Look Up!

A red airplane no bigger than my shoe dangles from the sky, miraculously appearing to float in midair. Its propellor spins rapidly. I stop and stare at the seemingly magical airplane, wondering how it possibly stays perfectly positioned above the center of the road below.

“You never know what you’re going to see when you look up,” says the woman on the sidewalk a few feet to my right. I suppose she noticed my amazement and wonder at the curious dangling airplane and chimed in with hers as well, equally perplexed and entertained. I ask her if she knew how it was hanging there, and together we take a closer look to discover a near invisible thread creeping out an apartment window above, snaking its way down to support the suspended airplane. I knowit sounds simple, but it was one of the coolest things I’d seen in a while. I wanted to take a picture, but my phone was dead. It’s probably for the best, though. I think it’s fitting that this moment be preserved only in my memory. As I walked away and took one last look up at the mysterious airplane, I ruminated some more on this brief interaction and what she had said. I started to wonder about all the things I miss when I fail to look up. The idea of looking up took on a deeper meaning and I see it now to mean present moment awareness. In this city of strangers, I made a connection, brief but meaningful, that made me think about how much I’ve been missing.

I spend so much time focused on myself. I’m beginning to realize that the root of suffering may be this separated consciousness that distances us from one another. At the risk of going down a spiritual rabbit hole here, I am realizing the power of ONE that exists in all of us. We are one, and when I approach life through that state of mind by cultivating present moment awareness, nature and the universe flow through me with an encouraging brush. The same one that spins the propellor. I am overwhelmed with regret the minute I begin to think of all the wasted moments and opportunities I’ve spent buried in a self-absorbed state. That suffering ends, though, the moment I realize that those moments no longer exist, and all I have is my fingers typing away on these keys. In this is all that ever was, and all that ever will be.

So, how does this relate to acting? The ability to be present onstage is essential. Sure, even the best actors lose focus while performing, but their ability to refocus attention to the circumstances of the play and the present moment is what sets them apart. They listen and respond to their partner(s) in an organic, natural, truthful manner. This skill allows a long-running show to feel fresh and new each time the curtain is drawn. These moments occur for the first time every night!  A subtle shift in my scene partner’s eyes that was not there yesterday might inspire me to take a different approach on my next line and give our scene an entirely different flavor. These are skillsI’m still working to hone but they are some of the most important in our craft. How can I expect to turn on present moment awareness onstage if I’m not practicing it in my regular day to day interactions?

With The Broadway WarmUp 30/30/30 Challenge quickly approaching, I plan to focus on cultivating present moment awareness. I will keep daily journal entries to document my progress. I will continue my recently implemented daily meditation practice. In addition, I will minimize phone and social media use, allotting only a certain window of time everyday. The amount of time I spend refreshing my email, meaninglessly scrolling through my social media is laughable. This month, I will cut back on these distractions and see if they lead to a more focused, intentional life. My plan is to allow phone/social media use in the morning hours from 6-10AM, and again in the evening hours 8-11PM. I will still have plenty of time to do my work online, but my hope is that this time will be productive rather than a means for distraction and instant gratification as it’s so often been in my journey thus far. Who knows what I’ll see when I look up? Join me for The Broadway WarmUp 30/30/30 Challenge to jumpstart your journey to your inner greatness.

Sign up here: BWU 30/30/30 CHALLENGE

Be Warm,

Johnny

www.broadwaywarmup.com

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Celebrating Small Wins

CELEBRATING SMALL WINS csb

Lately I’ve been so focused on getting ahead and chasing my goals that I haven’t been taking time to reflect on where I am and where I’ve already come. Basically, I ignore achievements. The same focus that helps me get over adversity also makes me overlook my accomplishments. Long-term goals often seem so distant it can be demotivating. They appear elusive and I sometimes feel that what I’m doing today will have no real impact on where I want to be in the long-term. I must remember that the journey is the destination! I’m already on my way. By brushing off my small wins I am missing out on opportunities for empowering thoughts and confidence compounding to create a mindset where achievement begets more achievement. Long term goals are tough: you have to put in the work daily, but you get used to seeing results only once in a while, if you’re lucky. It can feel like no progress is being made. Small wins, though, help you move from where you are to where you want to be. Celebrating each step is important to reduce frustration, increase happiness and continue being motivated.

Instead of delaying gratification until an uncertain, intangible goalpost is attained (one that will likely move again once you’ve passed it), celebrating the small wins allows me to enjoy more of the small moments along the way.

“You don’t have to wait until the end. If you’re not going to be good at celebrating the small things, you’re actually not going to be very good at celebrating the big things either.” – Tim Ferriss

Don’t worry, if you don’t celebrate your small wins, you’re not alone. I’ve been failing to do so of late, which is mostly why I’m writing this blog post, to make sure I practice what I preach. Here are some ways I’m planning to celebrate my small wins.

THE JAR OF AWESOME

I first learned about The Jar of Awesome in an episode of Tim Ferriss’ podcast. This is essentially a mason jar that you can fill with your special or proud moments. You create the rules. This will serve two purposes: make you stop for a moment, appreciate the present and write it down on a piece of paper, meanwhile creating a bunch of happy memories you can pick from whenever you feel down or demotivated. When something really cool happens, you’re not going to remember it and have that perspective and gratitude months down the road. The accomplishment will seem trivial or maybe even a fluke by that time. So, every night, write down something awesome that happened that day! You’ll soon see an abundance of victories.

Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal

Many of the high-achieving people I’ve seen/heard interviewed speak to their journal practice, often focusing on daily gratitude. It’s one thing to practice gratitude in our lives, but it’s important to write these things down: this activates different parts of the brain, and helps you elaborate upon and better remember the positive things that happened that day, thus cultivating a mindset of positivity and abundance.

Accountability Partner

The few times I’ve tried this, I’ve been amazed at the results. I need to start it back up again. Back at school, I became accountability partners with a friend of mine and we’d send each other weekly and monthly reviews on our progress towards our bigger goals. It was surprisingly effective and made the process that much more fun. It’s like going to the gym with a workout buddy, but for all of your life goals. Whenever I overlooked a small win, I’d get a text/reminder to take time to appreciate and celebrate. This helps keep both parties on track toward achieving their dreams.

OK, you’re up: when was the last time YOU celebrated a success and what did you do? Let me know, and keep on celebrating! You’ll feel great and you’ll stay motivated in the pursuit of more.

Be Warm, JohnnyBWALPHA

www.broadwaywarmup.com

Olympic Games Rio 2016

RIO 2016

“I feel like what we do is an Olympic sport. When you’re in those audition rooms – what I like to call the fluorescent light interrogation rooms – and you feel like, “I don’t know what’s coming next” or, “OMG, I’m going to shit my pants” that means you’re going for the gold and not for the bronze or the silver today.”  – Meditation & Creavitity with Mark Price

Tonight marks the beginning of Olympic Games Rio 2016, with the Opening Ceremony to take place at 7:00 PM EST. The athletes competing in the Olympic Games prepare day in and day out for their chance for triumph on the biggest stage of the world. I’m super excited. Watching the Olympics is a reminder of the potential for greatness that exists in all of us, and these athletes are living examples of that greatness made manifest. Here’s some inspiring quotes from all time greats to get you pumped for Rio.

“We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self discipline and effort.” – Jesse Owens, American track and field athlete and four-time Olympic gold medalist in the 1936 games. 

“The key is not the will to win. Everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.” – Bobby Knight, led the U.S. national team to a gold medal in the Olympic Games as coach of the 1984 basketball team.

“If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.” – Mark Spitz, American former competition swimmer, nine-time Olympic champion, and former world record-holder in seven events.rio.jpg

I believe acting, dance and vocal training require the same dedication, discipline and determination that Olympic training calls for. To perform at the highest level, we must treat our bodies, voices and minds with discipline and care. A brilliant example of this kind of rigorous training is the inimitable Cynthia Erivo, Tony Award Winner for her performance in Broadway’s The Color Purple. Cynthia is greatness. Her performance is the culmination of years and years of preparation and technique that all looks effortless onstage. I’d venture that Cynthia prepares her work the same way Olympic athletes prepare for their chance at the gold. An essential element in this preparation, is, of course, the warm-up.

Too often, athletes show up late to a workout and just dive in on the fast swimming, running or riding with no warm-up. I know I’ve done that too many times to count. Others are pinched for time, trying to squeeze a workout into a busy schedule, so they skip the warm-up, figuring the main set of the workout is more important anyway. The same is true of auditioning. In my interview with Mark Price, he says, “Many people think, ‘I’m not going to warm up because that’s 40 minutes – 40 minutes where I can go do that errand, return that quick phone call and post at least 3 pictures to Instagram, so you know I’m not going to do it’, I’m going to do these other things and make it feel like there’s a big sense of accomplishment.” If I’m pressed for time, I’ll forego a proper warmup and muscle my way through the high notes. I’ll convince myself that what I’m doing in the time beforehand is more important than a warm-up, and that I’m already warm enough after a few lip trills. The same thing happens when I jump on the treadmill without a stretch. I’m not giving my body the time it needs to prepare for the task at hand.

Let’s examine the benefits of a proper warm-up. Much of the following is extracted from Gale Bernhardt’s article “The Real Reason You Should Warm Up”  for active.com. Ms. Bernhardt was USA Triathlon team coach at the 2003 Pan American Games and 2004 Athens Olympics.

Enhanced Performance

Relaxed, sitting down and reading this blog post produces a relatively low 15 to 20-percent blood flow to skeletal muscles. Most of the small blood vessels (capillaries) are closed. After just 10 to 12 minutes of total body exercise, blood flow increases to approx. 75-percent and the capillaries open.

Along with more blood flow comes higher muscle temperature. The hemoglobin in the blood releases oxygen more readily at a higher temperature. More blood to the muscles, along with more oxygen available to the working muscles, equals better performance.

Preventing Injury

There have been studies on sudden (no warm-up), high-intensity exercise and its effects on the heart. “One particular study had 44 men (free of overt symptoms of coronary artery disease) run on a treadmill at high intensity for 10 to 15 seconds without any warm-up. Electrocardiogram (ECG) data showed that 70 percent of the subjects displayed abnormal ECG changes that were attributed to low blood supply to the heart muscle. Yikes!” (Bernhardt).

The “abnormal changes were not related to age or fitness level,” but to the absence of warm-up. (Bernhardt).

To investigate the benefit of a warm-up, “22 of the men with abnormal results did a jog-in-place at a moderate intensity for two minutes before getting on the treadmill for another test of high-intensity running. With that small two-minute warm-up, 10 of the men now showed normal ECG tracings and 10 showed improved tracings. Only two of the subjects still showed significant abnormalities.” (Bernhardt).

Mental Preparation

Part of a warm-up process includes getting your mind right for the activity ahead. How do Olympic athletes keep their cool under the pressure of the world’s biggest stage? How can performers stay grounded under the pressure of final callbacks? Mentally preparing for the upcoming event is proven to improve performance. Many athletes utilize visualization, meditation practices, and flow mindset to perform at the top of their game. The Broadway Warm-Up encourages performers to do the same, by implementing time for self-love and visualization within the warm-up regimen. Celebrate small victories, celebrate accomplishments and set goals for the future with intention, clarity and tangible steps to achieve them.

In summary, in order to perform at your best, take time for an adequate warm-up. Treat your career with the same respect, professionalism and responsibility with which Olympic athletes treat theirs. Go for gold. Check out The Broadway Warm-Up to start today.

GO TEAM #USA!

BWarm,
Johnny Shea
Blogger-In-Chief, The Broadway Warm-Up
www.broadwaywarmup.com

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ompletely Synchronized Vocal and Dance Warm-Up

Q&A with AVENUE Q’s Kerri Brackin

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Kerri Brackin is currently in the NYC production of AVENUE Q at New World Stages playing Girl Bear/Mrs. T. The actress chats with The Broadway Warm-Up about her journey as a performer, daily rituals/habits and her warmup routine.


When did you know you wanted to be an actor?

I started singing and dancing at the youngest age possible. I was around 2. I LOVED it!!!! I was into competition dance and pageants and singing at anything and everything. I started acting at about age 10 when I auditioned for and was cast in a production of ANNIE. I totally fell in love with musical theatre and knew I wanted to pursue a career in this industry. Believe it or not, I actually stopped performing at age 14 and didn’t pick it up again until I packed my bags and moved to NYC after college. The rest is history.

What’s been your best audition experience? Your worst?

My best audition experience may have been the series of callbacks for the tour of AVENUE Q. Worst? Hmmmmmm…maybe one where I had an awesome crack, a crack that just kept cracking, on a super long-held belt note at the end of a song. Classic!

Why do you do what you do?

I love being part of an experience for the audience that hopefully sends them away with a smile and some laughs and an enjoyed time for a few hours. Life can be hard…theatre should be fun!! I also love booking a job. It’s the great feeling and a feeling of accomplishment. And performers are always so much fun to work with!!! The sweetest people.

What are some daily rituals and non-negotiable habits that you include in your routine?

The Broadway Warm-Up is becoming the ritual. A good night’s sleep is a non-negotiable. A substantial meal a few hours before a show is non-negotiable.

How do you prepare for your show?

Typically my preparation for a show is what happens at half-hour…getting dressed, makeup, hair/wigs. Thanks to The Broadway Warm-up, honestly, I am really beginning to see the importance of and the difference that the physical and vocal prep makes. The Broadway Warm-Up is new to me and is making a huge difference for me. My body feels more aligned for sure. Physically, I’m more relaxed and more stretched. It has made a HUGE difference in how my voice feels and how I think it sounds onstage. It’s such a complete warm-up and my whole voice feels great after. Another thing that is extremely helpful for me….because of the vocal warm-up, I can see day-to-day where my voice is, where my allergies might be sitting, etc. and so I’m able to deal with that better in a show and better know how to negotiate any potential quirks for any particular day and how to sing around/work around any issues. A big help!!!!

What do you know now that you wish you knew 20 years ago? What advice might you give?

I wish I had known the sacrifice of being so far away from my family to perform at this level. I’m an Oklahoma girl and all of my jobs have been either touring or here in NYC. I don’t see my family enough. I wish I had known that nerves would become the biggest inhibitor and would, at times, take away some of the fun and joy….I say that because I wish I had learned how to deal with them and conquer them years ago. Also though, the incredible people I’ve met and made lifelong friends with, the excitement of booking a job, the love and appreciation for a long-term gig, and what a true dream it is to live and work in a steady show here in the Big Apple…There are no words for how much I love it and how grateful I am for this time.

avenue q.jpgLike this post? Check out more of our The Broadway Warm-Up interviews! 
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