Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lights Up

Life is like playing the violin in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.

Samuel Butler
Hello Frosty
I was an actor, first of all. I took some singing lessons but was far from considering myself a singer. I took even fewer dance lessons. I had done a few musicals, but only in small roles. I generally tried to put a distance between myself and any sort of singing audition.

Then one day a director I knew and had worked with offered me the role of Zorba, in the musical version. I tried to explain to him how unqualified I thought I was for the job. But he was insistent and so, even though a fine Greek actor and singer had auditioned for the part, the job was mine.

A friend asked me what I was going to do. "You're not a singer or a dancer. How on earth will you know what you're doing?" I responded by saying "Well, the way I look at it is if you're alone on the stage, the lights go on and the orchestra starts to play what do you do? You sing, even if you don't know the words, or you dance. There's no other choice."

Zorba is a huge role. I used to describe it as like running up a mountain. He is almost never off the stage, has a lot of singing to do and toward the end of the first act has a vigorous solo dance. I used to sit backstage 5 minutes before the show, with a pain in the back of my neck, shaking my head and saying to myself "How are you going to get through this? It's impossible. I can't do it?" I said that before every performance even if I had done it the night before or, maybe, that afternoon.

But the orchestra started to play, the lights went on, I stepped out and began to sing. 2 hours later it was over. For 2 hours I was an energetic Greek man who spoke, laughed, sang and danced.

I can't help observing that performing artists are among those humans who do the impossible all the time. (I don't know how opera singers and ballet dancers do it.) There are no time-outs as there are in sports. Everything we do is under the intense scrutiny of a group of strangers who have paid money to see us. And to sustain a 2 hour, or more, performance, especially if one is not quite sure of what one is doing. is a monstrous task.

I also can't resist seeing the metaphorical aspects of that task. We are thrust into life knowing nothing, then thrust into adulthood thinking that we know a lot, only to start stumbling over all the things we don't know. But life must be lived and, though we may sit shaking our heads and wondering how we are going to do it, eventually the orchestra will begin to play and we'll be on.

On the job training, learn as you go, try not to make mistakes but if you do keep going and try not to make them again. Keep the fiddle turned and rosin on the bow. It's life. Play it, sing it and dance it.

DB - Vagabond Journeys
Never Give Up

What event over the past year changed your life, a lot or a little?

3 answers so far.


I await your answers.


pacifica62 said...

Hello to you db. Up to this day in time, the world has been spared the embarassment of having to watch me sing and/or dance. May my luck continue.

Geo. said...

Sometimes I look at stuff I have done --a barn I built 30 years ago or an addition to this old farmhouse or the 3 engines I've installed in our van since 1975-- and ask: how the hell did I do that? Now I remember wondering before those jobs, "how the hell am I going to do that?", because you nailed it this time, DB. Thanks, and I wish I could've seen your Zorba.

Arlene (AJ) said...

Another great read DB....I could never sing, but love to dance, not only is it enjoyable, fun, but good exercise also.