29 August, 2015

50 Things I've Missed About London

1. Skies white as a clean sheet of paper.
2. The sight, sounds and smells of the Borough Market.
3. The diversity (37% of the population were born outside of the UK, and over 300 languages are spoken in London).
4. The accent melting-pot.
5. Nights with pals at Shoreditch House.
6. Incredibly long summer days.
7. Christmas in Covent Garden
8. Book exchanges = free books. ‘Nuff said.
9. The walk along the South Bank from Canary Wharf to Waterloo
10. The freakin' Rosetta Stone.
11. The Tate Modern (my favorite modern building in the city).
12. You can just hop on a train to Paris whenever you please because, Paris.
13. The October 16:30 light in St. James Park..
14. The view from the stage at Royal Albert Hall.
15. The Piccadilly Line (go “Team Blue”)
16. Utterly, and I mean utterly bizarre television advertisements.
17. In depth conversations with taxi drivers.
18. Leon (particularly their coleslaw, brown rice and dark chocolate brownie).
19. Really effing brilliant theatre
20. My secret back-alley walk from Angel to Islington.
21. Bea’s of Bloomsbury.
22. Profoundly, bizarre happenings.
23. Stores dedicated to single items such as umbrellas, whiskey and bicycles.
24. Oyster cards are one smooth operating system.
25. Poirot’s house.
26. The friendly blue plaques.
27. London has more green space than any other major city on earth.
28. Notting Hill Carnivale
29. And Portobello Road.
30. Someone asking for directions and actually knowing the answer.
31. Pretending to be in a video game on the DLR (don’t tell me you haven’t done it… Liar.)
32. Seven Dials (home).
33. The oh-so-familiar aisles of Foyle's Books.
34. Southbank skaters (and the kick ass graffiti on the walls).
35. Spitalfields Market.
36. You can watch a play at the Globe or a concert at the Proms for £5.
37. My beautiful London chums...
38. ...Particularly the “Anatevka contingent” Bev, Tomm, and Julie.
39. “Adventure-days” with Edward Petherbridge.
40. The world’s best bagels and curry all along Brick Lane.
41. Your commute will take you past some of the most famous landmarks in the world.
42. Trains. Everywhere trains. And I love trains.
43. Sitting in the front seat on top of the beautiful double-decker red buses.
44. Ancient, older-than-anything-I-can-comprehend buildings nuzzled up against über-modern visions.
45. The hidden gem that is Blade Rubber Stamp's in Holborn.
46. Everything that is Alexandra Palace (aka “Ali Pali”).
47. An after-show drink at the champagne bar at Kettner’s.
48. The hedonistic delights of Soho.
49. The museums are free. Most of them... FREE.
50. Walking walking walking…

23 August, 2015

A letter to Henry

Hi. Just writing to say thrilled to hear your doing Tzeitel in New York. I'm planning to see it ... When do u open ? What an insight you will have to bring to a new (but ever present) Anatevka! Much joy.

So pleased you are thriving ... 
I'm on the platform with you x

Henry G

*

Wonderful wonderful Henry,

What a total joy to hear from you—and of course you have been on my mind constantly. I so apologize for the delay in responding, your email has been sitting in my inbox with a little “Flag” on it since it arrived, and I don’t think there is anything I procrastinate more than electronic communication.

This Fiddler journey has been a magical one—and I have barely begun this new chapter! Our Anatevka journey with that particular company was so thorough, so detailed and passionate an exploration, it truly taught me how to be an artistic actor in the professional realm. But above all, it holds so many endemic memories—those people are still my favourite colleagues, some of closest friends, and it gave me a true community and family so (pardon the expression) “far from the home I love.” It will never fade for me.

I remember you once told me—this memory truly stands out like a stark, clear diamond in the haze of remembered past—you told me that those truly rare and perfect moments shared on stage didn’t happen as often as one hoped, or anticipated, but when they do… they are “like gold dust.” You were referring to our train station scene, and I almost couldn’t speak I was so honoured and moved. The gold dust part was so vivid— and so exactly correct. I’ve never forgotten it. ...And it turns out, a few years down the line and 10 years (?!) in the acting world now, you were quite right. In my career thus far I think I can count two stage relationships like that, of which you were the first. Thank you.

I think it’s also taken a good deal of reflection to realize that Hodel helped me grieve about my fatherhelped me say goodbye, every day. And not in an indulgent way, but in a way that made me uniquely qualified to feel the magnitude of that scene so early in my life. Hodel was the first character I ever “missed” when we parted company—like a friend who stopped calling all of a sudden. I suppose that was what led me to Siberia, and to write the books, I needed to play her story out somehow.

And I have.

When I first heard about this Broadway revival, I naturally wanted to be some kind of a part of it—it is the 50th anniversary, we are so blessed to still have Sheldon with us, and it is such an important show to me, to us, to the entire world, etc. But I heard they were looking to cast the daughters as actual teenagers, and while I understood, I was a little sad. I was called in on the last two days of auditions (I had actually been out of town playing Eliza Doolittle with Anthony Andrews wouldn’t ya know?) and from there it was all a whirlwind!

Reading through the script again, and viewing the piece objectively, one thing was certain: I wasn’t Hodel anymore. I have told and lived her story and now it is someone else’s turn. And frankly, I wouldn’t want to wait at the train station with anyone other than you… I’m aware that that probably sounds like American sentimentality, but ah well. I’m American after all and as I grow up I’ve learned to stop apologising for things we can’t change. :)

You know, a few months ago I went to a very good friend’s wedding, and as she walked down the aisle, I burst into almost unconscious tears. She was beautiful of course, but she was also walking down the aisle with her father—and I suppose my subconscious recognised that no matter what I ever do, achieve, or build, I will never have that moment...

...But now? Now, I will have it. By proxy, on stage... isn't that one of the beautiful things about fate, (and, of course) about the theatre? We have the blessed opportunity to experience so much more of life and humanity in one lifetime. What a gift. 

And as I grow up, and my focus shifts much more to lasting relationships such as marriage, as well as family, children, true love and the meanings of community and faith—I realize that all these things  make me uniquely qualified to serve Tzeitel’s story now—and endeavour to serve her I shall, with every scrap of depth, integrity, artistry and richness I can muster. I hope there is gold dust in that oath... well, 'we shall leave it in His hands.'

Goodness—this did become a proper letter!

I am headed to London on Thursday. It would be so wonderful to see and hug you again. Until I do, I’m sending you all my love. 

Al

x

PS) I'm on the platform with you too. Always.

21 August, 2015

Crazy Coqs in London, 1-5 September

London I am coming home!

And what a way to return.
In a fancy-schmancy nightclub singing my favo(u)rite songs with some of my favo(u)rite fancy-schmancy [talented, beautiful, kind, hilarious, fun] pals.

Here is what the papers say [with my additions in Red...]:
"West End and Broadway star [Hmmm] Alexandra Silber has announced a range of special guests for her show at London venue Crazy Coqs. Each night of the run, from 1 to 5 September 2015, will feature a different guest.

These are now confirmed to be:

1 Sept - Howard Goodall (composer of Bend it Like Beckham) [or, super-genius musician, composer and clever clever raconteur with a heart of gold]
2 Sept - Damian Humbley (Merrily We Roll Along) [or, Australian former-love who sings like Jesus and, fine, is sometimes quite funny]
3 Sept - Julie Atherton (Avenue Q) [or, va-voom looks, side-splitting humour, cat-lover, and killer belting]
4 Sept - Simon Bailey (The Phantom of the Opera) [or, sexypants, great hair, insane vocals...hair]
5 Sept - Gina Beck (Wicked) [or, soprano goddess, petite beauty, and OH: my HAND TWIN...]

American-born Silber's West End credits include The Woman in White, Fiddler on the Roof and Carousel and most recently as Kate in Kiss Me, Kate with the John Wilson Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall for the BBC.

Silber is a Grammy-nominee for her performance as Maria in West Side Story on the symphonic recording with the San Francisco Symphony. On Broadway she has starred in Master Class, as well as appearing in Hello Again, Arlington, Love Story and most recently My Fair Lady. Silber returns to Broadway this fall in the revival of Fiddler on the Roof, this time playing the eldest daughter, Tzeitel under the direction of Bartlett Scher. [...OMG]"
More information and tickets are available here.

Please join me London, and see you soon!

PS) you will be hearing this song... come on...don't you wanna be there...?

20 August, 2015

Return to Anatevka

Dearest of Readers,

Miracle of Miracles...

For those among you who have been with me for a while, you know this to be truer than anything:

I belong in Anatevka... 

And back I shall go.
This time as Tzeitel.
Can you believe it?
Can you believe my unbelievable fortune--to be blessed with the gift of this endemic piece of theatre not once but twice in my career?

Not to mention the following not-so-secret theatre-nerd-geek-outs
I get to play Tzeitel...
In the 50th Anniversary production...
Directed by Barlett Scher...
With 'Dear Friends' Sheldon Harnick
     and Ted Sperling
At the biggest theatre on Broadway...
Getting married everyday...
     ...in a Catherine Zuber wedding dress (!!!)
While Danny Burstein
     and a cast of 40
          sing "Sunrise, Sunset"
               on BROADWAY. 

... N. B. D
Additional casting has been announced for the upcoming Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof. Alexandra Silber (Master Class) joins the cast as Tzeitel, along with Alix Korey (All Shook Up) as Yente, Samantha Massell (La Boheme) as Hodel, Ben Rappaport (Picnic) as Perchik, Jessica Vosk (The Bridges of Madison County) as Fruma Sarah, and Aaron Young as Sasha. The company will also include Julie Benko, Jesse Kovarsky, and Silvia Vrskova. 

As previously announced, the revival production will star five-time Tony nominee Danny Burstein and Tony nominee Jessica Hecht as Tevye and Golde, along with Adam Kantor as Motel the tailor. 

Produced by Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, and Jam Theatricals, Fiddler on the Roof will feature choreography by Hofesh Shechter, based on the original work of Jerome Robbins. Tony winner Bartlett Sher will direct alongside frequent collaborators Michael Yeargan (scenic design), Catherine Zuber (costume design), and Donald Holder (lighting design).

Featuring a book by Joseph Stein and a score by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, Fiddler on the Roof is inspired by Sholom Alecheim's stories of the milkman Tevye, who tries to hold on to "tradition" as the world around him and his family in the little village of Anatevka changes. This Broadway production is the show's sixth since its record-breaking debut in 1964. 

Performances will begin November 12 in advance of a December 17 opening at the Broadway Theatre.

For tickets and more information, click here.


19 August, 2015

The Sisters Jericho

     Shura thought upon that story as she stood high above a mass of carrots in their low-ceilinged, aromatic kitchen, immersed meditatively in a repetitive task: scrub, rinse, peel, chop, and then again. Billows of steam swirled upward from large pots filling the room with the hearty fragrances of cooking, not to mention the repressing moist heat. No matter though, this was commonplace. This was the atmosphere of home.

     A few weeks after the incident with Eva on the Sabbath things were different. Calmer. The girls were kinder, gentler with one another, though it was hard to articulate why or how.

     Oy Mame, bin ikh farlibt, her mouth quietly sang. Her hair lay in tousled plaits beneath a long headscarf used expressly for work, sleeves of her blouse rolled neatly above her elbows to keep her tidy, high collar unbuttoned to keep her cool. Despite the impending cold, the heat of the kitchen asked for the open windows to refresh them every so often with harsh autumn breezes.

     Looking up she noted that she was quite alone.

     Laying down her peeling knife, she wiped her hands and moved to the door to see her mother wrapped in a shawl against the cold, waving to the village matchmaker who was slowly making her way down the path away from their house.

     Why had she not invited the woman inside? Shura thought.

     In the distance stood Eva and the little ones, watching giddily from the barn, barely visible behind the swinging door. Mama looked intrigued as she made her way around the back of the house.  Shura returned inside and stopped—she heard something.

     Over the quiet bubbling of pots and clouds of steam, was an unfamiliar rustling. Ears pricked, she followed the muffled sounds into the back of their bedroom.  Moving from the kitchen into the hall, she could now distinguish the distinct sound of crying. Careful not to disturb, she withheld herself silently at the door-frame for a moment, observing.

     It was Sarah.

     Strong, indestructible Sarah. She sat upright upon the edge of the bed, face toward the wall, back so rigid one could tell it was only this posture that held her from losing herself in the emotion altogether.
    “Sarah?” Shura muttered softly.
    “Oh, Shura,” Sarah’s voice was stiff, “Hello.” Turning further away, she hid her face with a failing nonchalance, unable to disguise her tears. “Shura. Yes, I was just taking a moment for prayer. I was working in the kitchen and suddenly found myself very, very tired and—” her voice broke as she wiped her face in panic, “—and well I decided a moment or two in prayer might serve me well and I could ask God for—for strength, I suppose, to continue—” she nodded harshly, grasping, “—to continue on with the work.”

     Sarah turned to look at her with anguished eyes and they stared at one another in silence.

     The image was devastating. There she sat: the constant leader, the example, the one who cares for everyone but never given care. She did not appear to need it. How strong, how selfless, how gifted a woman she was.
    “Oh Sarah…” uttered Shura so quietly she was not certain she had said it aloud. She could not help herself, her body ached to hold her, but a lifetime of resistance lay between them. Shura approached steadily, sitting beside Sarah and clutching her hand without taking her eyes from her face.

     Sarah’s face was limp but for her brow as she gazed at Shura’s hand upon her own for a hard moment. Suddenly she looked up at her sister, eyes wet, brittle, and searching, and without any warning Shura felt Sarah’s hand respond beneath her gesture, clutching at her fingers with what she could not yet determine as relief, gratitude or desperation.

    “I cannot…” she whispered, “I cannot.” So hushed was her voice, perhaps her family, the matchmaker, her sisters, God Himself, might not hear her. “The responsibility—” her voice choked. “—it is so hard to be the very first—to never really be a child...” Shura watched, eyes wide, her forehead wrinkled and heart swollen as her elder sister shook. “I am so frightened Shura, so frightened. And I need sisters too—I need you, too!” Sarah’s cry was in earnest, the sorrow that emitted from within her was unspeakable.

     Shura grasped her in the sweep of her arms—arms granted her to seize Sarah in this pivotal embrace—she felt Sarah release there, for perhaps the first time in all her life.

    “Ich hob mir fer pacht*, Sarah...” Shura whispered, holding tightly with the strength and steeliness she had learned from the sister she encompassed, “Ich hob mir fer pacht…”


* I have you in my pocket, I know you for what you are

08 August, 2015

"I Don't Know...YET!"

Ohai. Check this phrase out:

I Don’t Know.

I strongly suggest you give it a little re-visit.
Not to give it the ol' heave-ho, or to banish it from your life.
No no.
Calm down.

First things first, it is totally okay to not know.
There was a time when man didn’t know how to make
    fire
    babies
    or origami cranes;
plus there was a time before you knew allllll about the intricacies of The Walking Dead.
Whatever.
The point is, there was always a time when we don’t know something.

Living in the unknown is more than just okay, it is to be reveled in, made peace with, if not downright celebrated! The fact is we simply cannot always have answers for everything, all the time, the second we feel we require them. Sometimes we have to “let go and let God” ...or some such.

However, living in a constant state of unknowns without a scrap of personal agency or hope?
Oh dear dear dear—buckle up for a long ride to IGNORANT-AND-BORING-VILLE.


Yeah. Don't be this cat.
1. Don’t be Lazy.
[“I Don’t Know” can be about being lazy.]

Our nomadic ancestors had to conserve energy to compete for scarce resources and to fight or flee enemies and predators. Look behind you: is there a tiger chasing you? NO? Then consider getting a grip.

Enjoying some down-time, recovering from a bout of stress or hard work, or indulging in some well-deserved rest is ONE THING. Laziness is quite another.
And when I say another I mean something akin to a Jabba-the-Hut-like-creature picking his nose while waiting for answers to just… COME ALONG.
Or for someone to just DO IT FOR YOU.
Or for things to just…FIX THEMSELVES.
Or just generally…'SCHMEH, WHATEVS.'

Laziness is VERY different from genuine exhaustion. If your body requires rest, by all means rest! But if your psychology is telling your brain and body that you “can’t be asked…?” Different story.

Synonyms for laziness are indolence and sloth (wow, those sound great). While 'sloth' has more moral and spiritual overtones, 'indolence' derives from the Latin INDOLENTIA, ‘without pain’ or ‘without taking trouble.’ 
“A person is being lazy if she is able to carry out some activity that she ought to carry out, but is disinclined to do so because of the effort involved. Instead, she carries out the activity perfunctorily; or engages in some other, less strenuous or less boring activity; or remains idle. In short, she is being lazy if her motivation to spare herself effort trumps her motivation to do the right or expected thing.”
Don't be a lazy-face.
Get motivated and get over your lazy.
First step?


Submitted without caption
2. Curiosity
[“I Don’t Know” can be about lacking curiosity.]

There is nothing more toxic (or less sexy) than apathy. Inquiry, Evidence, and Argument are the basis for Curiosity; observed phenomena and logically valid conclusions are then drawn from the evidence. All of these are the powerful tools we use to understand WHAT IS.

Who invented the printing press?
...What's that...? 
...You don't know?
 ... Well you know who does know? The interwebs.
Use your curiosity, and then your thumbs and press “SEARCH.” In addition to Googling LIKEABOSS, I enjoy the time-honored traditions of:

    calling someone and talking it out
    getting real quiet and just meditating for 20 minutes or so
    asking Siri
    going to this magical place called The Library
    contacting an actual expert

And yes, it may take some time, and require some patience, but to find, you must seek. If you wallow around and hope it will take care of itself, you might get lucky (and some people do), but odds are you could wake up at 85 and wonder where the hell the awesome life you were supposed to live went exactly. 

Then?



WTF I mean YAAAAY!
3. You are capable!
[“I Don’t Know” can be about feeling incapable.]

Relishing in, and making peace with the unknown is one thing, feeling anxious about what’s next is a whole other bag of burritos. Let's think of all the things (however “ordinary”) you ARE capable of doing:

    salad making
    sodoku
    explaining stuff
    listing Pixar movies in chronological order
    having a sense of direction
    installing ceiling fans (with or without a ceiling fire) 
    vacuuming

Hey! Look at that! My my, aren't you good at things!

In the therapeutic practice of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (also known as DBT) one of the core skills discussed to build self-esteem is active practice of achieving Mastery. Because DBT is an evidenced-based treatment module, its efficacy is based on a collection of facts. The theory is this: if it is a FACT that you can vacuum, give directions and make salad, chances are you can do other stuff too. 

Psychologist Aysha Ives says:
"Do something that makes you feel good and increases your level of competency each day. When you feel good about who you are, your abilities, and your accomplishments, then you’re more likely to use Wise Mind during stressful situations. This means that your vulnerability for letting your emotions control you significantly decreases."

Put simply:
You are capable.
Practice some form of mastery every day (no matter how insignificant your mastery may feel to you).
Soon you'll realize it too.
Gain confidence about your awesome-ness.
Become masterful about other things.
...Because you are innately capable.
Repeat.


4. Decide to figure it out already.
[“I don’t know” can be about a lack of agency.]


When you Decide to figure it out, decide with a capital “D.” If you really want to “get on with it already,” define exactly what may provide some clarity, then make it a goal like any other goal and do not stop until you get there! Sometimes this looks like:

    middle of the night phone-calls / emails / walks
    talking to your cat like she cares (or miiiight talk back)
    vision-boarding 'til there isn’t a single glue-stick left in Queens
    going for the kind of jog that looks like you are running from SATAN
    making that appointment / going on that date / cleaning that attic already
Again: whatever.
Sometimes you just need a NAP.
Sometimes you need to go to Siberia.  
…and I’ve done both of those too. And turned out just fine. The world will still be there when you wake up, or wake up.


5. Don't Pretend

Listen, in our society is simply not "allowed" to NOT know, many of us pretend we do, when we don't.
Don't do that.
Here's why:
Pretending to know is silly.
For it is, in fact, one of the fastest paths to ignorance.
Think about it: 
If you pretend you know,
     then you are not free to ask (because you are pretending to know)
          and if you cannot genuinely ask
               then you can never truly, know.
Bummer.
Stop that. Just admit you don't know, ask, and then make that knowledge yours! KAPOW!


6. Re-frame the Words.
[“I don’t know” can easily be changed!]


Because we are powerful creatures whose thoughts and words create our realities, if you walk around declaring “I don’t know,” The Universe will take your word for it and fill your head with cat litter instead of insight. In order to obtain the clarity you desire, replace this statement with something more along the lines of:

“Clarity is coming to me, it always does!”

or

“I’m so grateful because knowledge is zooming toward me!”

or

“I suggest you step aside because whatever this new idea is, it’s going to be SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDTIOUS!”

Or my very favorite,

“I don’t know…YET.”

Why do I like that one? Because it admits that at this moment, you do not know.
And it implies that you are okay with that
...but fully trust that you are capable of finding out with a little patience, faith, and elbow grease.

It doesn't have to be a terror-fest.

As the Serenity Prayer teaches us…

May you have the serenity to accept the things you cannot change,
    the courage to change the things you can,
        and the wisdom to know the difference.


So here's to serenity, in the face of the Unknown.


30 July, 2015

Things I would like to try someday - a List

Ride in a hot air balloon

Spend extended time in a convent or monastery

Travel for a month completely alone

Walk and drive from the top of South American to the bottom

Live for an extended period in Venice

Drink a wine I picked, smashed, fermented and bottled myself

Spend an entire day at the cinema

Hear Lilly play the Brahms oboe concerto live

Being part of a sacred ceremony of a culture I know nothing about

Scuba diving

Snuggle with a panda

driving a vintage car in the Woodward Dream Cruise

Archery (I have a feeling I'd be really good)

Driving a motorcycle…everywhere.

Speak Italian fluently

Jump out of a plane!

Being Mayor of somewhere I love

Visit Antarctica

© hula seventy

17 July, 2015

Me Too

See yourself in others, then who can you hurt? What harm can you do?”  
— The Buddha

As human beings we often aim for recognition and validation.

As performers we naturally think that comes in the form of applause, of 'bravos' and super-human awe.

The trouble comes when the performer is tempted to show off in some way— there are times and places for virtuosity, but truly virtuosic art is always be rooted in truth within the context of a piece. Virtuosity for its own sake breeds a disconnected form of awe—meaning, the audience disconnects from the story, the narrative, the overall world, and, crucially, the believability of the character’s journey—they are merely impressed by you.

When you “belt an F” for the sake of it—an audience might gasp in awe, but if the belt is not connected to the character’s human need, it is the same as watching an athlete compete—impressive, but not truly why we engage with art. It is entertaining! And fun! And amazing! But it shouldn't be the ultimate goal.

Thus, I challenge every artist to want, work for, and aim for something deeper…

First, we must know ourselves. (And no, I'm not talking about self-obsession, solipsism, myopic me-monster-ing, or anything resembling New Age-y displays of self-knowledge). I'm talking about self awareness. About the recognition of personal mythology, patterns, proclivities, inclinations, fears, wounds, strengths, and weaknesses; and, more crucially, how they are interrelated to the universality of human nature. There is so much that can be gleaned from the exploration of the human self. Any human self. For in the search, we discover and unlock not only the mysteries of our own natures, but connections to human nature as a whole, throughout all of time.


Once we further understand our own selves, we can begin to engage with the glory of inter-personal relations through Empathy. Empathy is a human being’s greatest gift—the deep appreciation for anothers' situation, feelings, and point of view. It begins with awareness, understanding, feeling, caring, perceiving a similarity of experience, and compassion.

It is one of an actor’s greatest capacities for it is “other awareness,” a symmetrical companion to the self-awareness. True empathy requires us to identify with, fully comprehend, understand, and care about another. It is the basis for the golden rule, and our intrinsic sense of justice.

But my favorite definition of empathy is by the incredible vulnerability researcher Brené Brown, who defines empathy simply as the expression of “me too.

Now, it is absolutely possible for these moments to be achieved during soaring high notes, big 11 o'clock numbers, and within the lake of tears that accompanies the big emotional scenes. But if those "high notes" are present for their own sake? If they are not connected to your actual vulnerability? Then this is what I mean when I say an audience cannot ever be anything other than impressed by your skills—the same way one might be impressed by the prowess of an athlete.

For you see, truly exceptional artists do not show off. They possess all the abilities to do so, but they risk the possibility of appearing (and I use this word with a huge caveat) “unimpressive” for the sake of the absolute truth. They begin by valiantly mining their own souls for every scrap of humanity—be it glorious, petty, sensational, ugly, magnificent, or shameful, and revealing it within the life of their character. They are willing to do a normally terrifying thing: to reveal. To truly connect. For great artistry is not about putting on proverbial masks to cover truth, it is about a kind of ultra-truth, something raw, deeper.

It is not always glamorous. It is not flashy. It is (more often than not) quiet. Revealing utter emotional nakedness is like the noiseless unzipping of the cloak we all use every day to face the assaults of daily life, and in doing so, we opening up our beating chest cavity and simply stand there, exposed.
“You too?” this posture silently communicates.
When an audience witnesses that kind of art, there is possibility for her soul to lurch in true human recognition:
—“Yes,” the audience responds, “That is me; that is my life too…
Achieve that quiet miracle and an artist has fulfilled their ultimate calling.

So be brave.

Don't aim for 'bravo,' aim for 'me too.'


*

PS) Does this message resonate with you? Want it on a bumper sticker? Now you can at the AlSilbs Swag Store!

08 July, 2015

Ask Al: Trust Your Struggle

Dear Al,

I am about four years out of college / drama school. I moved to New York three months after graduation and have had some moderate successes since arriving, plus a couple of really close-calls! But mostly, it has just a series of disappointments—the competition is far more intense than I ever anticipated, and the atmosphere far more hostile. I’m pretty broke, basically a professional temp, and can’t even really afford to take the lessons or classes I feel might keep me in shape and inspired.

I wonder all the time if it’s as simple as changing my look/agent/ headshots/ audition material.
Or, if it is about completely re-training, moving back home and starting again.  Everyone in my life is desperate for me to “wake up” and change my path. But the thing is, I just feel in my bones like this is what I am supposed to do…

I’m banging my head against the wall and feel like a failure.
What can I do to change my circumstances?
Or is it about changing everything altogether?

I’ve read and been heartened by your blog for a long time, and would just love your perspective.

Thank you so much,

Daniel


*

Dear Daniel,

My sweet, courageously honest friend, you are NOT alone.

This was a brave letter to write because part of truly addressing a struggle is admitting feelings of defeat and frustration—those feelings are the birthplace of change!

These questions are faced universally—not just by struggling artists like yourself. The need for external validation, the constant feeling of being a pawn in the Chess game of Life, the “am I good-enoughs,” and aaaaallllll questions related to of life-purpose are experienced by all people, of all ages and walks of life, in every culture, since the dawn of time. [*Thunder!*] The details change, the feeling do not.

At the end of all the pesky details, that universal feeling boils down to this:

WHAT AM I DOING?

...Bummer.
The thing is, I can’t tell you whether your story is about your original dream, or about creating a new one.
Neither can your parents, girlfriend, or any random stranger on the subway.
Only you can do that.

Allow me to validate that there is NO SHAME in changing your path. There is a huge difference between "giving-up" and strategic disengagement. Changing your path does not make you a failure, it makes you a Motivated Badass, a Survivor, and a Winner. If you know you have gifts to give the world, sometimes it’s about dreaming new dreams and making THOSE happen! Again, that does not make you a failure, that makes you practical and awesome. (Because it is far cooler to be the best Physical Therapist/Social Worker/Small Business owner/English teacher the world has ever seen, than yet another miserable not-actor cleaning their naval in deepest Brooklyn. So. Just in case you were one of the zillion people concerned that changing the path = Loserville-Failure-Sauce, I am here to tell you: Nope.

Look. Even with all my ‘success” (which is a whole other blog post about what the definition of THAT truly is…) I’ve still had huge periods of self-doubt. On my more positive days I’ve:
  • Talked that talk.
  • Thought those attraction thoughts.
  • Written letters to The Universe.
  • Journaled
  • Planned big plans
  • Sat with a Jenga-esque pile of self help books threatening to smother my cat.
But I have also:
  • Sat around so depressed on my sofa when I could have been doing something (anything)
  • Made awkward first-impressions
  • Done preposterous things for money
  • Avoided meeting people altogether
  • Seriously burdened my manager and mother
  • Perfected my (suuuuper-special) knowledge of 90s crime shows on Netflix
  • Padded feebly from the bedroom to the fridge in The Bathrobe of Shame
  • Been overlooked for things I thought I was completely capable of doing
  • Stared at the black-hole that was my bank account
  • Totally (and I mean totally) blown auditions like the fourth of July
  • And silently cried when I couldn’t get an audition/ job/ date (and I really do mean that).

Essentially? I’ve been in Loserville myself. Even awesome lil' ol' me who you are asking for “insight.”

If you’ve done all this too but are still confused, single, overweight, feeling like you’re being a total weenie, here are 8 tips I have for the spiritually downtrodden. 


1. Eyes on the horizon.
I, like every other human has had upsets and taken steps backwards.
It happens. It is a part of life.

I do a little exercise with my students. In their warm-up, I have them identify and name their deepest “want” for that day/class/lifetime—whatever is most appropriate for them in that moment. They say it out-loud, they re-define it if it is not JUST right, they say it again.
Then we visualize a horizon—a landscape meaningful to them which could be anything from a mountain range, a sunset over a body of water, an open highway, or even a treacherous road or a spooky forest path.
We fill in all the details—sights, sounds, smells, temperature, down to the qualities of light. Then, right on the horizon line, I have them put their “want” in the center and walk toward it.
Every step they take, they are closer.
There it is—something concrete and tangible like the next job or relationship; to something entirely abstract like belonging, freedom, love, wisdom, or hope.
After a while, they can see that they “Want” is in the shape of a living creature, one with eyes and a soul, and that want is greeting them with happiness and expectation.
Soon, they are face-to-face with their Want, making eye contact and communicating with it silently.

Then I ask them to keep their eyes locked with the Want—and take two steps backwards.
Can you still see your want? I ask them.
They nod. Of course they can.

The lesson? Two fold:
First, your next "thing" is ahead of you—it could be in the next 5 minutes, tomorrow or in a year, but it IS ahead, and every step you take, and every day that passes you are getting closer to it.
Second, even when you feel that you have taken two steps backwards, if your eyes are still on the horizon, it is all progress. You are endowed with the ability to choose whether you take another step back, remain still, or walk forward, but as long as you remain focused, you can’t lose.


2. You have to scare yourself.

And no, not in the mirror after you’ve pulled a double shift. I mean really scare the crap out of yourself almost every day in your deep place.

Get quiet and ask: what are you ACTUALLY afraid of?
  • Rejection?
  • Failure?
  • Being scorned by your family?
  • Being misunderstood?
  • Laughed at?
  • Some jerk’s “I-told-you-so?”
Or…
  • Are you actually deeply afraid of success?
  • Of being the huge superstar you know you can be?
Make a list of your fears. Address them. Then face them. You’re not gonna make magic happen from the lace-lined-bassinet of your comfort zone.


3. Don’t try to change the unchangeable
Attempting to trying to change the unchangeable is a Sisyphean feat of wasted time and energy. Don't do that. There are things you can, and things you cannot change. Let’s go over those in detail, shall we?

You can change:
  • What you do
  • What you communicate to others
  • What you know
  • How you choose to think 
  • What you hope, dream, and aspire to. 

You cannot change:
  • The past
  • The facts (skin color, sexual preference, white blood cell count, and, unless you are a criminal, your social security number)
  • The laws of physics
  • The weather
  • The life and career path of any other person
  • Human nature (yours or others)
  • Personality traits (yours or others)
  • Another person's deeply-held beliefs or thoughts (unless they choose to change)
  • Who you are related to
  • Human needs (you should eat and sleep in a shelter with roof and door.)
  • Your level of innate talent (you can only improve what you innately possess)
  • Things, which, for whatever reason, you simply do not acknowledge.
Recognize and accept what you can and cannot change, and move forward with your life.



4. Success really is preparation meeting opportunity.
So, you have to put yourself in the sight of opportunity (meaning, you can’t staying your house binging on carbs and Breaking Bad… at least not every night...). That means networking, going out to career-related events, being informed about your industry, and knowing what you want so you can ask for it.

But crucially: You must be ready. All the time.

That means planning, skill-drilling, practice, fitness, readiness. For an artist, that looks like this:
  • Devouring plays, films books, media and anything related to your passions and skills
  • Practicing your art every day
  • Staying on top of emerging artists
  • Sight-reading (it is the first skill of an actor’s to get rusty—I read out loud every day)
  • Constantly working on new songs and monologues (you might not need that speech or song today, but you *could* need it to be #onfleek tomorrow). I recommend having at least 5-6 contrasting speeches, and 6-8 songs ready to go at performance standard at all times... Seriously.
  • Creating your own work and opportunities.
  •  Expand and improve your skills
  • Being informed about, ya know, the actual world...



5. The more you give the more you receive. 
Thank you Ghandi, Buddha, Jesus, Moses, Martin Luther King Jr., and, oh, PHYSICS.
It's science, really: Give more. Get more.

Pour every last scrap of your heart and soul into a large collection of living, breathing human beings/animals/plants (such as a gaggle of beautiful, life-enhancing students) and your heart and soul will be flooded right back—most likely with interest. That makes you better at everything, but especially the creative arts. 



6. Turn crumbs into a feast.
Man, we can be such jerks to ourselves! Have you ever had that mean-voiced ticker-tape loop in your head chanting on repeat that you have "never been in a relationship/made money/had success in your career?"
Snore.

Instead of making insulting decisions about yourself and your life, try asking yourself questions like these:

Dude. Is this absolutely true? Have I never booked a gig/ been in a relationship/ made money? EEEEEVER?

We’re so quick to decide that if we haven’t totally nailed it standing-ovation-style, that we suck.
Dig deep, look for where you have had success, no matter how teeny-weeny, and build upon it.
You decide what’s true for you, so if you aren’t staring at a reality that lights you up, change your perception, and change your life.
Sometimes, we have to turn what we perceive of as “crumbs” into a feast.
That's okay—it teaches us to be both innovative and optimistic.


7. The path to success is curved.
You will probably never be able to predict the exact path of your life. Why? Because life is unpredictable.

Also curved? Your BFA might not be a part of a linear success story from 5th-grade talent show winner to Tevye in High School, to Julliard, to glittering stardom.

It might be that your BFA is on the scenic route to your true destiny as an empathetic and world-rocking politician (like my beloved childhood boyfriend Justin Flagg who is kicking ass and taking names), or as a invaluable tigress for one of the world’s biggest consultancies (like my friend Jessica who is the moving to India to kick ass with her dashing diplomat husband). Or Vera Wang who changed her path from figure skater to world-class designer at 49. 

Who knows what your true calling is? It might not even be an idea you've had yet. So be patient and give yourself a chance to have it. 


8. Trust your struggle.
Your BFA in Whatever might not mean you are destined for Sutton-Foster-level validation.

Look at the unconventional artistic success stories like that of the glorious Billy Porter, Octavia Spencer, Samuel L Jackson and my one and only idol Angela Lansbury. These are great actors and people no one knew of until later in their lives.

After Carnegie Mellon, Billy spent years (years) making art, writing, teaching, and being generally misunderstood by the industry, rejected over and over again, and then one day? Boom. Kinky Boots. Tony, Grammy, stardom. Octavia Spencer was told she was weird-looking and “not for Hollywood.” Suck it haters: she now has an Oscar. Samuel L. Jackson recovered from a crippling addiction to cocaine and heroin before landing Pulp Fiction at 46. And even though Angela Lansbury was nominated for an Oscar at 18, a Goldwyn girl, a movie and gigantic Broadway star, she wasn’t a complete and utter household name until she starred on Murder, She Wrote which she began at the age of 60.

Not to mention Ariana Huffington starting The Huffington Post at age 54.
Or Charles Darwin, who was 50 years old before he published On the Origin of the Species in 1859.
Or Julia Child who published her first cookbook at 39; and made her television debut at age 51.

Repeat after me: Trust your struggle.

It is all part of the story, and it refines, defines, and ultimately: makes you better.



03 July, 2015

Thirty-Two

Thirty-two is...
  • the atomic number of germanium
  • the number of teams in the National Football League.
  • the number of completed, numbered piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven
  • the freezing point of water at sea level in degrees Fahrenheit
  • the code for international direct dial phone calls to Belgium
    the number of teeth of a full set of teeth in an adult human, including wisdom teeth
And...
  • the total number of black squares, white squares, and the total number of pieces (black and white) at the beginning of the game of Chess.
  • the number of pages in the average comic book (not including the cover)
  • the Saros number of the lunar eclipse series (which began on June 11, 1691 BC and ended on August 9, 375 BC). The duration contained 74 lunar eclipses.
  • the ball used in association football is typically made with 32 panels of leather or synthetic material.
Also...
  • The Hindu scripture Mudgala Purana also describes Ganesha as taking 32 forms.
  • In the Kabbalah, there are 32 Kabbalistic Paths of Wisdom.
  • 32 = 11 + 22 + 33 
  • One billion seconds is about 32 years...

*

So.
Being "one billion seconds" old,
having acquired one billion seconds of wisdom, learning,
and had one billions seconds of human experience, here I am.

I won't lie to you, reader. Thirty-one was a heckuva year. One filled to the brim with gratitude. One utterly overflowing with some of the most incredible professional, personal and artistic highs.
Highlights:

Kiss Me, Kate at Royal Albert Hall
Being nominated for, and singing at, The Grammy Awards with my beloved Cheyenne.
'I Am Harvey Milk' at Disney Hall with "sister" Andrew Lippa

falling madly, passionately in love with my highest calling: teaching. 
making my professional debut as a produced playwright.
playing my dream role, Eliza Doolittle
But, thirty-one also presented some of the most concerning lows in my adult life thus far. And while nothing can compare to the roaring tangle of grief, or the crack of life-altering heartbreak, this year I faced a new stratum of personal extremity: my own health was tested. Oof.

Me. And a pile of sexy sexy medicine.
When your own existence is challenged, you are presented with real some very real questions:
  • What am I truly doing with this life I have been given?
  • Am I living it, or merely existing?
and, to be frank, the ultimate question:
  • ...Do I truly want to be here...?
This is not melodrama, I present these questions with the stark austerity with which they came to me. And while I know that appearances may have presented a glittering year of such exhilarating honors  to the outside world, within, things were in a quiet, invisible crisis.

Luckily, I discovered a hidden well—shadowed, tucked away so deeply in the folds on consciousness I had not yet heard its echo. That well contained a life-force—a serum so potent, it transformed every fibril within me.

I did want to be here.
Very much.

My favorite Psalm (spooookily, Psalm 32) says:
When I kept silent,
    my bones wasted away
       through my groaning all day long...
What I take from this is that "silence" of all kind, is spiritually expensive. I can no longer silence the full spectrum of who I am, or I will, in every day, cease to truly exist. So that meant re-framing my idea of (all-encompassing) health beginning at the cellular level, and that, dear readers, I have endeavored to do with the help of great (super strict!) doctors, teachers, healers, the care of loving friends, and especially the super-human 'Mama Silbs.' I am better than ever.

And, dear reader, though I cannot tell you yet, I have recently received a birthday gift beyond my wildest dreams. I will be able to celebrate good ol' thirty-two in a manner beyond imagining.

So. Here is what I learned long the way:

Trust your struggle.

It is all merely a part of the Great story.






24 June, 2015

Eros and Psyche

I am unspeakably proud to present a film version of the 'Eros and Psyche' theatre-piece our 12:15 Acting created as part of Pace School of Performing Arts first-year final Greek presentations at Pace University.

Starring Kevin Csolak and Bethany Tesarck, this classic tale is probably one of the most beautiful Greek myths.

Psyche was a woman gifted with extreme beauty and grace, one of the mortal women whose love and sacrifice for her beloved immortal husband Eros earned her immortality (as Greek word “psyche” implies, the deity of soul). Psyche symbolizes a self-search and personal growth through adversity, passion, loss, and pursuit of true love.

Enjoy the extraordinary efforts of my dedicated and passionate first-year students. They fill my heart and soul with every possible joy.

22 June, 2015

Playbill's 'Loverly' Time at The Muny

The Muny production of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s Tony-winning musical My Fair Lady, which launched the summer 97th season at the St. Louis venue, was presented June 15-21. Leading lady Alexandra Silber (Master Class, Hello Again, Arlington) offers an exclusive look behind the scenes!

Check out the Playbill feature here.

The cast was led by Anthony Andrews as Henry Higgins, a role he played in a 2001 London production; Alexandra Silber, who appeared on Broadway in Master Class, as Eliza Doolittle; Paxton Whitehead as Colonel Pickering, a role he played in the 1993 Broadway revival; Michael McCormick, a Broadway regular in Curtains and other shows, as Alfred P. Doolittle; and Matthew Scott (Freddy Eynsford-Hill).

Directed by Marc Bruni, the limited engagement was choreographed by Chris Bailey and music-directed by Ben Whiteley. 

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