Tag Archives: mantras

Stay in bed.

I was just searching for a quote I’m sure I heard on NPR years ago about Aristotle and naps and some sort of validation for staying in bed longer this morning.

I didn’t find the exact story I was thinking of, but this is close:


In the end, I really didn’t need the validation, because I had already decided to stay in bed longer today.  In fact, I required it of myself.  And in doing so, I relaxed enough to contemplate a few things, and then I answered some of the lingering creative questions I had about my upcoming Paris cabaret.  All from my bed.  I feel like a million bucks.

My advice?  Next time you feel overwhelmed and unfocused and just want to think, make yourself stay in bed an extra hour or two.  If you need permission, just ask Aristotle.


Practice makes truth

My brother Tim and I have been talking about running lately, partially because my book club just read “Born to Run.”  Tim’s a fan of the book.  I am now, too.   The conversations also are happening because Tim has taken to snapping pictures on his runs in the Pacific Northwest.  He is a photographer, so these are not your average look-at-this-cool-leaf photos.  I like that each of his running stories has a different angle.  That’s the thing about running–so many angles to offer.  Of course, it helps to have a top notch visual artist interpreting those angles.

My voice students have been hearing me quote my singing interpretation of “Born to Run” the last few weeks:  Practice being confident.  Practice telling stories.  Practice believing that singing is easy.  Practice those for long enough, and you’ll forget you’re practicing.

“Lesson two,” Caballo called.  “Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast.  You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad.  Then work on light.  Make it effortless, like you don’t give a shit how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go.  When you’ve practiced that  so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smoooooooth.  You won’t have to worry about the last one–you get those, and you’ll be fast.” (Born to Run, Christopher McDougall, page 111)

Say it again

My friend who is pregnant for the first time excitedly told me a few weeks ago that she’s experiencing everything in a new way. I was kind of jealous.  It’s fun to experience life differently.  I think it wards off complacency.  With the coming Spring and my artistic pursuits, though, I guess I shouldn’t be jealous.  As it turns out, I’ve been noticing things too.

Actors and directors are always talking about listening, which is funny because half the time conductors are telling you NOT to listen.  If you do, you’re likely to fall behind the orchestra and the music falls apart and the conductor makes faces.  In non-singing theatre, in order to really engage on stage, you need to be listening to your scene partners and let your lines fall naturally.  Acting 101.  Well, I swear I’ve been listening, but every once in a while, I hear something I’ve heard a million times in a completely new way.  Like a pregnant lady, I guess, without the expectation.

We performed The Glass Menagerie last Friday for about 100 high school students.  I’m playing Laura.  As a few of the lines came out of our mouths, I felt the profundity of them for the first time: “Say, you finished high school?” my Gentleman Caller asked.  “I made bad grades on my final exams,” I said.  “You mean you dropped out?”  I stopped, “I never went back.”  Wham.  Tennessee Williams wants you all to stay in school.  Did you hear that, students?  Oh, I hope they heard it the way I did that day.

I’ve been listening differently, too, in the context of the various projects I’ve been working on simultaneously.  Some Union Avenue Opera folks and I were at an elementary school performing Little Red Riding Hood the other day, and as we started singing, I realized that Little Red’s mother says a lot of the same things that Laura’s mom says in The Glass Menagerie.  Fortunately for her, Little Red makes out better than poor Laura.  And every time the Gentleman Caller tells Laura that “being different is nothing to be ashamed of,” I think of sweet, sweet Ferdinand who discovers the very same thing in UAO’s other children’s opera, Carmen and the Bull.  He makes out better than her, too.

My parents heard my brother sing with the Atlanta Symphony Chorus last weekend.  It was Bach.  They  found it fascinating that Bach would write an aria that lasts 8 minutes, but only has 2 lines of text.  Why sing the same 2 lines over and over again for 8 minutes?

Maybe Bach wants us to sing and hear the same words in a new way each time, too.

See how the glass shines?
The Glass Menagerie at Insight Theatre Company. Photo © John Lamb.


There’s a quote of Martha Graham’s in “The Art of Possibility” that I wrote down a while ago.  It sits in my stage make-up box.  I read it before every performance.

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique.  And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.  The world will not have it.  It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions.  It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

I sat down earlier today to write a brief synopsis of “Carmen and the Bull,” a little children’s opera that I created for Union Avenue Opera’s educational programs with Springboard St. Louis.  In the middle of writing the summary, it occurred to me that the heart of that quote was all over my silly made-up opera lyrics.  Little Ferdinand and his new friends spend a lot of time understanding and fully appreciating what it is to be unique…and, though they use other words, they are definitely “keeping the channel open.”

Maybe not so silly after all.  Thanks, Martha.

Carmen and the Bull
Okay, maybe a little silly


I subbed for another voice teacher this weekend, which can be tricky business when it involves girls ages 9-12.  The 5 girls were great, though.  They paid close attention, sang their hearts out and gave one another very thoughtful and positive feedback after singing solos.   Near the end of the hour, I received the best compliment a teacher could get.  “Wow,” Maddy said as she glanced at the clock, “this class is flying by.”

Then there’s NPR.  Where else would Alec Baldwin’s interview with Laura Linney be put on audio display?  I listened to the two actors talk as I drove home from teaching.  They started with a discussion about Linney’s current role in “Time Stands Still” on Broadway, and ended with her quoting a past stage director.  It seemed to contradict Maddy’s compliment.  “Okay, we don’t have a lot of time, so we have to work very slowly.”

Maybe a contradiction, but probably not.

A good friend just had collarbone surgery.  Ouch.  “Healing happens way faster in the movies,” he jokingly complained the other day.  Oh, cutting room floor, how you make a mess of our already slippery notions of time.

When we work slowly, which I imagine to mean very focused and intently, do we automatically edit out all the boredom, the ineffective stress of rushing, and the overwhelming jumble of thoughts that make time lag or pass without our noticing?  Is that what the stage director (I didn’t catch her name–Josie something) was getting at?  I might be starting to understand what the proverbial They mean when they say “live in the present.”

Pay attention, sing your heart out, allow your body to adjust, let time fly, and work slowly.  It’s my new mantra.