27 July, 2018

Ask Al: FAQs! - Part 5

Lucky me. :)
1. Who is your favorite leading man you have ever worked with? 

How could I ever choose among this crew of men? I’m the luckiest lady on earth.

2. You’ve performed so many classic Broadway musical roles, from “Fiddler on the Roof” to “My Fair Lady,” “She Loves Me,” and West Side Story.”  Is there one song you never get tired of singing?  Is there a classic Broadway role you would most love to get a chance to perform?

As long as I live I will never tire of singing “Will He Like Me” from She Loves Me. Amalia is a parallel of me is so many ways, and that song, in particular, is a battle cry of the deeply-feeling introvert (which I personally identify as.) I’ve had the honor of playing her with a full symphony orchestra (the Orchestra of St Luke’s) opposite one of my oldest friends on earth, Santino Fontana.

I’m at the stage of my life where I am looking forward to moving out of the ingenue and into the role of the woman or “leading lady” as it is often termed. I'm not a girl anymore and I don't mind one bit! In the more immediate future I look forward to Yelena in Uncle Vanya, Rosalind in As You Like It, Fosca in Passion, and in the more distant future, I look forward to Shakespeare’s Cleopatra and Hello Dolly’s Dolly Levi (I see so much of my lover-of-life, widowed mother in Dolly, and I’d love to honor her that way someday).

3. Do you have any regular self-care routines or habits?

- I am (for the most part) on the Auto-Immune Protocol diet. It's the right diet for my body. I recommend doing lots of research and trial-and-error for your body. Then stick to it and rememebr you get one body and one life so friendly reminder: don't treat your one glorious vessle like a garbage truck.

- I prioritize the import of, and get a lot of, sleep (I have great "sleep hygene"

- I engage in non-punitive exercise (I used to go to the gym with the attitude of murdering myself into shape. That was boring and sad. Now I run along beautiful paths, I bike, do yoga, and walk everywhere. Exercise now has a life-affirming vibe, not run-from-Satan-because-you're-worthless vibe. That vibe totally sucked.)

- I drink lots (4L per day) of water (because of my medicaitons, I get dehydrated very easily, so I guzzle water and sometimes add electrolyte capsules).

- I have a really kick-ass therapist (Roberta my "feelings doctor") and I go even when I'm feeling great, the way a person goes to the dentist before there's an emergency.

- I took my time to find a very good, knowledgeable, compassioante GP and I see him regularly. Dr Steven Foscious saved my life.

"AP Introverting".
- I also have great friends, a great mother, and a very famous cat.

- I'm an introvert and thus require lots of time alone— which I advocate for. I use that time to process life, really listen and hear myself and my body, do things I love, and take care of things I don't love. I try to prioritize the things and people that I identify as "nourishing."

- I took a little time to get in touch with and identify things that soothe me (heat, water and “soft things”). This helped a lot when I was in constant physical pain, but now it has carried over to more mundane aspects of anxiety, so when I’m in distress I still use those to start the calming process.

4. You have performed in the UK and the USA often. Is there anywhere on your performance bucket list you have yet to play?

Yes! Japan and Australia are at the top of the list.

5. What do you think of the advice (that is so often given) "If you can picture yourself doing anything other than being an artist, you should do that and not be an artist?"

     Let me start by saying this: sometimes people offer wacky advice. Sometimes, good advice comes in weird sentences. And sometimes? People are jerks! This "acting only" piece of advice could be any one of the things stated above.
Here is what I really think:

     I think the advice (if taken in the spirit of self-reflection) can be utlized to promote a sense of true rigor about a very challenging and sacrificial vocation. I don't know that it is entirely productive if taken literally. But I do believe, when taken theoretically, it can be used to evoke answers to questions within the aspiring artist to test whether or not their pesonality, temperament and values, match their chosen vocation. "Can my soul thrive within the realities that are required to make such a life work" is a great question for anyone to ask themselves.

     Temprement matters. All good things in life usually come at a cost—what matters in this conversation is what "price" is each individual willing to "pay" to pursue thier dreams. Just like beng an astronaught or Olympian, just like being a parent! In that vein, any kind of artistic work is going to be a constant borage of rejection and failure, followed by bright sparks of victory. Not every extremely talented (or celebrated in childhood) individual is going to innately possess or be able to develop the internal personality/temperament to match their talent. In many cases temprement is as if not more important that talent and skill.

     A recent (and profound) example from one of my closest friends on earth, comes immediately to mind.

Bobby. Happy.
     Bobby Steggert became my best friend in adulthood. He grew up outside of Baltimore an intelligent, sensitive child with huge gifts in the performing arts. He graduated from the NYU Acting program and immediately started his Broadway career—he won job after job and accumulated enormous success quickly. He originated several roles in now-iconic plays and musicals, he has a host of recordings, fans, and two Tony nominations.
     But at 31, Bobby “woke up.” He realized he had everything he thought he had ever wanted, but was internally miserable.
     After much self-reflection, Bobby left show business at the height of his successful performing career, went back to school (at Columbia no less) to major in social work. He recently graduated, and now works with immigrants and the LGTBQ communities. He writes vividly and profoundly about his decision to leave the theatrical world in this article for 'The Medium' that I daren’t say anything further without allowing Bobby to speak for himself.

     I cite this example because— by all intents, Bobby, was as high-flying a young artists as it was possible to be, with all the talent required for a career in the arts. But as time churned along, Bobby mined his soul for more, and discovered that his temperament, personality, and overall value-system was not in line with a happy career serving in the arts. His life mission, he discovered, lay elsewhere.

    One can never say if this “all or nothing” guidance would have been helpful or pertinent to Bobby early in his life, but this story of a brilliant, vibrant, contributing and by all accounts hugely successful adult that started in the arts, and walked away from his initial passions to pursue others does not make him a “failure” as an artist. It makes him a huge success of a a human being.

     In short, I think this “acting only” advice is offered to start the process of that self-reflection.

     In addition to Bobby, I know so many other talented actors and singers— some far more talented than I, who discovered their temperaments were better suited to other jobs in life! I say “better suited” incidentally, because I don’t want anyone out there to think that this is about “having what it takes” or not having what it takes. You have what it takes, dear readers/listeners, you have exactly what it takes for your life and perfect path. Whether that matches up with the artistic job of your teenaged dreams is neither here nor there.

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