Music for a Snowy Day

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So, remember last week when I said that Spawn has introduced me to a whole world of new music? Well, today one of these tunes has been stuck in my head, and I figured that was a pretty clear sign that I needed to share it with you. I am absolutely in love with Frank Turner’s ballad (of course, it would be a ballad) Balthazar Impressario. It’s a gorgeous story song about the last night of an English music hall.

There are two things I adore about it (well, more but I’m trying to keep this short and sassy).

One: The line “Always take the stage like it’s the last night of your life” .  Of all the ear worms from this song this is the one that I hear over and over again. It is performing advice to live by.

Two: It reminds me of my friend George Hall. George is an expert on English Music Hall, and one of the most delightful people I have ever spent time with. He knows Just about everything there is to know about theatre having worked with pretty near every luminary to trod the English boards. He’s in his nineties now and still teaching young performers in the UK. He once said to me he could not imagine retiring. I miss his twinkling eyes and exceedingly dry sense of humor. It may be time for me to plan a trip to London...

So without further ado...here’s your tune for the day. You’re welcome. 

Bailey’s Rules of Life, Love & Style #1

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Rule #1: Just because it comes in your size doesn’t mean you should wear it.

 

Someone once said to me that I could never be president because my name (and by extension the rest of me) was too girly. Up until that moment I had never considered a political career, and had a moment of wanting one for pure spite. As we have seen this is never a good idea. But that comment stayed with me for a very long time until I realized that it was absolute bunk. There was nothing wrong with me then and there is certainly nothing wrong with me now. I am a “girly girl” though I hate that term as it always feels like a veiled insult. I love clothes and the freedom of expression they give me. I enjoy the transformative aspect of fashion, I can be who I want to when I want to be depending on my mood. This does not mean I am not a serious person, or that I judge others based on their appearance. This is just who I have been from my earliest memories of fighting my mother on what I wanted to wear.

 Over the years I’ve developed my own style code. As I’ve taught classes to performers about public image, and helped nonperformers define their own style I’ve gradually developed a set of rules that I like to call Bailey’s Rules of Life, Love & Style. Personal style should be just that, personal. Unique to you and your life. While it’s always important to be aprorpriate to the occaision, it’s just as important to be true to your personal style code.  Clothing is meant to compliment who we are not hide it. With that I bring you rule number one...

Just because it comes in your size doesn’t mean you should wear it.

Fit can mean a lot of things. There’s physical fit. Is it too big? Is it too small? Do the proportions work on my body? Is it flattering? This is important but there are other almost more important meanings to the term fit...

*Does this fit my idea of who I am and who I want to be? Clothing is powerful because it tells people something about you without saying a word. What do you want to say with your outfit? What do you want people to know about you? Does the garment in question say that? 

*Does this fit the way I feel? How do you feel when you put on a particular article of clothing? Does it make you feel good? Does it give you confidence? Does it feel like “you”? Our clothes have an emotional effect on us for both good and ill. Life’s too short to wear clothes that make you feel bad.

 *Does this fit my life? Am I buying this item because it truly makes me feel great and confident in my own skin?  Or am I buying it because it’s “on trend”? On sale? Someone else told me I should? If the answer to any but the first of these questions is yes, set the garment free to go to a new home. There’s nothing wrong with trends or sales or asking someone else’s opinion, but when those factors override your sense of self confidence that’s a problem.

 *Does it fit the occasion? Here’s the thing, clothing is certainly about expressing oneself, but it is also a sign of respect. If your basic style is casual and you’re invited to a black tie event, it’s not okay to show up in your jeans and shrug and say “that’s just who I am”. It’s rude. But that doesn’t mean you have to show up in an overly embellished gown and torture chamber shoes. Find something with a simple cut, a fabric like silk jersey that is comfortable yet elegant, and add a pretty pair of flats. It sometimes takes creativity but you can translate your personal style code into any event.

 The bottom line is that a garment that fits on all levels will make you feel great! If it doesn’t you don’t need it. If it makes you want to run for president, even better!

Mother & Spawn Playlist: Guilty Pleasures

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Spawn and I have both wildly divergent and yet eerily similiar tastes in music. Over the years it’s been interesting how our positions have reversed. It used to be me introducing new artists and genres to him, and now, more often than not he’s the one bringing new stuff to me. We’re always tossing songs back and forth (sometimes multiple versions of the same song) so we thought it’d be fun to start an occasional feature here on the blog where we pick a subject and build a playlist around it. 

SInce it’s January, the weather is dire and all is pretty icktastic we’re kicking off with something short, sweet, and silly. We have each chosen two of our favorite Guilty Pleasure songs. Nowhere is our divergent taste more evident than here. My choices are late seventies and early eighties pop complete with cringe inducing fashion, while his tend to a have a harder edge. It makes for a very interesting play list.

My First Pick: I have had a particular affinity for the hustle ever since my cousin Pam taught it to me in the living room at age nine. This is one of my favorite hustle songs. Plus, I got to meet Paul Shaffer the co-writer of this song last year, and he called me gorgeous so there’s that.... 

Spawn’s Take: The theme song of every cougar who ever lived.

Spawn’s First Pick:  Weezer’s tough for me to stomach between their poppy sound and the fact that their frontman is, according to things I’ve heard, a bit of a jerk. I will say they’ve got a couple of nice tunes, and I’m a sucker for a good bluesy guitar riff.

Mother’s Take: I feel no guilt in saying I take no pleasure in this song.

My Second Pick: The stuff of my seven year old singing diva fantasies. I used to imagine myself in a yellow dress wowing a packed house with this. Unfortunately,  Donny & Marie beat me to it, and on ice skates no less.

Spawn’s Take: Makes me think of guilded, feathery, Vegas trashiness...

Spawn’s Second Pick: Andrew W. K. is not really like most of the people I tend to listen to. He’s just fun. No Depth, not rhyme or reason. He’s just fun. What’s so damned wrong with that?

Mother’s Take: Uh, son, do we need to talk? 

 

Singing for a Cause...

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In rehearsal for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Salvador Navarro & Dan Vissers . Photo by Penguin Moon Studios

The art of making art is a difficult one. It requires talent, vision, willing collaborators and funding. You can have the first three elements but without the last one, the almighty dollar, you won’t get very far. At times like this we all can use a little help from our friends.

Last year Pioneer Productions Company gave me the opportunnity to play Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I had a blast exploring the contours of this iconic character and made some talented new friends in the process. Now it’s time for me to give back a little of what they gave to me. On January 20th I will be reuniting with some of my pals from Cuckoo’s nest along with some other terrific performers for an evening benefiting Pioneer. 

Your ticket will get you an evening of great singing, yummy food, and the knowledge that you’re helping to bring new art to life. Click HERE to get your tix for the event. I’ll see you there!

 (If you’d like a sneak peak of what you’ll see on the 20th check out the promo below...)

 

 

Who Said it Would Be Easy

I have spent the better part of the last year or so being uncomfortable, waking up in the morning trying to breathe through the fear.  Without entirely meaning too I have been changing my life. I have pushed myself to the very limits in almost every aspect of my life. “What’s wrong with me?” I kept asking, “I could have a nice safe life. Normal people do not do this.” But with each step out onto the ledge I have learned more about myself, who I am, who I want to be, what I want to keep and what I want to leave behind. 

Watching this video clarified a lot of the thoughts and feelings I’ve had lately. Growth is not supposed to be painless. Becoming the person that we are meant to be is a difficult process, especially as you encounter so many voices in your life telling you who you should be. Discovering who I am called to be is both a revalation and a revolution. I feel like it’s been quietly waiting for me to pay attention for it to reveal itself, and now that it has I can only follow its call. 

 

 

 

Dance Diary: Coco, I Don’t Think We’re in Armani Anymore

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Feathers & spangles & ruffles! Oh, my! 

I hoped it would never come to this. I swore I would never do it. I believe my exact words on the subject were “if I ever even say I’m thinking about doing this slap me”. And yet...here I am agreeing to take part in my first major dance competition.  And with that comes the need for a costume.

 

As someone who has spent a good part of her life refining her personal style entering the arena of ballroom wear is, as one of my Romanian instructors says, “a little bit challenge”. I love rhinestones and sequins and all sorts of embellishments, but I tend to draw the line at eye searing neons and animal prints in shades that any leopard will tell you do not occur in nature. And then there are the cutouts...I could be wrong, but I highly doubt any judge wants to see the scar from my gallbladder surgery. But I also had a broadway costume designer mentor who once told me that the difference between the professionals and the amateurs he worked with was that the professionals were always willing to try anything that the designer threw at them. So when it came time to go to the professionals and chose a dress my rule was “no matter what say yes” (which is also the first rule of improv, but that’s for another day).

 

Fortunately for me, I found a great crew of experts at Encore Ballroom Couture. It didn’t hurt at all that I came equipped with my own crew of my sister, Evie, and two great nieces, Epuri & Coco (ages ten & eight) for second and third opinions.  Entering the showroom was like landing on planet sparkle. Every where you looked there were beads and sequins and fringe and lace and color. Heaven for the little girls in my entourage and not too bad for their auntie either. It was sort of like being on Say Yes to the Dress Ballroom Edition (hmmm....I might actually watch that show....Cable execs if you’re listening...)

 

So with the goal of saying yes to whatever they presented me to try on out came the dresses. The first thing you need to know about trying on dance costumes is that the way they appear on the hanger often bears no relation to the way they will look on a human. This was apparent pretty quickly from the very first dress. On the hanger it appeared as a pile of gold and copper stones with a skirt made of varying shades of old panty hose. But once I put it on the stones sparkled in the light and brought out my skin tone, and the chiffon skirt moved like a dream.  

 

Also, when your entrourage includes an eight and a ten year old there wil be some difference of opinion in what constitutes an appropriate dress. The yellow fishnet dress that was held together by spangles, feathers and a strategically placed flower or two had me breaking into the chorus of “Copacabana”, but for the under twelve set it was just right. Don’t get me wrong, it was the sort of dress that would look gorgeous on a woman with much darker skin and better developed stomach muscles than I, but it was not my dress. Their second choice of a daisy printed dress with a maribou hemline made me look like an extra on the Dukes of Hazzard but on a sunny busty blonde it would be absolutely smashing. 

In the end I figured out that much of what I already knew about dressing in the real world and dressing for the ballroom was not all that different. Jewel tones sing on me and neons and pastels not so much (the less said about the lavender dress that Evie said make me look like a fairy the better). Fringe is my embellishment of choice. The cut and fit of a garment  are my best friends.And always, always listen to the experts when they make suggestions. I’m thrilled with the dress I chose, but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until March to see it. 

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This one came close.... 

Losing My Balance

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The Only existing pic of me on the ice. The hair gives it away.

Over the holidays I went ice skating for the first time in I don’t know how many years. The first few minutes were pretty much torture as I kept a death grip on the rail trying to think about what I knew about moving on two thin metal blades while trying not to think about all the things that could happen were I to fall off those blades. After a few deep breaths I was able to align myself and let go. While attempting to glide somewhat gracefully around the ice I had some time to think about the fine art of balance.

 

I’ve spent the better part of the last two years learning to dance. A lot of people questioned why I would do this, it wasn’t what I was known for why do it? Yet, from the moment I stepped into my first class, I knew that this was absolutely what I needed to be doing. And it has definitely paid off. Dancing has completely changed the way I approach performing. It’s given me an ease and physical freedom on-stage that I’ve never had, not to mention an entirely new element to add to my shows. So what’s the problem?

 

In committing to learning this new skill I often feel that I have thrown my life dramatically out of balance. In order to master this new skill I have had to work at it intensely and that requires time, time which gets taken away from other things. Finding time for classes and sessions and practice consumes me. It also cuts into the time I have for other things. I have had to turn down invitations and ignore the dust bunnies colonizing under the sofa. Add to that finding the time to sing and write and promote and each day is a about four hours too short.

 

Somewhere it occurred to me while dodging small sugar fueled children hurling themselves at me at great rates of speed that maybe it wasn’t that my life was so far out of whack at this moment but that what I needed was to change my idea of what living a balanced life means at this moment.

 

The first thing that I realized was that in order to bring this new thing into line with all the other things I do professionally I HAVE to work at it constantly and intensively. There is no other way but to give myself over to the process in the short term so that in the long term I can confidently add this tool to my professional arsenal. In a sense, for a little while, this is my job. After that comes attention to all the other things that need constant tuning - the singing and writing and spinning new projects and promoting the old. Finally, come the social obligations and chores. Learning to live in harmony with the dust bunnies for a while is okay as long as there’s food in the pantry and clean underwear everything else can take a backseat. As for my social life, even if I can’t see my people as often as I Iike I can make sure that I am fully present when we are together, and that means putting work aside and not feeling guilty about it.

 

I can’t do everything every day, but I can make sure that every day I’m doing what I need to do, and that is a great relief. And just maybe I’ll find a little bit of time to get back out on the ice.

Thursday Morning Tunes

I am not a morning person. Cranky and monosyllabic are the two words that best describe my morning persona. It takes dynamite and a giant hit of caffeine (though I'm working on giving that up) to propel me into motion. Once my eyes have been forced open I scroll through my email, social networking, and the news until I'm able to form coherent sentences. Alas, these days those sentences are usually rants about the sorry state of democracy and the world in general. So, it was a lovely change this morning to be greeted with a wonderful article from Rolling Stone about Bobbie Gentry. Which in turn sent me straight to my various musical devices. From there it was just a little hop to  YouTube and this...

 

 

Suddenly my morning just got a lot better. Only now I'm wondering where to get my hands on a red catsuit...

Long Time No See...

Without meaning to at first I sort of took a hiatus over the last eighteen months or so. I stopped booking new gigs, and recording and blogging and teaching and started to explore some other areas of my creativity that I had long neglected. Eleanor Roosevelt said, Do one thing a day that scares you , and somewhere along the line I decided to be an overachiever and do a whole bunch of things daily that terrify me. 

It all started with Gretchen Cryer. Gretchen, if you do not know her (and you absolutely should know her) is an actor, director, writer, and teacher who co-wrote the Off-Broadway classic I'm Getting My Act Together & Taking it on the Road. I won a free solo show writing class with her at a theatre event I attended. I had long wanted to take a writing class but was too chicken and this turned out to be just the push I needed.  From there it progressed to a weekly group class with Gretchen and two amazing and fierce women that I met at the first class. It wasn't long before that progressed into regular private sessions and the creation of a solo theatrical piece that is slowly but surely working it's way to a stage near you.

 

Somehow, and I can't really explain how, writing leads to dancing. I had not set foot in a dance class in years. Dance has never been my medium. I'm flat footed,  uncoordinated and look like a stork - nothing movement oriented has ever come easily to me. Yet, there I was, willingly entering a dance studio. Soon I was going to class five nights a week and having private instruction. And not only did I find I liked it, but I also didn't completely suck. It has been a long strange journey (that I will share more fully with you in a series of upcoming posts). For now though, I will say it's given me another way of looking at music, and at myself.

                                                             

 Another twist in the road lead me back to theatre.  A friend who has a theatre company came to me and said his company  was doing a production of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and would I audition for Nurse Ratched. I laughed. For the past few years I have identified as a singer, a singer who was trained as an actor and uses that in her work certainly, but primarily I was a singer. I wasn't sure I wanted to do a straight play. The thought of doing it petrified me. But being me, I couldn't let my friend down either so I stilled my knocking knees and went to the audition. No one was more surprised than I when  I was cast. It was great fun to play a woman some people see as one of the great villains. I disagree, and that's another story for another day.

 

Although at times pursuing all of these things led me away from my first love of singing for a bit, I found in doing them whole new creative possibilities. I can see new ways in which I can combine all of these areas with what I'm already doing, and I am returning to music with renewed enthusiasm. As for doing those things which scare me...maybe it's time to learn to fly a plane...

 

Nurse Ratched photo by Denise Medve - Penguin Moon Studios 

Courtesy of  Pioneer Productions