incredible milestone that underscores the growing demand for seamless access to theater,” said Merritt Baer, CEO and Co-Founder of TodayTix. “We’re thrilled to have helped nearly three million customers access the best shows in their cities, and look forward to further connecting with culture enthusiasts through our fresh visual identity.”
TodayTix New Mobile App Features:
  • Starting today, customers can now purchase tickets up to 30 days in advance to one hour before show time.
  • Kicking-off first in New York City and London, users can leverage the new “Discover” recommendation feature to uncover the show that's right for them based on their interests - whether they're seeking the perfect play for date night or a family evening out on the town.
TodayTix New Visual Identity:
  • A new brand logo with an eye-catching “X” graphic.
  • Working with noted photographer Billy Kidd and tapping a breadth of muses from Glee star Darren Criss and pivotal Hamilton cast member Ariana DeBose to up-and-coming actors such as Miss Saigon’s Eva Noblezada and 15-year-old actress and singer Sophia Anne Caruso, the brand’s new photoshoot and creative assets celebrate diversity and inclusion in theater.
“Bonded by a deep appreciation of the arts, we set out to reintroduce theater to our fellow millennials. Our new visual identity, developed by some of the minds behind our generation's beloved brands including Shake Shack, Sweetgreen, Warby Parker and Saturdays NYC, continues to push the envelope of creative expression,” said Brian Fenty, Co-Founder of TodayTix. “Whether you're interested in fashion, photography, movement or literature, culture lovers of all ages and interests now have even better access to what they love most - great shows at great prices.”
This momentum comes on the heels of TodayTix launching its successful “Broadway Backstory” podcast in partnership with Theater People’s Patrick Hinds, which surpassed over 100,000 downloads in just three months.

For new brand imagery, logos and mobile app screenshots, download TodayTix’s press kit here: https://www.todaytix.com/content/press/PressKit.zip



About TodayTix
TodayTix is an international ticketing platform on a mission to redefine the way people see theater. Through effortless access to the best shows, insightful guidance to the world of theater, and thoughtful service at each moment along the way, TodayTix enables people to discover the best that their city has to offer. As the first and only free mobile app for iOS and Android connecting the next generation of culture lovers to theater, TodayTix is disrupting an established industry that is ripe for innovation.

Operating in the world’s most iconic theater markets, TodayTix secures the best discounted and full price tickets available for the hottest shows in New York City, London’s West End, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Seattle, Philadelphia, Connecticut, Boston, Washington DC and Chicago.

To learn more, please visit www.todaytix.com, tune into the TodayTix “Broadway Backstory” podcast, or download TodayTix for iOS or Android.



04 May, 2017

"The Waiting World" from After Anatevka in Concert

Enjoy this incredibly beautiful battle cry from the AFTER ANATEVKA concert at Symphony Space in March. I am so grateful to all of the friends that participated in this incredible evening. To have close friends write music based on my creation, then performed by dear friends Santino and Ryan to embody it with such vigor is a dream beyond imagining.

Enjoy.

*

"The Waiting World" by Eric Price and Will Reynolds

Based on Alexandra Silber's AFTER ANATEVKA from Pegasus Books

Performed by Santino Fontana (Perchik) and Ryan Silverman (Dmitri) at Symphony Space, NYC,
2017

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