Top 7 Myths about Musical Theatre

For as long as I can remember, I have always been training in the arts and musical theatre. My mother said I was always a pain in her stomach throughout the duration of her pregnancy however that could have been because she conceived twins. I’ve never been able to sit still.

Never.

After ditching football at the age of 8, I entered the realm of theatre; I was certain I had made the right move. Here I am 12 Years down the line and still pursuing that prospect I had always dreamed of: The Stage.

In my 12 years of ‘training’ I’ve been subjected to a lot of home truths, superstitions, stereotypes and myths about the arts. Below you will find my top 7 myths about the industry musical theatre through my own personal experience.

Myth no 1 – all we do is sing and dance; surely it can’t be that difficult, right?

Let me stop you there. I’ve had this phrase regurgitated to me a thousand times throughout my life; usually from my twin brother.

You’re wrong.

There is inevitably a tremendous amount of commitment, hard work, perseverance and preparation that we put into our practice. We’re not beautiful all of the time. We work on our line, our posture, our technique, our sound, our voice and our mind. We mentally have to prepare ourselves to get into a character and tell their truth.

Essentially we are in their mindset.

To top it all off, our days are long, really long. We’re not your average student with 2, sometimes 3 lectures a day, a long lunch and even a late start. We’re up at the crack of dawn. My day starts at 6:30-7 am depending on whether I’ve hit the snooze button or not. I get home at 6:30 pm, cook dinner, gym, shower, read and go to bed. There isn’t much room for anything else. My day is proactive.

3 hours of dance, 1 hour singing lesson, a lecture or ensemble singing, then 2 hours of acting and that’s only a Monday or a Tuesday. Wednesday is the day of the voice. I work on my voice technique in the morning, followed by my acting through song lesson and finally then developing my musical theatre voice for the rest of the day. On Thursdays I have a lecture, then a 2 hour acting lesson and then a 3 hour lecture meeting working professionals in the industry to find and carve my own path in the industry. On a friday I have a 1.5 hour jazz lesson, then 2 tap lessons and finally music theory to complete my working week.

In the middle of all of this I somehow have o maintain look after my health. We train like athletes, we’re committed to our craft, we may make it ok easy but i assure you, it’s not.

Myth no 2 – in musical theatre the most important role is the lead

In my experience I have only ever played 1 lead and that was in my high school production of ‘Oliver’. Don’t get me wrong playing a lead is great and comes with great responsibility but I honestly believe I have learnt more about myself and my craft through playing supporting roles and featuring in the ensemble. Team work is essential and you learn that mostly in the chorus through listening to each other in group singing, blending together and being in sync in routines together. You keep the story developing and progressing in musical theatre. Never for one second think that you’re unimportant in the chorus. You do matter; you are not irrelevant.

Myth no 3 – we are all divas

You hear a lot about ridiculous demands being asked for by actors on sets or backstage but this really doesn’t apply for everyone or anyone I know for that matter. We all have our ‘Diva’ moments and are ‘Drama Queens’ from time to time. My secret Santa bought me a Whitney Houston T-Shirt and a snickers bar because ‘I’m not me when I’m hungry’ so I think that says a lot about me. But in essence, the majority of performers have so much respect for one another. We realise the skill and perseverance that goes into what we do as we’ve all grown up doing just that. Speaking to industry professionals has reaffirmed this for me. No one is out to get you, they only want your best.

Myth no 4 – bad dress, good opening night

In my experience this superstition has always been correct. I can’t tell you how many dress rehearsals I have been involved in where everything has just gone tits up. Anything and everything goes wrong and you’re left at the end with a cross director and an abundance of notes you need to work on before opening night. So you spend your last remaining hours focusing on just this and stressing yourself out before the beginners call. Miraculously the show goes well and all your doubts and worries about the show float away. It is a truly amazing feeling.

Myth no 5 – actors don’t get NERVOUS

Anyone that tells you they don’t is a liar.

I get nervous all the time but it not neccesrily a bad thing. It’s a sense of adrenaline that can create great products, if you get it under control and not allow it to undermine you. Nerves show that you care and I  think without them I wouldn’t love the role I’m currently in. It gives ou something to overcome in a sense and the feeling after doing so is great. You’ve achieved something and you should be proud of that.

Myth no 6 – it is not a proper job

Then why are there so many of us doing it in our careers? Why is it that every year you take your family to see the pantomime production at your local theatre? Why is it you watch those tv series at home?

We’re all a part of that, we create that form of entertainment for you. It’s such a rewarding industry. I’m a firm believer in: if you dont love your job then don’t do it. It is a hard industry to make a name for yourself in, however, with enough perseverance and commitment to it, I believe anything is possible. The skill set I’ve acquired from doing it for all these years has prepared me for a lot more jobs than just ‘musical theatre’.

 

Myth no 7 – we have a song foR everything

In my case this is sadly true. Sometimes I do just break out into a song because somebody has said something and it has sparked a lyric in my mind. I cant help that, its just how I’m inclined. Just tell us to shut up and it usually does the trick.

Word of advice though: don’t interrupt me when I’m singing Whitney.

 

With Love

– G

 

 

10 steps to improving your confidence in an area that you are struggling with

Confidence.

The feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something.

Now add that to an already complicated equation of self-doubt and the fear of failure.

You’re screwed.

Or so you think you are…

If you’re anything like me and have spent years of beating yourself up over the smallest of things then I am now screaming at you to STOP.

Easier said than done right?

I’m still prone to having a boxing match with myself both during the moment of application and in the aftermath. It’s a battle; sometimes I win and sometimes I lose but I take all that I can from the situation and learn to utilise it when I’m faced with other challenges in my life.

Alfred A. Montapert once said “Expect problems and eat them for breakfast” and I believe this is exactly the right attitude you need to take on board when you’re feeling at your lowest wit( little confidence in yourself and your abilities. Growth and comfort definitely do not coexist, in order to grow you have to push yourself in situations which make you feel uncomfortable and urge you to try new things and break the boundaries within yourself both mind and body. It is then your confidence will blossom.

So for those times where you need a little bit of help, here are my top 10 steps help to improve your confidence in an areas that you’re struggling with.

 

1. Accept yourself: First and foremost this should be your priority. You are unique in this world. Analyse your skill set; figure out your strengths and weaknesses and come up with an action plan for improving both sides of the table. Recognise that with every day on this earth you have the power to change anything that you so desire. Some may take longer than others and some you might not even notice the changes BUT one day you will and other people will do too. Don’t dwell on your weaknesses; try to see them as an area for growth instead of an area of failure.

2. Don’t compare yourself to others: Like I said above, you are UNIQUE so why bother comparing yourself to another person in this world. Your focus should be on you not on anybody else as that is their life path. Use others as a learning platform they are there to help. Recognise what that person is doing to achieve ‘success’ and implement it into your own practice but don’t compare yourself to that person.

3. Don’t beat yourself up: Especially if you make a mistake. Heck, everyone does at some point in their lives. Thomas J. Watson once said that the formula to success is quite simple “Double your rate of failure.” The more times you fall the stronger you will be. Use your mistakes as a pathway to learn. I believe, as a human it is our gift to continue learning in all realms of life. Learning doesn’t just stop after high school or university, it carries on and if you view each day as a breath of new knowledge then you’ll pinpoint exactly what is happening to you right then and there in that moment of failure. When you do make a mistake just ask yourself: is this something I need to beat myself up about or should I move on from this and find a way of making it work for me?

4. Don’t strive for perfection: Seriously this is the worst thing you can possibly do and as a fellow mini perfectionistic virgo that I am, I full well know the consequences of this approach to life. It just isn’t realistic and it gets in the way of your progress. Instead strive for the best you are capable of doing at that moment. Some days its better than others but that is okay. If you strive for perfection you’re giving yourself a standard that if unable to meet you quite allowingly open up the floor for a boxing match with yourself right there and then. So my advice is this: put down the gloves, instead go have a cup of tea, soothe your soul and carry on with your day. In the words of Carrie Bradshaw “Life gives you lots of chances to screw up which means you have just as many chances to get it right.”

5. Give yourself a positivity reminder: Practicing self-love and positivity is crucial to your success. You need to practice this on a daily basis. I carry round with me my newly gifted books – “Believe and Achieve” by Chris Naylor and “I’m Doing My Best” journal by Knock Knock. The first is a collection of the worlds most motivational quotes for those days where you need a pick me up and a kick up the bum to point you in the right direction. The second is a journal in which you aim to write about how you’re working on improving yourself on that particular day. It has a half empty/half full key that tracks your feeling on the topic at hand. I particularly like this one because it enables me to write about how I’m working on myself each day positively. Another daily reminder I have is the quote I have set as my wallpaper  “What if I fall?” Oh, but my darling what if you fly? ” This reminds me to constantly push myself and be open to new beginnings. You need to constantly remind yourself of why you’re doing what you’re doing and why you’re great at it. There are enough people in this world who will bring you down so don’t add one more person into the mix by bringing yourself down too. Instead bring yourself up and change your own mindset. Think I CAN rather than I CAN’T.

6. Surround yourself with people who want the best for you: People’s energy can bring you down just as much as they can bring you up. If you’re constantly around people who don’t necessarily support your goals or dreams then this will be a contributing factor as to why you’re not achieving those goals and dreams in the first place. I guess it’s all about priorities and as selfish as it sounds, you have to put yourself first because no one else will and I think as you grow older you sadly begin to realise this more and more.

7. Exercise: This is a great alternative to beating yourself up. Sweat it out! Take that gym or dance class and use it in a way that positively benefits you. For me if I’ve had a stressful day I need to clear my head by getting some fresh air or exercising. The gym is a great one for me because whilst it can be used as a distraction from my regular life it is also something that I can benefit from greatly in terms of my future career. I basically need to get stronger and bulk up if I want to have more chances of securing a role in the future and so whilst I may be frustrated with one element of my training at times, I get to use that frustration and channel it into something that’s positively affecting my future prospects.

8. Do the things you enjoy and cherish the little things: Inevitably you need little pick me ups throughout the week and a quick way of boosting your mood is by doing things that you enjoy. Don’t be so hard on yourself; treat yourself. If this means finding the time to add in these extra activities into your daily routine then make it work for you. Simply take the time to relax because in an industry like the one I’m entering into, its vital that you make time for yourself otherwise you will crumble into a million pieces. There’s  nothing I love more than lying down in bed, all cosy and warm, with a good book in my hands. We all too often get caught up focusing on the bigger picture when sometimes we just need to take a step back and focus on the smaller side to life.

9. Remember to breathe: As simple as it sounds, just take a moment to breathe. Getting in control of your breath in intense moments helps your body and mind settle with this idea of fear whilst you weigh up your options in regards to what you can do in this situation. So take a deep breath and relax; 9 times out of 10 the situation isn’t as scary as you first thought.

10. Don’t give up: If you give up now you’re taking the easier route or the more comfortable route and as I mentioned earlier comfort and growth do not coexist. Keep pushing yourself and keep reaching for those goals. Only you know what you are capable of so don’t let anybody’s opinion berate you. Take on board their advice but don’t let it limit you. You never know what you just might achieve if you let yourself go and believe in yourself. You will surprise yourself and surprise others and that’s what is exciting about all of this. Life is a journey and we’ve all got a long way to go so be daring and be bold but most importantly make it exciting. Learn from your past and be great. You’ve only got one future so start living it now.

My struggle with Acting.

Yesterday I reached breaking point.

I completely broke down. If there’s one thing I hate doing its crying in front of people. It’s a problem I’ve been learning to deal with ever since my Dad passed away. I built up this foundation of strength in saying everything was ok when it really wasnt.

This has stuck with me.

It’s not that I’m shut off emotionally, it’s just that I have a resilience in showing my more sensitive emotions to others. I’m completely open about this and those who know me know I’m the most emotional person they know in isolation. I’m very much in tune with my emotions and similarly know when its my time of the month so to speak despite the genitalia differences.

But yesterday was different.

Yesterday took me by complete surprise. I was feeling absolutely fine within myself and was having quite a good day. Show week was over and it was time for 2 weeks of relaxing lessons.

Or so I thought.

So we were given a task to bring to life this externalised/heightened character and this is the type of stuff that freaks me out because I always believe I do a bad job doing it. Which is a normal for me in acting anyway, I never believe in myself and its been like this for about 3 years now. Deep down I know I’m good enough but I always have this internal conflict that’s tells me I’m not nor never will be any good.

I’m a mess I know.

In our lives we all have weaknesses or things you believe to be your weaknesses and you view them completely different to your strengths. They give you the most anxiety and fears and they can either break you or make you depending on how you utilise this feeling.

I didn’t exactly use the 10 minutes we had to prep very well. I spent the time fighting myself and taking constant blows to my self-confidence. Steve Peters would say my chimp had won. I think he would be right on this occasion. After the ten minutes was up, we each had to perform back our material to the class. I happened to be last.

Big mistake.

The whole time I sat there in a state of panic. My palms were sweating I was not ok. But, I got up there and I proceeded with the task. I ran into a web of failure. Everything was going wrong and the more I told myself this, the more it got worse. I felt everyone’s eyes on me and I suddenly felt like the smallest person in the biggest room. My acting teacher persisted and kept me going in the attempt to grasp at this task. It just wasnt working and I felt myself getting more and more worked up. I was unable to produce the work.

This all stemmed from my own self-doubt. 

Yesterday it completely got in my way and clouded my outlook and emotions for that matter. After being pushed and pushed and then pushed some more (all out of love) I was unfortunately swallowed by it all. I guess I was just extremely disappointed with myself. What seemed like a simple task proved to be so difficult to me. But everyone else in the room was feeling the exact same, they were just better at managing their mind on this occasion. Whereas I succumbed to defeat so to speak.

But I don’t exactly see this as failure. I see it as progress. I needed this. It was a reminder, that there are things I need to be working on and it has given me a much clearer vision on things relating to myself and my training here at Trinity Laban. It was also nice to feel secure enough to be allowed to have my breakdown in front of my friends in such a warm and open environment. Everyone there was rooting for me and was there to pick me back up again and I really felt that and appreciated it at the time even if I was drowning in my own tears.

No matter how many people you have in your life believing in you its never going to make a difference until you start to believe in yourself and thats exactly what we all need to do.

And fast.

Maya Angelou paints it perfectly “But still, like air, I’ll rise.” 

And rise from it I will. In the future, when faced with difficulties I’ll look back on this moment and I’ll know I never want to feel like that EVER again.

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