Waving Through a Window

On the outside, always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?
‘Cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass
I’m waving through a window
I try to speak, but nobody can hear
So I wait around for an answer to appear
While I’m watch, watch, watching people pass
I’m waving through a window, oh
Can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?

Have you ever felt this?
Feeling isolated and alone, watching life pass by?

Last week I sat transfixed watching Dear Evan Hansen, the Tony award Broadway musical, and every morning when I wake, all I hear in my head is,
I’m waving through a window,
Can anybody see?

And I knew I had to write to you about it.

I’ve been waiting to see this show for over a year.  It’s the hottest ticket on Broadway right now, rising in acclaim from a loyal fan base, and winning the Grammy for best album.But, what surprised me most was, I actually didn’t know what the show was about.

Somehow from some past conversation, I had thought the show was about bullying, so as I sat in the audience during pre-show, and watched the screens showing constant social media feeds, I thought,
Right…the effect of social media on teens….cyber bullying.

Then, the show began, and it was all too clear this was not about bullying.

The show is actually about teenage suicide and depression.

Not exactly what you would expect from a Broadway musical, right?
Aren’t musicals about happy people, dancing, and bursting into uplifting songs?

Why do so many people relate to this musical?
Why is it able to command some of the highest ticket prices and sell out every night?

Throughout the theater, the sound I heard was tears…crying….sniffling. And at the end, the entire audience was on their feet.

I’m waving through a window, oh
Can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?

 

I slam my dance clothes into my bag, holding back tears as I feel the hot sting of embarrassment.

I’ve been cut again.
It’s not fair.

I look at all the women being kept to sing, mourning my lost opportunity.
My voice is warm, I have my best song with me, and yet it doesn’t matter. They don’t want to hear me sing.

This won’t be my show. This won’t be my opportunity, and it’s back to another audition.

I see my colleagues, friends, all booking their Broadway show.  I feel like screaming,
Give me my CHANCE! Please!

On the outside, always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?

And I jam my headphones into my ears, and walk out onto the city street.  I’m getting older, I’ve been professionally performing for over 15 years….and the question arises in me,
Will this ever happen?

Can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?

 

Three years later, I slam the bathroom door, and slide down the wall, curling into the smallest ball possible.
I feel the heat pipe behind me, and wonder if I hold my hand to it, would it burn?

Then I look at the bathroom window, and wonder,
can I squeeze through it?

This bathroom is three stories up……

I’m losing this home anyway.
I’m losing this marriage…..I’m losing this life.

Could I fit through the window?
And then, would all the pain I feel pass?

For a moment, I stare at the window and consider, and then I come back.  I come back to the fact my entire life is falling apart.  My husband is leaving me.  I’m not getting pregnant.  Everything I had planned has slipped through my fingers.

I feel the pain, and realize I’m still breathing. And I realize I want to live. 

I want a devoted husband.
I want a family.
I want a life in the arts that fulfills me.

And I realize it’s not happening here….it’s been crying out for years, and now the truth is here.

And I take a breath, wipe my tears….and get up.

And I start to speak….
I start to ask for help…
I start to write about all that has been trapped inside me.

And the biggest surprise of all?
People listen.
People come close.

And I realize, I’ve been WRONG all along.

We actually have far more in common than differences.

All my doubts, all my fears, my heartache and vulnerability are actually what I SHARE with others.

I had thought I would be rejected for my vulnerability and people would leave.  Turns out, this is what was missing all along.

 

And the writers of Dear Evan Hansen knew this too.
They knew it intimately.

We actually all just want to be SEEN.
We want to be HEARD.

Starved for connection in our present age…..we deeply want to BELONG.

Dear Evan Hansen isn’t talking about something new.  Teenage depression and suicide have been around for a very long time, but the writers are giving it a VOICE.  They are releasing the shame and stigma around something that millions of families deal with, to offer the simple message,

You are not alone.

As an Artist, the greatest gift you bring to the table is your HUMANITY.  It’s not your perfection….it’s what you share with your audience.

We all cry.
We all feel loss.
We all have hearts that break, and bend, and burst.

And as an Artist, YOU have the ability to translate that.

You have the ability to translate these aspects that can feel so hidden to your audience into,
song
word
visual art
photography
dance

This is your gift. And it allows your audience to touch their humanity, and to open to loving their life.

So, take a breath, and tap in.

Are you sharing your Humanity with your audience?
Are you focused on what you have in common?

Listen, speak to them, and share what you have in common.

That’s when they will listen.

As Evan sings,
Have you ever felt like nobody was there?
Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere?
Have you ever felt like you could disappear?
Like you could fall, and no one would hear?

Well, let that lonely feeling wash away
Maybe there’s a reason to believe you’ll be okay
‘Cause when you don’t feel strong enough to stand
You can reach, reach out your hand

And oh, someone will coming running
And I know, they’ll take you home

So let the sun come streaming in
‘Cause you’ll reach up and you’ll rise again
Lift your head and look around
You will be found

 

We are stronger together.
Create your Art from our shared humanity.

Image courtesy of: Seattle Times

The Secret to Raving Fans

Have you ever wondered what the REAL secret is with having raving fans?

Have you ever seen people absolutely foaming at the mouth for the next piece of art from their favorite Artist and questioned,
How come that’s not happening to me?

These audiences are lining up around the block for the next,
Bruno Mars concert ticket
Game of Thrones book
Hamilton Broadway ticket
Entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Louvre
Release of the latest Harry Potter….

You scratch your head as you look at another lukewarm reception to your latest release, or random clapping to your performance and go,
WHAT the HECK?!

How do Artists have these massive followings on Instagram?
How do Artists sell out their concerts?
How do Artists get top dollar for their original work?
How do Artists make it to the NY Times Bestseller List?

Because, at the root of the question is,
I’m working so hard, why isn’t this happening for ME?

Super frustrating, right?

I hear you.  I felt the same way.  I was killing myself with dance classes, voice lessons, meeting casting directors, having perfect head shots and eye-catching audition outfits…and yet I hit a ceiling.

My talent was not reflecting my audience.  There was a disconnect.  For my level, I should have been CHOOSING between different Broadway shows….and yet, I couldn’t make it past final callbacks to even book ONE.

Have you ever felt this?
What do we do in this moment?

How do we turn it around and truly receive the acclaim we desire?

How does our effort and talent actually equate to a thriving career and raving fans that support, cherish and love us?

 

This past weekend I went to see one of my closest friends, Lisa, present her MFA Thesis project at Martha Graham Studios.  The culmination of two years of work, I couldn’t wait.

Lisa is one of the top jazz teachers in NYC, and I take her class weekly.  She’s a real anomaly in the dance world, as she specializes in technical jazz.  So much of the classical jazz form in dance has been watered down, and Lisa has really stayed more true to the art, keeping it very technical and clean.  It’s solid, and I always leave sweating, strong, and smiling. And I’m never alone….

She has a packed class every week.  She has students that come back, regulars who have been taking her for years, and because of her class they are booking company work and theater gigs. We are FANS, plain and simple.

So, it’s no surprise to know that when Lisa’s MFA Thesis performance piece was over, the whole audience leapt to their feet, shouting and screaming.  The dancers were glowing, Lisa was beaming, and we all felt fabulous.

But Lisa was not the only choreographer to present her work that night.  She was actually second, and the first performance was beyond painful.

I actually wanted to walk out.

How can this be possible?
Two choreographers going through the same program, and yet one created a desire to leave, and the other had me on my feet ready for more?

And it all comes down to ONE thing:
Connection.

On the first piece, the choreographer (who also danced in the piece) was literally having a temper tantrum on stage.  At one point she was gasping and screaming in circles on the ground, and all I could think was,
Do you care I am here?

What was Missing?
CONNECTION TO THE AUDIENCE.

I felt completely disconnected watching her piece.  I felt completely in the dark about what was really going on, but most of all, I felt she didn’t CARE whether or not I was involved.

And I was not alone.  When her piece awkwardly ended, there was barely any clapping.  Hands barely met, as I imagine everyone was confused.

Will I return to see this choreographer’s work again?
No.

Will the rest of the audience?
I doubt it.

Why?
We were not included in the performance.
We were on the outside.

Her piece was purely about her, her rage, and her pain.  It literally was akin to a two year old having a tantrum to say, ME ME ME!  As a new choreographer, she made a mistake I see Artists of all ages make again and again,
they FORGET to include their audience.
They forget about the WE.

Because honestly, there is no Artist without an Audience, and there is no Audience without an Artist.  It’s a relationship. It goes TWO ways.

So, why did Lisa’s piece receive a standing ovation?
We were included.  Energetically, physically, in every way…..and that translates to raving fans.

And trust me, I GET the desire to express rage.  In fact, some of the most powerful work happening right now is dealing with very dark issues, like depression, inequality, racism, and bullying.

Dear Evan Hansen, speaking into bullying, is THE top ticket on Broadway right now, and it’s extremely dark….but the difference comes in the HOW. The difference comes in YOUR intention.

The writers of Dear Evan Hansen are looking to raise awareness around this topic, they are looking to ENGAGE the audience, and ask powerful questions so that they then go into the world and make new choices.

People leave inspired, not shut down.

Because, let’s be honest……we don’t need more isolation.

We don’t need more messages telling us we are alone, no one cares, and we don’t matter.  People, YOUR AUDIENCE is starving for connection.  In a world where communication seems to mostly happen electronically, where we find out our friends challenges through a social media platform, where the next generation has lost the ability to have a face to face conversation when they are scared…..

Art matters.
Art is a catalyst.

It allows our audience to access their emotions in a way nothing else does.

So, take a moment and ask yourself:
Are you connecting with your Audience?
Are you including them in your Work?
Are you engaging with them?

And most of all…what is your INTENTION?

Is it to connect or isolate?

 

Be clear on WHY you are creating in the first place.  If you are receiving lukewarm applause, come back to center, and back to square one.

Come out of isolation.

Set your intention to connect and include them.  Engage with them, and learn what they NEED.  Learn what they WANT, and then partner together.

This is a relationship.  Cultivate it with love and mutual understanding.

They come to you starved, feed them, and in doing so, feed yourself.

Open the loop and let them in.