What I've learned from Bruce Springsteen & Amy Schumer

If you receive my e-newsletter, you already know that I'm moving to New York City in September to attend the Neighborhood Playhouse two-year theatre conservatory program. It's a dream come true and I cannot wait! I posted the following article in a recent e-newsletter, July 30, 2018, with promises to further unpack these take-aways. (To subscribe, scroll to bottom of this page.)

To prepare for my first year in the Neighborhood Playhouse’s theatre conservatory program this fall, I’ve been assigned eight books to read – from Stanislavsky and Meisner acting philosophies to the history of The Group Theatre and the Neighborhood Playhouse and biographies of Eleonora Duse and Martha Graham. While they are interesting, they can be a bit dense. To mix things up a bit, I started listening to Amy Schumer’s memoir, “Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo,” especially to take a mental break from the daily news. And since Brian and I were lucky enough to finally break through the Ticketmaster wait-list, we have tickets to see “Springsteen on Broadway” the night of my first day of school, Sept. 6.  I’ve never been a Springsteen devotee, even though I’ve seen him live twice. After seeing his performance on the Tony Awards, I realized that his show is really his cabaret; his life story woven through spoken-word and songs.  To fully appreciate this show, I downloaded his autobiography “Born to Run.” So whenever I’m in my car, walking the dog, doing yard work, or cooking, I’ve been listening to Amy and Bruce tell their amazing stories.  

I didn’t know much about Amy or Bruce. It’s an odd combination to listen to at the same time. Given my impending journey headfirst into entertainment, maybe I’m especially attuned to how they made their way from the very first time they felt a passion to perform and what’s kept them going in the hard times. I heard a few key things that they have in common, which helps explain their phenomenal success: 

1.    In the beginning, they went to open mics every week and took ANY opportunity to perform.
Both of them grew up on Long Island or New Jersey with access to a lot more performing venues than Indianapolis, Indiana. Still, they were not shy about finding just about anywhere with a mic and an audience, not caring whether or not they got paid and in many, many early cases, where they had to pay to perform.  These crowds -- or empty rooms -- were the most humbling, formative and even most helpful as they discovered just how determined they were to keep doing it; what worked and what didn't; who else was out there doing the same thing; what made some people successful; and what it would take to get better.  I was impressed with how both of them started with nothing -- literally no money, no connections, no previous experience or education in their craft -- and night by night, hour by hour, just did it and kept going back until one by one, each got a critical break. And because of this pull-themselves-up-by-their-own-bootstraps training, they were more than ready when that opportunity came. 

Stay tuned for...
2.    They are incredibly, fanatically, committed to their art. 

3.    They are unapologetically authentic. 

4.    They absolutely do not care what anyone else thinks.

5.    They clearly recognize and embrace their faults/flaws.

6.    After thousands of hours of practice and performing, they are crystal clear about the type/brand of comedy/music they want to offer.

 

Why I sing

Why I sing

It's not a choice, really. I discovered that the hard way when I stopped singing for awhile twice; because I never learn the hardest things the first time. I had a full-on panic attack after the second lapse, realizing that I may never sing again or I may never know what my own unique voice sounds like or feels like.  After allowing fear, doubt, anxiety, shame, ... you name it, keep me from having the courage to even try for 20+ years, I decided: "What do I have to lose?" I had more to lose in the long-run by not trying than whatever pride, ego, or whatever I would lose if I did.