Noah and I explored the bracing waters of Nantucket Sound this week.
We examined seaweed samples, spied horseshoe crabs, and spotted shiny shells saying heeeeey from under the sparkly water.
It was one of those supersaturated perfection moments.
–where the self-conscious part of you wishes there were a photographer so you could prove to you friends, “No, really, this was the perfect New England Beach Day.”
This lil PB and J snacker’ll give you a clue.
Check that posture! He’s always calling out my slump.
While we waded, I was feeling the squishy sand through my toesies and pointing out a sailboat when my heel encountered something that was not seaweed.
Something springy, slimy, and vigorous writhed its way under the arch of my foot as if to say, “Hey! I’m LIVIN’ here!”
I acknowledged its communication with a falsetto WOOOP and a splashy hitch kick.
“Daddy! What’s wrong?” Noah asked.
“I stepped on something!” I explained.
“Daddy, why are we walking out of the water?”
“I need a lil break.”
“Daddy, what did you step on?”
“I don’t know, buddy.”
“What did it look like?”
“I didn’t stay close enough to look.”
As we toweled off on the beach, Noah was trying to work out why I hadn’t paused to observe the offended sea creature.
He repeated, “Daddy, what was that?” and “Daddy, were you scared?”
“Yes, buddy, I was startled. I didn’t know what I’d stepped on.”
I could see brain jigsaws interlock as he added, “Oh, Daddy’s scared of some things,” and “There’s stuff Daddy doesn’t know,” to his file labeled “The Way Things Are.” (Remember that from Babe?)
The ocean is unabsorbably beautiful, reminds you how teeny you are, and hosts all kinds of beings most human feet don’t wanna touch.
What you can’t see can be scawwy.
Like vocal technique.
It’s not straightforward like, “You put your left foot in, “ or “Press these two keys to start ‘Chopsticks.'”
It’s your whole body asking several muscle groups in your torso to play nice with largely involuntary muscles in and around your throat collaborating with more interdependent functions than you knew existed from your throat to your lips.
Your tongue alone has 8 different muscles.
And it’s not like you can just look down and check if you’re doing it right.
The good news, though, is that there are indicators you can rely on, and there are things your body already knows how to do.
You wanna try an experiment and see?
(inspired by a terrific thesis by one of the MFA grads I got to advise. Thanks, Evan Rees.)
Here you go. (May wanna do this alone or on a busy street/train platform where no one will likely hear or care.)
- 🐣 Pretend you’re holding a lil baby or a sweet animal, and sing a lullaby or a scale on [u]/oooo.
- 🎵 Sing it in different keys, and notice that your voice naturally knows how to soothe this sweet lil being.
- 🦹🏻♂️ Now pretend that a malevolent person tries to hurt your beebee.
- 🗯 Call out, “Hey!”
- 🎼🗯 Follow that impulse again, and slide ‘Heeey” on an interval, a fourth or a fifth.
What’d you notice?
Your voice is built-in ready when you’re meeting an unfolding sitch.
Your neurons know how to soothe a scared puppy and how to repel an invader.
This intel is crucial for theatre singers because the circumstances you’re imagining change the shape of your vocal tract.
Now, can you tell me something?
What is your number one vocal/storytelling question right now?
Because if you email me back and ask me, I can help you out.
I mean it. Hit reply and atst — vibrato, breathing, unmanageable stage farting. I’ve heard it all.
If you could make up a magical class or voice lesson, what problem would it solve for you?
It can be an impossible ask like, “I want my class to earn me a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism.” I mean, I can’t help you with that, but I do wanna know what your perfect class would do for you (or any singing storyteller you care about.)
Email me back and tell me.
And remember most of all, there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.
ps We’re heading back to regular land life today, so I’ll have some lesson avail. If you wanna sing freer, love what you’re doing, and bring joy to the room, email me back, and we’ll get to work.
pps Have you watched Joe Papp in Five Acts on PBS yet? I haven’t, but I plan to because all my snobby theayter friends say it’s terrific.
ppps This was clearly a working vacation since I also shot a series of looks for an upcoming fragrance they’ve asked me to promote. 🙃 They’re still focus-grouping, but I think it’s gonna be called Panic at the Seashore.