I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the greater purpose of musical theatre. It’s been said that if you want to make a billion dollars you simply help a billion people. Now, who doesn’t want to make a billion dollars (especially if you’re an artist)? But the question then becomes how do you help a billion people?
The only way to have a lot of really great ideas is to have a lot MORE really bad ideas.
The good news is having bad ideas is really easy! I have bad ideas all the time. They flicker into my head all day long, usually disguised as a good idea. Then after I spend a little more time with them, their true identity as bad ideas reveals itself, and they gets discarded.
But every now and then a really great idea flickers into my head disguised as a really bad idea. You just have to get through the bad ones first.
As I watch the various entertainment awards ceremonies that populate the first few months of the year, I am always struck by the depth of intention artists find in work that can sometimes feel like pure entertainment. I’m reminded that in everything we as actors do, we must find the greater purpose. Make it about something bigger than ourselves because that’s where the possibility for greatness lies.
Last night, during the SAG awards, many of the actors rose to the occasion of our times, understanding that the work they do does not exist in a vaccuum, but is rather reflected through the prism of the culture, giving their award an importance beyond simple recognition of talent or hard work. Continue reading What Will Your Oscar’s Speech Be?
There’s a certain pessimism that allows you to be blasé about not receiving the grants/awards you apply for as a writer. It’s the pessimism that says, “Chances are I won’t win this, but I’ll try anyway.” Then when you aren’t selected you can say to yourself, “See, I thought so.” Or if you are, you can be pleasantly and genuinely surprised/honored.
Often I find I can learn a lot from people who receive grants/awards for which I also applied. It introduces me to a new type of work or a new way of thinking. It gives me inspiration to see other peers finally receive due attention. It forces me to pay attention to what people are responding to and strive for greatness in my own work.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what precisely I, as an artist, can do to counter the sociopolitical climate of this moment. I am unwilling to fall victim to despair, while at the same time I recognize a sense of helplessness – particularly when it comes to sharing the truth. Our leaders have become misleaders. Our social media have become less social, more media. And the press is now suspect both to those who wish to subvert the facts and those who are seeking them out.
Therefore, I feel that it falls to artists to follow through, more so now than ever, on their job description of holding a mirror up to society. We must tell the truth.
When I first began teaching at USC, I was hesitant, afraid. “Those who can’t…” kept ringing in my head. I didn’t want to focus too much time and energy training other people to do what I was still focusing on perfecting myself.
The past few years of teaching acting has proven me very wrong. Rather than sapping my attention away from my skills, it has only honed them and made them all the more available to me in my professional career.
It reminded me of the time I spent helping my friends with their homework in grade school. My friend Danny was not very good at math. So I would sit with him and work through the problems, step by step, going through the process we had learned. Doing this allowed me to solidify the process in my own head. When it came time for the test, I now had double the practice and confidence to do well.
Consistent writing with consistent quality requires consistent habit. There are always a lot of variables when you’re writing something new – new characters, new circumstances, new voices, new points of view. Given that there will always be lots of new unknowns, when it comes to your process you don’t want to have to always be reinventing the wheel.
When I’m writing a new song for a musical, I start by asking myself a series of questions. The order of the series is not important, and I will usually stop at whichever point I feel I’ve answered enough to begin writing the song. (I am taking for granted that at this point I’ve created a musical language for the world of the piece as well as the individual characters.)
1. What is the EVENT of the scene/moment? This is often but not always coupled with the second question on the list (What is the conflict of the scene/moment?) This question allows me to identify what the major dramatic event is. The story in a musical is communicated and moves forward via song, therefore Continue reading How to Write a Song for the Musical Theatre
The term isn’t mine, but the problem is one that lots of writers fall into. The Donut Problem describes what happens when your main character is nowhere near as interesting or as active as all the characters that surround her.
Her thank you speech last night was…surprising, I think. While many actors take those opportunities to speak broadly for what they feel their career has meant to them or other people, Meryl took an interestingly more political, and potentially divisive tack. She (quite brilliantly) dissected the phrase ‘Hollywood Foreign Press’ into the people that have been and will doubtless continue to be some of the most vilified people in our current President-Elect’s playbook. Continue reading Streep. Agree or Disagree?