The time has come

Well, blog readers, the time has come.  It is time to post your haiku, limerick or English sonnet which argues why you, the blog reader, should be the one to receive these ever-so-fabulous tickets to the by-invitation-only Boston Lyric Opera dress rehearsal of Les Contes d'Hoffmann, and the subsequent and ever-so-hard-to-get guest bloggership at my blog

Do you need to review the guidelines for participation?  Please read this post as a reminder. 

You have approximately 38 hours from the time of this post to publish your brilliant creation in order to have it considered.  I look forward to reading what you have to say!


Don your thinking caps!

Hi, folks!  It's giveaway time again at professional auditionee and I wanted to give you the low-down.

This time the prize is two tickets to the special-invitation-only dress rehearsal of Boston Lyric Opera's Les Contes d'Hoffmann *and* a guest blog spot on my blog.  Never seen an opera?  Really like opera?  Never even heard of opera?  Well, no matter.  Now you have a chance to see this fantastic production for free on me!   

Don't wig out just because it's sung in French--there will be supertitles in English.  Plus, the show's really funny.  Who needs English when the music and the comedy will communicate it all for you?  (Oh, and there's some kissing, too.) 

When will this dress rehearsal be happening, you ask?
7:00 PM on Wednesday, 5 November 2008.  No late seating and--yes--you must be available to go.  I don't give away tickets to no-show folks.

How long is this show, you ask?
Three (3) hours' running time, with two intermissions.

How do I win these awesome tickets, you ask?
Well, there are some quids pro quo:

  1. You must (must!) be available to attend the dress rehearsal.  
  2. You must (must!) be willing to write a blog post as a guest author reviewing the production and providing your impressions of the show, which will be posted here--at this very blog--on Friday morning, 7 November 2008.
  3. You must (must!) include the number of tickets you'd like in parenthetical notation somewhere on your entry.  Since there are only two tickets to be given away you may list (1) or (2).  If you list (1) then I may select two winners with a (1) ticket request, or, I may still pick one winner with a (2) ticket request. 
  4. You must (must!) post a comment at the requisite blog entry explaining why you should be selected and/or why you want to attend this dress rehearsal.  Your comment must be in a strict verse form of either haiku, limerick, or English sonnet structure.  
  5. Only one (1) entry per person per post. 

When will I get to post my witty reasonings, you ask?
Sometime tomorrow morning the official request for entries will be posted here, at this very blog!  I will be announcing the posting via my Twitter feed, should time be of the essence to you, and you may subscribe to my feed to be in-the-know.

Is there a deadline?, I hear you inquire. 
Indeed, there is.  I will only be reviewing those entries that are received by Midnight Eastern Time on Saturday, 1 November 2008.

How will the winner(s) be selected, you ask?
Basically, I'm going to pick the one(s) that I like the most based on wittiness, economy and savviness. 

So, take your time.  Think about your strategy.  Plan ahead.  Scribble a few drafts now.  Be brilliant!  Be funny!  Surprise me!  I'm looking forward to reading what you'll create and I know you'll enjoy the show.


Un peu de succès

Tonight's rehearsal, while not without it's flaws, was an exciting one!  There were invited guests who, in this particular rehearsal space, looked down upon us from the balcony, not unlike the trial chamber in All Good Things....  Except, they weren't jeering us.  I found myself wondering who they might be, how they came to be invited and what they thought of the run-through.  They even applauded as desired. 

I received kind compliments this evening from several of the principals.  Two important individuals, including André Barbe, even took time to tell me that my detail-oriented violin "playing" is much appreciated by the director.  I guess all that cereal box- and ballpoint pen-work is paying off!  The trill and the tremolo I've got down, but there is still work to be done on the vibrato and the fingering. 

Only one large stop interrupted the flow of all five acts and I'm sure that mistake will not happen again. As the evening wore on our "audience" thinned out leaving only about 25 folks by the "curtain".  Our next rehearsal will be in the Shubert Theatre and I am looking forward to seeing this show come to life.


I Feel Pretty...Successful!

Yesterday afternoon featured the fundraising "cabaret" at Boston's Old South Church with many classic Broadway songs. It seems my concern for and focus on memorizing lyrics paid off: I didn't forget anything!  The performance was very well-attended, seemed to successfully raise money and was appreciated by all.  I must admit, though, I didn't pay attention to the morning's sermon.  (Sorry, Quinn!)  I was busy scrawling the lyrics to "I Feel Pretty" in the margins of my bulletin in one last (Hail Mary?) attempt at memorization.


This Muse's Bane

It was revealed in a rehearsal last week that in one scene of Les Contes d'Hoffmann, I am expected to believably "play" a violin. This was complete news to me and while I was professional and upbeat about this news outwardly, inwardly I was in a mild panic.

As an actress I am capable of accomplishing many things. One of the traits upon which I pride myself is the thorough research and preparation I embark upon for the sake of realizing a character. However, in this case, I think time will be my adversary. In all cases (until now), my process has been to learn/rehearse/practice/employ the actions of my character for as long as I can before having to actually perform. Realism is an essential element enabling a character to transcend the page. Truthfully, though, I am concerned about presenting my violin "playing" to a live audience in less than two weeks. This isn't even enough time to learn practicable fingering.

Last week, Keith Lockhart gave me a five-minute lesson about violin playing, providing basic instruction about positioning, tuning, and marking bowings in a copy of the score. Today, my best friend gave me a violin lesson of sorts. She played for about ten years and while her instrument wasn't with her, her creative teaching techniques had not abandoned her. She astutely used a Guitar Hero guitar as an instructive device in lieu of an actual violin.

Lesson one: use a cereal box. My violin has no chinrest. So, to practice holding the instrument I've been instructed to carry a cereal box around, nestled between my jaw and my shoulder. I can now carry cereal and fold clothes, type or wash dishes.

Lesson two: grasp the bow properly. While Maestro Lockhart indicated maintaining a perpendicular trajectory of the bow relative to the violin is important, and the motion of the bow should be kept between the bridge and the end of the fingerboard, the brief look at the grip of the bow left me lacking. I kept sticking my pinky finger in the air during the first rehearsal as though it were high tea. Now I have my handy ballpoint pen as a practice device, and the knowledge that the bow's frog is a benchmark.

Lesson three: the thumb and fingers are separate entities. I'd been nestling the neck of the violin in the crook between the thumb and the index finger. However, this made it impossible for me to present realistic-looking vibrato. Now I know to support the instrument just next to the pad of the thumb, leaving my fingers free to tremolo, trill and vibrate.

Hopefully these lessons will enable me to avoid this:


Forks and Colanders and Bicycle Tires, Oh My!

So, I've been to several rehearsals now and I can say--at least preliminarily--the costuming for this production of Les Contes d'Hoffmann is truly fantastical.  Here, you'll receive a peek-a-boo view of the creative design work by André Barbe, but to appreciate and enjoy all of it, you really must see the show


Try this on

Last night I had my fitting for the upcoming Boston Lyric Opera production of Les Contes d'Hoffmann.

I called the costumers early to find out if there was anything special I needed to do or if I should enter through a backdoor of some kind.  "Oh, I'm so glad you called!" said Lynn.  "We were trying to reach you because the fitting before yours ended early.  Could you come now?"

"Oh!"  I replied in a startled manner, as it was 90 minutes before I was scheduled to be there.  "Okay... I'm walking out the door now.  I'll get there as soon as I can."  I set off thanks to my demoralizingly co-dependent partner in transportation, the MBTA, despite recent negative interactions.

With as much haste as the MBTA could muster, I made it to Costume Works, Inc., and walked through their blue door into the magical world that is a costume shop: sewing mannequins scattered about in various states of undress; shelves full of top hats; bolts of fabric lying around various workspaces; bins of snaps and trims and buttons; racks of costumes parked at purposeful angles; patterns laid out and demarcated by fabric pens, shears and pin cushions.

Gail and Lynn were welcoming and pleasant and ready to go.  I was shuttled into a fitting area where the fun began.  There was even appropriate signage on the wall:

A "before" photo:

At an intermediate point in the fitting process, I looked curiously not unlike my friends the Kristos, if only slightly less flexible.  Perhaps I'll save that image for another photo-caption give-away...

Lynn pinned a few things while Gail made notes:

My sort-of-transformed look:

But that's not all!  There will be more...


Shameless self-promotion

I just want to take a moment to remind you, my very devoted blog readers, about other outlets through which you may connect with me:

Follow me on Twitter.
Befriend me at Myspace and at my Myspace Music.
Become a fan at Facebook.
Get a more comprehensive view at FriendFeed.
Listen with me at Last.fm.
And, as always, there is the Official Alecia Batson Web Site with the latest news and information.

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you in these other arenas soon!


I Feel Nerdy

To assist with my memorization of "I Feel Pretty" from Bernstein's/Sondheim's West Side Story, I've taken to diagramming the song.  I tend to be a visual learner.  So, when in doubt, make a table:

Please accept my gratitude, Dr. Antokoletz, for it is thanks to you that I have a deep appreciation of structural analysis and its application in music performance, even if the music isn't always Bartók.


Jot this down

A little-known fact is that I have a degree from Disney University.  I earned it (yes, earned!) at the beginning of my tenure in entertainment at Walt Disney World.  It may seem outlandish, but I'm proud to say I have one because I worked hard for it.  Somewhere I have my diploma and graduation ears, which include the requisite tassel...




My first look inside

Today's Boston Lyric Opera rehearsal was so fun! I arrived not knowing what to expect and rather nervous. I didn't know:

  • what the space would be like
  • who would be there
  • how many people would be present
  • what the working process would entail
  • what the general attitude might be
  • if I was dressed appropriately (I opted for business casual with jeans in a bag just in case.)

Michèle Losier, playing Nicklausse, was most friendly and introduced herself straightaway, as did rehearsal pianist Damien. Things got underway right on time and Matthew DiBattista, playing Offenbach (among others), hit the nail on the head regarding director Renaud Doucet saying to me, "this [staging] will be quick." And it was. Efficiency is just as I like it. The director is personable, friendly, knowledgeable and knows precisely what he wants of his talent. He doesn't waste time or mince words and he does it all with witty flair--and great glasses.

What was even more enjoyable was that much of the rehearsal was conducted in French! Since several of the principals, the director and the pianist speak it, not to mention moi, and since the production will be performed en Français, it was most practical. Furthermore, we were a small group this morning, so it only enhanced the intimate nature of the group.

About an hour into staging the conductor arrived. It took me about ten minutes before a smile crossed my face with the realization, Oh...that's Keith Lockhart! I mean, I realize the man doesn' t live in a tuxedo and carry a baton at all hours, but even still, there is something humanizing and relaxing about about seeing a well-known individual in person, wearing street clothes and looking normal.

On a professional note: it turned out to be strangely awkward for me to learn blocking with music, but sans singing. I was having to make mental notes of others' recits relative to my marks. But, now I know and I'm that much more prepared for the next rehearsal.

All a-flutter

In a few minutes I'll be leaving for my first rehearsal with the Boston Lyric Opera.  I'm excited, I'm nervous, my stomach is a-flutter.  I'm hoping I won't forget anything and that I'll make a good impression.  Most importantly, I'm looking forward to it.  This will be a wonderful experience, I think. 


The size of my head

As some of you already know, I've been cast in the upcoming Boston Lyric Opera production of Les Contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann).  I'm quite excited!  Yesterday, one of the PAs called me to request my measurements in advance of my fitting, indicating he would send an email message and that I should respond.  Late last evening I received the email, realizing I did not know my "hat size".  So this morning, the first thing I did was google "how to measure hat size".  Then, my tape measure and I stepped into the bathroom. 

I was not quite awake:

It took some focusing:

At one point, the light of God entered the room:

Apparently, it was helpful, as I was then able to measure my head's circumference accurately:

22-1/8" is my hat size for all you milliners and hatmakers out there.  Look for more posts soon about my first experience with the BLO! 



Remember my Open Letter to the MBTA?  Well, according to Universal Hub, I'm a newsbreaker.  Awesome! 

Who knew life in the entertainment industry would be so newsworthy?


Doin' it with style

Yesterday, I had three music rehearsals on schedule.  They were long-standing on my books, but deep in the recesses of my mind I was not wholly looking forward to going.  All were scheduled to take place at a lovely Cape Cod venue about a 90 minute drive away.  While I enjoy driving, conveniently, one of the ensemble members had a Beechcraft Bonanza which he would be flying there and back, and I received an offer to ride along.  Very cool!   


The views were great, with not a cloud in the sky.

Once arrived, I learned one of the tenors had driven his refurbished '65 Rambler to the locale, which only made getting around the tiny hamlet between rehearsals that much more classy. 

Oh, yes.  The reharsals: two hours in the morning and another two-and-a-half hours in the afternoon with a break in-between.  The primary focus was music for an upcoming concert of Calvin Hampton's music.  Everyone was in good spirits and very relaxed.  I had been asked to bring selections for an upcoming informal concert, as well, so those could be worked too.  However, time never permitted us to get around to that.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the weekend, the singing, the nearly perfect weather and, of course, the fun modes of transportation. 


Why I do this

Recently, my friend Will wanted to know why it is so important to me to sing, act and perform. This topic of conversation had arisen because an acquaintance's daughter had committed suicide; I had inquired if she had been an artist of some persuasion.

"No," came the reply. "Why?" he chuckled. "Do you know a lot of artists who commit suicide?'

"Well, I have about one friend or acquaintance a year who does and they are artists, typically," I explained. The first was nearly 15 years ago.

A sobering look calmed his face. "Oh. I didn't know. I'm sorry."

"Don't be. It's what happens." And thus I was en route to an explanation of what propels artists to be artists.

It is an intangible thing, the drive to do, to create, to design, to develop, to express. It is difficult to define, especially for those who do not have such a motivation. Perhaps it is simpler to explain why I do it:

There is something magical and fulfilling for me when I sing or act or record voice over or perform in some role. Each is an opportunity to learn something new, become something other than myself, illustrate something untold, and expand perspectives. It's exciting! It's challenging! (And I love challenge.) The challenge is inherent in so many capacities, too--translation, memorization, expression, intonation, information, education, comprehension, and more. There is challenge in singing because there is no one "right way" to perform Bach. There is challenge in acting because there is no singular "right way" to present Ophelia. It is the interpretation that is essential to art and the perpetual goal of further refinement that creates drive. There is no perfection in art, only additional revision.

I believe there is an innate desire for self-expression that is intrinsic to all artists--something that, when repressed or unexpressed, serves as an albatross of the soul. It is is this expression that must be released. It is this desire that must be sated.

To create art is the best kind of gift, I think: the gift of oneself. As an artist, I can give nothing higher, nothing more worthwhile, nothing more personal, nothing more sincere. I perform to give. I give because to give is to love. It is this selfless act of giving that satisfies the artistically selfish desire to be understood.

This is why I do it.