NEW THOUGHTS FOR ACTORS

I remember stumbling upon Jack Plotnick’s New Thoughts For Actors the summer after my freshman year of college. Overwhelmed and stressed, filled with self doubt and burnout, Mr. Plotnick’s comprehensive look at the professional pursuit of acting came at an important time. His lessons are inspiring, empowering and motivational. So much of the fear and judgment I was experiencing dissolved as I read and resonated with his words. Now that I’m in New York where so little is promised and so much uncertain, the same doubts and gremlins resurface. I turn to New Thoughts For Actors in times of dismay and I am instantly grounded and refocused by its simple, straightforward lessons.

I’ve developed a practice of repeating Mr. Plotnick’s ACTOR AFFIRMATIONS before auditions and performances. They’ve helped quiet the “vultures,” as he calls them, the ego voices in my head that only lead to self sabotage. They’ve helped empower me to put my best foot forward and focus on the present moment. I thought I’d share them with you, and I hope you consider adding them to your toolbox.

ACTOR AFFIRMATIONS:

· I release and destroy my need to get this job.

· I am going to take it from where I am. However I’m feeling and however prepared I am is a fine place to begin this scene.

· I release and destroy my need to control this scene. I know that I am not strong enough to control it, and therefore ask my higher power to lovingly guide me through it.

· I am going to approach this scene as if it’s the ninth take (like an improv).

· I release and destroy my need to be an “Actor”. Let the other people here be the “Actors” and have all the responsibilities that come with it. I am just here to be myself and enjoy playing in the circumstances.

· (For Comedy) I release and destroy my need to be funny. I am just here to tickle myself with my own genuine human behavior.

· (For Drama) I release and destroy my need to make choices, but more importantly I will allow choices to happen to me.

· I release and destroy my need to impress them.

The PDF, brilliant and quite helpful in its entirety, can be found here.

Find out more about Actor/Director/Creative Genius Jack Plotnick here.new thoughts for actors.png

#BEWARM
Johnny                                                                                                            www.broadwaywarmup.com

CASTING DIRECTOR JAMIBETH MARGOLIS

The Broadway Warm-Up had an exciting and enlightening conversation this afternoon with Jamibeth Margolis, a Casting Director based in New York City. Committed to developing and fostering the growth of new musicals, Ms. Margolis’ extensive resume is a testament to her passion for the field.

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Previous credits include the Broadway and National Touring Companies of such hits as LES MISERABLES, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, MISS SAIGON, CATS, and JANE EYRE as well as two dozen other shows on Broadway. She also currently casts for Off Broadway, National Touring Companies and shows for prominent regional theaters and all of the major theater festivals in NYC. Her casting office is dedicated to the development of new plays and musicals. We were thrilled to get a few minutes of her time.

How did you first get into casting and why?
I actually majored in directing in college and I quickly learned that having a good cast makes the director’s job about 99% easier. I love actors, I’ve always loved actors. I’m not an actor, so I’m one of those casting directors who came to casting through directing and wanting to cast, not as an actor. When I moved to New York after college, I interned at a casting office with Johnson-Liff. I ended up staying with them for about 9 years. I actually did the internship as a way to learn more about casting for directing, but I caught the bug for casting there and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. 

What’s your favorite part about being a casting director?
My favorite part is watching actors do really well in the room. And telling them when they book a gig is the ultimate best part. Especially when I get to call the actor directly to tell them. They’re so excited. I love that.

It can be such a tough industry sometimes. That moment will always be so joyful.
Exactly. But also watching actors grow. I can think of cases where actors auditioned for me for the same show three, four, even five times, and then on the fifth time booked it. It happens as they’ve been studying, working, taking class and growing, which is great to see.

The Broadway Warm-Up is building a community of creatives looking to be the best they can be at what they do. I’d love to pick your brain for some that might help actors perform better in the room. First, should an actor go in for something they might not necessarily be right for? Or is that a waste of everyone’s time?
I think you have to believe you’re right for it in some way to make sure it’s worth everybody’s time. That said, people surprise us constantly. People change our minds in the room constantly. There’s been so many times where a director says, “Oh, I want it to be blonde,” then a tall brunette walks in and he hires her and completely changes the way he saw it. Certainly it’s actors who have the power to change our minds, so absolutely it’s worth taking a risk. Within reason. I prefer that I see actors really read breakdowns, but of course you can take a risk on something you think might be right for. 

What’s the best way to follow up to build a relationship following auditions/callbacks?
I like when people send me “Thank-You” notes. When they send notes with specific things that they’re in, you know, they’ll say ,“You called me in for this project, I’m in this great show at the Fringe Festival if you want to see more of my work.” I like that. I think you need to have a closer relationship with casting to email us.

How do you feel about Non-Union performers waiting to be seen for union EPAs?
I think it’s great. At the last couple of EPAs that I’ve been at, not only have we seen Non-Union performers, we’ve hired some of them. They’ve had great, long-lasting jobs from those. It takes patience and perseverance but I think it’s worth it. Especially when you’re new to the city, we need to see you. We need to know you’re there. Part of it is we’re all doing multiple projects. I’ll pull someone for a different show. That happens all the time.

Can you talk about how to dress for an audition? If an actor is auditioning for RENT, how far should they go with the look? Where do you draw the line?
My preference is that you just give us a suggestion — an essence of the show, the style, the time period. And that you understand the piece. I think some people go too far and it’s a costume. That’s not what we want. We want to see you comfortable in your own clothes. You’re not going to wear the same outfit for your RENT audition as your audition for OKLAHOMA. You would look ridiculous.

In a callback or an audition where you have the sides beforehand, how important is it to be memorized?
I actually prefer when they’re not memorized. Callbacks are not a memorization test. Sometimes actors think too much about the words and not about the acting and the interpretation. When the director gets up and gives them an adjustment, it’s really hard for them to take that adjustment in their new material. So it’s better to have it in your hand as a crutch, not buried in it, but have it there.

If a song is known to be overdone, would it still be okay to use if you sing it well?
That’s tricky. It depends on particular people in the room and particular casting directors. Different people have aversions to different songs. I don’t mind it personally. If you do something well and feel like you own it, you should do it for us.

How do you feel about vocal embellishment/riffing during audition songs?
If we give you sides that contain music from the score, you should sing as written from the score. Do not embellish it. We’re not asking you to make it up, we’re asking you to do what’s on the page. However, a little bit of your own interpretation and styling, especially in pop/rock auditions, can be great if you make it part of the story.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?
My dream is to work in any way with Hal Prince. I’ve always wanted to. In fact, I wrote my senior thesis paper on his directing. I’ve been a fan of his since my senior year of college. So, whether it’s in a rehearsal or casting a reading, it would be amazing.

Speaking of readings – I know that you work on developing new musicals. When is the ideal time for a new show to bring on a casting director?
I think that the best time for us to come on board is the first actual staged reading for a public performance. The table reads are so tremendously helpful for the writers, but it’s hard to bring a Casting Director in at that stage. When you have a script that you can send to an actor and it’s printed out and ready to go, that’s when we should come on board.

Is it helpful when the writers have a dream cast in mind?
Absolutely, yeah. I love that. It helps guide my decision of who to bring in.

Do you find yourself giving artistic feedback relating to casting when you encounter roles in brand new musicals that may be “un-castable?”
I’ve been very challenged and amazingly, in New York there’s someone who can do it. I’ve cast a NYMF show where a woman had to play upper-level classical piano and do Shakespeare. I found six. it’s amazing! Sometimes I’ll guide a writer in an early stage towards an actor whose audition was impressive, but that’s about it.

What factors make a great audition?
For me, it’s that you look great. Your presentation. Your preparation – If I say we want a 1960s pop/rock song, that’s what you bring in. You listen and you’re ready for the curveballs. If we want to hear something else, you’re ready. You understand how to be confident without showing a huge ego in the room. There’s a really big difference between being confident in your abilities and seeming like you have a big ego.

I’m still trying to figure that out. It’s a narrow line.
Yeah, I love confident actors who still make me feel like spending eight hours a day in rehearsals with them. That’s the trick, you know?

Has there been a time when you cast someone and you found out during the process that maybe things didn’t work —- what do you do when there’s a casting issue?
Every situation is different. Certainly as a Casting Director, I think we all welcome feedback from our creative team. If someone was particularly great or particularly terrible to work with, we need to know that. I always welcome that feedback.

If you could give one piece of advice to an actor auditioning for you – what would it be?
Preparation is the difference maker.

Are there any shows you’re dying to see? Shows you’ve recommended to your friends?
There was one week recently where I saw the FIDDLER revival which I loved. And WAITRESS was awesome. FUN HOME as well. I loved them all, and I saw them days apart from each other.

Any movies you recommend actors watch?
For a good acting lesson, you should see AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY.

If you weren’t working in theater, what would you be doing?
My other dream is to manage ice hockey teams. I am obsessed with ice hockey. I love the business side of theater and so I also imagine either managing a hockey team or managing players — It’d be fabulous for me.

Is there anything you wish you learned at school that you learned after graduation?
I think about that question a lot because I teach “The Business of Acting.” When we’re in college we’re all thinking about our talent and our creativity and owning our craft which is really important. Getting all the skills. But you can’t forget the business part of it. Marketing, promotion, online presence, looking great – follow up, thank you notes – It’s really no different than the corporate world. I wish I had thought more about those in undergrad – I would’ve approached job interviews differently, that kind of thing.

That’s something you learn only by doing. I suppose it’s really important that we are proactive and take things in our own hands?
We have to be proactive and we have to network. We have to remember that reputation is really important.

I’ve heard it said that this is a business of relationships. Have you crossed paths with many of the same people over the years?
Absolutely. I have collaborated with the same people a lot on different projects. It’s one of the things that I love. When a director that I adore calls me and says, “We’ve got a new musical, can you cast that?” That’s what I love.

Great, I think I have a lot to work with here. I really appreciate your time.
Great! This was fun. Thanks for doing this.

#BEWARM
Johnny                                                                                                            www.broadwaywarmup.com

Fulfillment & Purpose with Michele Pawk

This week, I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Tony Award winner Michele Pawk. A Broadway veteran, Ms. Pawk’s resume covers an extensive range of characters in plays and musicals, television and film.

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New York acting credits Credits include: HAIRSPRAY, MAMMA MIA, HOLLYWOOD ARMS (for which she won the Tony Award), CHICAGO, SEUSSICAL, CABARET (receiving Drama Desk & Outer Critics’ Circle Award nominations), TRIUMPH OF LOVE, CRAZY FOR YOU (Drama Desk nomination), MAIL, MAHIDA’S EXTRA KEY TO HEAVEN, FLYOVERS, PRAYER FOR MY ENEMY, THE DARK AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS, THE PARIS LETTER (Drama Desk nomination), REEFER MADNESS, AFTER THE FAIR, HELLO AGAIN, MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, jon & jen, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC.

In addition to her prolific career as an actor, Michele is an experienced director and a professor in the Theatre Department at Wagner College, exemplifying the advice she gives to never stop learning and growing.

I love this conversation with Michele and we go deep into the things we face as creatives and are working to make sense of. We get into failure, the ups and downs of the acting industry, and how to find fulfillment and longevity in this nomadic lifestyle.

We had an extremely rich and inspiring conversation, and I hope you enjoy it.

When did you first get bit by the bug and you knew you wanted to be an actor?
I grew up in a really small town outside of Pittsburgh, a long time ago. So much has changed about the business and the art form – especially where I grew up it wasn’t something that was in anybody’s consciousness. I had been active in all my school stuff, my high school stuff, taken dance lessons but it just  didn’t really dawn on me. I went to a small liberal arts school in Pittsburgh area, Allegheny College. And, you know, at the end of your sophomore year you have to declare a major. It was my Dad who said, “What do you love to do more than anything?” I was like, “Daaaad….!” I was like, “I like to be onstage more than anything.” He said, “Well then, that’s what you should do.” So I auditioned a couple places and then transferred out of there.

After your sophomore year?
Yeah, so I spent three years somewhere else to finish.

You went to CCM, right?
Yes.

I feel the same way that I was lucky to have parents that supported it.  I don’t know if I’d necessarily be doing this if I didn’t have the encouragement from my parents.
think it’s in your generation’s consciousness a lot more than it was in my generation. Just with, well, social media and all the reality competition shows, you guys are thinking about it. The fact that you can put yourselves up on YouTube and be creative…It’s changed everything.

It’s a little daunting sometimes because there’s so many people graduating and coming to do this now. It makes it more competitive but there’s also an abundance of opportunity, right?
I think the important thing to keep in mind and to continually check in with is WHY you do it. If those reasons stay true – and it’s not because you wanna get rich, cause that ain’t happening, or get famous or any of that. If you’re doing it because you NEED to do it and you have something to say, and you just wanna get better, you’ll be fine. Those other people will fall away.

Is there anything that you wish you knew when you were starting out that you didn’t get at school or that it took you awhile to learn?
It’s so funny because now, I’ve been teaching these last few years. You guys put so much more pressure on yourselves than I think my generation did – or maybe it was just me – I just was sort of stupid. I mean, I knew I was talented, but I didn’t take it personally, so I just kept getting back up and doing it. I didn’t take a rejection as, “Oh my god, that means I’m not good enough, and I shouldn’t be doing it.” I just, I wish you guys knew that a little more. 

Resiliency is important for actors. That’s something I’m working on. I struggle with – if I don’t get something – I take it personally when in reality it’s out of my control, almost all the time. What techniques did you have to let it go?
If I could, I always tried to get feedback. Whether it was an agent or whether I had a relationship with somebody in the room, I tried to find out what was going on. I also tried to use, and I still do this, I try to use auditions as an opportunity for me to learn something. About me and my journey, and where I am right now. That seems to take away some of the other stuff that I can’t control. So I feel like if I give myself something very attainable and something very specific to conquer in the room, then if I do that, that’s all I can do. You know what I mean? ‘Cause then I’m outta there. I don’t know what they want and I can’t read their minds. Believe me, there was a year or so when I wasn’t getting jobs and I was second guessing everything I did in the room, which ultimately, just made it worse, and I realized “oh, fuck it.” You know what I mean?

It’s funny…You end up sabotaging yourself when you’re trying to make things better. Sometimes I find that if I say, “OK, I’m going to try connect to my breath during this audition,” and make that the specific goal — I leave the room and I’m like, “OK, at least I did that.”
Yes. I did that. Good for me.” This is like an out of body – the whole audition process is bizarre. How grounded can I possibly be? How can I connect to that lyric very specifically? Who exactly – am I having a moment with that person today? You know?

Cool. When you were starting out did you have any survival jobs?
Who doesn’t?

I’m curious to find out how you navigated those worlds starting out.
This is gonna sound crazy. So I go to this fancy program, and then I take this job in Florida right out of college because they paid a lot of money at Disney. I sang at a nightclub there, so it was awesome, I saved some money. Then I went to LA. Which seems ridiculous because the business was very different out there.  I wasn’t making a living, so I sang in gay bars. That’s what I did. I put it together with a friend of mine who was my musical inspiration, the two of us lived together and put these shows together and that’s how we made a living. We sang in these bars in LA when there really was such a thing, when you would do two shows a night. It was different. The 80’s was different – and let me tell you, the cabaret experience is very honest. You’re not hiding behind some sort of character, some sort of play. In a way, that was really good training. You couldn’t hide.

You mentioned that you did TV work when you were starting out. How did you find it different from approaching theater work?
Only the size of it. I don’t find the work of it, the preparation, any different. What I find different is the style, the medium – if my face was going to be the size of this wall, I wouldn’t be as animated as I am now. You just get smaller and smaller and smaller. It’s in the eyes. You have to be more still.

How do you manage being conscious of that that while being as honest as possible? Is that something you learn by doing?
Yes, and anyone can figure it out. Go get a camera and tape yourself. Put yourself on tape doing whatever and make yourself really big and be like, “OH, I look grotesque!” Then it just gets smaller and smaller.

With people who are naturally inclined to theater, does it feel like way less? That’s just the way you have to do it.
It’s funny, when I first started out in television, I was in LA for a chunk of years so I did a lot of TV because I was trying to make a living. The sitcom medium in those days – it was three camera, live audience…It was very similar to what we do.

So you were getting the live responses?
You did, and you fed off of that. You knew if it worked in the moment. Nowadays, you  tape, you know, ‘Modern Family’ and there’s no audience there. So the skill set is different.

On preparation – do you have a certain process that you like to take to your roles? For example, in HOLLYWOOD ARMS, when you were playing a real life person – how much did you depend on real  life accounts and how much did you bring your imagination? Is it a balance?
It is a balance, but I have to tell you, when I think about almost anything I’ve done – History is huge for me. Research is huge for me because it grounds me. When I find I’m losing focus, which is easy to do, I come back to the circumstances and all of that. So when I think about CABARET, or even DR SEUSS in a weird way…

Seussical! That’s so true, I hadn’t thought of that…
Yeah, I went back to Dr. Seuss. Even though it was larger and they’re animated in a sense, the circumstances were very real for them. For Carol’s play [HOLLYWOOD ARMS], that was a gift in a lot of ways…I had Carol [Carol Burnett] there. She gave me total freedom. She said, “Yes, I’ve written this…but I’ve written a play.” I wrote a play, do what you wanna do with it. It’s now a piece of art — I’m not looking for you to recreate my mother.

That must have been very liberating for you. Takes the pressure off a little bit.
That was a gift. Well, especially because she is who she was, I felt a certain obligation to get it right for her. 

Was that at a certain point during the rehearsal process?
Right in the beginning. I would go to her with questions at the end of the day, and be all, “Tell me about your mother…Tell me about it! Very early on, she said, “Don’t worry about it. Take what’s written and then bring yourself to it. We responded to you” – boy, that was a gift. That was a gift.

Speaking of HOLLYWOOD ARMS, what was it like on Tony Awards night?
I didn’t think I was going to win. It was no pressure. My play had closed in January and those awards came out in, I don’t know, April or May? So, I was already onto another project. I was stunned and honored to have been recognized. I really mean that. I was like, “This is awesome!” And my husband was also nominated that season, so there we are — no pressure, just having a good time at Radio City Music Hall. Then, my family, unbeknownst to me, had all bought tickets. I could have killed them. They all were in the balcony at Radio City. I was like, “I’m not gonna win, don’t spend the money…”

How could they have missed that though? It must have felt so good, afterwards, that they were there.
My husband [actor John Dossett] was like, “They called your name. I think they called your name.” And then I could see him literally turn around and wave to my family up in the balcony.

Wow. That must have been just magical. How did winning the Tony affect what came after in terms of your career?
It opened doors that otherwise I wasn’t gonna get into. I’d already done some television, but way more film all of a sudden. Bigger doors were starting to open. It’s like I said to you earlier, Johnny, I had primarily done musical theater, so those film doors didn’t open quite in the same way that they did after that, which was nice.                

The Broadway WarmUp is all about being at our optimal states as performers. Sustaining 8 shows a week, especially when working on a vocally challenging musical – How did you keep your voice in shape for eight shows a week?
The thing I always like to preach at college [professor at Wagner College] – the big misunderstanding about doing eight shows a week, or doing a musical in general, is people think, “Oh, it’s just three hours a day.” It is your entire day. It is everything you do. You get up, *lip trills* – and think, “Ok, I’m gonna be alright tonight.” Everything revolves around that.

That’s such a scary feeling when you wake up and it’s not there.
Oh no. Then you’re like, “How much time do I have?” Let me warm my body up to see if then my voice – they’re all connected – let me steam and see. Everything is about the wholeness of that performance. Depending on the size of the role, it’s like an Olympic event. If you’re doing a vocally demanding part in a Broadway musical, your entire life revolves around that…

That scares me. I feel like that’s a lot of pressure, but you’ve found ways to manage, clearly…
The other thing – how do you do it when you’re not 100%? How do you do it when you have allergies? When you’re sick? Your job is to show up.

Exactly. Do you have any “go-to” remedies for a quick fix?
I’m not a big antibiotic person. I find that unless I need them, they set me back. I’m a little more in tune to my body now then I was at your age. But man, if you can listen, your body sends you signs early on. You feel the tickle, you feel the scratch before it hits you. I get this wellness formula. It’s like a multivitamin. When I feel something coming on, I hit three every three hours. I load up on Vitamin C, then I start snorting saltwater. And sleep. Usually I can fend stuff off.

It can be a crazy lifestyle sometimes — staying out late, talking loud at bars, things like that. How have you managed living in New York?
I gotta be honest, when I was younger, I could do a lot more than I do now. I could stay out, then get up and go to rehearsal. Then I got to be in my late 20’s, and I could still do it, but I couldn’t do it and then go do a matinee. Friday nights and Tuesday nights, I wasn’t out. I got into my thirties and it was even more… “Oh, crap, now I really can’t.”

So it requires a different kind of discipline then?
Yeah, you have to really be smart. You think, “I’m lucky enough to have this job, these people think I’m good enough and they’re counting on me. It would be disrespectful for me to not take it seriously.” So, sacrifice.

You seem to be good at managing your emotional health in this business that can be somewhat — you know, when you’re playing a heavy character or intense role, how do you leave that in the theater and balance your personal life in a way that’s healthy and sustainable?
You know what? Take a look at your top five priorities. In your life. Your career will be up there. Sometimes, your career will be #1. Let me tell you what, if your career stays #1, you’re gonna die. It doesn’t feed you in the way your family will, that a love life will – that kind of relationship with someone – even a pet, you need to have other things that feed you. You know, like, your physical wellness. Are you a yoga person? A gym person? That stuff feeds you in a way that show business is not going to feed you. It’s important to have them. Your spiritual life? Where does that fit into all of it? You’re right, sometimes your career will be at the top. It’s intense right now, but keep in check. You know what I mean?

It’s hard because I have this ambition to do all these things. What’s funny, too, is that having a balanced life only enhances your ultimate goal. Drawing upon things like relationships and family – those can only make you a better actor. I have to realize that there’s so much BEYOND this, and maintaining that sense of play.
Oh yeah. Oh yeah yeah. When you stop having a good time, that’s the time you stop doing it. That’s why what my Dad gave to me was a gift. My Dad was a dentist, and my Dad, he was crazy into looking at fungly mouths – he loved it! He was obsessed with it. It was his passion, so when he said to me, “What do you love doing more than anything?” It wasn’t about making money, it wasn’t about fame – I loved getting up and doing it. I still love it. It feeds my soul in a way. And now my family feeds my soul.

There are certain things you need to prioritize.
And they change. And allow it. They shift. Right.

I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Michele Pawk as much as I did. At first intimidated by the awesome scope of her career, I was admittedly nervous to chat with Michele, but I was blown away by her humility & authenticity. She’s so down to earth. Generous with her experiences and wisdom, I learned so much in so little time. The Broadway Warm-Up  community strives to be at our best in work and life. Michele Pawk is at the top of her game onstage and off. I think we’ve got a new role model.

#BEWARM

Johnny                                                                                                             www.broadwaywarmup.com

 

 

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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