Eden Casteel Music Studio

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Questions for the high school musical performer

Dear High School Musical Theater Performer, Do you want me to tell you what I really thought of your performance, or do you just want to hear "Great job"? I didn't think so. You're a mature high schooler. So, you really want to know? Okay. I only say this because I care about you.

I know you gave it a shot. I know that you put time and effort into rehearsals and you had a lot of fun. But, did you have any idea who your character was? The walk, the talk, the attitude, the genealogy? Did you read the book on which your show was based? The Cliffs Notes? Did you at least consult Wikipedia? I didn't think so.

Well, you should have done that work. And then you should have written a description of your character in your own words (better yet, in your character's own words), and handed it in to your director (who should have required it), and discussed it with him/her and your fellow cast members. Did you know that that would have made your performance instantly better? Did you know anything about the time frame or history in which your show's events took place? I didn't think so, for I saw your show's chorus members slapping high fives and gang signs onstage while dressed in petticoats and tall hats. It looked wierd. (Then again, it didn't help that your show was terribly written. That show was astonishing in its insipidness. But I don't hold that against you.)

Did you know that if you have no idea how to sing or project your voice without a microphone, you are completely out of luck if the battery goes dead in the middle of your two-measure solo? Did you know that when you use microphones you tend to forget how to execute basic blocking, and sometimes you sing with your butt to the audience? Did you know that about half the time, microphones short out or crackle and pop loudly? You didn't know that? I didn't think so.

Did you watch the film version of your show? Or, did you just watch clips on YouTube, you lazy bum? Did you bother to compare the film version to the stage version, and decide with your director when you were going to consciously imitate (*cough* pay tribute, *cough* copy) the film and when you were going to attempt to be original? I didn't think so.

Did you know that your show was written a while back, and those strange words in the script used to be modern slang? You didn't know that, homeboy? I didn't think so. Therefore, when you didn't comprehend something about your show or your character, you just kept on going, assuming that no one would realize that you had no idea what you were doing? Well, I noticed it -- many times. And I'm not that old, or even that culturally literate. (Here's a rather good modern performance of a dusty old number from a creaky old show.)

Were you at all aware that you were joining your work with the artistic contributions of the thousands of performers who also wore those costumes, danced those dances, recited those lines, and sang those songs? It sounds very "arteeste" but this is in fact what you were doing. There will be thousands more doing it after you. Did you know how important it is to show some respect for yourself and your character, and all the people who played that part before you and all the people who will play it after you, by learning as much possible about the part you are playing in the show you are doing? I didn't think so.

Am I hurting your feelings? Am I being mean and overly judgmental? Am I not recognizing how hard you worked? Am I laying blame at the wrong feet? I don't think so. Dear one, you get credit for trying. It's not professional theater, it's high school. You're learning. I'm sympathetic. But you say you want to perform in college, or beyond. You might not be a professional yet, but at what point do you intend to start behaving -- acting -- like one, even a little? This is what the pros do. They don't perform unless they're informed. You must learn everything you can about your character and your setting, how to deliver lines and songs without gadgets, and how to be a performing artist. Start now.

Yes, I'll still come see your next show. I want to see you. I'll support you every time you give it a shot. But if I see the same uninformed, overly amplified performance out of you next time, I'm going to flee the theater at intermission and order a well-deserved margarita at the closest bar. Who cares if I miss your solo? Your microphone's going to short out, anyway.

Would you notice if I was gone? I didn't think so.

By the way, Great Job.

Love, Eden

Voice Lessons, Vocal Coaching, Piano Lessons, Performance Coaching, and Musical Production.

Eden Casteel Music Studio, 81 Post Road, Wakefield RI 02879. Phone: 401-932-5589.