Part II: Andrew Mayer of Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

andrew mayer playbill.jpegAndrew Mayer (Monica Simoes) via Playbill

“There’s always a reason not to do something. So you can either listen to that, or get off your butt and work. Do things. How does somebody get better at something? You get better by doing it.”

BEHIND THE SCENES: ANDREW’S BACKGROUND & EARLY LIFE
When did you first know you wanted to be an actor?
“You know, that’s a toughie. Before I went to college I had my Equity Card. I did a few Off-Broadway professional shows as a kid. Something about connecting to other people and, as I eventually learned, the messiness of it, is what I like. I liked making people laugh and smile. There was nothing profound about it. I had a good energy as a child, and I liked singing, and I wasn’t shy. That translated to, ‘Let’s put him on the stage!’ Little by little, I became fascinated by stories and reading. I’m a big movie guy. I think it came from watching movies at a young age, and performing when I was really young.”

When did you start playing violin?
“When I was two years old, my grandparents gave me a toy violin, and I didn’t want to put it down. My parents recognized that and put me in pre-school Music Ed. When I was five, I started private lessons. I actually distanced myself from it when I went to college. I auditioned for both violin conservatories and acting conservatories simultaneously. It ended up being acting that I wanted to do. I went to Boston University, it was great.”

It seems like this show merges your skills perfectly.
“This show requires you to be simultaneously theatrical and large, at the same time very real and intimate. It’s cool.”

What advice would you give to your younger self, just starting out in the city?
“The first audition that comes to mind was during the summer of 2011. I went in for Merri Sugarman for JERSEY BOYS. She vocalized me, it went well. I was flipping out about that. Nothing came of it, but two and a half years later she randomly calls me in off of file to come in for Frankie. She still had my headshot from when I first got here. I didn’t get it again, but I learned that people actually do put you on file. I felt like there was a need for immediacy. People actually do think about you later on down the road. It’s important to be consistent about being present in the audition scene. That doesn’t mean go to every single call, but I think it’s important to be excited about auditioning. It can’t be a drag. It’s so hard already that you need to be excited about it, or you’ll burn out. Don’t throw away auditions. It’s important to be prepared and be professional. People do put on you on file.”

What is it like working with the creatives on this show? How has working with these people – Rachel Chavkin (director), Sam Pinkleton (choreographer) – changed you as an actor?
“I think it’s important to recognize that nobody has the answer, including the director and the choreographer. Everyone is figuring it out. The more positive impulses you can bring to a room, the more of an asset you will be. It’s an exploration, a navigation. We were building this show in a new way for a much larger space. The choreography changed even during previews, blocking changed. Because we’re all experimenting. The only way you can understand what you’re getting is if people are fully committed to the experiment. Not judging the process. What I like about Rachel and Sam – they like to work with impulse. They like to work off an actors’ impulse. It comes from us committing to it. Some of the numbers look almost like chaos, but it’s actually consistent chaos. If you come one night, and then again the next night, you’ll see something you didn’t see the night before. Playing with impulse, playing with what individuals can do came from this team effort. It was super collaborative. Some might label them geniuses, but we’re all looking for the answers – so we need to support that process and commit to it.”

How did you find out that you were cast in the show?
“I had been doing other auditions for other projects for a few months prior, and then all of a sudden I get a call to audition for this. They come last second, so I said, ‘Sure, I’ll go in.‘ I had three calls. After, I was in Texas for two days. It was my grandfather’s ninetieth birthday, and a bunch of my family was down there. The second day I’m there, everyone is nursing their hangover from the party the night before. At noon or one, I get a call from my agent. He says, “Hey Andrew, how would you like to make your Broadway debut at the Imperial Theater in The Great Comet on Broadway? I hung up the phone and was trying to process what just happened. I didn’t expect to hear that fast, if at all. I move on, move to the next thing. So, I walked down the stairs and I said, “I just got cast in my first Broadway show.” My parents were there, my grandfather, my uncle, a bunch of my family. My mom starts screaming. They were all still nursing their hangovers but they had to bring out more alcohol to celebrate. Popped champagne. You have to understand, I hadn’t seen some of these people in fifteen years. I haven’t been down to Texas in ten years.”

That’s a lifelong memory for all you guys. You need to declare that day a holiday.
“The day after Memorial Day. They were like, ‘You need to come back to San Antonio all the time.‘”

What techniques/remedies do you use when under the weather?
“A lot of my castmates like oil of oregano. I like fire cider. It’s just apple cider vinegar. I’ll take a shot of that. I like to make sure I’m taking Vitamin C, B12, Zinc. I’m taking Immunocore, Fish Oil, B12, Zinc every morning. I’ve been healthy so far. People in the cast have been sick, but I’ve managed to avoid it.”

MOVIES EVERY ACTOR SHOULD SEE
Batman, obviously. Star Wars. Honestly, some old black and white films – On the Waterfront, any of the Marlon Brando films. He is fantastic. A Streetcar Named Desire. There’s no frills. It’s really just performance. They didn’t have the technology yet. Basic camera movement. Being transported to another place by watching someone’s eyes.”

“YOU NEED TO BE DOING THINGS. YOU CAN’T BE THINKING ABOUT DOING THINGS.”
I think it’s easy to feel discouraged when it seems hard to break in and make a start for yourself.  How have you created opportunities for yourself?
“You do it by creating. As facetious as it sounds, you need to be doing things. You can’t be thinking about doing things. Or sitting there on your butt in your room, annoyed that you haven’t done anything.”

HOW HIS SIDE GIG IN A WEDDING BAND & HAS HELPED HIM AS A PERFORMER
“For me, I was in a wedding band –  the events allowed me to consistently perform in front of people I’d never met before, with no rehearsal. Just get up there and do it, and find a way to connect with them. I learned to not be afraid of that, to not be afraid of messing up. Now, when I walk into an audition room, it’s only one guy, not one hundred. People want you there. I only got better at that because I didn’t have time to prepare for some of this stuff. For this show [The Great Comet] , I didn’t get my sides until I was on the subway to the audition. I literally said, “Fuck it.” You have to be able to do that. Walk in the room, do it, mess up gloriously. They are looking for you, not for perfection. It’s not a test. I think that really is the number one thing. It seems like obvious advice, but to put it into practice is the difficult thing. I always telling the wedding band I’m super thankful. They’ve developed me as a performer as much as any conservatory program could, or more.”

ON OVERCOMING FEAR AND STEPPING INTO THE CREATIVE ARENA
“A lot of fear comes from not impressing, or messing up, or not being prepared. If you can do away with all that –  it doesn’t matter when you mess up. Just start. I’m in the process right now of finishing an action short because I haven’t been doing much fight work. My roommate shot something in an apartment with another friend of mine. We shot a two minute fight in his apartment. Now, it’s material for the web and it’s something I got to do to keep my feet wet, keep my chops ready. You have to create in order to be fulfilled, I think. There’s always a reason not to do something. So you can either listen to that, or get off your butt and work. Do things. How does somebody get better at something? You get better by doing it.”

“That said, it’s important to know when to step back. Not overdoing it. There’s a balance to be found. But, don’t use the “not overdoing it” as an excuse for laziness. It’s a balance. Everyone says it like it’s so easy. I’m a terrible example of that. I’ve had ideas, and I’ve never gotten to them. But, I stay involved in other people’s projects. Don’t be a hero. You get better at what you do. The more you do something, the less frightening it becomes. No one expects you to be perfect. You’ll get it when you have time to prepare. It’s about being present, and not perfect.”

MESSING UP IN FRONT OF FRANK WILDHORN
“This reminds me of a story I have about a new Wildhorn project I auditioned for. I was told the night before, “Can you come in and prepare a Wildhorn song?” I didn’t know any of his work. I was like, “Ok, crap, let me try to learn something.” I’m trying to get the words under my belt, and they said, “Don’t worry, Frank Wildhorn is not going to be there.” I was like, “Ok, if I mess up words a little, it’s no big deal.” Of course, the next day I get to the audition room and they have the sheet typed up with who’s in the room. All these names, the director, who I was told would be there. Then, handwritten in scrawl is, “plus Frank Wildhorn.” The guy showed up. I was going to mess up the lyrics, possibly the melodies to his song. I was like, “You know what? This is a test.” It was a test of not being perfect in the face of someone who you think you have to be perfect for. I walked in the room and he was in there, front and center. Running the show. Dallas Cowboys hat on. Neutral, not unfriendly. I started the song, I did it, I messed up some of the lyrics, but stayed with it and figured out what I was doing, and moved through it. I got to the end, stayed present, and realized afterwards that I’d messed up the lyrics. Frank looks at me and he says, “That was fantastic. Great. That’s how that song is supposed to be sung.” Not a word about the missed lyrics. My advice to my younger self? Don’t worry about being perfect, worry about being present. Be prepared, be present, don’t be perfect.”

“PREPARE SO YOU CAN BE PRESENT.”
“That’s not an excuse for laziness or unpreparedness. Prepare so you can be present. The perfection aspect is an opinion, it’s totally subjective. This story was a clinic on that. The composer himself is sitting there when I screwed up his lyrics, but didn’t give a shit. Needless to say, I still didn’t get the project. I got called in three, four times, maybe made some good connections, I don’t know. The lasting impression though, is about being present and operating from that space rather than operating from a fear of imperfection.”

One thing I liked about college is that I got to perform a lot in the shows, but sometimes I think we only get better by performing, and the theory can be superfluous. What are your thoughts on studying the craft of acting?
“I like to break it down this way. You go to school, you read books, do classes, exercises, to learn about yourself, and to be able to connect with others. But really, what is Meisner, Stanislavski, Grotwoski, voice training for? These are all tools. You are building a toolkit. If you can unscrew it with your own hand, and you don’t need to reach for the toolbox, then don’t reach for the toolbox. The tools are all there, and they’re all very necessary and you will need to use them at certain points. If I don’t connect with a character, I use a tool to find out what I am doing. I use a tool to analyze text; to connect with my partner. But if I naturally connect with a piece and a character, I can fine-tune it with the tools, but I don’t want to fix what’s not broken. I think it’s very important to know how to use these things when you do need to use them. It’s also important to not overdo it. Allow yourself to be free and present with your own instrument, and use tools when your hand is not enough to unscrew the bolt.”

ON THE DISCIPLINE OF PRACTICING & DEVELOPING A NEW SKILL
“They say it takes 10,000 hours to master something (Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell). I believe that. There’s something to be said for hard work. Deliberate practice over and over, everyday. At some points I’ve had a lot of projects going on where my mind needs to be in many different gears at once. It’s hard to stay present in each of those places. I’ve learned it’s far better to do twenty minutes of focused practice than it is to do two hours of unfocused practice. So if I’ve only got twenty minutes, that’s fine actually. You can get as much done in that span of time as you can get in six hours of crappy work. With any skill, it’s not about the amount of time, it’s about the quality of the time. Dance, coordination, instruments, whatever it may be. If it’s only twenty minutes, give those the true mental worth. Don’t force yourself to practice for two hours if your’e just gonna sit there with your thumb up your ass.”

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In Conversation With Sam Carner: Part I

The Broadway Warm-Up sits down with Sam Carner, one half of the dynamic songwriting duo Carner & Gregor. Sam Carner won the 2015 Kleban Prize for Most Promising Librettist. Sam and composer Derek Gregor won the 2014 John Wallowitch Award for songwriters under 40, a 2016 MAC Award for “Best Comedic Song” (and eight of their songs have been nominated for MAC Awards), were included in Playbill.com’s twelve “Contemporary Musical Theatre Songwriters You Should Know,” and were in residence at the Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals in January. Seven of their songs have been nominated for MAC Awards, and their work is performed in hundreds of venues around the world every year and has been sung on all seven continents.

Our conversation was thorough between bites of our exquisite Ethiopian cuisine (my first time trying Ethiopian couldn’t have been better – thanks Awash Ethiopian Restaurant), so I’ve split the interview into two parts.
PART I covers topics such as:
* Sam’s background, early influences and mentors
* Navigating the art of collaboration with Derek Gregor
* The impact of YouTube, social media on new musical theater
* The craft of lyric writing
Enjoy and come back for Part II!

Sam Carner.jpg

What was your first exposure to theatre? When did you know it was what you wanted to pursue as a career?
I first discovered theater as a small child. I grew up in Maine, and my parents took me to Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick, back when it was called Brunswick Music Theatre. I saw a production of ANNIE GET YOUR GUN. I was six, and that was where I first really caught the bug. We went back to see a show every summer. We watched lots of movie musicals when I was a kid. Now I realize that I didn’t actually think of them as musicals. I didn’t think of MY FAIR LADY as inherently different from SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE.

Just another movie, another story.
Another story. Sometimes I questioned, “Why doesn’t this one have singing?”
So, that was my early youth. There were school plays when I was ten, eleven. When I was eleven or so I wrote a long children’s story — The Children’s Theatre of Maine had a Young Playwrights Contest, so my dad suggested I turn this story into a musical. It ended up winning, and I wrote a children’s musical that had a bunch of performances in the Greater Portland area.

Wasn’t Anna Kendrick in some of the first shows you wrote?
Yeah, a couple times when we were kids. She did a reading of a show I was working on at Portland Stage Company, and before that, before her Tony Nomination, she did a little twenty minute musical I wrote for The Maine Festival. She always had that incredible presence – she was a star so clearly. I first saw her in a community theater production of GYPSY, and she was Baby June. I remember being like, “Who is that girl?!”

Who are your influences? Mentors? What did you learn in particular from them that was instructive?
The director of the Children’s Theater, Lisa DiFranza, created an incredible environment. She took everyone seriously as creative artists. She also fostered an environment where all ages were welcome, so there were 6 year olds and 10 year olds and 17 year olds and grown-ups in these casts. There was a real kind of mentorship going on, but we were all creating together, and that was inspiring — to feel that you were not being treated as a kid, but you were being taken seriously.
My mom was an artist, my dad was an English professor — so we talked a lot about dramatic structure. My teachers let me pursue the things I was interested in. They weren’t trying to make me stick to a particular curriculum. One teacher let me work on this long story as a project instead of making me stick to the assignment. I wanted to finish it, so she let me do it.

When you’re allowed to pursue something that really excites you, you end up getting a lot more out of it than doing what you HAD to.
Exactly. Another teacher in 10th grade — We were studying the Greek Classics.
The Odyssey and Oedipus. Initially one of the assignments was to do something creative. I wrote a song based on Oedipus called It Was Good While It Lasted In Thebes. which went very well so she let me continue to do that with other projects. I then did a whole cycle of comic songs based on Greek mythology.

You went to Yale, yes? What did you study there?
I actually did a self designed major called “Music, Verse and Drama.” I had a coherent plan, so they let me do it. It was essentially looking at music in isolation, verse in isolation, and theater/drama in isolation, then looking for points of intersection. I took a lot of Music Theory which has definitely served me, and Music History. A lot of dry poetry which has its own kind of music. I also took courses on opera where they all come together. Opera History, Musicology. I also took music theory courses on Gershwin and Cole Porter.

That seems like a very well rounded way to prepare you for what you would later do.
Oh yeah, it was incredibly valuable. I find a lot of inspiration in Renaissance and Romantic poetry. There are a lot of moments in my songs that are kind of callbacks to Keats or John Donne. For instance, our song Stay Awhile is loosely inspired by a John Donne poem called The Sun Rising, which is a poem where a guy in bed with his lover chastises the sun for interrupting their slumber.

Very cool. I would never have known that.
When you take something and put in a totally new context, the original context may disappear, but that’s where it comes from.

That leads me to my next question – Where do you usually start from? The music or the lyrics?
I like to say it starts with a problem to be solved. No element will get too far ahead of the others, but the first question is, “Why are we writing this song?” Is the key thing to fit the situation and get the characters from point A to point B? Do we need a big belty song for the female lead because she doesn’t have enough material in the second act and we need an energy boost? Then we need to justify it. What do we do in order to solve our problem?

Once we have a sense of what we are trying to do, Derek will start fooling around with musical fragments, and I’ll start fooling around with phrases. One of those will usually come first, and then inspire the other. 

You met Derek at NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. Were you paired up together or how did that work?
We were paired together for a four week project. A 20 minute musical, one-act show. it was fortunate that we had that time because we found our collective voice in the second week.

And at the end of those four weeks you realized you worked well together?
It ended up being a really good collaboration. It was considered one of the more effective pieces of that assignment. So we chose each other for the second year.

Considering your work as a whole, how do you feel you have personally changed as writers, from, for instance, UNLOCK’D to TOAST? How has your relationship changed over the years?
I think that we’ve learned a lot by being exposed to the others’ references. When we venture into a style one is less familiar with the other can take the lead. And it’s a chance for the other to learn about the style.

I first discovered your songs years ago through YouTube. How important do you think YouTube is to new musical theater composers? What has your experience been with social media to promote your work?
It’s a game changer. The fact that you can have people doing your songs thousands of times a year even without a Broadway show — It has led to all sorts of opportunities and chances to develop our work at colleges, and with groups across the world. It’s a way of disseminating the material, and allowing the material to have a life even if it’s not being performed at that particular moment. And it leads to more sheet music sales which makes it easier for us to support ourselves as artists.

What’s the benefit/danger of making scores available online?
I think we’re concerned that the stuff we put out into the world is still in development. The moment there’s a definitive version is very late in the game, and for that reason we’ll send out updates when we make changes to songs. If there’s anything that I wish some of the current sheet music platforms allowed for, it’d be that. The ability to send out revisions.
Occasionally, one of the things that happens when you put the music out — you learn about what’s not communicating off the page. Someone will make a really smart, interesting choice, and that will get put into the score one way or another. That’s exciting. In certain cases if someone does something really clever you’ll see other people start copying. Sometimes our directors will use what those performers give them.

Very cool. How does it feel seeing your work performed on YouTube by people you’ve never met? How does it feel knowing that something created in your living room is being performed who knows how far away? What is that like for you?
It’s mostly exciting and gratifying. It’s meant to be performed live. Although the record is not live, the performances pretty much are. Sometimes it’s slightly crushing if a joke is being sold in a way that doesn’t make any sense, but you kinda have to let that go. Mostly it’s exquisite, it’s why you do it. You do it to reach out and talk about things that are on your mind, and that’s kinda the point, that’s why we’re doing this, so it’s very cool.

What is the trickiest part of lyric writing? Connecting music and lyrics? How packed or loose you make the lyric?
The biggest key to lyric writing is placing the song correctly. It’s figuring out what work the song needs to do in the structure of the story. Lyric writing is part of book writing. We’ve all seen songs where someone is convincing someone of something they already know or something they’re clearly not going to succeed in convincing them of, or espousing a point of view, but to no dramatic effect. That ends up causing an audience member to tune out. As a writer you have to ask the same questions you ask an actor. What is making this active? What is my action with this moment in the song? Ideally that should lead, inevitably, to another action. The better you do at placing the song and figuring out what work it needs to do, the less work you have to do in writing it.

Is that something you learned at school or by process of doing or based on how the audience responds?
I think I felt my way there gradually. Working one on one with actors, I’d write something that wasn’t particularly active, but felt like it needed to be. Maybe I put pressure on the performer to make it active. Then I’d realize I wasn’t doing my job as much as I could. Let me take the pressure off – write in some of the tension – and make it easier for the performer to make it dynamic.  

Letting the lyrics do the job for you. The actor doesn’t have to push for emotion, or create anything, the moments just happen?
Right. I didn’t want the actor to have to push or create something that isn’t supported by the text at all. I want the situation and path of the song to allow for a cocktail of emotions. The subtleties and intensities should already be there to be explored. There needs to be an undertow. It needs to be there. In a solo that’s what creates dramatic tension. I’m going to write in some of that complication.

How do you lay the trail for the listener to follow while at the same time staying slightly ahead of the audience?
That’s one of the big challenges in writing lyrics. It’s happening in real time and there’s a lot of distractions. People can only perceive so much. So, it’s working and trying things.

You have to trust that the audience is smart. You don’t want to write down to them, but you also need to give them time to digest.
I’m always a little surprised by what is obvious with minimal statement, and what takes ten statements to actually make the point. It’s never entirely predictable to me. That’s something you can only do through the rehearsal process, through trying it out with audience members. Sometimes the action or the situation does so much of the work for you.

What have you learned about yourself and others by writing your characters? Have you developed a broader understanding of people in general?
There’s a principle in psychology called the “fundamental attribution error,” which is the tendency to over-attribute your own actions to situation and circumstance and over-attribute other people’s actions to their inherent character. So, “I got a speeding ticket because my grandma was having a heart attack, and I needed to get her to the hospital! YOU got a speeding ticket because you’re a lousy speeder!” There are more positive ways of putting it, but I think that delving into characters that are very different but have very similar basic motivations, you learn to understand…You learn your own capacity to do many different things that you might judge differently if you looked at them from a different perspective, and you come to have a certain tolerance and understanding of the people you encounter in life.

It creates compassion.
I think so, I hope.

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CRISTIN MILIOTI at Joe’s Pub

cristin miliotiLast Friday, I had the great privilege of seeing Cristin Milioti LIVE at Joe’s Pub in NYC. Wow. What a powerhouse performer. She starred as “Girl” in the Broadway smash hit musical ONCE, for which she won a Grammy Award and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. I saw Cristin in ONCE back in 2012. My mom and I went together and we were both absolutely floored by her performance. She is like few performers I’ve ever seen. Her voice is hauntingly beautiful. It’s a voice that I feel like I’ve known all my life even though I’m just hearing it for the first time. I don’t know. There’s something intimate and familiar about her sound. Her voice blankets like a childhood lullaby and then explodes in desperate yearning, like it’s lost and looking for its home. Ah. I don’t even know if what I’m writing makes sense! It’s a quality that inspires that kind of poetic, nonsensical writing because it feels magical. 

Actually, “magical” was the word Cristin used to describe her experience in ONCE, and is an appropriate word to sum up the show Friday night. I got the last seat available – partial view. I was bummed at first but ended up sitting just behind the piano, with a close-up view of David Abeles’ dancing fingers. I saw Mr. Abeles as Pierre in Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 back in 2013, and I’m a huge fan, so that was dope. Equally dope was Will Connolly on guitar and vocals. Will is playing the title role in Forest Boy, the NYMF show I’m currently working on! He mentioned that he was doing a show at Joe’s Pub, and when he told me it was with Cristin Milioti, I freaked out a bit. Turns out they’re best friends from ONCE and he accompanied her throughout the show, most memorably on a stirring interpretation of Sondheim’s Losing My Mindwhere Will played ukelele and sang evocative dissonant harmonies. Ms. Milioti’s voice was on brilliant display in this song, in one instant delicate and ethereal, the next thunderous and aching.

Just after, she performed GOLD from ONCE. Cristin recalled this as her favorite number in the show, because the rest of the ensemble sang while she walked through them, catching each of their eyes on her way. I was transported back to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. This number was a magical moment that sticks with the soul. We, the audience, were all walking through Cristin’s embodiment of “Girl” in that moment, feeling our souls exposed and opened and awakened by the haunting harmonies and sacred sounds of the ensemble. Joe’s Pub experienced the same kind of magic on Friday night. The music invited the audience to breathe a collective breath of our shared humanity. I actually went to Joe’s Pub by myself, a feat my social anxiety would usually find daunting, but Cristin has a way of putting everyone at ease. Soon after she was singing, I felt closer and somehow more connected to the strangers around me. We exchanged words of how stirring her performance was. It was like we were all transported. We went on a ride together, and became closer in the process. It is the magic of live theatre. At its best, we are taken into a new world, a new state of consciousness for a couple hours, away from our incessant worry and personal strife and into interpersonal understanding.

The night included a handful of pop covers, including two by Sia, and a Beyoncé medley, arranged by Will Connolly. Interwoven between songs were Cristin’s personal anecdotes detailing life in the city, her career, and what it means to be human. One personal favorite anecdote was Cristin’s recollection of her college theatre classes, where she was repeatedly told she was a soprano, and she’d have to sing Glitter and Be Gay which she noted was a “train-wreck.” Recalling the experience, she sang, “‘This is embarrassing’ in her ‘cartoon soprano voice,’ …‘Please give me a B’ and they were like, ‘No, you get a C,’ … but look who’s laughing now.’”  The audience erupted in laughter. She feels like a friend you’ve known forever. Relatable, authentic, vulnerable. She made mention of the truly terrifying times we are currently living in, but somehow I felt so safe in her presence. That’s what great performances have the power to do. They unite and bring us together in a world that grows more and more divisive and solitary everyday. This is the power of live performance that cannot be replicated in other media.

I’m so grateful I was able to witness Cristin Milioti’s live show and I highly recommend you catch the next. She usually performs her live show in New York a couple times a year. Here’s a video of Cristin singing Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” a few years back, a song she performed again Friday night.

ENJOY!!

Johnny

BWALPHA

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Meditation & Creativity with Mark Price

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YO YO YO! I am so pumped to bring to you my first The Broadway WarmUp interview with the inimitable Mark Price. Mark is a creative genius and I look up to him so much. Both Ithaca grads, I had the pleasure of meeting Mark back when he was a mentor for the Hangar Theatre Lab Company in 2014. Mark’s energy, zest and passion is contagious. He is an incredibly talented performer and teacher. So generous and detailed with his insights, he’s the perfect person to start our interview series.

In this conversation, we focus on Mark’s meditation practice. I have personally struggled significantly with anxiety and stress, so I learned a lot from Mark’s words on his meditation practice, and I’m itching to take his course when it comes to New York this fall.

“The whole goal is not to be an expert meditator, the whole goal is to be better at life. To be a better partner, better creator, better husband, better wife, better friend, better brother, you know, whatever. So, the whole name of the game is up-leveling performance on all accounts.” -MP

We had such a blast talking that we exceeded our intended duration, so I’ve decided to break this interview into two parts. Part I is below…come back for Part II soon.

In PART 1, we discuss:

  • Vedic meditation
  • Left brain/Right brain functions
  • Finding spontaneity in work and life
  • ‘Fight or Flight’ response
  • The fourth state of consciousness
  • Plus much more…

LISTEN HERE:

 https://broadwaywarmup.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/mark-price-final.m4a

In Part II, we’ll dive deeper into Mark’s views on creativity. We discuss:

  • the importance of resiliency in actors
  •  How to ask better questions
  •  Self-Promotion
  • The advice Mark would give his 20-year old self

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  • www.alchemycollective.org — Alchemy Collective is a meditation and performance lab, designed for creatives and high performance individuals who are looking to uplevel their performance, dissolve stress, and increase fulfillment and bliss states.(Website live end of July).
  • www.aboutmarkprice.com (Actor, Teaching website)
Mark will be teaching a meditation course in NY this fall. If anyone wants to be notified, email for more info at mprice8@gmail.com.

Be Warm,

Johnny

www.broadwaywarmup.com

Hi, I’m Johnny!

BWALPHA

a Completely synchroninzed Vocal and dance warm-up

www.broadwaywarmup.com

Headshot

I’m Johnny Shea and I am the newly appointed Blogger-In-Chief and Head of Brand Ambassador Development for The Broadway Warm-Up.

I’m going to be posting some awesome content on this blog over the coming weeks, so I thought I’d take a moment to say hi!

I have just moved to New York to pursue a career in acting. Just over a month ago, I graduated from Ithaca College with my BFA in Musical Theatre. The link to Ithaca is actually how I met Kim Stern, Owner/Creator of The Broadway Warm-Up. Back in March, all of IC’s graduating Theatre Arts majors traveled down to NYC to for a week-long series of panels and workshops with industry professionals. Kim was joined by fellow IC alums Mark Price and Caesar Samayoa in their panel called Empowered Artistry. I remember feeling so inspired after this panel. I left with a feeling of confirmation that my dreams were legitimate and possible in this city.

I’ll be honest – there are times when I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. For all my life to this point, I’ve had the structure and schedule of school to return to and live by. Now that I’ve graduated, the blank canvas before me is both exciting and terrifying. I’m choosing to be excited and inspired by the unknown ahead. I’d love for you to join me as I venture into the unknown and pursue my dreams of acting professionally.

This city, this lifestyle and this business are new to me, so my plan is to be a sponge. I will soak up anything and everything that pertains to life as an artist in New York. I thought it’d be fun to share what I discover as I go. SO, I’ll be conducting interviews with industry professionals to break down their daily habits & routines, and to deconstruct what makes them the best at what they do. In these interviews, I’ll talk to people with all different backgrounds and ties to the entertainment industry. I’ll speak with anyone from Broadway actors, composers, directors to ENTs, therapists, personal trainers…you  name it. I am interested in speaking to anyone with relevant info on this awesome industry. My mission is to inspire you to do what you love by interviewing people who have done just that.

Why do we warm-up? I know I warm-up so that I may perform at my best and stay healthy. I want my voice, body and mind to be in optimal condition before I go out onstage. The Broadway Warm-Up is designed to help performers reach optimal states before audition or performance. These interviews and blog posts are designed to dissect top performers so that all of us may strive to reach and realize our potential. My hope is that these interviews will provide tangible, actionable information that will inspire you.

The interviews will vary in form: video, audio & written. Be sure to follow the blog and check back soon for our first!

Be Warm,

Johnny

www.broadwaywarmup.com

And…We’re Back!

BWALPHAHey gang! It’s been while…but we’re back! Going to be starting to bring you some more blog content focused on performing musical theatre, audition technique, singing, dancing,  auditions, warming up and all around inspiration.  For starters, check out this exciting new blog series from The Anonymous Actor!  The Anonymous Actor is a real, live, young performer who is out there trying to make it happen in this great city of New York.  He/She will be giving weekly accounts of their victories and disappointments , discoveries and day to day dealings as they work towards booking the next job, getting the attention of an agent, finding the perfect NYC apartment and figuring out how to balance it all with a smile at the end of the day.  The Anonymous Actor could be someone who reminds you of yourself when you were starting out, or someone you hope to be in a few years, it could also be the person your sitting next to in your audition… RIGHT NOW. Enjoy!

The Anonymous Actor #01

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Hey New York artists: singers, musicians, actors, dancers, and all around cool people! Anonymous Actor here, bringing you the first ever titillating news on auditions, New York living, shows, and tips and tidbits about being an artist in this crazy city!

Unknown-1This week was full of incredible auditions including three days of singing EPAs for a brand new Broadway musical with casting by Telsey + Company. The CD was incredibly kind in the room, tapping his feet along to my 16 bar rock number and the accompanist was flawless! Sometimes you have incredibly fun and expectation-defying auditions (which this was for me) and sometimes you have crash and burn situations (which I have certainly experienced). One thing that I have learned from both situations is that a warm-up before a singing audition boosts my confidence ten-fold! It could be going to the gym, or walking and humming, or yoga, or a full classical 20 minute warm-up, but the one that truly stands out for me is The Broadway Warm-Up developed by Kim Stern and Deidre Goodwin!11011221_901133246616502_8468730541207047620_n  It is a fully immersive and completely synchronized vocal and dance warm-up. If you are already salivating at the prospects, then you will want to stay tuned for what I have to say next week! If you live in New York, audition, perform, or just love the arts, then you will want more of this behind the scenes look at the life of an NYC artist, brought to you by me, Anonymous Actor. Stay spicy chickadees 😉

BWALPHA

www.broadwaywarmup.com

A completely synchronized vocal and dance warm-up in under 30 minutes!

 

“Am I my resume?” : Living life wholeheartedly as an actor

BWALPHA copyAnother wonderful and insightful blog from our monthly contributor Jessica Latshaw!

Check it out:

 

 

I care very much about health. I am lucky; my parents put me in ballet when I was eight years old, introducing me to a way of life that both challenged me physically and fulfilled me emotionally. Soon, one didn’t come easily without the other. It’s still that way, and I have them to thank for it.
And though I am not sure the world needs one more article or blog post about the recent tragic passing of the great Robin Williams, his death is indicative of the fact that our health is not comprised solely of how we look, the numbers that appear when we step on the scale, the amount of accolades we have garnered, or how fast we can run.
Our health is the sum value of every single part of us. It’s what wholehearted living is all about: your body, mind, and spirit working towards the same goals. There is chaos and unbalance in our lives whenever one part of us–whether it’s physical, emotional/mental, or spiritual–betrays the goals we have and the values we nurture.
Many years ago, a good friend of mine reached out to me sobbing in the middle of the night. Being the genius and sensitive discerner that I am, I asked what was wrong.
“Are you hurt?”
She shook her head and kept crying.
“Is your family okay?”
She nodded this time, sobbing even harder.
Finally, she started talking and I pieced together what had brought her to this place. She has core values. She loves these values. She believes they are the right way to live and she has always strived to uphold them. Until recently, when she started betraying these values and shame set in. She still believed the values, and yet she was acting in a way that said she didn’t.
And subsequently life became chaotic.
images-1This is not a matter of being good or bad, though, see? This is a matter of living wholeheartedly. Of living in balance. Being in sync with yourself. Meaning every part of you is in agreement and moving in the same direction. It’s a healthy picture of a person. It’s what’s available to each of us.

 

Another part of wholehearted living is community. Reaching out. My friend talked to me that night for as long as she needed. I loved her; I listened. By the end of that conversation, something changed. Not because she or I were able to actually erase the past or snap our fingers and give her an immediate solution, but because she is loved and knew it and sometime between finding her crumpled in the corner of a hotel room–more tears than dignity–and taking deep, trembling breaths before standing up and declaring that now she was at peace enough to sleep, at least–the fact that she is loved became the bottom line.

images-2All this to say, it is very important to surround ourselves with people who care more about who we are than what we do. The pressure is real. To make money, to get the job, to fill your resume, to get the girl, to look good, to be good, to have a thousand things to say when people ask you that inevitable question: “So, what do you do?”
When is the last time someone asked you who you are?
If you crossed off the list of external things people can readily see when they look at you (an accountant, a performer, an instructor, etc), could you answer?
I remember in grade school, getting the assignment to write an essay on who I am. I was young enough to write out the whole thing in pencil, the letters big and awkwardly printed across lined paper. At that point, I had no job, earned no money, and had an unfortunate haircut that was a byproduct of allowing my brother to play barber with me one day. After he cut my bangs in a perfect diagonal line, my mom simply cut them all off (who needs the hassle of going to a salon when you have a perfectly good pair of scissors at home, anyway?), creating a short–albeit still tragically uneven–fringe on the top of my already too big forehead.

Good times, guys; good times.

images-3But I had a lot to say about who I am. I wrote about loving my family, loving animals, and drawing, too. I didn’t know it, but I was writing about the connection to both people and creativity, which has turned out to be the two greatest needs in my life when it comes to feeling fulfilled and alive. I had a sense of self then, and it had nothing to do with what the world would call success.
You don’t need me to tell you that life can be hard. From time to time, people who have heard about some darker nights that I have walked through will reach out to me and ask how they get through their own dark night. I always tell them to surround themselves with kind, safe people who love them more than they need them. To be purposeful about hanging out with those who they never feel a need to impress. To let your personal life be vastly different from an interview or an audition. To realize that life is more than a facebook status in which a new job is announced; that it’s made up of pictures. All kinds of pictures–many that we would never post on Instagram.

This is not a DOWN WITH SOCIAL MEDIA! post (I am a fan of social media, actually–Instagram, especially, because FILTERS!). This is me telling you that you are way more than what you do and until you realize this, life will always be precarious, rising and falling with the awards, jobs, and notice you do or do not receive from others.

Live wholeheartedly. Be at one with yourself, your values, your goals. Create for yourself a community where you are loved for who you are, period. And from that place, you will end up doing so very much; you will end up impressing the world, whether you ever meant to or not, because a healthy, loved, balanced and wholehearted person is a breathtaking, beautiful sight, indeed.

img-26Jessica Latshaw is a monthly contributor to The Broadway Warm-Up Blog.  For more info on Jessica check out: www.jessicalatshawofficial.com

 

BWALPHA copy

A completely synchronized vocal and dance warm-up for performers. 

Now Available on DVD!

www.broadwaywarmup.com