when i was a kid, singing was something that i did in church. eventually, it was something that i studied formally, in a performing arts high school. the singing that was respected there meant having range and power and lots and lots of melisma, for the most part. everyone could sing way better than i could. singing that way meant sounding exactly like stephanie mills. or miki howard. it definitely meant sounding exactly like somebody. i didn't sound like anybody, except myself. clearly, i wasn't doing it right. undaunted, i moved on to other things.
i never imagined that i would ever sing professionally. i thought that singing was the kind of thing that would come in handy if i ever did a musical or a play with music, or perhaps some light opera. i certainly didn't want to be an actress. that sounded like someone that wasn't to be taken seriously. i didn't want to be a movie star because i didn't think i was pretty enough to be on camera. television looked like fun -- especially the commercials -- but i wasn't really gunning for that, either. i wanted to be a theater actor. i knew that i had that undefinable something that compels someone to look at someone else and i knew that this something had absolutely nothing to do with what i looked like and i knew that this something was absolutely necessary if i wanted to do anything onstage. other people were tall. other people were handsome or beautiful. other people dyed their hair blonde. other people would say or do things to "pull focus" and draw attention to themselves. i didn't do any of those things. when i was onstage, people were compelled to look at me. otherwise, i was roundly ignored.
you can work on your skill set until the cows come home but contrary to popular belief, that indefinable something called stage presence can't be taught. your talent, your excellent comic timing and no, not even how attractive you are can make people want to look at you onstage. their eye will inevitably wander to that seemingly insignificant someone the director has conveniently located in the back, on the side -- the one who is perched at the edge of the scene who is simply standing there. who are they? what are they doing? all that nothing is really something, isn't it.
i persisted with theater and musical theater and solo performance because i was determined to do all i could with the talent that God gave me. i didn't want to sin against my talent. i didn't want to squander it. i'm transitioning to film and tv because a. most theater productions in new york city don't pay a living wage; b. i'm priced out of nyc, for the most part; c. the pay is cray-cray.
here i am in a prego commercial, getting paid.
a tv producer. a screenwriter. a song doctor. a concert pianist. a filmmaker. who knows where i'll end up in this business or what i'll be doing. what i know for sure is the theater is where i started. i stepped onstage when i was a kid, curious and unafraid, i looked out into
that dark sea of people and i knew and i knew and i knew and i knew and i knew.
next up? what i do for a living, part 3: "you didn't write that -- did you?"