Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Vocal Tech

I'm having a trying week at cap, but it's ok. As I told a fellow student, we have to have these moments where we can look at ourselves and just embrace where we are at. Give yourself a hug and say, "I love you Beverley. I love where you are at in your process to become an artist, and I'm going to continue to stay open and allow myself to get better." The self deprecation only hinders me. I felt defeated before I even began AAAALLLLL the time when I was in undergrand, and I developed a very awkward relationship with the head of my theater department. I'm trying to move past that with this conservatory experience. I'm trying to accept that brilliance cannot be achieved 100% of the time, but constant focus can be there for me.

This is what vocal tech has been like thus far: on the first day we each sang a song of our own choice. Then we learned together a group song which was "Goodnight my Someone" from the Music Man. Then we each had to sing the group song on our own. Then we learned our first song which was chosen by our teacher. We each sang that song on our own twice now. This past week we were working on the pelvic floor and today we had vocal health day.

On pelvic floor day, all the women went into one room and the men went into the other room for obvious reasons. Anyway, the whole concept was completely new to me. I have discussed opening the rib cage, but opening the hips and the pelvic floor. I have no idea how to do that or even how to feel that. We tried sitting down, squatting over and standing up. I didn't even know how to begin to think about it. After the class, I was honest about my experience discussing the pelvic floor, but then it was my turn to sing. So, my teacher had me singing in the squatting position, which apparently was an amazing sound to everyone else, but I just didn't hear it when I listened to the recording afterwards. I felt deflated because to everyone else that seemed like a breakthrough, but then I heard the tape and thought - I've sung better than that. I felt awful after class.

Today we had a class on vocal health. I think we could have talked about vocal health a lot longer than two hours. We saw some awesome vocal folds actually working. We saw what damaged vocal folds look like and what they would sound like if it happened. That was useful information, but Julie Andrews story is enough to terrify me because she was an incredible singer. How could she not know that she was singing incorrectly? We haven't started working on the belt yet, and truth be told, it's scaring the crap out of me. Plus, my voice doesn't feel like it's in good form now as it is. I'm hoping it was just the song and that it will get better with this second song that I'm singing.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Me: What do you want to have for dinner tonight?

Him: Nothing.

Me: Mmmm. Sounds tasty.

Him: Yup. It's fat free.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Are you tired of my academic artsy fartsy thoughts about theater and theater school?

It's ok, you can be honest.

I'll save my thoughts on the acting exercise we did today, Bert Williams, and George M. Cohan for later posts.

I thought today would be an appropriate day to introduce you to the news addition to our happy family! Meet Max.

Mr. Simpson really really really really really had to work on me to get this cute little puppy dog. I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned how much dogs and I do not get along. I don't like the way they smell, drool, chew, bark, shed, and most of all LICK ME. I detest it. The thought of waking up to take care of a dog felt like the demise of our relationship. It's not like I didn't grow up with dogs. I had a dog named Rusty. My family and I were incredibly cruel to this poor dog making him be outside ALL the time, but I still tried. My sister even had a cute little puppy name Kiara that I tormented when she was little.

However, I have this amazing sweet little kitty whom I have mentioned, and Mr. Simpson is deathly allergic to her. He even agreed to take shots for her, although, he hasn't really gone through that process. I'm starting to realize that he used the shots as a ploy to get a dog. As soon as I buckled, he stopped getting the shots... Hmmm.... this is a realization I'm having right now at this moment.

Anyway, I started to feel like a household tyrant saying that we couldn't have a dog but he must suffer living with a cat. So, we started looking for a little puppy. A daunting task I forced myself to be a part of because I had to MAKE SURE that he was going to fit in and not kill the cat. The process to adopt turned out to be very difficult because we had to basically apply to the center and promise our lives away. We finally found Max, and took him home in March on a Thursday afternoon and he's been a part of our family ever since.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Awake and Sing"

One of our classes in the program is called Script Analysis. Each class has one play that they are currently researching and tearing apart. We are currently working on Clifford Odets' play "Awake and Sing," and one of our projects was to pick a movie and describe how the movie helps with research for the play. We're learning how to take outside material and think about how the characters functioned during the times.

Mr. Simpson helped me choose "The Cradle Will Rock" written and produced by Tim Robbins.

“The Cradle Will Rock” depicts the economic times of America in the 1930s. The Great Depression was in full swing, labor strikes were happening across the nation, and Americans were beginning to feel the pressure of Fascist Germany and fearing a communism/socialist government take over. As the movie begins, we read in the beginning credits that the Work Projects Administration, a program that was a part of the New Deal, has a budget for the Federal Theater Project. This program brings low cost theatre to the USA thereby giving professional actors work and theater to the people.

We are introduced to a beautiful destitute young woman sleeping illegally in a theater who “sings for a nickel.” She later, by the generosity of the unemployment teller, gets a job as a stage hand in a show produced by Orson Welles and John Houseman. We also meet a talented and tormented composer, Marc Bliztstein, who later creates a musical called, “The Cradle Will Rock.” The production is funded by the Federal Theater Project and produced and directed by Welles and Houseman. The young homeless stagehand steals an audition slot and is cast as the leading lady for the show. Another one of the actors, Aldo Silvano, is an Italian immigrant trying to make a way for his family in America without the support of his Mussolini devoted rich parents. Mussolini’s former mistress, Margherita Sarfatti, starts to politically align herself with tycoon Gray Mathers whose wife, Contesse LaGrange, actively supports and helps Welles’ theater production. A vaudeville ventriloquist, Tommy Crickshaw, is struggling to keep his act together. Meanwhile, Nelson Rockefeller is disturbed by Diego Rivero’s mural that he painted in the Rockefeller center based on Rivero’s desired social revolution. The Committee on Un-American Activities investigates The Federal Theater Project and cuts their funds by 20% forcing the theater to shut down and forbidding the show to go on with the help of government guards. The actors find a way to do play from their seats in a different theater.

This movie constantly begs the questions: (How far is one willing to go? How much will one risk? How much does one sacrifice for their beliefs and at what cost?) These type of questions are illustrated when we see Silvano and his wife discussing their living situation. They have six people living in a one-bedroom apartment infested with rats, and yet Silvano refuses to take his parents money for a new apartment because they are Mussolini supporters. This is a difficult sacrifice that not many people could have made. We start to understand why the characters of Odets' play would make some of the despicable choices they made. The mother of the play, Bessie, tricked a young immigrant into marrying her daughter although she was already pregnant with a different man’s baby. These horrible choices that Bessie is forced to make are understandable to someone who is willing to do absolutely anything for the love and well being of their family. In both examples, their choices are prideful and we are left to wonder if the result is worth the cost.

In the scene where the socialist artist, Diego Rivera, argues with Margherita Sarfatti about their political views she calls him a wealthy communist and he calls her a Jewish loving Fascist. It’s easier for us to understand why people like Jacob believed in a communist nation based on how workers were treated and how the unemployed were treated. These issues were demonstrated throughout the movie and made us feel more compassionate to the idea of a social revolution.

This movie shows fear and how the absence of knowledge plays in ones comfort level and choices. The presence of fear is what drives so many of Odets’ characters to live in misery including Moe, Hennie, Bessie, and Ralph. This movie gives us a social and economical description of America at the time adding more understanding to the complexity of Odets’ play.

I'm not sure if it was because I was so "raw" from the Art Alive project, however, I couldn't help but notice how the actual use of painted visual art was so prevalent in the movie.

I know that we are obviously in the more academic side of things right now, but I am definitely soaking everything that I can up! Tonight we went and saw the Industry showcase for the end of the program and all the performers were amazing! I look forward to getting there

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Art Alive

Yesterday and today my acting class had to perform there solo Art Alive Piece. We all went to the met and picked a piece of art that inspired us. From this piece of art we had to create a 3-5 minute performance piece from our own inspiration. We had limited restrictions. It could be anything. We couldn't just read from our journal, but anything else - the sky is the limit.

These types pf projects are absolutely terrifying for me. My first thought is 1) I'm not creative enough for this. 2) I don't really "Get Art" and 3) THIS IS FOR ARTSY FARTSY PEOPLE. I mean seriously..... how on Earth can I create something from nothing. This is going to look and feel incredibly silly. MY very creative and artfully generous teacher said to me, "You're going to be fine." She obviously could see the sheer terror in my face when she was explaining to us what we were required to do.

I could hardly sleep the night before we went to the met. There was just absolutely NO WAY TO PLAN THIS. There is no way to be pre plan this project and let myself be safe. It's so interesting to be so terrified when there is NO WRONG answer. How on Earth could that be terrifying?

When I arrived at the Met, I was thinking, " Oh Crap - This is so overwhelming. I'm not going to find anything that inspires me. I don't even know what inspires me." Those thoughts are running through me as I spent the first 10 minutes there just trying to get my barrings on the museum. It took me forever just to figure my way around, which left me only 20 minutes to be inspired. Inspired is not the same as overwhelmed. I looked at a couple of pieces of art before I stumbled upon Juan's The Sense of Site. I really started thinking about all the things that I could associate with this piece of art. I even walked away from the piece of art, but I couldn't let it go. I just had millions of associations with this one piece of art.

Then when I was listening to my ipod on the train, I started thinking about school and the Glee rendition of "Dream on" came on. Ideas started flooding into my brain and all of a sudden I had my entire piece almost worked out. I went back to the piece of art that I had seen at the met and I all of a sudden 100 more ideas came to mind, and I realized that maybe my first interpretation of the piece was wrong. I still look at it now, and I think that my second idea might have been more in tune with what the artist was trying to get across. However, I wanted to go with my gut because I was connected to the idea, and I didn't want to second guess myself.

My piece was about the internal and external struggle of good and evil everyone struggles with themselves. How often have we looked in the mirror and despised what we saw? Have you EVER been able to look at yourself in the mirror and told yourself everything you did that and all the things you were proud of yourself for doing then at the end looked at yourself directly in the eye and said "I love you." - ? I can't tell you enough how difficult that has been for me, and how much of a mental block that has been for me. It was difficult for me to even work on the piece for long amounts of time because I really allowed myself to explore that evilness that I believe lives inside of everyone. I had horrible nightmares. I dreamed that I murdered Mr. Simpson in cold blood. I used a staple gun and then stapled F You on the front of our wooden door. It's terrifying.

I showed my piece today in class, and it was terrifying to show that type of vulnerability to relationships that are 4 weeks old. While these peoples are colleagues and friends, they are also our future co-workers and employers. I find though it's tricky to be critical and judgmental when people have poured time and themselves into the project. It's truly inspiring to see. I loved watching the other pieces. I loved the way they made me feel uncomfortable, light-hearted and it was interesting to see the same type of torment that so many of us go through in performance. It was also interesting the relationship I started to develop with my own work. The part of me that felt silly and awkward started to leave when I felt like I was in there. I was in this project. I'm showing something that is horrifying to me. It's hard to judge that, and when Larry today asked in class if there was anything we could do to make it better. I had trouble answering that question because the piece was what it was. Sure, I wish I had rehearsed in the space and felt a little comfortable in my environment. I wish I had ended the piece better and left a beat, but I felt proud of the story. I felt proud of the route I decided to go, and I felt brave for showing that to my classmates.

Now, don't get me wrong... I still think a lot of acting exercises are artsy fartsy, but today was a huge accomplishment for me. I would consider it a "break through."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cap21 week 3

I am so blessed to be in this program.

It's so hard. I'm exhausted every night. All I want to do is sleep when I get home, and this week we had one day off because of labor day.

We're working 9 hours a week on dance, and our dance teachers do not mess around. Especially our modern teacher. I drip with sweat when I walk out of that class. It's very hard, but I am so happy to be there. I love dancing and I'm looking forward to getting into sick shape with much better dancing technique. I am looking forward to looking less awkward in dance calls or better yet dance callbacks.

One of my favorite aspects of the program is the fact that all my teachers are working professionals. It's very motivating to study from people who actually are lucrative performers in NYC. This is what I need and I love it.

I'm spending this whole weekend doing homework. I have two acting projects next week, I'm singing in vocal tech, I have a test in voice and speech and a huge essay I'm writing for musical theater history.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mrs. Simpson in 13 months counting...

Beverley Simpson.

I wonder how long it's going to take me to get used to that name. Will I ever get used to it? I've tried to explain this to Mr. Simpson because he seems to feel slightly offended every time I mention how, "I'm going to be a Simpson..." choking down the gagging sensation and a huge snarl. :) It's not personal. It isn't that I don't want to be a Simpson. I've been a Viljoen for 28 years. It's MY name; the name that was given to me at birth. Why would I want to change it? I love my name.

It's important to him, so, I have agreed to legally change my name but work under my maiden name.

This is how he asked...

It was his 3 anniversary of being in the NYPD and my second to last day at my restaurant. I needed to be at work by 5pm and I'm usually done with work around 12am. I had just started doing Bikarum Yoga every day and I had planned to go to class early the next morning before my last day of work, but he asked me to meet him after work for a drink to celebrate his work anniversary. I thought, "Ugh, I want to go to yoga tomorrow - I don't want to be out late."

I said, "Don't you want to go out with your friends?"

"They are all working."

I proceed to go down the list of people he might not have thought to call. :)

"No," he said, "he flaked on me."

"Ok, but I don't want to stay out too late. Text me later with where you want to go and I'll see you after work."

Around 11:00 at night I get a text from him asking me how the night was shaping out because if we were still crowded then I most likely would be stuck at work a little later then originally anticipated. Luckily, I wasn't busy, so, I told him that we were going to get done with work at 12am. I asked him where he wanted to go, and he said he didn't know.

I said, "Let's go to the first place you first had a drink in NYC."

"That's a good idea. I think it's somewhere around Lincoln Square. I'll head over there early and try and find the place then text you the location."

At 12:00am on the dot I get this text message that says he can't find the place, so, come meet him at the fountain and we will pick a place from there. I told him to go to PJ Clarke's that's right on the corner and I'll meet him there. He told me to stop being so difficult and just meet him at the fountain. He then proceeds to badger me with "Are you done yet? Are you off work? Are you heading over?" A little irritated at this point - I reminded him that it takes me a little while to close up the shop.

Finally done with the money and cleaning at 12:38am, I try and hail a cab on 7th Avenue, but Lady Gaga was playing at Madison Square Garden. No cabs to be found. I finally gave in and took the train arriving to the fountain at 12:50am and he had been there since 11:45pm. Whoops! I didn't know he was going to propose I would have hustled!

I had to call him to find him, but there he was right smack in the middle of Lincoln Square with a table that had candles, champaign and music right smack in the middle of the square wearing a suit in the sweltering July evening.

I went over the to the table completely shocked and overwhelmed. We had talked about moving forward and I knew that the time would be coming, but he caught me completely off guard. I was there sporting my Hanson t-shirt. My nails were disgusting, and I had no idea. There in one of the most enchanting places in New York surrounded by the Met, Julliard, South Pacific theatre and a gorgeous fountain he got down on his knee promising to dedicate the rest of his life to me.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Starting Over...Again

Every few posts I seem to say, "I can't believe I haven't blogged in such a long time." Who wants to keep reading about that? It's boring, but what struck me as incredibly interesting and heartbreaking was this post: Crazy is Overwhelming I wrote that just over a year ago, and the heart breaking part of that story is that I have been fighting those exact same horrible feelings and issues for over a year now. Except it got worse. I'm on the upswing of things and "they" say it has to get worse before it can get better.

Let's start with the good shall we?

I'm engaged.

I've been so busy "dealing" with life - I forget to take a moment and just breathe in happiness. I moved out of my Harlem apartment in early February of 2010. While it was sad and very difficult to leave my roommate at the time, I had a new roommate - my fiance to be. It was a monumental step for me because I had not ever lived with a partner before. I'm 28 and always had roommates or I lived alone. The adjustment has not been seamless but worth it. We comfortably live on the west side right by a park in a very accessible and happening part of town. I couldn't be happier here.

He proposed to me on a very hot evening in July right in front of Lincoln Center dressed in a suit and miserably waiting for me for over an hour. :) It's truly a romantic story ending with champaign and dancing right by the fountain in front of Lincoln Center. This location is where we ended our first date and began the rest of our lives together. I'll save this post for another entry.

"My lonely, unsuccessful and depressed life in New York" is just now turning around. I still miss my CA friends so much. So so so so much. I spent most of this August celebrating my honorary sister's wedding and introducing my fiance to my life in California. The whirl-wind tour ended with a beautiful celebration of love: a gorgeous wedding. I cried for most of the flight back to NYC. The torturous absence of my daily interaction with my CA friends I described in my last years post still eats me alive. I still constantly wait for the next time I get to see them and my heart is pained knowing that the reasons to see them are few and far between. Their absence still brings tears to my eyes, but it is no longer destructive. I miss them, but we still keep in contact and we still see each other as much as possible. I have a stronger focus now which keeps my missingness less destructive.

My Weight.
A huge huge huge huge battle. Right before I left for California, I cried on the phone to the mother of the bride because I wasn't sure I was going to fit into the bridesmaid dress that I just tried on in June. I had packed all my winter clothes in May and for the wedding in August, I had to unpack them to take them to California because California has a much brisker climate than New York in the summertime. I tried on all my clothes and NOTHING fit. Last year nothing fit... I was forced to buy new clothes. This year nothing fits... I was forced to buy a diet book. No, seriously I was beyond frustrated because I HAD been working out. Not working. For me - it's the balance of what I'm eating and working out. In the past, I could eat whatever I wanted and just work out. This is not the case anymore. I have to eat right AND work out. I have the luxuary of having my own personal nutritionist. :) Ok, not really, but kinda. I have a friend that is studying to be a nutritionist and I am CONSTANTLY picking her brain apart probably to the point of irritation, but she's studying - she says she needs the practice. She also recommended this diet book to me called: "The Perfect 10"

This is the start of week 3 for me and the diet has indeed done wonders. I still have a way to go, but for the most part I'm watching unwanted rolls melt off my body. I'm no longer cringing away from the mirror, and I don't cry every time I have to get dressed in the morning. I'm still not in love with taking pictures, but I'm going to get there. This weight gain took 2 years to manifest itself. It's going to take a little longer than 3 weeks to completely get rid of it. Since moving to New York, I gained close to 30 pounds.

So, what am I eating in my diet?

For the first three weeks, no grains, no processed sugar, no alcohol and more fat. This was very very very difficult to do. I realize now just how bad the restaurant industry was for my self-esteem and my state of mind at the time. I was eating french fries twice and day and drinking every day of the week. I'm not saying that I blame my job nor am I saying that I wouldn't go back to waitressing. I'm saying that at the time I wasn't able to make good choices for myself and for my body because of my self esteem. It's not healthy and I didn't have the strength or the will to just say No. Giving up these foods has been by far the hardest things to do, and it's given me complete awareness! I didn't realize just how often I was drinking a bottle of wine in one sitting. That's a lot of calories. Eating more fat has also been a little bit hard to wrap my brain around considering that most of the mainstream diets this day and age still have not grasped the concept yet. Every protein or vegetable or fruit carbohydrate must be eaten with a little bit of fat. The fat helps the body break down the carbohydrates much faster according to this book. So, I'll eat eggs in the morning with avocado or a piece of cheese or I'll eat full fat yogurt with berries. Lunch I'll have a salad with only olive oil as the dressing or lemon juice as the dressing with a little bit of cheese in the salad. Dinner I'll have chicken pan fried in olive oil seasoned with salt and pepper and chili peppers or tomatoes or coconut with steamed raw or sauteed vegetable. You're not supposed to count calories, but I still taper them. I'll have a big breakfast smaller lunch and a smaller dinner. I've cut caffeine out as well for the most part. I'll drink a cup of decaf coffee with whole fat milk. No sugar. I allow myself one cup of green tea a day because of the antioxidants and the amount of caffeine is nothing compared to the 4 cups of coffee I used to drink. Right now I hold out my arm and it doesn't shake. Snacks include: veggies (no carrots and no beets), nuts, hummus, seeds, avocado. I usually only need snacks if I have worked out a lot that day or I'm up for more hours that usual. The fat keeps me fuller longer. After stage 1 the detox stage you can start bringing whole grains back into your diet. Not a lot, but you can bring it back depending on how much energy you expend. Alcohol and sweets can be brought back sparingly. Stage 3 you can start treating yourself to your occasional hamburger or fried french fries or pizza - it's NEVER good for you, but at least the body will be able to handle it. I plan to get a full physicals as soon as I'm done. I'll let you know how my arteries look, my cholesterol and my blood pressure all look.

Working out.
I tried Bikram Yoga. It was great but didn't work. I've gone back to school and I'm dancing 9 hours a week. It's going to whip my body into shape. I'm no longer concerned. I still try and workout 6 days a week. There are 3 days we don't work out in school. I try and do some type of cardio on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Then I talked about performing.
I was still floundering. I decided to do something about it. I applied to a professional program called Cap21. It's NYU's old program, but it's bigger, better and stronger than ever! I'm so glad that I took the leap of faith and plunged myself into this program. I quit my restaurant my job. I'm spending 40+ hours a week focusing only on acting, dancing and singing. I'm surrounded my people that are in the same place that I am regarding performing. This is going to plunge me into the New York scene and I'm so grateful for it. I seriously can't wait to just live. I'll break down my experience in the program a little more, but this post is already getting too long.

I'm taking control of my life. I'm only sorry that it took me so long to do it.