An Idea For Supporting Yourself As A Composer

Getting into a conservative conservatory opens a lot of doors, but in other ways I'm scared to death. What if I do not get a job when I get out? What if I can not afford to pay off my student loans? For years this kept me from pursuing my dreams, and it continues to…

Getting into a conservative conservatory opens a lot of doors, but in other ways I'm scared to death. What if I do not get a job when I get out? What if I can not afford to pay off my student loans? For years this kept me from pursuing my dreams, and it continues to worry me to no end.

My original strategy was to “play to win.” But what does “winning” mean? Winning the Pulitzer Prize? Landing that prestigious track track position at NYU? Perhaps. But I think it would be it would be healthier for me to contemplate how I can blaze my own path– how to I use my skills as an artist to make the world a better place.

Prior to graduate school, I took a year off just to write. I moved in with my mother and cashed out my retirement pension. For the first six months, I lived in artistic bliss. I experimented and implemented ideas. I composed eight to twelve hours a day. I wrote nearly an hour's worth of well thought out music, for every instrument, including electroaccoustic music.

When the retirement check began to dwindle, though, I started to worry. Jobs on silver platters do not wait MM candidates like they do for MBA candidates. And the more I worried about how I would sustain a living as an artist long term, the less I composed.

I resolved that there's no way I can advance toward artistic freedom without I can see “in my mind” a light at the end of the tunnel. I must settle my worries about not making a living, once and for all. If I want a stable, healthy, uncompromised life, I need to find a path of getting there before I even start to think about that opera or symphony I dream of writing. Even the greatest masterpieces fail.

Luckily, I'm a minimalist. I do not need a big house. I do not need fancy clothes. I do not need to start a family– at least for another ten years. I do not even need a computer.

Here's what I do need.

1.) Friends. We need friends more than we think. And friends are easy to find when you're a musician. There's nothing more rewarding than collaboration or playing together in an ensemble. In main, white collar America, people are (with many exceptions) more interested in their friends' social status and how they look. They're more interested in being liked than finding love. Modern social culture demands that you attend stale dinner parties and spending $ 25 on brunch. It's been my experience so far that true friends are much easier to find when playing music. If I want anything out of my music degree, it should be to make lots and lots of lifelong friends.

2.) Time to pursue artistic goals. My calling is to compose. My calling is not to work in a cubicle as an arts administrator, not to work 80 hours a week as a high school band teacher, not to take a corporate day job and write music as a hobby. Nothing could sabotage my artistic opportunities more than working a full time job, except it's being a college professor, supporting myself as an artist, or some combination of the two (say, becoming an adjunct). Time is essential for composers– time to work, time to take walks and self reflect, and time to experiment with new techniques of writing that may or many not work.

3.) Financial security. We all need money, but not a lot. How much should it really cost to eat, have a safe, warm place to sleep at night, and pay off student loans? We live in a society where theoretically there's enough food and living space for all, yet we work long hours to pay exorbitant rents and spend money on things we do not need.

I've spent years searching for a way to make as little money as possible while still being able to afford moderate comfort, time to work on my music, and have friends. Sadly, I have yet to figure it out.

But I think I have an idea. I'll join an arts collective … or better yet, start my own.

There is an 11 acre plot of land for $ 125,000 in Harford County, MD. Hundreds of other lots are available within close proximity of major cities. Even larger, 100 acre lots are available in Ohio and Pennsylvania for as low as $ 60,000; these states are abundant with college towns and performance opportunities. Spacious, winterized yurts for every person could be installed for under $ 10,000 each. “Tiny houses” are also an option.

This means that 5-6 composers and musicians could live in a beautiful place with lots of privacy on a combined income of just $ 100,000. That's a nice, middle class lifestyle where each person only has to teach 1-2 adjunct classes, and still afford to eat and pay rent (which would cost about the amount of a cell phone bill).

Some might complain that living in a yurt is too rustic, but these are the types of living quarters you'd get from attending Aspen or Tanglewood. And if a middle class family can afford a mini-mansion on the same amount of land, then six adjunct professors can pool a six figure salary to afford the same thing. An alternative could have been to invest in a communal living space in an urban area.

Laugh all you want at this idea– but having material wealth is fraught with misery. I'm suggesting a lifestyle that is more stable than being a “starving artist,” while still affording you the same opportunities to produce art that will create a meaningful impact, surrounded by people who care about you.

A small donation from a generous patron could afford us a small, intimate performance space. Someone's rich parent could front the down payment. And if word gets out that several composers are pursuing this lifestyle, the watermark of success would rise for everyone involved. Big name composers and musicians would take an interest in us, and friends would come by to visit. A school of thought could be formed, not based on aesthetics, but on lifestyle, and composers would no longer need to compete for jobs.

Who's with me?

Communal Living for Starving Artists

I've been struggling emotionally laately. Although I was recently accepted into one of the most prestigious conservatories in the world, I'm scared to death. Jobs do not wait for MM candidates like they do for MBA students when they graduate. And nowdays, it's nearly impossible to get a job as a full, tenured professor– although…

I've been struggling emotionally laately. Although I was recently accepted into one of the most prestigious conservatories in the world, I'm scared to death. Jobs do not wait for MM candidates like they do for MBA students when they graduate. And nowdays, it's nearly impossible to get a job as a full, tenured professor– although it seems to me most Peabody graduates are quite capable of landing adjunct positions (and of course, many do better).

Many complain that adjunct faculty are paid horribly and get no benefits. But there's a downside to becoming a full-time faculty: you lose a lot of time. I used to be a math teacher. My time and energy was wasted in boring, pointless meetings, trying to promote myself via petty politics, and living in fear of getting fired. I've worked corporate job, too– and trust me, money does not buy you happiness.

What if, after graduation, I decided to accept just one adjunct position? I've got all the time I needed to dedicate the remaining 80% of my working life toward composition. I've got the flexibility to drop everything and head to New York for a last minute, but very high-end gig. I've destroy myself financially. But I've got a very happy life, provided I made just enough to get by. I say we put the “starving” back into starving artist.

My thought is that I find 4-5 friends. We pool our money together and purchase a large (but cheap) plot of land in the boondocks. For under $ 10,000 you can live in a very nice yurt with central heating – “tiny houses” are also an option. We'd share the land and live in a small community of artists. Perhaps we could even find WWOOFers to help build us a performance space. And 501 (c) 3 organizations qualify for group health insurance.

My guess is that this could be fully funded on less than $ 60,000 a year. Expenses include the mortgage and utilities, paying off student loans, and food. That's $ 1000 a month, per person, almost (but not quite) the amount I'd make as an adjunct teaching a single class. I could always pick up a second adjunct position, but hopefully I'd receive some actual tasks instead– which would be fully capable given the amount of time I had to work on my music.

We'd live in Ohio. Cheap land and cost of living, Ohio also gives us close proximity to many good music departments eager to hire us: Oberlin, Kent State, Dennison, Kenyon, Akron, Ohio State, and a day's driving distance to half of the US population. I could even go into New York City a couple days a week. My second choice would be California, because it's beautiful and full of hippies who would unintentionally support us.

It would be a hard life. But a good life. Do you really want to work 60 hours a week at a job you hate– just so you can own a pad in a gentrified neighborhood, going to the mall, and waiting until Friday? F that.

Here's what you need to be happy, according to Epicurus.

1.) Friends. The 5-6 people who live on the commune would always be there for each other to bounce off ideas and provide each other with emotional support. Kids welcome – I am not opposed at all to having a family live on the commune. We would also keep the commune vibrant with other people wandering through: musicians, composers, old friends, townsies, interesting and inspiring people looking retreat out of the city and enjoy our space. As said before, maybe we could even build a performance space. Or a hot tub.

2.) Comfort. You do not need a mini-mansion. All you need is a cozy bed to sleep in, and central heating. Yurts are cheap and reliably spacious. Zoning denies them in cities, but not in the country.

3.) Time to contemplate and self reflect. Time was something that I never found working an 8am to 7pm job, and the pace of today's world leaves little time to reflect. You also need privacy, which could easily be found in a remote spot of land.

4.) The feeling that you are making a difference. I think most people become composers because they want to make a difference – either in themselves or the world. This is why it's especially frustrating for artists who are rejected, or can not support themselves doing what they love. In a communal space, we would not have to relly as heavily on the support of academia. And while I commend generous philanthropists, we could also choose to decline gifts from corporations that might have strings attached that would limit our artistic freedom.

Full expression can only be expressed through full freedom, and I think the only thing you need in order to be free and happy are those things I listed above. Am I crazy for proposing this? I welcome feedback from readers.

Meisner’s Approach Is the Road To Instinct

Imagine what it would be like to remove the thought process from your daily life. Without a filter you would be blurting out the first thing that came into your head constantly. We have all known someone who fails to think before they speak, but the vast majority of us have learned over the years…

Imagine what it would be like to remove the thought process from your daily life. Without a filter you would be blurting out the first thing that came into your head constantly. We have all known someone who fails to think before they speak, but the vast majority of us have learned over the years to do the opposite.

The Pivotal Day: The Day You Meet Eugene O’Neill

And now it is time you met Eugene O'Neill. First you have to thank Ric Burns because it is his documentary on O'Neill for PBS – a DVD you got out of the library (Worcester Public Library). You remember watching it for the second or third third time; and at the same time, you are…

And now it is time you met Eugene O'Neill. First you have to thank Ric Burns because it is his documentary on O'Neill for PBS – a DVD you got out of the library (Worcester Public Library). You remember watching it for the second or third third time; and at the same time, you are writing a stageplay and you have no idea how to end it until you watch Ric Burn's documentary. You are able to write to the end of your play and you realize that the ending was under your nose the whole time.

You have read Long Days Journey Into Night and you have seen on yet another DVD The Iceman Cometh performed, and you have seen Lee Marvin's portrait of Hickey. You remember actors Robert Ryan, Jeff Bridges, and Moses Gunn are in it as well. And then while walking around the library, you see a new book on the Biography book shelf on the first floor, just like you saw the Thornton Wilder biography staring at you as you exited the men's restroom. The book is a biography of Eugene O'Neill written by Robert M. Dowling: Eugene O'Neill: A Life In Four Acts. Once you open and read this book, you begin to realize that you and Gene are kindred spirits.

You listen to what O'Neill writes and you listened to what the biographer, Dowling, says about O'Neill: O'Neill very much reminded the sailors he met onboard … broadened his respect for their straight-talking swagger to include the working classes as a whole: “They are more direct. In action and utterance, then more dramatic. Their lives and sufferings and personalities lend themselves more readily to dramatization. Their real lives are exposed. They are crude but honest. They are not handicapped by inhibitions. [1]

So what are you getting so upset about? You know where he is coming from and is writing like a sailor, remember. he is writing after listening to one of his fellow sailors with who he was a mate. So when he writes about the rough and the shady and seedy side of life, what are you getting so upset about?

O'Neill attempted suicide while you only have contemplated it: “… I vaguely remember coming to, hearing a knocking at the door, then silence … This occurred a number of times, but I paid no attention to it. did not occur to me that I was alive – after all those pills! At first I probably thought I was still on my way, not dead yet, but getting there. the veronal had not completely put me out and that I could hear the knocks … Then a horrible thought came to me– I was dead, of course, and death was nothing but continuity of life as it had been when one left it! A wheel that turned endlessly round and round back to the same old situation! ” [2]

Now you want to read that out loud! What a dramatic soliloquy! A man talks about his attempt at suicide. While you have only contemplated it. You like this gutsy writing because you write gutsy stuff. This really resonates with you and you realize that you and Eugene O'Neill are kindred spirits. Are one.

Now the biographer has really been cooking when it comes to his own writing. Listen: “… Millenia before, Senaca of Rome, a fellow dramatist, had classified” luck “as what happens when preparation meets opportunity. If you have a Mind-Storming Group, you now wish to invite Eugene O'Neill so he can tell you about this preparation meeting opportunity.

=============================

[1] Dowling, Robert M. Eugene O'Neill: A Life In Four Acts. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2014, p. 59

[2] I bid, p. 80

[3] Ibid , p. 136

Don’t Act, Don’t Think, Don’t Try – Do!

Acting is doing. Although real emotion makes for compelling performances, the means to achieving real emotion according to Sanford Meisner, Stella Adler, Robert Lewis and Elia Kazan, is about “behaving” not emoting. There are many elements that must be put in place before truthful behavior is realized. If you subscribe to Meisner's approach, as I…

Acting is doing. Although real emotion makes for compelling performances, the means to achieving real emotion according to Sanford Meisner, Stella Adler, Robert Lewis and Elia Kazan, is about “behaving” not emoting.

There are many elements that must be put in place before truthful behavior is realized. If you subscribe to Meisner's approach, as I do, then you acknowledge that the first thing you must learn is to listen and respond from your truthful self. To realize that “truth” requires that you put all your attention on the other person (the object of your behavior) and “work off” without “acting” the moment. The changes in the “repetition” occur because they have to, not because we want them to. The “truth” we seek concerns what is happening right here, right now, not what we want or think it should be.

Since “working off” the majority of the actor's work you have to sustain a connection to your partner on a moment to moment basis. It may sound easy but maintaining a strong connection to your partner takes time, effort and a good deal of practice. You have to put in time on a daily basis to understand on a visceral level what it means to leave yourself alone, give up trying as a means of achieving your goals, while allowing the guiding principles of the technique to penetrate on a personal level; do not do anything without something happens to make you do it, what you do not depend on you it depends on the other person, the quality of your work depending on how fully you do what you do. These three principals are in constant motion at all times.

You can not rush the process. Take the time to establish a strong technical foundation before you tackle scene work. How will you know when you're ready to move forward? When your moment to moment works feels like you're doing everything for the first time. That is improvement to a tee. Keep in mind that the first 2 years of your training is just the tip of the iceberg. To work at the professional level you will have to develop many more skills.

These days, with technology moving at the speed of light, anyone with a high-tech camera, a “script”, and a little spit and vinegar, think they are ready to act and / or direct a film. I do not mean to disparage anyone's effort or desire to realize their dreams, but sometimes you have to take a step back and recognize that you just are not ready. Those that are capable of working on the professional level have achieved success with more than a trifle of blood, sweat and tears.

Some years ago I was reading an article in Modern Drummer Magazine about drummer extraordinaire, Virgil Donati. His work ethic boggled my mind. According to the article when he is not on the road playing with his band, or doing workshops and seminars, he is practicing in his West Hollywood studio for as much as 7 hours, daily! (a fellow musician once saw him after a practice session and said that he looked like he had just stepped out of the shower). Yet for him the learning process is never over. There is no finish line. No end point.

Growth, learning and change are parts of the whole dynamic. They are infinite. The process is never over for the artist. Your craft / art is not a part-time job. There is always something new to learn. Not only about our art, but even if not more important, about ourselves. Introspection leads to self-awareness and that is the genesis of change. Acknowledging that we are never finished, that there is always something more to do if we are to be at our very best are essential for personal. Make sure the bar you are reaching for presents you with necessary challenges. And when you reach high enough to grasp the bar, raise it higher and get back to work.

Sent from my iPhone

Great Actors Are Flexible Actors

Those of you that have been reading my articles (and I thank you for that) know that I place a great deal of importance on the craft of acting. A strong technique is a necessity in the highly competitive field of acting. Unfortunately there are far too many young actors that place the cart squarely…

Those of you that have been reading my articles (and I thank you for that) know that I place a great deal of importance on the craft of acting. A strong technique is a necessity in the highly competitive field of acting. Unfortunately there are far too many young actors that place the cart squarely before the horse ie seeking representation before they have developed the skills that are necessary to achieve success.

If you have some talent, a great deal of skill, and a spoonful of Lady Luck then you may be headed for a career as a working actor. If you wish to sustain a career over a long period of time then you will need additional skills. Skills that enable you to adapt to a wide variety of situations and personalities. Directors in particular, all of which have different approaches to working with actors. Each of them communicates in their own particular way. Some are more more adept at communicating with actors than others and you will have to find a way to work with each unique personality.

Elia Kazan, the master of “turning psychology into behavior” did not have actors read for him. He sent time getting to know his players on a personal level so he would know what buttons to push when he needed to provoke a reaction. He rarely used the word “feelings” when he directed. His focus was on the “wholehearted” execution of the action. He was a master director. Expert in all phases of acting and directing. Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, and Karl Malden thought him the best with what they had ever worked.

John Huston began his career writing screenplays. He was a gifted writer who went on to become a masterful writer / director. The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, Fat City, The Man Who Would Be King, were among the many remarkable films he wrote and / or directed. Huston was not one to spend much time talking to his actors. According to Huston, “Half of directing is casting the right actors.” For him, the right actor in the right role solved a myriad of problems. He said of Paul Newman that he had “wonderful immediate ideas”. Many better than his own. Clearly he depended on the ability of his actors so they had to be well prepared and creative.

George Stevens as described by Marc Harris in * Five Came Back, “… was a laconic and introverted man who was sometimes teased on his sets about the expression of impenetrable, stone-faced preoccupation that he tended to wear like a mask .. “ On more than one occasion cast and crew would stand around for what seemed like an interminable period of time waiting for him to figure out how he wanted to shoot a particular scene. Yet in spite of his taciturn personality and stoney silences he was able to illicit great performances from his actors. * Published by Penguin Press, copyright by Marc Harris 2014

In the priority cases, especially when you are starting out you will not have the luxury of picking the director of your choice. In fact you may never have that experience. Few if any do, so you will have to learn to adapt and adjust to every situation. If you are sufficient some will turn out to be employers of love. Others will be afraid with tension (Dusting Hoffman's experience on The Graduate, Faye Dunaway's on Chinatown ). Regardless of the circumstance you will have to find a way to get through it without shooting yourself in the foot. It's small world and word travels fast. You do not problem child to be the first thing they see when you walk into the room.

In addition to teaching the craft of acting I try to share life lessons that will help my students to develop confidence, and build on their already wonderful personalities. I remind them as often as I can, without becoming a dreadful bore, that adaptability, and flexibility are keys to long term success in life. Inner strength is something you can develop over time if you are willing to acknowledge those parts of yourself that require attention. Do not ignore those hits that need some find tuning.

Having a solid craft is extremely important but not the only requirement for sustaining a career over the long haul.

State of Kapa Haka in Australia

The state of Maori performing arts in Australia from a Sydney and Australian perspective is in a less than poor condition. Changes must be made before progress can be made.

The state of Maori performing arts in Australia from a Sydney and Australian perspective is in a less than poor condition. Changes must be made before progress can be made.

Think Before You Speak? I Think Not!

Trudging home on a blistering cold winter day, battling the whistling wind, my senior year in high school, I know full well there will be hell to pay when I arrive home. Grades were in and mine were far below expectations. As my father scanned my report card his face slowly morphed into a deep…

Trudging home on a blistering cold winter day, battling the whistling wind, my senior year in high school, I know full well there will be hell to pay when I arrive home. Grades were in and mine were far below expectations. As my father scanned my report card his face slowly morphed into a deep magenta. My mother, Always my biggest supporter … NOT !, had I been arrested of holding up The First National City Bank at gun point, screaming obscenities as I hung from the getaway car, would have gladly turned me in without blinking an eye. Any attempt to rationalize my tenuous position would have fallen on deaf ears, so I remained mum. Feverishly chewing his lower lip, steam spurting from his ears, my father asked, “Are you in trouble again?” As impulse control was not my forte I parried with, 'Is that a multiple choice question?' “When is this going to stop?” He fumed. Digging a deaf hole for myself, I replied, 'Are you asking for a specific date and time?'

Over time, I developed control over my impulses and was able to lead a more spilkis-free life. I learned that impulsive behavior in the real world is not always an asset. The fact is, if we were to follow our impulses blindly, society as we know it would devolve into a chaotic mush where rules and regulations would have replaced with anarchy. To be a productive member of society a certain degree of self-discipline and self-control must be established.

Interestingly this contradicts in every way Sanford Meisner's teachings. For Meisner, acting truthfully requires the actor to react fully and impulsively from moment to moment. “The reality of doing”, not thinking, is at the core of his teaching. Socialized, polite behavior is not the goal for players that wish to live truthfully and instinctively. All that we have learned regarding appropriate, polite, acceptable behavior must be unlearned as it pertains to acting. Meisner taught his actors, via the “repetition exercises” to take the “polite routine” out of their work and react to the “pinch” from the gut. Acting as defined by Arthur Miller is a communicative art form. It is about having an experience on a visceral level, not an intellectual one. In keeping with this understanding, Meisner reminded his students on more than one occasion that, “An ounce of behavior is worth a pound of words.” To be effective you must remove the gloves and deal personally. Censoring, restraining, or calculating your responses is not in keeping with “living” truthfully. “The ultimate goal of Meisner's technique is to provide actors with an instinctive way of working. synonymous. Shoulda, woulda, coulda is not part of the equation.

A final note: the onus for growth / learning is not the sole responsibility of the student. The teacher, to insure that the necessary transitions take place from one stage of the exercises to another, must hone their instincts as well. They must guide with care and provide specific feedback and encouragement to secure that learning takes place.

In my opinion the Meisner Technique is the means by which spontaneous, impulsive behavior is put in place. The greatest actors, and directors, have a finite understanding of the importance of instincts in their work. Kazan spoke of Brando's instincts on many occasions, marveling at his ability to trust his gut and imagination. When asked if he was a Method actor Brando said “No.” When pressed to define his process Brando replied, “Instinctive.”

When it comes to acting, to think before you speak is not the way to go.

Meisner For Adults

Acting is not for the select few. The artist comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages. There is however, a determined difference between teaching adults and teenagers. In keeping with Meisner's approach, the “reality of doing” is at the foundation of the technique, regardless of the age of the student. Through a series of “repetition”…

Acting is not for the select few. The artist comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages. There is however, a determined difference between teaching adults and teenagers.

In keeping with Meisner's approach, the “reality of doing” is at the foundation of the technique, regardless of the age of the student. Through a series of “repetition” exercises, students learn to work, from their truthful self. The thought process, “polite routine”, and any form of artificial embellishment, is replaced with instinctive behavior. As they move from stage to stage of the “repetition exercises”, students learn that “listening, and responding” fully “from moment to moment, are the keys to” living truthfully in the given imaginary circumstances.

The conundrum, as I see it, concerns the unfiltered responses that evolve as the instincts surface. No responses are deemed inappropriate (other than physical contact that results in bodily injury). Students are free to experience and express their deepest emotions without fear of recriminations. In time it is inevitable that feathers will get ruffled as changes become more personal. To engage at this level requires a certain degree of maturity and strength of mind. Adults, for the most part, are far better equipped to deal with the unfiltered provocations that are part and parcel of the “repetition exercises”. If students stifle their impulses, the overall goal of “living truthfully” is defeated. It is the teacher's responsibility to remove the barriers that interfere with or impede reactions to the “pinch”. This can be a problem for teenagers that are not ready or able to deal with the truthful responses that hit below the belt.

Sanford Meisner stressed the “personal” element of good acting. To be truthful, alive, spontaneous, available, and fully responsive it is imperative that the actor take the “polite routine” out of the equation. Pre-determined or thoughtful responses are eliminated as students Learn to bring all of themselves to the work. The good, bad, ugly, vulnerable, sensitive, insensitive, bold, fearful, crass, are all parts of the human condition. None of us are perfect. We all have warts, faults, limitations, and emotions that erupt in varying degrees depending on the intensity of the provocative “pinch”, and it must all come out in the work.

In teaching teens I have had to approach them in a more tentative manner than I have adults. Since there is a no-holds-barred quality to the Meisner Technique in which “below the belt” comments are by no means uncommon, it is imperative that age does not dictate how the technique is taught. Younger students, must be encouraged to take the gloves off when they “repeat”. Restrained or inhibited exports lead to “careful” acting and that compromises the creative juices that enable the actor to fly. If the student is to learn to use all of them the restraints that block creativity must be removed. Bold, unfiltered choices are at the core of great art. Language / behavior can not and must not be censored. To say what you mean and mean what you say at all times is the goal.

For several years, in addition to teaching at my studio, I was hired by the owner of an acting studio in NYC to teach his teens and pre-teens the Meisner Technique. The goal, in this school, was for the students to have “fun”. This policy was stressed prior to every class I taught. I certainly have no axe to grind when it comes to having fun, as I have found that humor is an essential element for promoting learning. But having “fun” is not at the core of Meisner's Technique. “'The reality of doing', not thinking, IS. that encompassed their children in the acting program, lined the halls of the studio where the classes were held. Often times I found myself explaining in detail the importance of the exercises and why I chose to teach this particular technique.The parents were vulnerable and receptive. as I provided them with insights, and appeared open to what I had to offer. And although I received a great deal of positive feedback from the parental units, I felt that the kids still had some “growing” up to do before they could derive the full benefit from the exercises.

The Meisner Technique does not discriminate. It is taught to students of all denominations and ages and to this day it is still the best technique I know for developing and honing the actor's instincts. It is my personal preference to teach adults as I feel they are better equipped emotionally and psychologically to handle “the heat in the kitchen”.

How Do You Define the Greatest Actors

In 1947, after spending several years training with renowned acting teacher Stella Adler, and honing his skills on the New York stage, Marlon Brando stunned audiences with his explosive portrait of Stanley Kowalski, in Tennessee Williams', “A Streetcar Named Desire”. No one, layman or professional, had ever seen anything like him before. Nor have we…

In 1947, after spending several years training with renowned acting teacher Stella Adler, and honing his skills on the New York stage, Marlon Brando stunned audiences with his explosive portrait of Stanley Kowalski, in Tennessee Williams', “A Streetcar Named Desire”. No one, layman or professional, had ever seen anything like him before. Nor have we seen the likes of him since. Brando possessed qualities that eclipsed every actor that preceded him. His combustible performance in “Streetcar” proved without question that he was a standout among his peers. The great Laurence Olivier, in seeing Brando play Stanley was stunned by his brilliance. He was by no means alone.

So what was it about this young man from Omaha, Nebraska that made him so unique? What were the exceptional qualities he possessed that separated him from the rest?

Acting as defined by Sanford Meisner, Stella Adler, and other Group Theater notables, concerned the ability to “live truthfully in a given set of imaginary circumstances.” To achieve that the actor needs talent, skill, finely honed instincts and the temperament and imagination to “play” with authenticity. Brando by his own account was not a “method actor” , but an instinctive one. Although extremely intelligently and well-read, his approach to acting was non-intellectual. In addition to uncanny instincts he had, according to a nephew, a supernatural ability to focus and concentrate, blocking out any interference around him. Director Elia Kazan thought him the greatest actor with whatever he had ever worked. According to Kazan, Brando did everything “wholeheartedly” by nature. Never resorting to pushing, clinging to an emotion or playing a result, he “lived” the role, inhabiting the character's world as if it was his own. He was able to relax, “play”, listen and react, exposing all that was inside of him. Never one to pre-determine his responses or do by rote something he had done before, he deal with the here and now of the imaginary circumstances. Karl Malden, one of his co-stars in “A Streetcar Named Desire” said that Brando was always unpredictable. Night after night of “Streetcar's” 2 year engagement, Brando challenged his co-stars with impulsive reactions to whatever was happening in the moment. According to Malden, Brando's raw energy and combustibility, coupled with his instinctive way of working, made them all better actors.

Up until Susan Mizruchi's latest biography, “Brando's Smile” , little was known of his preparation. In her fascinating biography we learn that Brando did by no means take his extra talent for granted. Contrary to what many of us held to be true, he expended much time and energy reading intensively and crafting his role. In preparation for the part of 'Napoleon' in the film “Desiree” , he read several books on his subject, annotating every page. In his quest for details he left no stone unturned. Generality was not an option. Over his career he would exhibit his remarkable range playing a wide variety of disparate characters exhibiting great depth of emotion. Although a leading man, in his heart he always considered himself, first and foremost, a character actor.

In addition to his exceptional talent and skill he also possessed qualities that defined his singularity as an actor. Human qualities that are not often found in one actor. Exceptionally handsome, charismatic, intense, bold, spontaneous, daring, sexual, irreverent, defiant, challenging, capricious, charming, intelligent, and sensitive with an intense capacity for empathy; human elements that he continuously exposed in his work.

When I think of the world's greatest actors Brando is always at the top of my list. His impact on acting continues to resonate to this day. Kazan thought Brando's performance in “On The Waterfront” the greatest he had ever seen. A clnic in acting in which Brando hits every note imaginable. In bringing all of himself to the role of Terry Malloy, he defined the meaning of great acting for all time. No other actor I have ever seen was endowed with his unique gift. He was and still is the whole package.

Make The Most Of Your Time While You Can

The 60s were a turbulent, tumultuous time. A decade of extreme changes in direct contrast and opposition to the repressive, stagnant, underwhelming 50s. The norms were being challenged and tossed along by a generation of young people that deplored the status quo. “Make love, not war” and “Tune in, turn on and drop out” was…

The 60s were a turbulent, tumultuous time. A decade of extreme changes in direct contrast and opposition to the repressive, stagnant, underwhelming 50s. The norms were being challenged and tossed along by a generation of young people that deplored the status quo. “Make love, not war” and “Tune in, turn on and drop out” was the mantra of a new generation.

In San Francisco, Ken Kesey was conducting acid (LSD) tests that were turning on hordes of young people. It was a time to expand horizons by exploring the limitless power of the imagination and previously unexamined dimensions of the mind. 'The Times Were A Changin'. “The Jefferson Airplane”, “The Grateful Dead”, “Big Brother And The Holding Company”, “Santana” and a host of groups to come were taking their place in a world in flux. Students on campuses all over our nation were taking a stand on the Viet Nam War. It was a time to take action. Not a time for standing still.

Flashback to a long ago time, my senior year of High School. There I sit, staring blankly out the 4th floor window of my Social Studies class, on a balmy, cloudless May day. Lost in fantasies of grandeur, I am jolted back to reality by a heated argument that is developing between my history teacher and fellow student Double A (as I shall refer to him). The topic: The Viet Nam War. Both teacher (ex-Marine) and student are determined to have their say. Double A is challenging, passionate, informed, intelligent, as is said teacher, as they go at it with guns blazing. After several rounds Double A is ahead on my scorecard. Temperatures rising, faces red with rage they continued to exchange blows until the period came to an end. I had never witnessed anything like it in my life. No student I had ever known had stood up to a teacher in that manner. The stakes were too high.

Double A was different. Noticeable changes were occurring. The crowd is now hung with were a select few. Like him, they dressed in black from head to toe, read books and listened to music that deviated from the norm and when not in school, spent the bulk of their time in Greenwich Village. “The Times They Were A Changin '” and Double A was changin' with them, leaving the rest of the student body in a cloud of dust. Many rumors began to circulate about certain activities that he was engaging in. Reckless, crazy, messed up, radical, commie, freak, weirdo, were just some of the words I heard to describe his “odd” behavior. No doubt he differs radically from the norm. Outspoken and irreverent, with no regard for the status quo, he was rattling cages, making the inmates uncomfortable. Fascinated and more than a little jealous, I was baffled by his disdain for what was considered acceptable behavior. Clearly, I had a rebellious streak and was known to challenge authority figures, cut classes, and defy my parents, but I was not in Double A's league. Compared to him I was a choir boy with little chance of breaking the mold in which I had been cast. The thing about him that made me salivate with envy was his newborn, fearless approach to life. From the rumors that abounded it sounded as if there was virtually nothing he would not try or do. That was not, as I was to learn a short time later, a matter of speculation.

That summer as I read myself for the next chapter in my life, I bumped into a classmate on a B train bound for Coney Island. With high school firmly behind us we talked of the college days that would soon be upon us. Knowing that “Fred” had been close to Double A, I mentioned that I had not seen him in a while and wondered what he was up to. An uncomfortable lull in our conversation ensued before he spoke.

“I guess you had not heard.” he said.

'Heard what?' I countered.

“Double A died a month ago.”

I was stuck numb when I heard this. I could not fathom that someone my own age had died, let alone someone I knew. He was 18 years young and that did not compute for me. People that were 18 did not die. Not the 18 year olds I knew, anyway.

'How?', I asked

“Leukemia.”, He said

For the rest of the ride Fred filled me in on the details. Suddenly it all made sense.

Double A knew his time on Planet Earth was limited and he was going to make the most of it. He would leave no stone unturned. Life was precious and he would not squander so much as a millisecond. The rumors it turned out were not rumors at all. He had closed life by the balls, one day at a time, and filled every waking moment with experience on top of experience. Nothing could be put off for tomorrow because there was no guarantee that tomorrow would ever come. He had no control over dying. But living a full life was in his control. And control it he did.

As I get older I cherish my time more and more. I am more aware that I need to spend my time wisely and fill my days with meaningful activities. This is not an obsession. It is a reality that I must deal with. I will never get the hours of the time I wasted back, so I do not agonize about some of the bad decisions that I made or the time spent in limbo making no decisions at all. But I can make the most of the time I have left and from time to time when I find myself piddling away time I am reminded of Double A and the choices he made when he knew that his journey would be ending sooner rather than later. He had choices. He could have crawled up inside of himself, withering away, waiting. But he chose a different path. He chose the path of life and all it had to offer. Double A was an inspiration to all of us that knew him. To this day he reminds me that like it or not our time on Earth is limited and it is up to us to live it fully and completely. To savor every bite. It is what we are here for.

Dance Innovation: The Relationship Between Video and Dance

When one words the word innovation, what comes to mind? Something technologically savvy? Cutting-edge? Each industry has its share of innovative ideas and works. In relation to the dance world, what is considered innovative? There are revolutionary choreography, dance techniques, products, approaches to movement, and endless other examples. More specifically, it is undeniable that digital…

When one words the word innovation, what comes to mind? Something technologically savvy? Cutting-edge? Each industry has its share of innovative ideas and works. In relation to the dance world, what is considered innovative? There are revolutionary choreography, dance techniques, products, approaches to movement, and endless other examples. More specifically, it is undeniable that digital film is a major contributor to the avant-garde advances in the dance industry, and most importantly, for the birth of dance on camera. The collaboration of dance and film has changed the dance industry for years to come, and such hybrid art form has taken the language of movement to a heightened, innovative level.

Ever since the inception of photography and motion studies, performances have been staged for the camera, however, the revolution of dance on film became more known after the explosion of the digital revolution. Film has been used for quite some time in the dance world, especially as a way of preserving original choreography and the history of dance (Fenner & Harris, 1995). It allows for a performance to be captured if one is not able to experience it live, and brings the arts directly to one's digital playing device. The digital revolution has allowed for dance choreography to be captured like never before through a video lens, and the overall art form of dance on camera. This practice evokes certain emotions and communicate specific ideas to an audience that can not be portrayed as effectively live, but through a movie inspired documentation of dance. Not only this, there is the flexibility for one person to be the choreographer, director, videographer, and editor of a dance film project, which is an asset for the entrepreneurial artist (McPherson).

Dance on film is so revolutionary not only because of how it changes the face of videography, but the traditional dance experience as well. The dancer (s) is / are no longer the stars-the camera is the main performer and the process of editing is the choreography. There is an increased intimidation from an audience member perspective, due to the fact that dance movement is not monitored from an auditorium seat but is easily seen through the perspective of the frame. Dancers involved in a dance camera project no longer have to perform the dance from beginning to end, but have the option of choreographing for the camera how they desire, and allowing the editing process to complete the choreographic process. It is more common for dancers to perform choreography in repeated chunks. When editing, the relationship between sound and image is critical, as well as creating flow, creating a variety of paces, and ultimately creating a story (McPherson, 2006).

It is intriguing to think about how dance on camera will continuously evolve in the future. Will the incorporation of film and dance see into other areas of the dance industry, such as in a classroom setting? Only time will tell. If you're interested in looking more into what the art form of dance film looks like, as well as a timeline of dance on film, check out the Dance Films Association official site at http://dancefilms.org .

Works Cited

McPherson, K. (2006). Making Video dance: a step-by-step guide to creating dance for the screen. New York, New York: Routledge.

Fenner, D. & Harris, K. (1995). Video-preservation of dance. Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 29, No. 1, pp. 69-78. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3333518 .

Choose Your Own Path

My father, “Pop”, as my bother and I called him, was more than a bit of a ham. For him any time was a good time to perform so as a young man he decided to try his hand as a Vaudeville song and dance man. Performing was in his blood and although success is…

My father, “Pop”, as my bother and I called him, was more than a bit of a ham. For him any time was a good time to perform so as a young man he decided to try his hand as a Vaudeville song and dance man. Performing was in his blood and although success is never guaranteed he was destined to do something that afforded him the opportunity to “show off”. Vaudeville was where it began.

My paternal grandmother was a Russian immigrant who amassed a great fortune in the construction business. When the Great Depression hit in 1929, his cache was wiped out instantaneously. My father, like his 5 brothers had worked in my grandfather's business at one time or another. When tracedy stuck he left New York and headed for whatever opportunities he might discover in sunny Los Angeles. With no collateral but his broad smile and the gift of gab he managed to talk a bank manager into proffering a loan in the neighborhood of $ 2,000. A pretty ritzy neighborhood for that time. My dad used the money to open a club that catered to many celebrities of the day. For 11 years he partied to the hilt and after squandering his do re mi he returned to New York with nothing to show for the good times but his empty pockets. Not long after he returned he met my mother. Within a year of their courtship they married and a year and two months later my brother and I were a part of the equation. For awhile my Pop made a living selling storm windows door-to-door. Not an easy way to make a buck but he stuck with it until he landed a job that offered better pay and job security selling special Fx equipment to television networks.

As young boys my brother and I would sit in front of the TV watching movies with him. Westerns, dramas, comedies, sci-fi were all on the menu and we ate them up with a spoon. My father would point out actors he had known or met as we watched the movies. He was balding by this time and seemed to derive strange pleasure from busting anyone he knew of that sported a toupee or “piece”, as he referred to it. He never missed an opportunity to nab a culprit and point him out. In time my brother and I would beat him to the punch, saying, “Hey Pop, did you know that guy wears a piece?” It was all in good fun and we got a good laugh out of it.

But something was missing. It seemed that the times he cherished most were those he spent in LA, at the racetrack, or in his club, hob-bobbing with celebrities and cronies alike. Those were his “glory days”. I'm not suggesting he did not love us because I know in my heart he did. But the obligation of marriage and family was something instilled in him at an early age. It was an obligation that he was expected to fulfill. My father was not encouraged, or allowed to question. And although he defied the status quo by spending his 30s partying in LA, the demand of “domestic bliss” that was festering in his DNA bought him home. There were more than a few occasions when I would catch him silently staring into the distance, a look of longing, and sadness, on his face. His happiest times were clearly behind him.

Reflecting on his choices made me consider the burdens of expectation thar rule my life for many years. My father like his father before him expected me to follow the rules without question. There was a definite order to things and it was not my job to upset the balance. I was being conditioned to repress my wants and needs in favor of my pater and mater. My passions eg drumming and acting were dubbed childish, impractical or downright foolish. Fortunately I had a rebellious nature that kept me going but not nearly enough to overcome their antagonism. In time with some outside assistance and a great deal of introspection I was able to find my own voice and assert my will. I was determined to live my life on my terms, not theirs. To accomplish my goals I took a wide variety of jobs that provided me with time, and ample energy to pursue my passions. The road I took was not easy but it was the one that was tailor-made for me. I was not geared for the 9-5 existence. I wanted and needed something more and I was willing to sacrifice to get it.

For the past 25 years I have devoted my time and energy in building my acting studio. There were many difficult times but I persisted as I knew that this was what I was meant to do. In rooting out and discarding negative influences I was able to stay the course and after abandoning my quest for a career in drumming (I played semi-professionally for 12 years before throwing in the towel) I began to study again last year. The bug that bit me as a child, I am happy to say, was never extinguished.

If, in reading this article, you find something in it that resonates for you, I urge you to follow your instincts. It is not easy to make difficult choices but most often I think it the most rewarding course of action. The feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction you will derive from following your chosen path is like no other. I think “The Rolling Stones” said it best: “You can not always get what you want, but sometimes you might find, you get what you need.”

You Don’t Have To Do Anything

This article is my take on following your instincts in life and learning to trust your choices. Bending to the will of others does not make for happy campers.

This article is my take on following your instincts in life and learning to trust your choices. Bending to the will of others does not make for happy campers.

Hugh Jackman in The River on Broadway

The River is intense and well written with a superb trio of actors, including Hugh Jackman in his fourth Broadway production. Jackman, who last graced the New York theater stage three years ago in Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway , returned to Circle in the Square this past November to portray a passionate trout fisherman…

The River is intense and well written with a superb trio of actors, including Hugh Jackman in his fourth Broadway production. Jackman, who last graced the New York theater stage three years ago in Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway , returned to Circle in the Square this past November to portray a passionate trout fisherman in this psychological, dark, drama by Jez Butterworth, in a performance that is magnetic.

Originally debuting on the London stage in 2012, The River features Jackman along with two proficient and skilled actors from the London cast in this 90-minute production. Laura Donnelly and Cush Jumbo, give stunning performances exhibiting prowess for comedic and dramatic execution.

Butterworth, nominated for a Tony in 2011 for Jerusalem is successful in creating a three-character, somber story, forcefully captivating, drawing the viewer into the emotional depths of each person. He is adept at intertwining time and space to exhibit a relational pattern on the part of the Jackman character, who is psychologically tortured and stuck.

The story takes a number of twists and turns growing progressively more deep and morose and the author's use of repetition can at times be confusing, but overall, drives home the Fisherman's inability to let go and live in the present.

Director, Ian Rickman's use of dim lighting to cast a weighty mood and interjection of music to convey the evolving perceptions of the characters is very effective. Stage direction adds further to the poignant melancholy that ever engulfs the characters.

In spite of the dynamic and haunting performances, and Jackman's ability to reflect a stoic and imagined sadness, the storyline leaves the viewer with a kind of vacant occasiony. The plot, which moves back and forth in time, leaves the audience questioning the true reason for the Fisherman's disconnect. However, this too is a rather brilliant technique as the reason for Jackman's character's profound anguish becomes discernible long after the play is over.

Waiting at the stage door for the cast to exit, audience members looked rather unsettled, with conversational chatter, trying to make sense of the previous 90-minutes. There was an overwhelming sense that The River did not tie up the ending with a neat bow, but instead, left a cloud of ambiguity and confusion. All agreed, however, that it was riveting and worth seeing and the cast was superb. The River is a limited engagement in New York City, with its final performance on February 8th.