I Feel Lucky

I went to Greece this past August to reclaim a love of mine: cabaret singing.

If you’ve never been exposed to this incredible art form, I recommend you explore some. You will find many spectacular performers in all areas who also perform cabaret, especially in the major cities such as NYC, LA, Chicago, St. Louis.

A cabaret show (of the singing variety – not the topless kind) is a very intimate experience. There’s no “fourth wall” as exists in many other art forms. The cabaret singer is singing straight from their heart using their voice, body, guts and intelligence. Whether they sing with a pianist or there are other instruments added in, there is a deep connection between the musicians and the singer that is palpable. When it is done right, it is an improvised dance happening in the moment – between the audience, the singer, the musicians and the song. It can be hilarious, moving, exciting, thought-provoking, entertaining, heart-breaking. A great cabaret show will be all of that and then some.

Today I am getting my work out there by posting a clip from one of the songs I performed in Greece after an incredible week-long cabaret workshop that was taught under the direction of master teachers Lina Koutrakos and Beckie Menzie.

The week culminated in a casual show in a hotel lobby with a very-old-and-in-need-of-tuning-and-repair-but-charming-upright piano, a so-so microphone and our hearts and souls. It was wonderful, the audience was wonderful, the other singers were outstanding, and I? Well, I was in heaven, once again, singing cabaret style. (I sang “I Feel Lucky,” written by the incomparable Mary Chapin Carpenter, arranged by Rick Jensen with Beckie Menzie at piano adding her own special magic and flare.

It has been 15 years since my NYC debut solo cabaret show, “In the meanwhile…” I loved making that show, directed by Lina Koutrakos, arranged and played by Rick Jensen at piano and Mark Wade on bass. After having been around the scene for several years, and singing in several terrific trio and group shows, I put together my own solo show. It was to be the official beginning of my cabaret life. But other parts of my life went in other directions shortly after that show, and for many reasons, so did my creative focus.

My heart has yearned for it over these years. I made a few brief visits back for various performances. But for the most part, I was outside of the cabaret world, sending love to the many people I know and who I admire who have been and continue to carry the tradition forward these fifteen years. I was doing many other fulfilling and creative things, but a part of me was dormant and aching.

But finally my heart said, “It is time, already!” And so I said yes to Greece, yes to the workshop and yes to singing cabaret again. And I am so glad I did.

Look out, Cabaret. I’m back! This time, for good.

#TheGetMyWorkOutThereChallenge #DayFifteen #cabaret #passion #cabaretsinging #MaryChapinCarpenter #IFeelLucky #Iamlucky #linakoutrakos #beckiemenzie

Featured Image by Diane D’Angelo (who also happens to be an amazing cabaret performer!)

The Party Bus

I love working on my birthday. I know, strange.

One of my favorite working birthday memories was some years ago while on tour with the zany musical, “Church Basement Ladies.”

I loved doing the show, and being on tour was a welcome distraction from the grieving life had brought me to following my mother’s death earlier that year. It was autumn and we were in the Blue Ridge Mountain area. The foliage was breathtaking.

On the day of my birth this particular year, it was a “two-show day,” meaning we had matinee and evening shows. We’d been in this small city for a day already, and earlier in the week I had hatched a plan for celebrating my big day.

So when we got to this city, I found a bakery nearby and ordered myself a huge decorated sheet cake – my own birthday cake – the day before. I told no one.

On the day, in-between shows, I did laundry, and walked a few miles to find some booze for the cast and crew. I was throwing myself a surprise party that night after load-out! I didn’t drink, but the cast and crew highly valued a drink once we were all packed up onto the bus and on the road again, headed to a new stage, a new city.

I was so excited about my surprise “party”! I just felt so good, I wanted to share the feeling.

I think they were a bit stunned, and who knows what they really thought about it, but I loved it.

(Especially the cake.)

I look back and see that that was a key birthday for me. I was beginning to get something…that I didn’t have to wait around for someone to throw me a party. I had full license to make my own joy, however and wherever I could.

What a beautiful lesson and gift.

For day eight of my Get My Work Out There Challenge, on this day of my birth, I am working, and glad for it.

Here’s a press clip from that show – so fun. William Christopher played the pastor (remember him, from M*A*S*H?), and the cast and crew were so talented. I made some good friends on that tour, and got my Equity card. The musical was funny and touching, and the music and harmonies and dancing were just pure joy.

Today I celebrate my life, my art, my joy, my ability to make life a surprise party.

What do you celebrate today?

#TheGetMyWorkOutThereChallenge #DayEight #celebrate #tour #actress #ontheroad #birthdayparty

 

Done is Better Than Perfect

Yep. This mantra has been life-changing for me over the past few years.

As a recovering perfectionist, I can go at something a zillion times to try to get it “ready enough.” I am all for high standards for oneself, but not when it becomes prohibitive to sharing my work. Not anymore.

Today’s blog post was another video I made. This one from day two. Again, not sent.

But today, it’s message applies as I was in a similar situation. I was asked to take on more and I said “Yes!” I am so glad I did. Stretching doesn’t always feel good in the moment, but over time, the benefits outweigh the discomfort.

And in the spirit of following through – of not holding on to something I made just because it isn’t perfect or I am not “made up enough” or I am second-guessing it because it is a week late (who do I think is coming, the internet police?), I am posting it today.

What will you say yes to today? How will you stretch tomorrow? Anything you are sitting on that it is time to let go of, let it fly into the world?

#TheGetMyWorkOutThereChallenge #DaySeven #DoneisBetterThanPerfect #SayYes #daretogobare

The Get My Work Out There Challenge

So it is officially Day Five of my Get My Work Out There Challenge.

And today, I am really gonna go out on a limb.

You see, I made a little video for day one on day one, but then I did not use it.

Why? Well, because of the very things that I am attempting to push through doing this challenge! Fear of being “too much”, too “self-centered.” Perfectionism. Concern that others will think it (aka “I”) am “stupid.” Just writing that makes it seem ridiculous. But trust me, these have held me back more times than I care to admit. But no more.

So I am posting it, on Day Five. Shocking, I know! Will the world stop turning on its axis?

It is NOT perfect. But I am GETTING IT OUT THERE!

What have you been sitting on? Come on, get it out there!! I double-dog dare ya!

#TheGetYourWorkOutThereChallenge #antiperfectionism #courage #createdaily

Camp

One of my favorite commercial experiences was a commercial for Verizon Wireless for Comedy Central. I can usually tell how a shoot will be from the audition. Not always, but often.

At this audition, they actually wanted us to go “big.” These days, the more “real” you can be, the better. So when they asked for it to be big, I was shocked, and I was thrilled. And when I got the word that I had booked it, I knew it was gonna be a fun one.

I arrived to set, anticipating a great day. I had seen from the call sheet I got the day before that the director was a woman. This was really exciting! Kathy Fusco, a seasoned director, had a body of amazing work and I could not wait to play under direction. (A sobering fact: she is still to date the only woman director I have worked with on a commercial in all these years.)

I went into hair and makeup, and there my hopes were confirmed: this was gonna be a campy romp of a commercial. The makeup artist was directed to go all out with my makeup. Remember Faye Dunaway’s look in “Mommie Dearest?” I looked like her cousin when they were done with me. I loved it.

Once in action on set, things moved fast. But I loved every moment of it. My scene partners were great, and I was able to find some space to improvise, which is my favorite thing. Once the commercial came out, I was so thrilled to see that one of the unscripted moments had made the cut.

How about some cheese with that ham?

I left flying high, so happy to be doing what I love. Appreciating the chance to be campy and big. Sometimes it all just flows, and this was one of those times.

#thegetmyworkouttherechallenge #daytwo #commercials #actress #camp #comedy #comedycentral

They Call the Wind Maria

In the very mysterious and incredibly miraculous way that most of life’s best experiences happen, I had the opportunity of traveling to Greece a month ago. We stayed on the islands of Santorini and Mykonos. I could (and may) write numerous posts about my experiences there. But today, all I can think about is the wind of Mykonos.

Greece had never been on any list of mine, and yet I found myself drawn to go there for reasons that were unclear to me at the time. I was in need of ease and a low-key kind of trip when this decision to follow my “yes” to go to these islands made itself known to my heart, so I did not plan anything about this trip. I did not do any research (unusual for me,) and as for the travel details, I left it all in the hands of an amazing travel agent, Judy Likouris. (This was a first for me. It was terrific. She is a fantastic human and super good at travel arrangements!)

So when we left the languid heat of Santorini for Mykonos, disembarked from the boat and promptly lost our hats to the whipping wind, it was a total surprise. The “it” I am referring to is the wind of Mykonos.

I have never had an especially particular relationship to the Wind. I did grow up loving a song from the movie musical “Paint Your Wagon” called “They Call the Wind Maria.” Maybe it was gorgeous baritone and heartfelt rendition of Harve Presnell, the actor who sang it in the film. His voice held such longing for the woman he had lost — I wanted to know being loved with such a longing. I have carried that song with me ever since. It finds me at odd times here and there and I will find myself singing or humming it with a great nostalgia. If you’ve never seen his performance in the movie, you are welcome in advance.

That was my relationship to the wind until I stepped onto that island. The wind of Mykonos is famous, as it turns out. The island’s name “Mykonos” translates to “The Island of the Winds.” You have to experience it to believe it and understand it, but trust me when I say that this wind is powerful, fierce, mysterious and alive in a  very special way.

Much of the detail I could give you about the wind would be sourced from this wonderful blog article by Rika Z. Vayianni on the very subject from the website “Greece Is.” It is so well-written I leave it to you to read, but I brought just a few tidbits to tempt you here:

Because, you see, there are many names and there are many winds. And then there is “The Wind.” The Meltemi is a mainly northern wind that often joins forces with its neighboring directions of the compass – mostly pairing with the east to create the Gregos, or slightly less often, with the western wind to produce the Maistros. The Meltemi itself is a child born of two extremes: Every summer, the low barometric pressure from the Balkans clashes with the higher, hot blasts from Africa. In this way the Meltemi is formed, fluctuating in force from playful to fierce, gaining strength as the sun rises and calming down as dusk falls. 

This natural “air-conditioner,” as the locals call it, tames the heat and lowers humidity. Deeply Greek in its essence, it has shaped the geography, architecture and civilization in this corner of the world for millennia. From classic antiquity, when the etesians (“yearly winds”) were thus named after being studied by the great Aristotle himself, to this very day, the Meltemi (from mal tempo, or “bad weather” in Italian) still affects the lifestyle of both locals and visitors. It will ultimately leave its mark on your own Mykonos holiday album.

Some tourists who visit the island spend their time complaining of the wind. I can understand that. I am an aural person and can, at times, have hearing sensitivity. The wind in Mykonos is not just about texture, force or velocity. It doesn’t just blow around whatever is in its wake. It also has a voice.

The people I was visiting with were mostly irritated by the wind on its strongest days. It kept many indoors. It was incessant. It felt even dangerous at times. Granted, we were on the northernmost tip of the island where the winds were the strongest.

I felt at home in that wind in a way I cannot explain. I felt held, supported, encouraged, nourished, spoken to, given to. I felt the wind matched the internal character of my spirit. No one would ever look at me and think, “Oh, she seems like the Mykonos Wind!” But inside, I feel like it. So I suppose, in a way, I met my soulmate on Mykonos. The wind.

I would go off and sit on Mykonos’ craggy bluffs and whisper into the wind. I howled and raged into the wind. I sang into the wind. I pleaded and cried into the wind. I gave the wind my secrets, my heart’s dreams, my deepest wounds. And she generously took them all and gave me to hold in their place a knowing in my bones that I was more than enough as I am, that I already had all that I needed to do whatever it is I want to do, and that everything would always be alright. That I had finally found an essential  part of myself that I had always been longing for.

It has been a month since I set foot there. But I carry that wind with me. It only takes an instant when I turn my mind to it for me to realize that I am hearing it, too. It calms me to connect with it. I feel less alone. I do not in any way understand this. I know I will be there again, someday. But more importantly, I know it is forever with me, too.

I am not the only one. The wind of Mykonos is a generous Goddess. As Vayianni says:

You might stay forever, you might leave and come back or you might never set foot on the island again. But the sound of sea and waves, the continuous murmur of the ever-present Meltemi, will leave a distant echo locked in memory.

I have a name for this phantom wind, too. I call it “Windmills of your Mind,” after a melody composed by Michel Legrand, for the film The Thomas Crown Affair. I liked the title and stole it to name my very own ghost Meltemi, my Mykonian wind of nostalgia.

I have not given my own personal name to the Mykonos wind. And I no longer call the wind Maria. Me and the Wind, we are beyond names somehow. We just know each other. And that is more enough for me.

#Mykonos #wind #soulmate #soul #elements #thegetmyworkouttherechallenge #dayone

Fly Me to the Moon

It has been awhile, my lovely readers. I feel as if I have been to the the moon and back, have circled the stars and am only now making my re-entry back to earth.

I cannot even put into words all that has been shifting within and without in my life. My heart is so filled with gratitude. Deep healing and joy have been my frequent friends the past several months.

And here I am, ready and wanting to commit to creating through written word again.

I have made a commitment to myself to do a Get My Work Out There Challenge. I love challenges, and have done quite a few structured challenges which have catapulted certain areas of my life into full bloom.

There was the Movement Challenge that I did in 2011. For 90 days, we all moved 30 minutes a day. That’s it. Committed to breaking a sweat for 30 minutes each day. That started me on what ended up being a life-changing journey to find my inner athlete that culminated in not only my running for the first time in my life, but my running numerous half and two full marathons. (And I am still running, though not as intensely as I did in My Running Years, 2012-2016.)

This challenge is one is of my own design. It is to challenge myself to get my work seen. To put my ideas into action and in front of others. To share my work as often as I can.

So I am challenging myself to post daily. A blog post that is either writing of some kind or a vlog that shares how I got my work out there. (Just writing this has awoken a flurry of butterflies in my second chakra. I guess I am on the right track!)

My intention is to become more consistent in getting my work out there, to let my work be good enough in its “un-perfection” to be seen, and to have fun sharing it. To make it a daily habit, like running or moving for 30 minutes. Something I do because I like the results and how it feels.

Want to join me? I am starting Monday, October 7th. Let’s do this!

#personalgrowth #personalchallenge #thegetmyworkouttherechallenge2019