I read something recently which I found quite inspiring. It said that one should devote oneself entirely to the work, without any concern for promoting oneself. This thought may seem obvious, but it warrants some serious consideration. You can’t help but bring yourself to your work, so there’s no need to emphasize the “self.” In fact, drawing focus to the self will always impede the work. If you truly focus on the work — on building a strong ensemble, on telling the story, on faithfully performing the music — and if you don’t allow yourself to get in the way of the work, then your personality and your talents will inevitably shine through and will augment the original work of the composer and lyricist in ever-evolving, constantly new, surprising, and exciting ways.
This doesn’t mean to hide within the work. But to truly make yourself — your body and your voice — an instrument which performs at it’s peak ability and with a sharply focused intent. Not just doing the bare minimum to get by, but constantly working to be more precise, more present, more focused, more relaxed, and more consistent.
A key phrase here is “don’t allow yourself to get in the way of the work.” There are so many ways we can get in the way. It begins in the rehearsal process. Not learning the material, not performing to your best ability, not allowing others to perform at their best, not attending rehearsals, not being fully focused and present when at rehearsals, bringing negative energy and/or distractions into the room — these are all lazy and selfish behaviors which lower the overall quality of the ensemble and which get in the way of the work.
We can also get in the way by focusing too intently on ourselves, and by not promoting a true ensemble performance. We blame others rather than pro-actively solving problems. We try too hard to keep ourselves in the spotlight or to stand out in a crowd, we are needy and demanding both offstage and on. We critique the work of others and talk down to our collaborators or, even worse, we make negative thoughts and opinions publicly known. These are all reckless and unkind behaviors which sabotage the integrity of the ensemble and which get in the way of the work.
Another way we can get in the way of the work is by not taking care of ourselves. A sick, hungry, tired, unhappy, or unhealthy performer simply cannot give a peak performance. We mustn’t allow our bad habits or poor judgement to bring down the work of the ensemble. We must take care of ourselves and make every effort to be at our very best.
In short, we should make certain that everything we do and everything we bring to the process promotes the work of the ensemble. At all costs, we must be sure we don’t get in the way of the work. We must be generous and patient with each other. We must take care of ourselves. And be hard on ourselves (but only in the most constructive of ways).
Speaking of “ensemble” here, allow me to point out something else which should be obvious. We are all in this together. But, while we are striving to achieve a unified and cohesive performance, we must all recognize that each of us will travel a unique and singular path to becoming performance ready. We all have our handicaps — physical, mental, situational. We all learn in different ways. And we all certainly learn at our own individual pace. For some people, music and/or choreography may come rather easily. They will need patience as others catch up. They will also need to know how to help when asked, but to back away when they may be intrusive or overbearing. For others, hard work and more time are needed to learn the material. They will need perseverance and diligence. They will also need to know when to ask for help, whom to ask for help, and when to buckle down and push themselves even harder. Still others will miss rehearsals, for whatever reason. They will have to devote themselves to catching up on missed material, and to being completely and fully present and focused when they are at rehearsals. And everyone must know that, whatever obstacles we may have faced individually, we must all be ready to perform at our best when that curtain rises on opening night, and at every performance thereafter.
We are loading into the theater today. And I’m looking forward to these final technical rehearsals before opening night!