Carolyn (centre) and her band
Standing at the crossroads...
Have I really crossed over to the music world? Did I really leave theatre?
by Carolyn Fe
What an honor it was for me when Estelle and Gaëtan asked me to write about crossing over from theatre to music. At first I was taken by surprise and then I thought...Woah! Have I really crossed over to the music world? Did I really leave theatre?
I just need to get home to rest because my days usually start at 5:30 a.m.
My heart is still well placed in the theatre world. Although I may not be seen at the opening parties, galas, and industry gatherings. I do attend shows, usually mid-way through the run as I am quite uncomfortable in industry settings. I don't play 'the game' well so I must apologize to my friends if I do not stay after the show to congratulate you on the excellent job you've done...because you have but I just need to get home to rest because my days usually start at 5:30 a.m.
As Producer & Artistic Director of Altera Vitae Productions, I have produced 4 plays since its inception in 2005. My last work in theatre as producer/director was in November 2009 with the staging of Martin Sherman's “Bent”. I consider it to be Altera Vitae Productions' crowning glory. I was blessed to have cast a wonderful group of actors and technicians. It was a 2 week run of pure bliss. The production process was the smoothest I have ever experienced. Word spread like wildfire, mid-way through the first week the houses were full and although it has been over 2 years since the play's closing I am still receiving positive comments and requests for a remount. That production was my dream come true from a Producer's point of view. Not only did we make profit, yes - profit can be made in theatre, but we succeeded in spreading the word about GRIS, the organisation we were promoting. From a Director's point of view, I was happy to see that the play touched so many people's hearts from all types of communities. It was a perfect time to postpone Altera Vitae's activities for music. However, I am not finished with Altera Vitae Productions. When (not “if”) I do come back to produce via Altera Vitae, “Bent” will be my comeback play. It is a promise I've made to a Holocaust survivor that I've kept in contact with since the play closed.
My first Blues album, “100%” which was launched the summer of 2009 was gaining momentum on radio stations all over the world.
As a theatre actress, my last work was with Zeitgeist Theatre Collective in their January 2010 workshop of Julia Ainsworth's “P4W: Invisible Stories from the Prison for Women”. My first Blues album, “100%” which was launched the summer of 2009 was gaining momentum on radio stations all over the world. At the end of the workshop run, I told Julia that if she were to remount the play, I would gladly reprise the role she granted me.
I have always been involved in music even before I came into theatre. So the past couple of years, music – The Blues – has been my main focus. The theatrical opportunities offered to me weren't interesting enough for me to put a hold on the musical momentum. Having received postive reviews with my music, the opportunities to do blues gigs came fast and furious. August 2011 marks a turning point wherein I launch my 2nd CD, “Original Sin”, at a venue that is the Blues landmark of Montreal - Bistro à Jojo. This year is also well marked as we (the band) realise that we are gaining a loyal following.
Business is business, the way I see it, in all my affairs (corporate and artistic) I am “indie”. I approach every project as a business venture and measure the risks vs the return on investment (which is not necessarily all about $). I have never received grants. I have no interest in justifying my corporate or artistic existence to governing bodies who hold the mighty dollar and, grant “credibility” to my presence because of a decision to give me back the taxes that I have paid through my hard work...and besides, the governing bodies have their chosen establishments. I tip my hat to them but with Harper at the helm...ugh...never mind. I'll get back to the topic at hand.
There is something about music that seems to keep it real between this performer and the audience.
I find that Blues fans are different from theatre fans. There is something about music that seems to keep it real between this performer and the audience. There is a definite connection that is made. Although there is a fourth wall on that stage, it isn't as thick as that of the theatre stage. I often hear actors say that they like to work theatre more than film or TV because of that direct connection and instant reaction of the audience.
The blues stage and fan does “IT” for me. When I see an audience member close their eyes and sway to the music as they mouth the lyrics, or, when the crowd gets up on their feet and dance with total abandonment, I know I've hit a spot. I know I've made my connection and I see it happening more often than not.
I get chills down my spine when passing complete strangers on the street and hear them sing along with their ipods - my song, as if they owned it or seeing Facebook “friends” (those who I have never met) post pictures of themselves with my CD in hand and wearing my band T-shirt and spreading the word about my music.
So it must be true, glasses made Clark Kent anonymous.
Then there are instances in my day job at a high tech company (where my artistic life is strictly undercover). In the lunch room I hear these fine young 20-somethings discuss different styles of music and out of the blue (no pun intended) my name is mentioned alongside established blues artists in a most complimenting way. With iPods, iPads and all the tech gadgets in their hands – online photos?...I guess I must look quite different offstage. So it must be true, glasses made Clark Kent anonymous.
I am truly humbled by the public's reaction to my music. For me, it is quite comfortable in the music scene...sadly, a comfort that I have not felt in the theatre world. But don't get me wrong – music and theatre are difficult and demanding monsters that can eat one's spirit and spit it out. As much as I have built a thick skin in theatre, music is also a beast. I remember when I was shopping my first CD in 2009, an industry exec told me that "an Asian singing the blues is like selling a fridge to an Eskimo...useless." Theatre folks have more manners or are a little bit more subtle.
However, “that” theatrical opportunity has come up and it is interesting enough for me to put a hold on my musical activities.
I now look at the non-financial return on my investment and to date the tally is as follows:
Music has given me a sense of belonging that I cannot seem to find in the theatre world. I am not bitter, I am not sad. It is what it is.
However, “that” theatrical opportunity has come up and it is interesting enough for me to put a hold on my musical activities. It's comes at a risky time since my album launch is on August 12 & 13 and the play will have its run mid-to-end of September. It is a 2 week run that cuts into the momentum of the CD's promotion but I happily get back into the music scene right after. It is what it is.
I hope that you will cross over for a visit to hear my music or come see me play when I reprise my role as “Joss” in Julia Ainsworth's “Unfit for Bears” (formerly known as, P4W: Invisible Stories from the Prison for Women).
So you see, I haven't really crossed over. I am just standing at the crossroads, dancing on each corner but keeping a steady foot where I feel most at home on stage.
Carolyn-Fe Trinidad (Theatre World) aka Carolyn Fe (Music world)
NB: when this was written, I hadn't yet received confirmation at which stores the CDs will be available.