Part II: Andrew Mayer of Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

andrew mayer playbill.jpegAndrew Mayer (Monica Simoes) via Playbill

“There’s always a reason not to do something. So you can either listen to that, or get off your butt and work. Do things. How does somebody get better at something? You get better by doing it.”

BEHIND THE SCENES: ANDREW’S BACKGROUND & EARLY LIFE
When did you first know you wanted to be an actor?
“You know, that’s a toughie. Before I went to college I had my Equity Card. I did a few Off-Broadway professional shows as a kid. Something about connecting to other people and, as I eventually learned, the messiness of it, is what I like. I liked making people laugh and smile. There was nothing profound about it. I had a good energy as a child, and I liked singing, and I wasn’t shy. That translated to, ‘Let’s put him on the stage!’ Little by little, I became fascinated by stories and reading. I’m a big movie guy. I think it came from watching movies at a young age, and performing when I was really young.”

When did you start playing violin?
“When I was two years old, my grandparents gave me a toy violin, and I didn’t want to put it down. My parents recognized that and put me in pre-school Music Ed. When I was five, I started private lessons. I actually distanced myself from it when I went to college. I auditioned for both violin conservatories and acting conservatories simultaneously. It ended up being acting that I wanted to do. I went to Boston University, it was great.”

It seems like this show merges your skills perfectly.
“This show requires you to be simultaneously theatrical and large, at the same time very real and intimate. It’s cool.”

What advice would you give to your younger self, just starting out in the city?
“The first audition that comes to mind was during the summer of 2011. I went in for Merri Sugarman for JERSEY BOYS. She vocalized me, it went well. I was flipping out about that. Nothing came of it, but two and a half years later she randomly calls me in off of file to come in for Frankie. She still had my headshot from when I first got here. I didn’t get it again, but I learned that people actually do put you on file. I felt like there was a need for immediacy. People actually do think about you later on down the road. It’s important to be consistent about being present in the audition scene. That doesn’t mean go to every single call, but I think it’s important to be excited about auditioning. It can’t be a drag. It’s so hard already that you need to be excited about it, or you’ll burn out. Don’t throw away auditions. It’s important to be prepared and be professional. People do put on you on file.”

What is it like working with the creatives on this show? How has working with these people – Rachel Chavkin (director), Sam Pinkleton (choreographer) – changed you as an actor?
“I think it’s important to recognize that nobody has the answer, including the director and the choreographer. Everyone is figuring it out. The more positive impulses you can bring to a room, the more of an asset you will be. It’s an exploration, a navigation. We were building this show in a new way for a much larger space. The choreography changed even during previews, blocking changed. Because we’re all experimenting. The only way you can understand what you’re getting is if people are fully committed to the experiment. Not judging the process. What I like about Rachel and Sam – they like to work with impulse. They like to work off an actors’ impulse. It comes from us committing to it. Some of the numbers look almost like chaos, but it’s actually consistent chaos. If you come one night, and then again the next night, you’ll see something you didn’t see the night before. Playing with impulse, playing with what individuals can do came from this team effort. It was super collaborative. Some might label them geniuses, but we’re all looking for the answers – so we need to support that process and commit to it.”

How did you find out that you were cast in the show?
“I had been doing other auditions for other projects for a few months prior, and then all of a sudden I get a call to audition for this. They come last second, so I said, ‘Sure, I’ll go in.‘ I had three calls. After, I was in Texas for two days. It was my grandfather’s ninetieth birthday, and a bunch of my family was down there. The second day I’m there, everyone is nursing their hangover from the party the night before. At noon or one, I get a call from my agent. He says, “Hey Andrew, how would you like to make your Broadway debut at the Imperial Theater in The Great Comet on Broadway? I hung up the phone and was trying to process what just happened. I didn’t expect to hear that fast, if at all. I move on, move to the next thing. So, I walked down the stairs and I said, “I just got cast in my first Broadway show.” My parents were there, my grandfather, my uncle, a bunch of my family. My mom starts screaming. They were all still nursing their hangovers but they had to bring out more alcohol to celebrate. Popped champagne. You have to understand, I hadn’t seen some of these people in fifteen years. I haven’t been down to Texas in ten years.”

That’s a lifelong memory for all you guys. You need to declare that day a holiday.
“The day after Memorial Day. They were like, ‘You need to come back to San Antonio all the time.‘”

What techniques/remedies do you use when under the weather?
“A lot of my castmates like oil of oregano. I like fire cider. It’s just apple cider vinegar. I’ll take a shot of that. I like to make sure I’m taking Vitamin C, B12, Zinc. I’m taking Immunocore, Fish Oil, B12, Zinc every morning. I’ve been healthy so far. People in the cast have been sick, but I’ve managed to avoid it.”

MOVIES EVERY ACTOR SHOULD SEE
Batman, obviously. Star Wars. Honestly, some old black and white films – On the Waterfront, any of the Marlon Brando films. He is fantastic. A Streetcar Named Desire. There’s no frills. It’s really just performance. They didn’t have the technology yet. Basic camera movement. Being transported to another place by watching someone’s eyes.”

“YOU NEED TO BE DOING THINGS. YOU CAN’T BE THINKING ABOUT DOING THINGS.”
I think it’s easy to feel discouraged when it seems hard to break in and make a start for yourself.  How have you created opportunities for yourself?
“You do it by creating. As facetious as it sounds, you need to be doing things. You can’t be thinking about doing things. Or sitting there on your butt in your room, annoyed that you haven’t done anything.”

HOW HIS SIDE GIG IN A WEDDING BAND & HAS HELPED HIM AS A PERFORMER
“For me, I was in a wedding band –  the events allowed me to consistently perform in front of people I’d never met before, with no rehearsal. Just get up there and do it, and find a way to connect with them. I learned to not be afraid of that, to not be afraid of messing up. Now, when I walk into an audition room, it’s only one guy, not one hundred. People want you there. I only got better at that because I didn’t have time to prepare for some of this stuff. For this show [The Great Comet] , I didn’t get my sides until I was on the subway to the audition. I literally said, “Fuck it.” You have to be able to do that. Walk in the room, do it, mess up gloriously. They are looking for you, not for perfection. It’s not a test. I think that really is the number one thing. It seems like obvious advice, but to put it into practice is the difficult thing. I always telling the wedding band I’m super thankful. They’ve developed me as a performer as much as any conservatory program could, or more.”

ON OVERCOMING FEAR AND STEPPING INTO THE CREATIVE ARENA
“A lot of fear comes from not impressing, or messing up, or not being prepared. If you can do away with all that –  it doesn’t matter when you mess up. Just start. I’m in the process right now of finishing an action short because I haven’t been doing much fight work. My roommate shot something in an apartment with another friend of mine. We shot a two minute fight in his apartment. Now, it’s material for the web and it’s something I got to do to keep my feet wet, keep my chops ready. You have to create in order to be fulfilled, I think. There’s always a reason not to do something. So you can either listen to that, or get off your butt and work. Do things. How does somebody get better at something? You get better by doing it.”

“That said, it’s important to know when to step back. Not overdoing it. There’s a balance to be found. But, don’t use the “not overdoing it” as an excuse for laziness. It’s a balance. Everyone says it like it’s so easy. I’m a terrible example of that. I’ve had ideas, and I’ve never gotten to them. But, I stay involved in other people’s projects. Don’t be a hero. You get better at what you do. The more you do something, the less frightening it becomes. No one expects you to be perfect. You’ll get it when you have time to prepare. It’s about being present, and not perfect.”

MESSING UP IN FRONT OF FRANK WILDHORN
“This reminds me of a story I have about a new Wildhorn project I auditioned for. I was told the night before, “Can you come in and prepare a Wildhorn song?” I didn’t know any of his work. I was like, “Ok, crap, let me try to learn something.” I’m trying to get the words under my belt, and they said, “Don’t worry, Frank Wildhorn is not going to be there.” I was like, “Ok, if I mess up words a little, it’s no big deal.” Of course, the next day I get to the audition room and they have the sheet typed up with who’s in the room. All these names, the director, who I was told would be there. Then, handwritten in scrawl is, “plus Frank Wildhorn.” The guy showed up. I was going to mess up the lyrics, possibly the melodies to his song. I was like, “You know what? This is a test.” It was a test of not being perfect in the face of someone who you think you have to be perfect for. I walked in the room and he was in there, front and center. Running the show. Dallas Cowboys hat on. Neutral, not unfriendly. I started the song, I did it, I messed up some of the lyrics, but stayed with it and figured out what I was doing, and moved through it. I got to the end, stayed present, and realized afterwards that I’d messed up the lyrics. Frank looks at me and he says, “That was fantastic. Great. That’s how that song is supposed to be sung.” Not a word about the missed lyrics. My advice to my younger self? Don’t worry about being perfect, worry about being present. Be prepared, be present, don’t be perfect.”

“PREPARE SO YOU CAN BE PRESENT.”
“That’s not an excuse for laziness or unpreparedness. Prepare so you can be present. The perfection aspect is an opinion, it’s totally subjective. This story was a clinic on that. The composer himself is sitting there when I screwed up his lyrics, but didn’t give a shit. Needless to say, I still didn’t get the project. I got called in three, four times, maybe made some good connections, I don’t know. The lasting impression though, is about being present and operating from that space rather than operating from a fear of imperfection.”

One thing I liked about college is that I got to perform a lot in the shows, but sometimes I think we only get better by performing, and the theory can be superfluous. What are your thoughts on studying the craft of acting?
“I like to break it down this way. You go to school, you read books, do classes, exercises, to learn about yourself, and to be able to connect with others. But really, what is Meisner, Stanislavski, Grotwoski, voice training for? These are all tools. You are building a toolkit. If you can unscrew it with your own hand, and you don’t need to reach for the toolbox, then don’t reach for the toolbox. The tools are all there, and they’re all very necessary and you will need to use them at certain points. If I don’t connect with a character, I use a tool to find out what I am doing. I use a tool to analyze text; to connect with my partner. But if I naturally connect with a piece and a character, I can fine-tune it with the tools, but I don’t want to fix what’s not broken. I think it’s very important to know how to use these things when you do need to use them. It’s also important to not overdo it. Allow yourself to be free and present with your own instrument, and use tools when your hand is not enough to unscrew the bolt.”

ON THE DISCIPLINE OF PRACTICING & DEVELOPING A NEW SKILL
“They say it takes 10,000 hours to master something (Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell). I believe that. There’s something to be said for hard work. Deliberate practice over and over, everyday. At some points I’ve had a lot of projects going on where my mind needs to be in many different gears at once. It’s hard to stay present in each of those places. I’ve learned it’s far better to do twenty minutes of focused practice than it is to do two hours of unfocused practice. So if I’ve only got twenty minutes, that’s fine actually. You can get as much done in that span of time as you can get in six hours of crappy work. With any skill, it’s not about the amount of time, it’s about the quality of the time. Dance, coordination, instruments, whatever it may be. If it’s only twenty minutes, give those the true mental worth. Don’t force yourself to practice for two hours if your’e just gonna sit there with your thumb up your ass.”

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Part I: Andrew Mayer of Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

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“It’s a part of my track when I warm up. I have my track onstage, but I also have blocking offstage where I know, ‘OK, this is the point in time where I warm up.’ If I don’t adequately get my body ready, I could injure myself.”

We caught up with Andrew Mayer, ensemble member in the trailblazing new musical Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. I met with Andrew at Corso Coffee, just across from The Imperial Theatre on West 45th Street, where Andrew was about to begin another eight-show week. We dive into his pre-show routines, what he has learned working on this show, lessons on mindset, and much more. I’ve broken down this interview into two parts – check out Part II here.  Enjoy!

 How do you find the energy to sustain eight shows a week? Particularly in this high-energy, demanding show?
“This show is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. It’s genuinely hard on the body and the voice. When I was learning the track, I was learning what I had to do while playing, and singing, in addition to moving, in addition to climbing about 300 stairs a show. You put all these different skill-sets together. I had to learn to sing while playing different notes from each other, harmonizing with myself, and in different rhythms sometimes. When I play, in my head I hear the pitch, and then it translates to my fingers. Now, I hear a pitch and I play it, but I have to sing another pitch. It burned a new neural-pathway in my brain to be able to do this.

Today is the first of our eight show week. So, today is a longer pre-show routine. Longer warming my hand up, and my body, because each day it gets easier in some ways and harder in other ways. On the front end, I’m waking my brain back up to what this is. On the back end, I’m more interested in cooling my body down. I might be hurting by the end of the week, whereas now I feel good.”

BREAKING DOWN ANDREW’S PRE-SHOW ROUTINE
“I’ll usually warm up at home vocally. Depending on how my voice is feeling and what happened the day or night before, I need to adjust accordingly. Then, I’ll get to the theater no later than forty-five minutes before. Even though my call is half-hour, I’m usually there 45-minutes to one hour before. I need to bring my mind into the space. There are so many moving pieces, physically and mentally, that I need to go through the steps. I warm up my violin, the instrument itself, and I warm up my hand. I play scales, similar to what you do with a vocal warm-up, but just with the violin. I tune it. Then, I stretch a little bit physically. I don’t do anything too intense at at the top of show. I save the more intense stretching and rolling out for after intermission. The biggest production number, as far as how taxing it is on the body – I have a song and a half to warm up right before it. I have a very specific eight to ten minutes where I don’t even go to my dressing room. I’m in costume, and I go straight to the warm-up area to roll out or stretch (dynamic stretching, not static stretching) and almost sweat before I get out onstage. Then, my body is primed for the intense physical activity, the shock it’s about to go through. It’s a part of my track when I warm up. I have my track onstage, but I also have blocking offstage where I know, ‘OK, this is the point in time where I warm up.’ If I don’t adequately get my body ready, I could injure myself. People have and they HAVE warmed up, so I want to be as preventative as possible.”

ROUTINE FOR TWO-SHOW DAYS
“During a two show day, I’ll do that whole routine once. In between shows, maybe I’ll nap. I’ll definitely eat. I don’t like to eat too close to curtain. I’ll usually be hungry in Act Two, honestly. I’ve moving so much that I stick with protein. Protein bars and coffee. Coffee is life. Not for everybody, but for me. I try to not drink it when I don’t have to do a show, so it really works when I do have a show.
I’ll nap, I’ll eat. Sometimes I have PT or something. The second show, I don’t do as intense a warm-up, because I don’t want to overdo it. Some basic tuning. I do a half version of the full warmup for the second show.”

ON BALANCING WORK AND LIFE IN NEW YORK CITY
“I’m still figuring that out. Eight shows a week, I’ve done before. For the amount of time that I anticipate I will be doing this, I’ve never done it that long. The body acclimates. I’m more primed, in less pain, and better cardio now than I was in tech. It’s easier on my body to do the show, but I can’t take that for granted. On a Tuesday night, I know I have a two show day the next day, so I’m not going out too much. Sleep. Sleep is one of the biggest things for me. Personally, I’d rather sleep than almost eat in some ways. My voice responds to sleep. My body responds and heals. I need those eight hours.

Sometimes in the morning I’ll wake up – I was talking about this with my cast-mate Gelsey Bell – I got to the theater and I didn’t feel quite up to it yet. She was like, ‘When did you wake up?’ And I actually woke up too late that day. She does this thing where she needs to be up for three hours before her voice is ready to be active. I think that’s a cool way of thinking about it. Very often I do find it’s 2pm and I feel better than I did at 11am. So, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. Not screaming, not drinking too much, if anything. You find what works for you and you have to be responsible. At the end of the day, this is a job, so you have to maintain that.”

ON THE LINK BETWEEN ATHLETICS AND PERFORMING

“This is an athletic event, what we do here. I’m really competitive. Maybe unhealthily competitive, sometimes. I played sports in high school. I played some baseball, I always played soccer. I loved gym class. Actually, as I got out of high school and into college, my interest in athletics, working out, and fitness really took off. There’s so many different limitations that exist that we are not in control of in this industry, and the world. There are things we have no say over. Something I do know I have a say over is my own body, my own physical health. I don’t want my body to stand in the way of being able to do something as difficult as this, so I train to make sure that I’m physically capable of doing it. I’m in control of my fitness levels. It would be a shame to not be able to do something because of something you can control.”

I love the way you put that. As you said, so much is out of our control – related to that – when you were starting out, how did you detach from results and not take rejection personally? Keeping a sense of optimism and enthusiasm when so often told “no”?
“This changes from day to day, especially when I was auditioning. No one is constantly peppy and if they are, they’re lying. It’s ups and downs. Going in the room and doing the work. I made a transition. At one point, I was going in the room trying to impress people or trying to get a job, or give them what they wanted. In a way, you always need that in your head, because you have to read the breakdown and choose your material appropriately. But after you do that little bit of homework, you have to think you are the answer to their problem. You are potentially the person they are looking for. You are in a position of power, and the key is to not lose sight of what power you do have as a performer. Also, it’s important to go in the room and do the work. Live in what you’ve chosen to do. If you’re so busy thinking about other things, and you get caught up in your own head with, “Does he like me? Does he not like me?” Sometimes just performing the piece gave me the immediate satisfaction of keeping it about what I did in the room, and not about whether they wanted me for the piece or not. Of course I want to book things, but that audition is still process of learning how to be more present.”

That’s something I’m still working on all the time. That’s a good reminder. If you’re here now, then why be stressed?
“You can be stressed, but if you are, you’re thinking about something else. In the room, keep it about the work. I like to imagine stress doesn’t exist. Stress is something that is created by either thinking about something in the future, or thinking about something in the past. You’re stressed about something in either direction. But, how can I be stressed when I’m right here with you now, talking? I don’t think that’s possible. I’m here with you. Also, it’s business. It really is sometimes. It hurts, don’t get me wrong. It hurts every time, especially when you’re five callbacks in. But, it’s a progression. You were five callbacks in, not because you were bad. You’re at that that point because you’re doing a really good job, but there’s other things in play. Control what you can and the rest is…keep your head down and keep trucking.”

In Part II, we cover:

  • How Andrew found out he got cast in The Great Comet
  • What advice Andrew would give to his younger self
  • Overcoming fear and perfectionism
  • Creating opportunities for yourself
  • The discipline of practicing and developing a new skill

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In Conversation with Bobby Cronin

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The Broadway Warm-Up sits down with Bobby Cronin, an NYC based award-winning composer/writer. We cover a lot of ground in our conversation. Bobby was extremely generous with his time and insights, and I am so excited to share this podcast with you.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST WITH BOBBY CRONIN HERE

In this interview, we cover topics such as:
* Bobby’s background, early influences and mentors
* Bobby’s creative process and the craft of writing
* The relationship between directing, writing and acting
* Bobby’s advice for actors
* Selflessness, resilience and positivity
* Manifesting dreams

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS
On his background & early music influences
You know, I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin from one brother, and Neil Diamond from another, and Fleetwood Mac and Pat Benatar from my sisters; all these different styles going on, but I’d never heard theater music. When I finally did, I remember asking my Mom, “What is that?” She said, “It’s from what’s called a musical. A musical is when they use songs to tell a story. Like a movie, but with singing.” And I was like, “I love this.” Fast forward to the performance. I was in the back of the theater, I was sitting right next to the spotlight. It was in the gym of the school. The lights went down, the spotlight came on, and I swear it was as if something inside of me woke up. I saw the curtain open, and the light hit, and like I was in a dream, I walked from the back all the way to the front. I remember saying to my Mom, “I want to do that. I want to be a part of that.”

On catching the bug & inspiration from MT writers
My high school drama teacher Frank Roberts started introducing me to different musicals in class. He would show PIPPIN. I remember SWEENEY TODD and thinking, “This is incredible.” I actually went to college for hockey, so trying to do both was really difficult, but I was able to do it. Once I started really learning musicals, I became so inspired by Stephen Schwartz, I became very inspired by Jerry Herman. He was able to do something that a lot of writers don’t, which is this incredible melodic hook that would keep coming back. With any Jerry Herman song, you could sing the title. I love Sondheim – I love, lyrically, Sondheim. I would leave a Sondheim show unable to sing you a thing, however I was so moved – it’s so smart, so different. So I would say in theater, Schwartz, Menken, Jerry Herman…but my real influences are QUEEN, Elton John, Billy Joel.

What excites Bobby about writing in 2016, and on the flip side, what are the challenges?
When I first started out, I was a director. I did national tours, I had my own production company here – I was directing on a project with Stephen Schwartz’s music. Stephen said, “Bobby, you’re a writer. Why aren’t you writing?” He really pushed me to find my voice and to use it. I switched careers in my early thirties, which was scary, but exciting. Once I knew what I really wanted to do, which was to write, the audiences were looking for a challenge. They wanted to hear something they hadn’t heard before. Because of cable, ShowTime, HBO, Netflix – people want unconventional stories. They want something that’s going to challenge them, surprise them. That’s my favorite part of writing now. It gets to be, “What’s the strongest way to tell this moment? What’s gonna challenge people?

On watching his work being performed
“I feel like I have three modes – there’s writing mode, there’s rehearsal mode, then there’s performance mode. I love the first two.  My first big production in London, I will never forget opening night. There was a joke coming – I knew it was filthy. I didn’t know if the Brits would laugh. Right before the joke came, I was close to fainting. I was seeing stars. Then the audience burst into laughing and I was like, “Thank God. Thank God.” For that project specifically, certain notes were really rough – it’s a super contemporary, pop driven score. I was always thinking, “Is the actor gonna hit it?” They never missed. Not once. My thing is – I always go to see my projects once. That’s it. I know I have to get better at that, but it’s just so stressful for me.

Part of it goes back to what I was saying earlier – writing for me has always been so private. To share it with hundreds of people at a time, it’s scary for me. I’m sure it’s what an actor feels like. I’m literally putting who I am in front of thousands of people.”

What Bobby looks for in the actors he collaborates with
My favorite type of actor is someone that comes in with choices. Someone that’s bold and brave. Fearless. Nuanced. They’ve done homework. Even if I just give them a song and we’re working on the fly – someone who will ask questions. If I hire an actor for a project, and something that I wrote is not in their range, I will change the key. I look for someone that will embody a character. Someone that will understand every single word and every single note. Why is this word stressed? Why is this word held over the bar line? Things like that. That, to me, is a very smart, detailed actor, and that’s what I love.

On what makes a great audition
Be yourself. Remember, it’s your audition. It’s not my audition, it’s YOURS. From behind the table, we are praying that every person who comes in will be the one we are looking for. That makes our jobs so much easier. As a writer, part of my decision making process is – Do I want to spend six weeks with this person? Do I trust that this person will be passionate about the project? Easy to work with? 

Look at every famous musical theater person. Do any one of them have a “beautiful” voice? Patti LuPone. Bernadette Peters. Mandy Patinkin. These are all unique, but so story-based voices. They make us feel something. It is so passionate. The story is getting told. Carol Channing. As she got older, she could hardly carry a tune, but there is something about her. And that’s what we’re looking for.

On the best advice he ever received
The best advice that I got would be from three people, and they all said the same thing. They would be Stephen Schwartz, Hal Prince and Alan Menken. They all asked me the following question: “What do you want?” I had never really envisioned anything. So, I really couldn’t answer it. It took a lot of self-exploration. I made a vision board. Who do I want to be? What footprint do I want to leave in this world? That’s what helped me transition out of directing and into writing – If this is a secret passion of mine, why am I keeping it secret? These pieces of advice were five years apart, by the way, but always the same question.

Thanks for stopping by!
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BOBBY’S BIO
An award-winning composer/writer rep’d by Sarah Douglas (Abrams Artists) & James Beresford (Shepherd Management, UK), Bobby’s projects include:  The Cover which is being developed for Glee’s Ali Stroker,  had a lab presentation at West Texas A&M 2015 and made the short list for the New American Musical Theatre Prize, with bookwriter Crystal Skillman, also chosen for 54 Below’s Development Series; Mary & Max [based on the claymotion film of the same name] with Crystal Skillman, Honumculus Mask Theatre, AchesonWalsh Puppetry Studios, and director Stafford Arima; ‘Til Death Do Us Part (2016 Overtures Series directed by Kent Nicholson; 2012 Alec Baldwin Fellowship Winner, UK’s S&S Award Finalist) with bookwriter Caroline Prugh; Sunset City with bookwriter Wade Dooley (2013 Running Deer Theatre Lab, 2014 Goodspeed Mercer Project, 2014 the Pitch, 2015 The York Theatre, NYC);Welcome To My Life (W2ML); Alone in the U.S. with Terry Berliner, which was commissioned by CAP21 and performed at Penn State, CAP21, NYFA, Marymount Manhattan College (Best Production winner) and was produced at the University of Cumbria under the title Alone in the UK; The Concrete Jungle, commissioned in 2011 for London’s esteemed ArtsEd (President: Andrew Lloyd Webber) opened in London June 2012; Daybreak (winner of the 2011 New Jersey Playwrights Contest) premiered in Wayne, NJ & London’s Tristan Bates Theatre June 2012. Bobby composed the scores and songs for several musical films, which have been in and won festivals all over the country, for NYFA, where is also on faculty teaching pop/rock performance and history, audition technique, business, and performance lab. He was part of the 2015 Prospect Theatre Company’s Off-Broadway show Fright Night where his 15-minute musical My Boyfriend Is An Alien written with Christine Toy Johnson premiered. His music is featured in the new webseries Settling Up and won “Best Score of a Mockumentary” for the webseries Thank You, Next and Best Music/Lyrics for Ten Reasons I Won’t Go Home With You in 2010’s MITF. Bobby was one of the NEO Writers for the York Theatre Company’s 2014-2015 season with Stephen Flaherty as his mentor. He was commissioned to write a pop song for the 2013 winner of Italy’s televised singing competition Lo Canto. Other: 54 Below, Lincoln Center Songbook Series, Birdland, Symphony Space, London’s The Players Theatre & St. James Theatre, etc. “Reach The Sky: Live” & “The Concrete Jungle International Studio Cast Recording” available on iTunes featuring theatre stars Caissie Levy, Kate Shindle, Jared Gertner, Rebecca Trehearn, & Alex Gaumond. Bobby has taught Master Classes around the world for musical theatre actors on song interpretation, audition technique, and his specialty, the ever-popular pop/rock genre. He’s a Yale graduate where he won the Michael P. Manzella Award for excellence in Arts, Scholastics and Character. Member of ASCAP, Dramatists Guild. @bobbycronin IG: croninbobby SC: rojocro
 www.bobbycronin.com

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The feast is over, but the party’s just beginning. Wanna nail your next audition? Level up your game?  Take steps in the direction of your dreams? Shop The Broadway Warm-Up to do just that. AND, because it’s Cyber Monday, you’ll get to take 40% off – it’ll be our little secret.

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**ALL DIGITAL DOWNLOADS 40% OFF TODAY**
Enter code CYBERWARM at checkout.

Tutorial for The Broadway Warm-Up: Step by Step Note by Note
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MEN’S EDITION
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The Complete Edition of the DVD includes:
— STEP BY STEP NOTE BY NOTE
— WOMEN’S EDITION
— WOMEN’S EDITION WITH CUEING TRACK
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— MEN’S EDITION WITH CUEING TRACK

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DON’T MISS OUT! CYBER MONDAY is the time to nab The Broadway Warm-Up DVD. Go on, treat yourself – or someone else (it is the holidays after all!). #BeWarm

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B
e Warm,
Johnny

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January 30-Day Challenge

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Start the new year the right way with The BW 30/30/30 Challenge for the month of January.

“As an active musical theatre and artist and educator, I signed up for the BWU thirty day challenge thinking that it couldn’t hurt to commit to something that gets me singing and moving every day. About 4 days in, I noticed that my attention to my body, diet, and mental health improved. I amped up my other activity and made a conscious effort to eat healthier. It made such a tremendous impact on my mental health that I am going to do it again. The care that went into crafting a warm up that invites you to maintain your body and mind as a performer is evident in every second of The Broadway Warm Up.”
– Megan McQueen, participant in the September challenge.

DON’T MISS OUT!  

The Broadway Warm-Up 30 Day Challenge!
(BW 30/30/30 )
The Broadway Warm-Up 30 Day Challenge was such a hit in September we’re bringing it back on 11/1/2016!  A great way to stay motivated, be part of a community of like minded professionals and bring your “A” game to this audition season!

WHAT IS IT?
30 minutes for 30 days for $30! Taking the 30/30/30 Challenge means you will commit to making The Broadway Warm-Up a part of your ritual for 30 days in a row. You’ll be part of an exclusive online community and receive additional training/tips and encouragement from Broadway Warm-Up team members along with your fellow participants. Challenge yourself and see what a difference 30 minutes a day can make in your auditions, performances, strength, flexibility, health and confidence overall!

WHAT DO YOU GET? 

  • 30 day access to The Broadway Warm-Up Complete Version – Including Step-by-Step Note By Note Tutorial, 30 minute run throughs for both Men and Women with and without a guiding track. 
  • UNLIMITED ACCESS to The Broadway Warm-Up’s PRIVATE Facebook Community to share extra pointers, inspiration, tools and Direct Feedback from BW creators and certified instructors.
  • 4 FREE ADDITIONAL training videos including:  Breathing 101, Dance Terminology, Positions and Alignment, Intro To Meditation, Fitness and Nutrition Basics
  • Weekly LIVE On-Line Classes through ZOOM where you will interact and work with fellow challenge participants. If you are unable to attend the class at it’s scheduled time you will also have access to video archives to replay anytime.
***BONUS***
When you post to The Broadway Warm-Up’s Private Facebook page every day of the challenge, you will automatically get LIFETIME ACCESS to The Broadway Warm-Up Digital Download for FREE!
I’M IN! WHEN DOES IT START?
To participate in the BW 30/30/30 you must register no later than 1/1/2017.  The 30 day challenge will run from 1/1/2017-1/31/2017.
Time is running out to get in on the January challenge. We already have a solid community of high-performing individuals who want to level up and lead, and we would love to add a few more in these final days. Spread the word and don’t miss out on this opportunity to reach your highest potential.

BWALPHA
B
e Warm,
Johnny

www.broadwaywarmup.com

In Conversation with Sam Carner: Part II

Part I of The Broadway Warmup‘s conversation with writer and lyricist Sam Carner covered topics from Sam’s early days to navigating the art of collaboration with composer Derek Gregor, to the craft of lyric writing and more.
sam-carnerIn Part II, we discuss:
* The qualities of the actors Sam wants to work with
* Writing theater for young audiences
* Favorite books, authors
* The role of inspiration in creativity
* “New Musical Theatre” v. Traditional Musical Theatre
Enjoy!

What do you look for in the actors you collaborate with?
I look for the appearance of fearlessness. People who don’t seem concerned with how they look. One thing Danielle Wade said that I loved was, “I can’t be afraid to be ugly.” I think that is really important. I don’t think any of us can be afraid to be ugly. That kind of total commitment to being in the moment is something I always look for in performers. I look for emotional and vocal agility – being able to have a turn on a beat, you know, ideally emotional depth to play two different emotions at once. Willingness to look “bad” or be unembarrassed by doing something that might be embarrassing. A likability onstage. Who do I want to spend two and a half hours watching? I look for a sense that any moment is calibrated to the moments that have come before and after. Every dot in the performance is connected. Some people do that naturally, others have to learn it. What are you playing? How did you get there, how are you going to get out of it?

What are your pet peeves in performers?
For a lyricist it’s when someone just sings words. They don’t infuse them with meaning. Or swaps words out that don’t make any sense. I realize how easy that is to do but sometimes it just makes no sense. I will say my biggest pet peeve is when people say, “There’s so many words!”  Maybe that betrays a certain insecurity on my part, but what I want to say is, “Okay, what words do you think don’t belong? What words aren’t necessary in telling this story?” I’ve made a lot of choices about that, finding the words.

How about a willingness to roll with the punches when you are developing a new piece?
Flexibility. If something changes it’s not a comment on you necessarily. Sometimes you showed us what we wrote is not the right thing.

Being able to detach from that as a personal thing and making it about the work instead.
If something’s done right that’s when you get to change it. Because when it’s not done right, you think, “Well, if it was just done right then maybe it would work.” When it is done right, it makes me realize, “That’s exactly what I wrote and I don’t like it”.

Actors who give their full commitment so you can see what’s working and what’s not.
Absolutely. And quickness. At this stage – the perverse thing about development is you don’t get as much time as something that’s been done a million times. When you’re doing a new show that could use five weeks, you get a week or 29 hours. We need actors who are quick.

You’ve worked on theater for young audiences as well. How is the process of writing a children’s musical different?
In a certain respect children are much less judgmental. They’re used to things that they don’t understand. They’ll hear words, and they’ll see things they don’t understand all the time going through life, and that’s part of the process. What they’re not tolerant of is not understanding the action. You have to be very clear on WHY someone is doing what they’re doing. What you can get away with is what they say about it. I also might make a little reference that’s more for the grownups than it is for the kids.

They’ll feel like they’re getting a little shoutout!
Writing for kids gives grownups a license to have fun. They wear a different critical hat than they would otherwise. There’s no need to be hip, or edgy…No one wants you to be edgy for kids. I don’t think people want you to be edgy normally, you just feel like you’re supposed to! Sometimes I don’t even know what edgy means, though I think it should be thought-provoking.

What are some of your favorite BOOKS? Favorite authors?
I’m a big fan of P.G. Wodehouse. It’s always entertaining. He basically writes farces. He is one of the fathers of Contemporary Music Theatre as we know it, as a lyricist and bookwriter. He wrote the early shows with Jerome Kern which were one of the major inspirations for Rodgers & Hart when they got started. He wrote the original book for Anything Goes. He also wrote some wonderful comic novels.

I also enjoy John Irving very much.
Recently I’ve been getting into Robertson DaviesAnd I love Jane Austen. The thing that all of these have in common is a certain kind of comic sensibility.

What other things do you view as catalysts for your creativity?
It’s really, “What problem am I trying to solve?” It’s about asking better questions.

You don’t have to wait for inspiration to strike.
Inspiration won’t strike, it doesn’t strike. The only inspiration comes in what question you’re asking yourself.

So when you’re having writer’s block you say, “How can I ask a better question?”
Yes. Exactly.

What advice would you give if you could talk to yourself when you were 20?
Every deal has its up sides and down sides. The biggest one would be to trust your instincts, both about collaborators and associates. If something feels off, it probably is.

What excites you most about writing for the theatre today? On the flip side, what are the most significant challenges you feel that writers for the theatre face in 2016?
There’s so much development being done around the country, around the world. In colleges, there’s so much opportunity to do developmental work. With YouTube and things like that, it preserves the opportunity to observe and disseminate fragments of what you write. The challenges are economic. It’s so expensive to produce theater at any scale.

How do you define New Musical Theatre and how does it differ from traditional Musical Theatre?**
One of the definitions is economic. “New Musical Theatre” material can be done by one performer standing at a mic, which makes it independently produceable. With that comes a specific relationship with the drama and the audience, so I would say that the difference between a pop song and a theatre song is that a theatre song is happening NOW in real time, and the person I’m singing to is right in front of me. A pop song happened in the past or it happened in my mind. I’m now revisiting that feeling, and heightening it into art. There’s this sort of ambient, heightened quality to it. “New Musical Theatre” blends the two.
**For this last question, Sam referred me to a comprehensive blog post he did on this topic, defining the genre. It’s a wonderful read that provides specific examples from NMT mainstays like Jonathan Reid Gealt’s “Quiet,”Adam Gwon’s “I’ll Be Here,” Joe Iconis’s “Blue Hair” and Carner and Gregor’s very own “Make It Here.” 

Check it out here: 
What is “New Musical Theatre”? by

Thanks for reading!
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In Conversation With Sam Carner: Part I

The Broadway Warm-Up sits down with Sam Carner, one half of the dynamic songwriting duo Carner & Gregor. Sam Carner won the 2015 Kleban Prize for Most Promising Librettist. Sam and composer Derek Gregor won the 2014 John Wallowitch Award for songwriters under 40, a 2016 MAC Award for “Best Comedic Song” (and eight of their songs have been nominated for MAC Awards), were included in Playbill.com’s twelve “Contemporary Musical Theatre Songwriters You Should Know,” and were in residence at the Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals in January. Seven of their songs have been nominated for MAC Awards, and their work is performed in hundreds of venues around the world every year and has been sung on all seven continents.

Our conversation was thorough between bites of our exquisite Ethiopian cuisine (my first time trying Ethiopian couldn’t have been better – thanks Awash Ethiopian Restaurant), so I’ve split the interview into two parts.
PART I covers topics such as:
* Sam’s background, early influences and mentors
* Navigating the art of collaboration with Derek Gregor
* The impact of YouTube, social media on new musical theater
* The craft of lyric writing
Enjoy and come back for Part II!

Sam Carner.jpg

What was your first exposure to theatre? When did you know it was what you wanted to pursue as a career?
I first discovered theater as a small child. I grew up in Maine, and my parents took me to Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick, back when it was called Brunswick Music Theatre. I saw a production of ANNIE GET YOUR GUN. I was six, and that was where I first really caught the bug. We went back to see a show every summer. We watched lots of movie musicals when I was a kid. Now I realize that I didn’t actually think of them as musicals. I didn’t think of MY FAIR LADY as inherently different from SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE.

Just another movie, another story.
Another story. Sometimes I questioned, “Why doesn’t this one have singing?”
So, that was my early youth. There were school plays when I was ten, eleven. When I was eleven or so I wrote a long children’s story — The Children’s Theatre of Maine had a Young Playwrights Contest, so my dad suggested I turn this story into a musical. It ended up winning, and I wrote a children’s musical that had a bunch of performances in the Greater Portland area.

Wasn’t Anna Kendrick in some of the first shows you wrote?
Yeah, a couple times when we were kids. She did a reading of a show I was working on at Portland Stage Company, and before that, before her Tony Nomination, she did a little twenty minute musical I wrote for The Maine Festival. She always had that incredible presence – she was a star so clearly. I first saw her in a community theater production of GYPSY, and she was Baby June. I remember being like, “Who is that girl?!”

Who are your influences? Mentors? What did you learn in particular from them that was instructive?
The director of the Children’s Theater, Lisa DiFranza, created an incredible environment. She took everyone seriously as creative artists. She also fostered an environment where all ages were welcome, so there were 6 year olds and 10 year olds and 17 year olds and grown-ups in these casts. There was a real kind of mentorship going on, but we were all creating together, and that was inspiring — to feel that you were not being treated as a kid, but you were being taken seriously.
My mom was an artist, my dad was an English professor — so we talked a lot about dramatic structure. My teachers let me pursue the things I was interested in. They weren’t trying to make me stick to a particular curriculum. One teacher let me work on this long story as a project instead of making me stick to the assignment. I wanted to finish it, so she let me do it.

When you’re allowed to pursue something that really excites you, you end up getting a lot more out of it than doing what you HAD to.
Exactly. Another teacher in 10th grade — We were studying the Greek Classics.
The Odyssey and Oedipus. Initially one of the assignments was to do something creative. I wrote a song based on Oedipus called It Was Good While It Lasted In Thebes. which went very well so she let me continue to do that with other projects. I then did a whole cycle of comic songs based on Greek mythology.

You went to Yale, yes? What did you study there?
I actually did a self designed major called “Music, Verse and Drama.” I had a coherent plan, so they let me do it. It was essentially looking at music in isolation, verse in isolation, and theater/drama in isolation, then looking for points of intersection. I took a lot of Music Theory which has definitely served me, and Music History. A lot of dry poetry which has its own kind of music. I also took courses on opera where they all come together. Opera History, Musicology. I also took music theory courses on Gershwin and Cole Porter.

That seems like a very well rounded way to prepare you for what you would later do.
Oh yeah, it was incredibly valuable. I find a lot of inspiration in Renaissance and Romantic poetry. There are a lot of moments in my songs that are kind of callbacks to Keats or John Donne. For instance, our song Stay Awhile is loosely inspired by a John Donne poem called The Sun Rising, which is a poem where a guy in bed with his lover chastises the sun for interrupting their slumber.

Very cool. I would never have known that.
When you take something and put in a totally new context, the original context may disappear, but that’s where it comes from.

That leads me to my next question – Where do you usually start from? The music or the lyrics?
I like to say it starts with a problem to be solved. No element will get too far ahead of the others, but the first question is, “Why are we writing this song?” Is the key thing to fit the situation and get the characters from point A to point B? Do we need a big belty song for the female lead because she doesn’t have enough material in the second act and we need an energy boost? Then we need to justify it. What do we do in order to solve our problem?

Once we have a sense of what we are trying to do, Derek will start fooling around with musical fragments, and I’ll start fooling around with phrases. One of those will usually come first, and then inspire the other. 

You met Derek at NYU’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. Were you paired up together or how did that work?
We were paired together for a four week project. A 20 minute musical, one-act show. it was fortunate that we had that time because we found our collective voice in the second week.

And at the end of those four weeks you realized you worked well together?
It ended up being a really good collaboration. It was considered one of the more effective pieces of that assignment. So we chose each other for the second year.

Considering your work as a whole, how do you feel you have personally changed as writers, from, for instance, UNLOCK’D to TOAST? How has your relationship changed over the years?
I think that we’ve learned a lot by being exposed to the others’ references. When we venture into a style one is less familiar with the other can take the lead. And it’s a chance for the other to learn about the style.

I first discovered your songs years ago through YouTube. How important do you think YouTube is to new musical theater composers? What has your experience been with social media to promote your work?
It’s a game changer. The fact that you can have people doing your songs thousands of times a year even without a Broadway show — It has led to all sorts of opportunities and chances to develop our work at colleges, and with groups across the world. It’s a way of disseminating the material, and allowing the material to have a life even if it’s not being performed at that particular moment. And it leads to more sheet music sales which makes it easier for us to support ourselves as artists.

What’s the benefit/danger of making scores available online?
I think we’re concerned that the stuff we put out into the world is still in development. The moment there’s a definitive version is very late in the game, and for that reason we’ll send out updates when we make changes to songs. If there’s anything that I wish some of the current sheet music platforms allowed for, it’d be that. The ability to send out revisions.
Occasionally, one of the things that happens when you put the music out — you learn about what’s not communicating off the page. Someone will make a really smart, interesting choice, and that will get put into the score one way or another. That’s exciting. In certain cases if someone does something really clever you’ll see other people start copying. Sometimes our directors will use what those performers give them.

Very cool. How does it feel seeing your work performed on YouTube by people you’ve never met? How does it feel knowing that something created in your living room is being performed who knows how far away? What is that like for you?
It’s mostly exciting and gratifying. It’s meant to be performed live. Although the record is not live, the performances pretty much are. Sometimes it’s slightly crushing if a joke is being sold in a way that doesn’t make any sense, but you kinda have to let that go. Mostly it’s exquisite, it’s why you do it. You do it to reach out and talk about things that are on your mind, and that’s kinda the point, that’s why we’re doing this, so it’s very cool.

What is the trickiest part of lyric writing? Connecting music and lyrics? How packed or loose you make the lyric?
The biggest key to lyric writing is placing the song correctly. It’s figuring out what work the song needs to do in the structure of the story. Lyric writing is part of book writing. We’ve all seen songs where someone is convincing someone of something they already know or something they’re clearly not going to succeed in convincing them of, or espousing a point of view, but to no dramatic effect. That ends up causing an audience member to tune out. As a writer you have to ask the same questions you ask an actor. What is making this active? What is my action with this moment in the song? Ideally that should lead, inevitably, to another action. The better you do at placing the song and figuring out what work it needs to do, the less work you have to do in writing it.

Is that something you learned at school or by process of doing or based on how the audience responds?
I think I felt my way there gradually. Working one on one with actors, I’d write something that wasn’t particularly active, but felt like it needed to be. Maybe I put pressure on the performer to make it active. Then I’d realize I wasn’t doing my job as much as I could. Let me take the pressure off – write in some of the tension – and make it easier for the performer to make it dynamic.  

Letting the lyrics do the job for you. The actor doesn’t have to push for emotion, or create anything, the moments just happen?
Right. I didn’t want the actor to have to push or create something that isn’t supported by the text at all. I want the situation and path of the song to allow for a cocktail of emotions. The subtleties and intensities should already be there to be explored. There needs to be an undertow. It needs to be there. In a solo that’s what creates dramatic tension. I’m going to write in some of that complication.

How do you lay the trail for the listener to follow while at the same time staying slightly ahead of the audience?
That’s one of the big challenges in writing lyrics. It’s happening in real time and there’s a lot of distractions. People can only perceive so much. So, it’s working and trying things.

You have to trust that the audience is smart. You don’t want to write down to them, but you also need to give them time to digest.
I’m always a little surprised by what is obvious with minimal statement, and what takes ten statements to actually make the point. It’s never entirely predictable to me. That’s something you can only do through the rehearsal process, through trying it out with audience members. Sometimes the action or the situation does so much of the work for you.

What have you learned about yourself and others by writing your characters? Have you developed a broader understanding of people in general?
There’s a principle in psychology called the “fundamental attribution error,” which is the tendency to over-attribute your own actions to situation and circumstance and over-attribute other people’s actions to their inherent character. So, “I got a speeding ticket because my grandma was having a heart attack, and I needed to get her to the hospital! YOU got a speeding ticket because you’re a lousy speeder!” There are more positive ways of putting it, but I think that delving into characters that are very different but have very similar basic motivations, you learn to understand…You learn your own capacity to do many different things that you might judge differently if you looked at them from a different perspective, and you come to have a certain tolerance and understanding of the people you encounter in life.

It creates compassion.
I think so, I hope.

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