"We've just begun to know how lucky we are....
So we have nothing to remember so far, so far.
But now I'm face to face with you, and now at last we've met,
And now we can look forward to the things we'll never forget....."
The leap I took in 2016 from east to west, from 35 private students and being a self-managed soprano singing early music, opera, and holiday pops concerts, to a bright eyed and bushy-tailed graduate student back in school has me thinking about the perspective I've gained in my first 6 months in San Diego. As with any change, there are expectations and there is reality.
One such expectation for me this semester was the song assignment from the golden age for myself, a classically-trained opera singer. I was thrilled to explore a role in my comfort zone vocally and really "dig deep" into the acting. However, when I discovered this song was sung by a secondary character whose name I could barely remember, I was envious of the other gals in my class, who got to explore Julie from Carousel and Nellie from South Pacific. Needless to say, I was rather disappointed.
Beulah is a college gal who goes on a date with the leading man, Joe, who is only dating her to get back at his high school sweetheart, Jennie. She sings the first verse and chorus of this song, he passionately kisses her, and as she sings the bridge into the last chorus -- Joe falls asleep in a drunken stupor. She is disgusted and leaves.
At the time, I sang the song in our studio class and couldn't find any acting beats in the song to distinguish a change in emotion or what she was saying. The song was so unmemorable to me that I had to walk through each verse, chorus, bridge, etc with a broad idea in my mind to stay focused on her excitement and not how much I loathed the song.
I looked for inspiration in Acting and How To Be Good At It by Basil Hoffman. This passage struck me: "The first thing you must accept as fact about every script, before you read even one word, is that it is the best script ever written. Armed with that piece of important irrefutable information, you won't waste valuable time and energy criticizing the material" (Hoffman 103).
This blew my mind. I had been wasting this valuable time (and money!) in graduate school by putting up a roadblock and keeping myself from finding "every specific point of excellence" and that "it was written for me" and only me in this moment. Once I fully accepted that I was the only one holding myself back in the material, I began to be more open to exploring and making choices with a newfound confidence. My next few assignments went very well!
It seems like a simple thing. But I've realized that I've been so interested in appeasing students with songs they like and will practice that I fell right into the trap of judging the material before I even read it. Now I haven't been able to get the song out of my head since a colleague who did the scene with me texted me over winter break to say he had it buzzing around in his head just before his debut in CATS on Broadway!
It struck me over winter break that I've just begun to know how lucky I am with the incredible colleagues, professors and provisions of this MFA program in Musical Theatre at San Diego State University - one of the only programs of its kind in the world. Newness and openness to change, as well as cultivating what I'm learning are my top priorities in this new year. Happy 2017!