Over the course of my teaching and performing lifetime, observing, and developing, I have recognized two specific traits with artists and performers. We could probably even expand that into the full realm of the human being in the workplace too.
For the purpose of the blog post, let me stay focused on the singer/actor/performer/artist - of which I know most about.
What draws you in? The process or the product? Is it both? How did you get there?
What drew you in? Then what? Where are you now?
It's a fascinating observation to see if melds or if it is very specifically one or the other. Let me explain:
Some are drawn to the process. They love the study, the development, the discovery. They are committed to craft and diving deep into themselves; They could be happy simply studying, going to classes, discovering new ways of exploring craft. They don't dismiss the finished product but would prefer to stay in the rehearsal room with the tape on the floor. That is where the magic happens. The stage is a bi-product and not the finish line.
Some are drawn to the stage. They see the finished product, are drawn to the audition room, and the dazzle of footlights, the costumes, the audience, and all that the theatre evokes in their minds. This is where they want to be.
After many years of teaching and observing many different people, these are two of the strongest traits that reveal themselves fairly quickly. There is not right or wrong in these traits. It simply reveals where a psychology is coming from at the time.
The product can inform the process and the process can inform the product. If we want to be truly realized performing artists, or performers with craft or discipline, we must allow the other to inform us fully.
Someone who says they want to be onstage, but simply will not commit to the study of the craft to FIND the stage, may have a certain amount of "success" depending on their natural ability, timing, and luck. However, "the stage and only the stage" , will not sustain fully. "Patchwork craft" does not sustain talent. It does not build upon a talent, nor does it serve that talent. Frankly, it doesn't serve the stage either. To be on stage means you have something to say. To say it, there must be someone to hear it. That audience deserves the real craft, the authentic performer, the true storyteller.
Real technique is never seen once the footlights come up. That work is done behind the scenes to give the illusion of none. Real magic. Really hard work. However, if it's work you commit to, it's not exhausting, is it? Lack of technique begins to show ragged over time and the lights are not forgiving.
Someone who loves process, can sometimes get lost in its safety and never quite find what is needed to get into that audition room. Process can become rote at times: regular lessons, regular classes, rinse and repeat. It is safe because it is predictable. It can create a false sense of safety because it isn't always required to move past the routine.
When process becomes a loop that you can sleepwalk through - is it process anymore or has it simply become mindless busy work?
What happens when we observe ourselves to see what we are doing, but also what isn't there to keep the momentum moving fully?
Those who crave the process can continue to open up the momentum to include a follow-through of discovery in the audition room, in order to be seen and heard, and then have an opportunity to take that craft to another level of discovery and ultimately, creation on stage. The process gives you permission to step into the room when the door presents itself, instead of hesitating and saying "I'm not ready yet". If you claim process fully, you will be. You will be ready for the door you choose, or the door that chooses you. The choosing is key.
Those who crave the footlights can continue to see that as their goal, but must also allow for what must be developed to get there. Simply desire is not enough. Taking all that energy and dreaming into a regular course of study to reveal to yourself what is possible WHEN you get that opportunity, and how to sustain that craft once you are invited in to play is crucial for you. Talking the talk gets old really fast if, as the Sondheim song suggests, "sometimes when the wrappings fall, there's nothing underneath at all."
So, trust where your initial momentum takes you. Process or Product? And then give yourself permission to find out how to weave toward the other, as you claim more authenticity in both.
We are never done. We are never finished. This is a wonderful thing. It gives you permission to observe, change direction, let that which caught your eye to move you in a direction you might not have considered before. This is life. This is art. This is being.
Sit back and observe. Then decide what you will pick up and how you want to proceed. The door does appear. If it hasn't yet, it might be time to make a decision on what you pick up next.
Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking.
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