Monday, November 11, 2013

Summer Stock Stamina

This summer I had the opportunity to perform in one comedy, The Odd Couple and two musicals, Nunsense and The Drowsy Chaperone. Nunsense was the most vocally challenging as I played Sister Amnesia who starts out the show as a high soprano and then ends up as a belting country star. We had an intense Nunsense Boot Camp the first week of rehearsals. My voice was so tired by the end of the week I had to mark my songs. This came as no surprise, the whole cast was worn out. We were singing almost 8 hours a day. The high altitude was also a factor. I found I had to drink about double my normal water intake to keep hydrated. I also pushed my sound because the other women in the cast had much bigger voices than I do and I felt I had to compete. I came home from Logan exhausted and frustrated.

I rested my voice for the weekend, took time to reflect and went back on Monday with a renewed outlook and personal goals that would help preserve my voice from further abuse. The first goal was to not try to out sing my cast mates. My voice is unique to me and I cannot compete with others, only myself. The director/musical director worked with us on blending in the choral numbers and that help me to preserve my voice tremendously. I had to make sure I drank plenty of fluids and got 8-10 hours of sleep at night to help with the altitude adjustment and my health. And then I warmed up with my own vocal exercises that focused my voice and got me balanced. I have found that each show calls for a slightly different warm up routine, depending on the style of music I am singing. So, I would warm myself up before rehearsal and then adapt the group warm ups to my needs. I love still being a performing artist but having the knowledge of a teacher to know what vocal exercise will benefit me the most for any given show.

By opening week I was feeling a bit worn down, even with my efforts, long rehearsal days and tech week are never easy on anyone. Opening night was amazing! My family was there and I felt very confident. But after the show I noticed a tickle in my throat and knew my immune system was on overdrive trying to prevent me from getting sick. The next morning, I had lost the battle. I pumped myself full of vitamin C, and during the Fri and Sat night performances I had special throat sprays, cold medications and lozenges to get me through. It was TERRIFYING! We all know how scary it is to sing in front of people, but singing in front of people when you are sick! Never a good time.

Usually in the past I would just sing through the sickness, sometimes sounding so terrible I wanted to rush off stage and demand that the audience get their money back. But through the new lenses of a vocal teacher, I realized I could and had to modify the songs. There were certain areas of my voice that were non-existent. Mainly the area through my first bridge. I did okay on my high soprano stuff, but when it came to belting my country song I had to change the notes I sang to stay mainly in my chest voice. The mix was weak or just not happening. I had so much anxiety prior to working things out with the band. But once I realized I could change the notes and that it didn't sound terrible, I knew I could sing it adequately and then lean on my acting abilities to compensate for all the rest. It all worked out fine, but of course I have to say it again, singing when you are sick STINKS!

Luckily after the opening weekend I had a couple weeks off from Nunsense to perform and rehearse the other two shows. That gave me enough time to recover and I went into the rest of the Nunsense performances strong. I learned a lot though. The main thing is that it is okay to modify the key or the notes in order to perform during an illness. It eases anxiety and usually the audience doesn't know any different. It does hurt one's pride to not be able to sing those "money notes", but it is better to feel secure and hit the notes that are possible instead of screeching and cracking out notes that are impossible at that moment in time.