Wait…What are the Lyrics?! #MusicalImprov @thepitnyc. #Musicals #Improv

Facemyfear

Here’s the thing about singing. It puts the performer, and some might say the audience as well, in a very vulnerable position. There is nowhere to run, no place to hide. Sound is emanating from the mouth of the person singing the song. Is it good? Well, that’s subjective. Is it difficult? You bet. Why? Because the person onstage is telling the truth. They can’t hide behind a funny joke, a witty remark, or complex dialogue. They simply have their voice. Sure, instruments can buffer the nature of the actor’s natural instrument, but the audience didn’t come to hear a muffled tune, they came to hear a song.

Over the past 8 weeks or so, I have been taking a musical improvisation class at the People’s Improv Theater, the PIT as it’s fondly called. As I have written before, it has been one of the most challenging things I have ever done as an actor. I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to have taken the class, studied with the teachers, and performed with my fellow classmates.

Singing has always been something that I have loved doing even though I know that I will never be the next Maria Callas, Kristen Chenoweth, or Idina Menzel. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to be. So why do I do it? I’ve always loved music. I’ve always studied music. Ever since I was little and my mom got me a Muppets keyboard that taught me how to play “Rainbow Connection”; Ever since I was 7 and sang in choirs at church, and later in high school; Ever since I was in various musicals like Oliver!, The Wizard of Oz, and Godspell, music has been a central part of my existence.

It’s also funny that something I love to do so much can bring with it an element of uncertainty and fear. But, it’s that vulnerability which I find to be compelling. It has helped me get over hurdles in life, and this experience with musical improv is no different. I am facing a fear. Fear, by its very nature comes with negative connotations. However, I think there is such a thing as “good fear” and I have certainly come across it over the past two months. I am not the best singer in the world, but I am embracing a part of myself that I have stifled for a long time and it’s nice to bring that part of myself out again.

I know my strengths. I am good at: Acting, making people laugh, and writing. It’s only fitting that I get to merge all of those elements into improvisation. As an improviser, I am using my skills as an actor to emote and create something which I am essentially writing off the top of my head through listening to my scene partner (or partners.) This makes us writers, actors, and directors of our own material. Now, add the element of librettist (the person who writes a script for musical) and lyricist to the mix. Congrats, you now have musical improvisation.

It’s not just making stuff up for the hell of it either. There are specific rules, and a certain structure that we follow in order to make it work as improvisers. From song structures, to the format of the actual show, there are rules that are followed. It is within those confines that the show comes together, making it one of the most interesting forms of improv and pure entertainment.

What will the libretto be this Saturday at 7:00 down at the People’s Improv Theater? Only time will tell. But wait…what are the lyrics?! Oh right, we’ll have to come up with those too.

Follow myself and my fellow musical improv classmates on Twitter:

Follow Your Fear

                         –Del Close

Meryl Will Play Maria and Give Us a #MasterClass

Maria Callas and the pianist Eugene Kohn at a session of her legendary master classes at the Juilliard School in New York in March 1972.
Maria Callas and the pianist Eugene Kohn at a session of her legendary master classes at the Juilliard School in New York in March 1972.

Terrence McNally’s play, Master Class, is about to get the HBO treatment and come to the small screen. The stage play, made famous by Zoe Caldwell as Maria Callas, eventually went on to star Patti LuPone, Dixie Carter, and most recently, Tyne Daly in the 2011 Broadway revival. Now, it’s Meryl Streep’s turn to step into the famed opera diva’s shoes. Maria Callas was an American-born, Greek soprano, who was known for her wide vocal range and dramatic flair. She graced the world’s most famous opera houses, and eventually went on to teach a series of master classes at The Juilliard School from 1971-1972. Those master classes served as the basis for McNally’s vibrant and lively play. What I find interesting is that Meryl teams up Mike Nichols again whom she has worked with on numerous occasions. It’s going to be fun to see what the two can bring to this character and the piece as a whole. Callas was a colorful personality, so I’m sure Meryl will have no problem. She’s a legend in her own right. She also has a talent for playing real-life characters. We can tell from her Oscar-winning performance in The Iron Lady.

Actresses who play Maria Callas have a lot of source material to fall back on, and what’s better than the actual master classes at Juilliard. Below is the audio from one of her many classes. She is working with student, tenor Mario Fusco on an aria from the opera, Tosca by Puccini. Enjoy the sounds of the real Maria Callas. I can’t wait to see Meryl as Maria.