I started out as a musician.
6 years old with a 1/2 sized violin tucked under my chin. I was my teachers youngest student. She taught old school classical style. It was almost a Karate Kid kind of teaching … Hold this ball between the neck of the violin and you hand to make sure your wrist has the right curve. Place a glass of water on the back of your bow hand to make sure it stays level and smooth while you draw the bow across the strings.
Trust me…That is right up there with catching a fly with chopsticks.
I played all through elementary school and middle school, joining the orchestra as soon as I was allowed. While the other kids were learning “Mary had a little lamb” I was working on Schubert.
Then we moved to a school district where there was no Orchestra…just band. I needed to learn a new instrument if I intended to keep myself musical, so I picked up the Tuba. From middle school to high school, that was what I played. I got good at that too. I even attended Interlochen Arts Academy during the summer to play with the best of the best. At school the band was very very small. At times we did not have enough students to cover all of the parts so sometimes I would fill in on drums or baritone. I loved it and was sure that I was bound to become a professional musician. It was my first love.
My Sophomore year we had a change of band teachers. This was not a good thing. She was fresh out of college herself and lacked the experience and talent to run a small band like ours. She refused to help transpose pieces into the instrumentation we had and only allowed us to work on solo pieces. This was not what any of us had signed up for. On top of that she was foul tempered and lecherous. More than once I heard her drooling over some of the students out loud. It was crass, disgusting and just plain wrong. She was the only teacher I ever had a real confrontation with. Bad enough that I sent MYSELF to the office for my own safety. She had said in front of the class that I was talentless and had no reason ever touching a musical instrument again. This was because I had asked her if we could please work on something as a group and refused to work on solos anymore, I had accused her of not knowing HOW to transpose music. She threw a pile of sheet music at me and shouted the above.
The next year, there was no band class. It had been offered, but no one would take it. Not from her. Not ever.
My creative outlet was gone.
People who say a single teacher cannot make a difference have no idea. One bad, very bad, extremely bad teacher changed the course of my life.
I found out about an audition for a musical at the local community theater. Although at this point I had no faith in my musical abilities I decided to try out. It would give me something to do, even with a tiny bit part.
I got one. It was not a huge part but at least I had lines to say and even got to sing a little. I was out on stage without my instrument to hide behind and I did ok.
The next musical they did I got a much bigger part and was told that I had a really good singing voice. I was surprised by this but went with it. At 16 I was cast as a 35 year old Scotsman…I even had the dialect down.
That is when I decided to be an actor. I loved being different people, loved the costuming, loved that I was part of a bigger story. Still…It was missing something. I couldn’t put my finger on it …
I went to college as a theatre major, concentrating in performance and dialect. I was cast in plays and musicals my Freshman year, even though I was up against students with much more experience and time in the program.
Along that time I happened to see a television broadcast of David Bowie’s Glass Spider tour. It was good, I enjoyed it…Then it came to this part-
Watch it. Watch the whole thing.
There is a moment at the 2 min 50 second mark…A girl dressed exactly the same as Bowie…Saying each individual word as though she was singing the song herself. She is not just lip syncing…In those moments, deep inside her, she IS Bowie. He brought her along with him to the point that she is feeling the song, she is feeling what he is doing, she is not listening to the song she is transported by it. Transformed by it.
I wanted THAT. That kind of power. To get that sort of energy from an audience. To give so much of yourself that the audience has no choice but to be one with you.
In general I am a very closed off person. My emotions vary rarely come out and I don’t let many people in. To me this seemed such a dangerous concept, one that absolutely terrified me.
I wanted it. More. Than. Anything.
Acting nudged at it. Since you are always someone else you can never really give everything that you are. Not entirely.
I started to see my path when I joined the Rosier Players Vaudeville show. 4 nights a week we did three act plays. I would play in the pit and then run up to act on stage then back to the pit again.
It was the 5th night where things became more clear. The 5th night (The Saturday night show) was variety night. We would do skits interspersed with musical numbers and other acts. The 5th night, I played no character. I was simply me on stage.
I had one solo song. The band would play and I would have the whole stage to myself and I sang. It was one of the most frightening things I ever had to do. It was the song “Somebody Loves Me”. It is about a person looking everywhere to find just the right person…He knows that they are out there but does not know where. Worried that his one true love might pass him on the street without him noticing.
I sang it and let myself be vulnerable. I let the feelings of that song come over me as I crouched at the front of the stage. I reached out and touched hands, I locked eyes with my audience plainly asking if they were the one I was looking for…
I frequently got mobbed after the Saturday night show.
And I had a taste of what it is like to really connect with an audience.
It was incredible. It was not acting, it was giving myself to the wonderful people who I hoped would want to come along…and they did.
This started me onto the path I am on today. Sure…It is a comedy show now but I am still trying to bring everyone along with me. The reason people cringe is because they can put themselves in my place. They can feel the glass under their feet or on the side of their face. They imagine a trap snapping on their own tongue. They can feel how much I adore my partner and how much I really do trust her (Despite my protestations to the contrary). For the most part, they seem to enjoy the trip.
And every now and then if I have time before the show starts, I will tell a story. Quietly, sitting on the front of the stage I talk. I connect. I tell them of things that happened to me in my life…I look into their eyes and see that they are there. They are indeed with me.
It is amazing.