Advice and Consent
Sam Harris, Jane Summerhays, Christopher Carl, and Amanda Green share the best advice they've ever been given.
("Revival" at The Bottom Line, NYC, June 5 and 6)
Not to name drop, but...lots of very successful people have given me memorable advice through the years. Frank Langella told me that a career is built from the library of a lifetime, not single events. When we have expectations for everything we do rather than look at each project as simply that, we lose sight of the work and the process--and, of course, the expectation can never be fulfilled.
I used to sing a song and then rush into the next one or leave the stage as fast as possible. Shirley MacLaine said, "Don't apologize when you sing. Stand there and take your applause. The cycle of giving and receiving on stage is what separates live performing from the others."
Liza Minnelli told me, "Work from the 'why,' not the 'how'" when you approach a song or a character--think about why you are saying or doing something, not about how to do it. The why always secures the internal motivation rather than working from the outside in.
(Miss Madelaine True in The Wild Party)
My earliest influence was my dance teacher, William Christianson. He was one of the founders of Ballet West, which is where I trained. Mr. C. taught me to develop my talent to the utmost and to always have several options--not to narrow myself to one thing. As an actress, you bring everything you are to the stage, so the more you know and the more informed you are, the more you have to draw upon! Essentially, he taught me to do my homework.
My mother taught me to keep my options open and insisted that I get a good education. So I went to school, got a masters degree in theater, and then came to New York. The competition in this field is so strong, you have to be compelled to do it; otherwise, it's just too hard. It's more of a calling, in a way. Mother's advice was very sound. Having a good education gave me a very solid foundation for my life and career.
(Miles Gloriosus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, upcoming at Sacramento Music Circus)
I was in rehearsals for a production of The Unsinkable Molly Brown with Cathy Rigby, and we were learning the opening number. Cathy decided that she wanted to leap off the roof of the cabin into a haystack, then jump up onto a log pile, then leap with her feet straight out into the arms of the dancers. One of the dancers was nervous and thought the move was too tough. He thought the jump should be simplified. Cathy, in all sincerity, said, "Go for the gold!" and just leapt from eight feet away into the dancers' arms. She would have landed right on her back if she hadn't trusted herself and the others. She was fearless! When you're secure in your talents and you do the best you can do, you will succeed. That was an important lesson to learn.
(Singer/songwriter and Playboy columnist; new CD of original material available by email at [email protected] )