It’s Begun: My So-Called Circus Life

circus-life-650After a very early start to the day with very little sleep, I’m finally ready to turn out the lights. I went to bed around 2:30 because, as usual, I didn’t start packing until the last possible second. And I was up at 6:30 for my last Sunday at church before my leave of absence. Anyway, who cares about those boring details? The exciting part is that I’m here, and I start working for the circus tomorrow!

I just got back from a “Welcome to Winter Quarters” band meeting, and by meeting, I mean a bunch of guys sitting around dripping beer and eating their weight in fried awesomeness. So obviously, even though I’ve only known these guys for a couple hours, excluding my buddy Danny, it’s clear we’re going to get along just fine.

It was great for me to at least get to know people a little before diving into six days a week of rehearsals for the next three weeks, and informal gatherings always work better than introducing yourself “at the office.” I think theatre should follow Robbie’s example (Robbie being the conductor). When you start working on a show, you generally go around the table and introduce yourself and the role you’re playing in the production, and away you go. It’s up to you to get to know people on a more personal level. But here, we’ve already shared a bunch of laughs before we even get started. And I’m the only new guy to the group, so they all know each other already, but it’s still a great way to get the ball rolling. And let’s be honest, fried food and beer is really a great way to start anything, so there’s that.

So tomorrow it all starts. Winter Quarters. From what I can tell, we start the process rehearsing in a music trailer while the acts are rehearsing on the floor, and over the course of the three weeks, we start to put it all together, and before you know it, we’re on the road.

I’m gonna drop the mic now, because if I keep thinking about it, I’m gonna get myself too excited to sleep.

Oh, and if you’re ever in Bradenton, Florida, don’t stay at The Sunrise Inn. I’ve been killing bugs in the bathroom all night, and the sink if clogged. But aside from that, and the cigarette burns in the comforter, you couldn’t tell this place from the Ritz Carlton.

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Barking, Growling, Panting, and other things you do as an actor

photo (8)Today was my last day working on Lucky and the Pirates, and as is always the case at Moon Lab studios, it was a blast. We were a little short on time on November 9th, as we were recording the script, so Lane Banning, recording genius, was able to carve out some time today for me to finish up. Basically we just needed to get some more dog sounds so the animators have some more options in the toolbox.

When I got to the studio, I asked Lane to play me The Lonely Pirate song, the piece I wrote for the film, because I was so curious what the finished product sounded like, and it was great! When we recorded a couple weeks ago, we did the instrumental track first; I played accordion and Johnny played banjo. Later, when we were all there, we recorded the vocals, so I was never able to really listen to what everyone else was doing because I had to make sure my own vocals were lining up with the track. And now that I’ve heard it, I can’t wait to see what it’s going to be like when it’s set to animation!

After listening to the song, I was telling Lane how I had been watching shih tzu videos on YouTube so I could make sure my barking and growling sounded legit. So just for kicks, he loaded one up while I was in the booth so we could both listen to the real thing, before I started shameless attempt to mimic. And away we went.

I was panting, howling, barking, and growling like a champ. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself when I realized I was biting my finger like it was a stick, while growling and playing tug-of-war with myself. If I were doing this anywhere else besides a recording studio, I’d be on my way to an institution. All in a day’s work, I guess.

Hey, mom! Aren’t you glad I went to college for this? (That poor lady. Today her son is imitating a pooch, and in 36 hours, he’s running away to join the circus)


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Carnegie Hall: 9th Time’s A Charm

carnegiehallI can’t believe it’s been three years since I auditioned for Essential Voices USA, under the brilliant direction of Judith Clurman. Back in 2011, I saw an ad on looking for singers for a chorus. I used to love singing in choruses so I figured, what do I have to lose? Long story short: I auditioned, I got in, and I’ve loved every second of it.

This time around I have also been the rehearsal accompanist, which has really been great. There’s no doubt I’m a much better pianist than singer, so it’s a real treat when I get to do both under the same umbrella. One part of what the chorus does is perform on the New York Pops subscription series at Carnegie Hall. When I auditioned, I had no idea that was the case. Had I known, I probably would’ve talked myself out of auditioning in the first place, telling myself there are much more capable singers. But ignorance was bliss.

Since I’ve been in the chorus, I’ve had the divine privilege of performing with them in nine concerts at the iconic venue. Even though I add the tiniest piece to the puzzle, there’s still something so magical about every show. You just walk onto that stage and you’re filled with a sense of awe; it’s truly majestic. And not only that, but you can’t help but think of all the people that have walked through that same doorway onto that same stage. The orchestra starts to tune and I just get chills.

Tonight, the concert was “By Special Request: An Evening With The Orchestra.” Most of the concerts on the series have celebrity performers, but this annual concert is all about the orchestra, and the spotlight isn’t shared with anyone else. I’m sure it’s delicious for the orchestra members to be able to dive into this music, selections that a pops orchestra normally wouldn’t play.

For the chorus, we sang O Furtuna from Carmina Burana, Copeland’s The Promise of Living, Bernstein’s Make Our Garden Grow, and Steven Reineke’s Festival Te Deum. Steven is the musical director and conductor of the orchestra, and this concert was the New York premiere of his stunning work. It was really fun–and a little nerve-racking– to be able to accompany the chorus for his piece, while he was there conducting us for our final rehearsal. (Although I wasn’t nearly as terrified as when Jason Robert Brown came to a performance of Songs For A New World that I was conducting, my first show in New York City.)

I’m pretty sick right now, and woke up feeling like complete trash. A part of me was hoping that I’d be sent home as soon as I showed up. Thankfully that didn’t happen because, as expected, as soon our dress rehearsal started and I was sitting on the risers on that stage, I couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else!

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Lucky And The Pirates: In The Studio

Kevin B. Winebold at Moon Lab Studios

In the booth at Moon Lab Studios

Today was our recording day for Lucky and the Pirates and I realized something today: I love doing voiceover work!  I only had one experience before, doing a radio play for an NYU student, but today was the real deal.

We were at Moon Lab studios, run by my buddy Lane Banning.  I met him when we were recording the performance tracks for Warp Speed, and we loved him so much that we went back to record a demo of the show when it was finished.  It wasn’t anything the production team had planned on, but working with Lane was so much fun and such an easy process that the producer decided it’d be a shame not to bring in the whole cast to record the show as a keepsake when we were finished with the run.

For Warp Speed, the first day I was at the keyboard all day laying down the tracks, which was great because I was right there in the room where Lane was working, so I could get a little glimpse into the whole process.  And when the cast came, they were in the studio, while I stayed with Lane and just listened and gave notes, since we recorded with the tracks I already played.

Today, I got to be in the studio myself. I had my own little booth where I could just talk, bark, pant, and go nuts, and I loved every second of it.  I had never done any kind of work before where I couldn’t see the other actors, so it was really interesting.  It really makes you listen so you’re truly reacting, because that’s all you can do.  I didn’t get to see the physicality of the other actors because of the setup, so I just had to trust my instincts and it was so much fun!  And I could be as weird as I wanted to in the booth, shaking my ass like I was wagging a tail whenever I spoke, and no one could see me to make fun of me!

Before we dove into the script, I had to lay down the instrumental track for the Lonely Pirate song I wrote.  I played accordion and Johnny, who plays one of the pirates, played banjo.  We did a couple takes of the song, and then brought the cast in to lay down the vocals.  Karen and Lane figured it’d be better to get those out of the way first, so that the remainder of the time could be spent on the dialogue.

I raced from my church gig in Queens to the studio in Brooklyn, recorded the song and the script, and then had to get an Uber so I could race from the studio to a rehearsal in Manhattan with Essential Voices USA, since we have a concert coming up.

Oh, and the Uber driver and I had a fantastic conversation.  He asked where I was coming from and where I was going.  When I mentioned what I was doing with Lucky, his eyes lit up.  Several of his passengers have told him he had an amazing voice and should try and get into voiceover work but had no idea where to start.  And I’ll admit, he did have a fantastic voice.  I told him I was new to it myself, but was at least able to give him a bunch of internet resources that I have used myself.  Just another one of those great NYC moments that happens when you open up and talk to strangers!

I’m about three seconds from passing out, but luckily I’ve got a pretty relaxed day tomorrow with only one class and one rehearsal.

Sleep tight!


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