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

Two #Friends Start #Singing #JanisJoplin Songs at a Bar…Then Something #Magical Happened

Last night, my good  friend Sarah, who appeared on the first episode of Rants Reviews and Reels: Live!, and I  went to our local bar. We were avoiding the thunder and lightning by consuming some good craft beer in a very lively environment.  Whenever we get together, I find that I have some of the most profound and meaningful conversations about life. We were talking about things that make us happy; things we love doing, performing, the insanity of show business, everything. During our conversation, I had brought up the fact that music has always had a profound impact on my life. Like many, I have an innate visceral reaction to songs. Growing up, I was exposed to all types of music, and learned about an array of artists. I remember taking my first music  lessons on my Muppets-themed keyboard. Then, that transitioned to the violin, piano, clarinet, guitar, and in high school, vocal lessons. I listened to classical symphonies, I listened to my parents records of The Beatles, Janis Joplin, Patsy Cline, and Frank Sinatra. I wanted to know everything there was about music in all its forms. There was even a program on Microsoft Encarta (remember that?)  I was obsessed with that showcased music from around the world. Music feeds my soul. Sarah and I talked about how we both have a deeper connection to music than anything else creatively. Not to say that acting and writing don’t fill spaces in our beings, but music is at a whole different level. There have been studies done on the benefits of singing. Both emotionally and physically, it has been proven that singing promotes community, releases the same endorphins as exercising, promotes learning in children, and evokes emotions.

When I was in high school and college, I sang nearly every day. Now, in my adult life, I find myself keeping tight-lipped, unwilling to bring someone into my vocal world. At theater school, we did this exercise which is rather simple in concept called “The Sound Exercise.” During the exercise, the actor starts to sing a simple song such as “Mary Had a Little Lamb” only singing one note at a time.  As the exercise progresses, it actually becomes a very emotional experience because you are open and vulnerable. I try to use that exercise whenever I feel I’ve hit a wall emotionally during scene or monologue work. It’s benefited me greatly as an artist.

Last night, just like  acting class, Sarah and I sang our hearts out. We were vulnerable, emotional, and joyous. We sang as if we were the only two people in the room (we weren’t) and we didn’t care who heard us belting out “Me and  Bobby McGee.” we just sang.  We weren’t on a stage, there was no paying audience or accompaniment, but it was one of the most fulfilling artistic experiences I have ever had. We sang slowly at first, and it evoked memories of that sound exercise. At that moment last night, I was happier than I have been in a long time. By the end we had tears in our eyes, and we belted out more songs after that. Sarah told me to I should sing more often, which was really amazing to hear. Do yourself a favor, sing with someone sometime. The connection is more powerful than you might think.

Janis Joplin’s music has always stirred something deep inside me that I have trouble expressing outwardly, but I have always had a connection to her music. Last night was no exception to that rule. Through the music of a fantastic talent who was gone too soon, and one of the best friend’s a girl could have, I reawakened something inside me that I’ve buried deep for a long time–my voice.