When Greg asked me to be a guest blogger for his site, I was thrilled!  I’m writing more and that fact that he would ask me to was very flattering.  But then I realized I would actually have to write something.  Like, sit down, pick a topic and then make sense of it in a way that other people could understand and (hopefully) enjoy.  I didn’t immediately have an idea so the obvious solution was to put it off for a month, hoping that time and inspiration would magically appear without me ever having to think about it.  Strangely at the end of the month a blog post didn’t write itself.  But you never have to tell me to over-think and my subconscious was turning over ideas in the background anyway.  Every so often it would offer one up to me but before it could even form into a concrete thought, something or someone was demanding my attention urgently.

Subconscious: Hey, remember that thing that you were always talking about?

Me: I just remembered talking about something all the time that would be a great--
Real Life: Melisa!  We need you to focus on this NOW!

Jeez, Real Life, way to get in the way.  All I wanted to do was sit down and be creative but instead I had to work my day job and organize materials for an audition and buy Christmas presents and make sure to send out those postcards and did I remember to update my website?  It seems to be the eternal struggle of the artist to juggle the demands of the real world and the demands of being an artist.

How do you do that?  How do you simultaneously cultivate the skills and time needed to be an artist while still making sure you take care of all the administrative stuff of day-to-day life?  I don’t need to tell you this, oh arts-centered-blog-reader, but the two often seem diametrically opposed. There are things that we are required to explore and reveal that most of our culture is taught to hide and suppress. We have to fight against cultural norms and, sometimes, the human instinct of self-preservation (as far as societal inclusion). It takes a lot of courage to be an open, impulsive, free and truthful artist and tackle that.  And it’s hard. And it takes practice.  And it takes time.  And no one, I mean no one, ever starts out being brilliant, no matter how much natural ability seems present. 

But can you imagine an open, free and impulsive artist dealing with their finances?  Or holding down a day job? I’m sure you can, we’ve seen them.  The days of art patrons have passed and sugar daddies are hard to wrangle so most artists hold down supplemental jobs while pursuing their passion.  They need to be structured and future thinking and adhere to cultural norms.  It’s a complete shift in perspective and thinking that’s necessary to do the basic things like eat and pay rent.

The change might be easier if you only had to go back and forth once a day.  The reality is that you have to vacillate between the two extremes several times a day and sometimes expected to completely switch moment to moment!  For example, the unnatural process of agent meetings:  You’re required to perform and show your artistic abilities and then immediately launch into a pitch of how you could market yourself as a business and make money. The whole thing breeds it’s own special form of insanity.

So what’s the answer?  What’s the solution to all this?  I’ve never been good at solving a problem; I’m more of a problem definer and this one seems like a no win to me.  We can’t just throw money at and coddle everyone who calls him or her self an artist.  While art is necessary in our culture and should be supported and nurtured, not everyone deserves that title.  It seems harsh to say but there are people who are good and people who are bad.  The good should be rewarded and encouraged and the bad should find their way to something else.  And as hard as the process is, my hope is that it is a weeding out process and those who are worthy will eventually find a way to rise to the top.

Melisa Breiner-Sanders is an actor in New York, NY.  She is a Resident Actor at CRY HAVOC company 
(www.CRYHAVOCcompany.org) and you can get her most resent play by visiting and supporting www.CRYHAVOCcompany.org/gift Visit www.MelisaBS.com and sign up for her newsletter.

A month since my last blog.  Oy!  I’m trying!

First off, I want to say that I really enjoy my new job! It has been such a nice change to actually be satisfied in going to work every day. However, it actually keeps me far more busy than my last job. In other words, I don’t have time during my day job anymore. There, I admitted it. So teacher, that’s why I haven’t had time to do my homework. However, in spite of the loss of “free time” I actually feel far more motivated. I have actually laid some groundwork to continue motivating myself for the upcoming year, I’m quite excited.

I have had a very busy week. It began with a networking event, headed by Doug Shapiro (www.dougshapiro.com) and the Savvy Actor (www.thesavvyactor.com). He gave a lot of great tips for networking – both on social networks and face to face. I actually was very inspired by a lot of what he said, and will be working to implement a lot of his suggestions over the next few weeks and months. I have already started utilizing them at some holiday parties!

I also saw to cabarets this week. I went to another one of Chris Stepen’s Sing Smart, Act Smart open workshops. I admit some of the physical work is a little awkward to watch, and I do see the benefit, specifically for chorus work. I did think some of the work was pretty good as well, though a tad indulgent. Their focus was “getting over their fears,” so I suppose that’s acceptable. I also went to my friend Elizabeth Selden’s cabaret. I am very proud of her, she too was getting over her fears. But I was a little confused about it. There was no program, and I didn’t know where the majority of the people came from. Elizabeth said she found the listing on craigslist. To be honest, I was rather unimpressed with most of the singers. There was very little storytelling (except Elizabeth – well done), which is strange because most of them were “actors who sing”.  It also started late and  went very late. If I had a program, I’d know what cabaret series to avoid…

The high point of my weekend was seeing Next to Normal for my birthday. What an incredible show. I think it is what the future of musical theater should be. True, there were not many songs that you could leave humming, rather, it felt almost like a long recit. But it was wholly apparent that they were moved to sing. It didn’t feel showy, it felt nauseatingly real. As an audience member I was unbelievably moved. I did have a few directorial thoughts. Some actor choices were stale for me (the son swung around like a monkey!) and I felt that the beginning of Act II could have had a different color (slightly less sadness, slightly more confusion and reflection), but the performances were wonderful and story stirring. If you can see it before it closes, do so.

I'd like to say I'd get one or two more entries done before the holiday, but if not, have a wonderful New Year!