Category Archives: Progress To Goal

Stephen Tobolowsky is my Guru.

I have always enjoyed the performances of actor Stephen Tobolowsky. Even when he was “Hey! It’s THAT GUY AGAIN!”
There something so comforting in his persona.
A few weeks ago I began listening to his personal podcast “The Stephen Tobolowsky Files”. I think I understand why I always feel so good watching any performance of his. He is me in a parallel dimension. And I do not mean that in a creepy way.
We have both had similarly quirky experiences. We both have unusually long memories stretching back to before most people remember anything, like pre-VERBAL memories. We are both character actors, he far more successful than I but life’s adventures don’t care whether you got paid or not. You still have the experiences.
He went to grad school in Champagne Urbana IL and I went on a rotten date there once. And we both know a lot of dead people.

Folks, if you aren’t listening to this amazing story-teller’s podcast and listening to him weave a web of real-life with reel-life…you just don’t care about people, acting, kittens or talking dogs.


The Guru

Stephen Tobolowsky Acts Again


To Dream The Impossible Dream (or Keep That Strange Country Music Playin’ Accompanist AWAY FROM ME!)

I read my voice teacher/vocal coach’s blog this morning. “What Defines Success?”  As usual her observations are insightful and useful and motivational.
She lists some points and here’s one of them:

2.  Successful people do not let fear of ANY kind inhibit their efforts or their desires.

This is the most difficult aspect of the business for me.

I used to be fearless. More even, FEAR FREE! My attitude was that I was the one on stage so I had ALL THE CONTROL. If I was in a scene and something happened to threaten my control then I improvised until I got that damned control BACK! I was in high school, I was 16 or 17 then.
While I don’t want to go improv crazy during performances, I DO need to get that feeling of CONTROL back. It’s the only way for me to conquer my fear.

Now, when I admit to fear… I’m still a little bulldog when it comes to my performances. Having been cast and rehearsed I do quite well!
But I do have one borderline phobia. I am terrified of *DUHM DUHM DUHUHUHUHMMMMMM* audition accompanists!!!

Let me back up a bit to tell the tale of an audition gone awry.
I was working as box office manager at York Theatre Company in NYC. They do original small musicals and concert versions of old gems they call “Musicals in Mufti”.
The artistic director Jim Morgan and the casting director Norman Meranus knew me. They knew I was Equity. They knew I sang. They held an audition. I decided to step outside the box office for a minute and go sing for them.
I had no repertoire to speak of but I did have two songs I could do. Pretty Women from Sweeney Todd and Newt from Howard Crabtree’s When Pigs Fly.
I started with Pretty Women and was so nervous that the high notes were B.A.D. though
I’ve sung that song a million times. The smiles they had for me when I walked into the room had faded.
They asked if I had anything else and I DID! I had Newt. But that song is VERY FREE FORM. It’s basically a comic monologue set to music and rhyme.
The pianist they had was good that day but NO ONE is gonna play that song right the first time!
Now, because Jim and I were friends he worked with me on Newt for a minute and when I did it again I was awesome. But by then the casting director had walked out disgusted, as well he should have, and Jim asked me why I couldn’t’ve done it that well the first time.
Here’s my problem:
I’m in a room with unfamiliar acoustics and with a piano behind me being played by a total stranger who may never have seen my music before in life.  Also, I’m funny. I should sing something funny. But I have 16 bars…enough for HALF of a joke. So I choose something I think I can FIT into that space and always come up with Pretty Women. And that song doesn’t sell my quirkiness…though it does sell my VOICE really well….too bad the voice is a mismatch for my body….
…and all this surges through me at the same time. So nervous am I, even my individual hairs are shaking independent of one another.

To recap:
I am afraid that an unknown accompanist will destroy my audition…so I destroy it for both of us and end up wasting everyone’s time.
I am frozen with dread that I won’t pick a good audition song…so I equivocate. Thus my book has one feasible song in it: Pretty Women.

And joy of joys, I have chosen about TEN possible audition songs to take to my voice session in two days…and I am mortified that I have chosen total shit, completely inappropriate for auditioning when cut to 16 bars.

I should look on the BRIGHT SIDE though. All upcoming auditions will likely require 12 and a half bars of a song from one out of print Judas Priest album sung while submerged in a vat of warm bacon grease while wearing snorkeling apparatus. At least, that would be identical to my perceived audition hurdles so far…

I am disgusted with myself. But I MUST move on. I have to! And so WHAT if I choose 37 shades of shit to try and make into audition songs. Susan Eichhorn-Young is going to be my angel and help me pick and choose the best of the best.

NEXT OBSTACLE: Audition Monologues and how all women loathe my hysterical piece from Steambath. It contains the word “pussy” and the phrase “ wife’s box…” which turned my last audition into a game of IS THAT HIPPIE LADY STILL BREATHING?!?!

Repertoire of a Stoire!

OK. Yeah. I KNOW it’s a funky title. But I kinda like it anyway. My kitchen, my peanut butter and pickle sandwich.


Lemme tell ya a little tale of truth and attitude-in-practice.
Years, many, ago in Indianapolis I was young and non-degreed and working low-wage jobs and acting for FREE but honing my craft. Honing my craft was good and distracted me from all the crap in my life like low wages and dying friends and loneliness.
I practiced the Pollyanna principle.
Then I began to get bitter. After a while, when things were going really badly, I stopped saying positive things to myself. I became angry with the conditions of my life. And although it felt good to be angry, it was seriously detrimental to my ability to attract positive energy.
When I was a Pollyanna, if something bad was goin’ down like late rent or no money for food somehow I would get called for a paying gig outta the blue or get a rebate check from the government or something! My bad energy ended that.
In the intervening years I became numb to the anger, partly through emotional callouses and partially through tasty alcoholic beverages [Edit. I am not an alcoholic. News Flash: Not everyone who drinks and parties when they’re young is an addict.] The numbness allowed me to slowly and very gradually awaken from my torpor beginning with moving from Indy to New Jersey and aided most by my remarkable partner of 9 years, 10 months and  17 days, Carlos.
So now recently you’ll notice…the existence of this blog which demonstrates and chronicles my taking charge of my life and letting light and air back into corners which had been dark and musty for some many years now.
And guess what’s happening. I’ll lay it out for you. I decided to get my acting into shape last year and took a class at Stella Adler Studio for professional actors. Turns out I didn’t need help with the acting, rather I needed help knowing where my talents fit into the hierarchy. Was I any good?!?!?!
I did one monologue two ways: once hysterically funny, once very moving. Sam Schacht, the teacher and accomplished actor, sat with his mouth open in shock and surprise. In a good way. While other class members were struggling with how to even DO comedy at all.
I learned I was quite good at what I do.
My previous entries talk about my vocal issues so I won’t belabor those things here just yet except to bring my current forward momentum to your attention and add that I have my first full HOUR with Susan on May15th. THRILLING!!!!
And what has been happening lately? I got a tax refund that allowed me to buy an iPod Touch for use at my voice lessons, vocal coaching sessions AND on which to keep recordings of my personal repertoire allowing constant study and enjoyment. I really needed it and this happened just in time.
Also exciting is the invitation I got from someone I know to participate in a reading of a new play for multiple Tony winning producer Stewart F Lane. I will be reading the lead, the play is a farce about language. A PERFECT fit for me and about the best networking opportunity imaginable. Thanks Emileena!
So a word of advice: If you’re feelin’ crappy and useless and over-the-hill you aren’t any of those things unless you MAKE yourself those things. Why not make yourself successful?

And now a LIST! Cause they’re fun! These are the songs with which I have decided to start my repertoire. All these songs were either specifically suggested or their composers were suggested or their genre was suggested by Susan Eichhorn-Young. In no particular order:

Just In Time, by Comden/Green and Styne

Night and Day, by Cole Porter (For some reason WordPress won’t let me fix his name but it’s C o l e!!)

Stardust, by Hoagy Carmichael

Marrying For Love, by Irving Berlin

New York State of Mind, by Billy Joel

William, It Was Really Nothing, By The Smiths

You Must Meet My Wife, by Stephen Sondheim

Nina, by Cole Porter

Leaning On A Lamp Post, by George Formby

Moon Over Bourbon Street, by Sting

Please note that where the song was written by a pop icon I have located alternate recordings to listen to. ie: New York State of Mind sung by Mel Torme. Don’t laugh, Mel knocks it outta the park!
I did that so I could have some varied interpretations to free my mind up to create my own. When I go in the audition room I want to be fresh no matter WHAT I sing.

There is a garden…come and see, come and see

The title of this entry is a lyric from Trouble In Tahiti by Leonard Bernstein.
(The show was written for TV in the 50s and is a contemporary opera depicting one day in the death of a marriage. It’s a favorite piece of mine and a monumental work of minuscule scale which I HIGHLY recommend to the uninitiated. If ya ain’t heard it get it NOW! I bought and downloaded it from Amazon.)
This song is stuck in my head today, which is no bad thing since it’s so beautiful. And, out of context, it draws my thoughts to images of a life in discord made neat again through focus and determination. It makes me think of my career. It makes me think of a half finished puzzle. Thank goodness I counted the pieces before I began…I know the rest are in the box. And I have secured my puzzle partner to help me assemble it.
It’s been a long journey from Indianapolis in 1990 to 2010 in NYC. I’m not going to recount every minute and mile right now. Suffice to say that I’m finally at a point with my self-worth again which enables me to believe in myself.

Here’s why I believe I have earned the right to blog about what I blog about in the way I will blog about it: I was in this business before I knew I was in this business!
Last night I was thinking way back to the first time I remember being on stage.
*insert 1960s era TV memory-cross-fade and harp music here*
It was Christmas 1969. I was in Kindergarten and my class was participating in a Christmas concert for the school district or something. (Some of this info is a bit unclear because all I wanted was to sing and get in my costume!)
In one number we were all dressed in our winter coats seated around the lip of the stage. I was SWEATING and so hot but I made myself pretend to be cold until it was over so I wouldn’t ruin the illusion for the audience. What 6-year-old does THAT?!
In another song I was wandering around the stage in a gift wrapped box with arm and head cut-outs and a big bow on the box! I loved that costume but my dad, ever the pragmatist, turned it into a garbage receptacle for Christmas wrapping after Christmas morning. Oddly it remained for some time in the garage stuffed with xmas leavings. But that’s a whole other story indeed.
My point is that even without parents in the business of show and even with a crazy mother and a drunkard father and absent brothers and bullies chasing me to school I knew I was supposed to be a performer from the time I knew what the glowing box in the front room did.
I may not have been born in a trunk but by God I came out looking for one!
I mention all this to dispel any negative feelings a reader of this blog may have when I talk about my past achievements or future goals and when I mention instances of douche-baggery on the part of others. (As I am certain many in show business have noticed, not everyone who is your friend is your friend.)
I have high hopes that it’s worked and all who venture here will give me the benefit of the doubt and not think, “This guy is SO egocentric! He LOVES himself SO much!”. But if it hasn’t then…frankly too friggin’ bad.
Ya gotta understand, we in show biz HAVE to love ourselves. If we don’t then…Michelle Rodriguez anyone? Brittany Murphy somebody?
So yes, I do. I have spent DECADES in the pursuit of my dreams. I know a bit about what I am talking about when I talk about what I know about.

Ourobouros, I think therefore I am fabulous.

So kiddies, let’s quickly on, shall we?
I have employed and been accepted as a voice student by Susan Eichhorn Young. This you may know.
Last night I asked that she be my vocal coach as well. Often times one employs different people for those jobs but she is SO AMAZING that I’d be a slobbering mouth-breather to NOT ask her to do both for me.
The differences in these jobs are:
A voice teacher is busy with sound production and all that entails from breathing to vibrating the chords and much more.
A vocal coach helps pick songs befitting ones voice and helps the singer nail the different styles needed to sing them perfectly and much more.
It is possible to have a coach who disagrees with one’s teacher. But not for ME!!!
To begin Susan E-Y suggests we start with Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Noel Coward(!), Stephen Sondheim, Jules Styne and Cy Coleman. QUITE a selection of brilliance.
To this I have my own stuff to add but there’s plenty of time. I pay her to help run my show and help make me awesome and I know we’re gonna make a great team!
Later I’d kinda like to learn the whole of Bernstein’s Trouble In Tahiti and do it in a cabaret/concert venue with a soprano and trio I choose. How ’bout Hoosier Hoagy Carmichael…. Stardust anyone? And my favorite pet songs from Mozart!, das musical, Tanz der Vampire and maybe Elisabeth, another German language musical I own on CD yet don’t know well…I oughta get ON that.

Yeeeeeaaahhhh booooyyyyyyy!
This is the beginning and the beginning is a very good place to start.

Check out these Susan Eichhorn Young things:

“Some ‘splainin’ To Do…”

So it’s been 12 years. Twelve years since I’ve been here. Transplanted by desperation, disgust and deep ennui to a city that holds the record for dreams murdered in their sleep.
You see, dreams sleep lightly or snooze quite comfortably while one works day after day to keep a roof over and food in. Like the body of Eva Peron they lie in state and proclaim outwardly, “I’m only resting! I’ll get up in a minute.”
The difference lies in whether or not the dreamer realizes his dreams are rotting with bedsores before it’s too late. He could end-up like SLOTH in that movie Seven. His head stuffed with dried pine tree air-fresheners.
Also and for fuck’s sake I’m so close to 50 I can feel my parts sagging…use your imagination.
Luckily, or NOT, I am beginning to awaken from my nappy-poo. I see shadows over my closed eyelids and feel the air-pressure from near-by movement in my aural canal.
And I’m doing it in my own natural time. No heinous alarm clock but rather a loving sun rising on the horizon…warming my face. Soon enough I’ll be ready to spring out of bed singing “Once a Year Day” from Here comes the sunnnn.....The Pajama Game. And when I do…sing with me! It’ll be the best time we’ve ever had!

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