Acting Outside NY, Young Vocalists

Acting Outside NY, Young Vocalists Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice seekers. This week's column addresses the issues of trying to pursue a theatre career outside New York, explores some choices young actors must face, and offers some advice for young vocalists. I invite actors of all ages to continue write me with any problems encountered at auditions, in class, or anything you feel could be standing between you and your talent. Make sure to check the previous columns to see if your question, or one like it, has been answered already!

Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice seekers. This week's column addresses the issues of trying to pursue a theatre career outside New York, explores some choices young actors must face, and offers some advice for young vocalists. I invite actors of all ages to continue write me with any problems encountered at auditions, in class, or anything you feel could be standing between you and your talent. Make sure to check the previous columns to see if your question, or one like it, has been answered already!

Question
Hello,
Just a note to thank you for your wonderful column. I am an actor/singer in my early 30's who lives in central Pennsylvania. I grew up in L.A. and have been very lucky in that I have been able to keep doing theatre since my early teens. Because of family obligations, I will not be able to leave Pennsylvania for a few more years, and sometimes I get very depressed about where I am (and am not). On the upside -- a community theater I co-founded when I was 17 is still going strong (I started my own theatre!), and I am able to do a lot of work there and with other theaters near me. I am doing a lot more of, and a wider range of roles than a lot of my friends who are only doing Professional theatre. When I finally get to NYC, I can only be a stronger performer (I hope). Am I on the wrong track? Is there hope for actors starting in their 30s?
Daniel

Daniel,
Thanks for your kind words and sweet e-mail.

Sounds like you are a mover and shaker. You are doing great--even though your situation is challenging--you are making the most out of it. That is a wonderful quality for people who come to New York, where actors can find a LOT to be depressed about: exorbitant rents, scarcity of money-earning jobs to support careers, lengthy audition lines, unfair casting policies, etc.

Keep focusing on theatre and your standards, and see if you can bring reputable directors and teachers to your theatre to work or give lectures or workshops, to help you and your community continue to learn and grow. This way, by the time you get to NYC, regardless of your age-- FORGET about the age thing-- the theatres just may be waiting for you. And even if they're not, it sounds like you might have the determination and skills to make yourself known.

Best of luck to you, Daniel.

Question
Hi Blair!
For the past 2 days I have been going to a musical theatre camp...full of VERY experienced people in the musical theatre world. The dance instructor was talking today about auditioning....and how dance is the *eliminator* most of the time. She said if an actress/actor is well rounded in all parts of musical theatre: dancing, singing and acting...you have a good chance of getting a job. I am a HORRIBLE dancer. What would you recommend I start with? I'm 16 years old, too...is it too late to start dancing lessons?
Thanks so much for your advice, Blair!
Nora

Dear Nora,
What your teacher said is true, however, I recommend you read Missy's question in the last column (June 23-July 4), which explains that there is hope for musical theatre actresses who are not highly skilled dancers.

Where do you begin? Take it step-by-step, of course. Dancing lessons are a great place to start, and no, it's not too late.

Question
Dear Ms. Glaser,
I am a 14 year-old male who loves performing in the theater. Ever since I was a little boy of maybe 5 or 6 I have loved to perform for people. I know I am asking you a "write a book answer" question, but what would YOU do if you lived in a small town in Florida, where you have been paid for shows but not even close to Equity scale, and would like to pursue a career as a theater actor? I intensely search audition sites daily for Broadway shows being cast or re-cast, but get discouraged by the mileage between DeLand, FL, and New York City.
Thank you for your time.
Jonathan

Dear Jonathan (and also Liz),
A young girl named Liz wrote me a similar e-mail, but I was unable to e-mail her back--her address didn't work, so this answer is for her, too.

It sounds like you are very talented and have a lot going for you. What I would do, and recommend for you, is that you keep doing what you are doing and not rush. There is plenty of time to "make it." Keep auditioning locally. Professional experience at an early age is a great thing -- for your understanding of what goes on in a professional theatre, for contacts, and for your resume.

I would start to look for a really good acting class. Do some research and go to the class that feels best to you. There may be one for teens, or there may be an adult class that will accept you. It sounds like some off-stage training might be a good thing for you at this stage of the game -- to develop a sense of, and understand in a mature way, the process of acting.

Best of luck, and remember: you have time.

Question
Hello,
My name is Paul Hahn and I'm 16 years old. I'm writing to ask you if I should audition for The King and I. I am an oriental, a tenor and have vast theatre experience. My chorus teacher saw the musical and told me that I really should try out for it. But my concern is that I might be much too young to audition for such a musical. Please write back, I really need tremendous help.
~PAUL H~

Dear Paul,
You are only too young to audition if you do not feel ready. And only you can know that. However, be aware that the show has roles for some very young actors, the princes and princesses.
If the idea excites you, go for it!!! It's important to consider how you would feel and what you would do if you actually got cast, but auditioning is a great idea, even if just for the sake of having the Broadway audition experience.

Question
Can you please tell younger people how not to damage their voice while singing. Especially when they haven't taken voice lessons. Also, can you recommend when people should start taking voice?
Thanks,
Walnutty

Dear Walnutty,
Let it be said that I do not qualify myself as a voice teacher. However, I did study voice as a major at the Music and Art High School in NYC, and took 14 years of private lessons, so I have some information to offer young vocalists.

In order to avoid vocal damage, I suggest that all youngsters avoid straining, pushing or reaching for notes they cannot hit easily. Don't give in to the temptations to sing loudly, to impress others with your powerful voice, or to sound like the singer on the record. Instead, hit your high notes more softly, using a "head" voice, or, if you are straining to hit a note or two in a song, lower the key you are singing in, until you've been studying with a good teacher for a while and you learn to sing high notes properly.

If you strain to hit notes, you will slowly but surely develop vocal chord injuries, the most infamous being "nodes"--or polyps on your chords, that create laryngitis and require surgery to remove. When you strain to hit notes, the vocal chords stretch and rub against each other. This friction, like a foot against a tight shoe, creates the blisters.

Of course, youngsters auditioning for musicals like Annie may want to start taking voice lessons very early. Otherwise, I think it's fine to wait until high school to begin voice lessons. Guys might want to wait until their voices change. Girls can start earlier.

In your lessons, make sure, among many things, that you are learning how to breath deeply, to support your breath with your diaphragm and abdominal muscles, to relax and keep your throat open--all key elements to safe singing. You really need someone there to guide you and to watch you physically in order to see if you are doing it right.

Good luck, 'Nutty.

Dear Blair,
I'm in high school and have just started doing theater. I haven't been in many productions, more with the community than in school. But I have a problem, or I think it's a problem, with my voice. See, I sound just fine until I have to be really loud. I am not a belter. My voice sounds funny and bad when I become louder. Will this decrease my chances at getting larger roles? I play chorus roles right now but will I always be stuck in chorus?
Christine

Dear Christine,
Low volume at your age is VERY common. Please don't rush into belting. Maybe you should talk to 'Nutty. If you begin quality voice lessons and treat your voice with care, your volume will increase naturally with practice and age. You may be in the chorus for a while longer but it won't always be that way. Good luck, Christine. Keep at it!