Posts Tagged 'ActingOut'

Thank You For the Music

Taylor Swift, Ryan Cabrera, Matt Nathanson, Serenity, Off Kilter.

“Thank you for the music / the songs we’re singing. / Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing.” ~ Thank You For the Music by ABBA.

I have been working on a project for ActingOut that we do at the end of every year called Secret DJ.  Basically the point of this is to share our music with other people, thus spreading love of artists, songs, and genres.  I like to go a little over-the-top with it, and I design a CD cover and insert.  In my insert this year I have been using to include random facts about the songs or artists.

As I was looking around, I found that three of my favorite artists had virtually nothing on them.  I grew up on well-known oldies, and it has only been in the last seven years or so that I have begun to branch out and listen to different kinds of music.  I always listened to artists who were well-known, or showtunes, which I don’t expect to be well-known.  So when I find out that groups I love are practically unknown, it’s a shock to me.

So, inspired and enraged by the lack of love some of my favorite modern artists are getting, this entry is entirely for them.  See, I’m a song person.  I hear a song I like, I check out the artist, but generally don’t like much else by them, and I stick to the song.  The five people below, I like every song I’ve heard by them.  I can honestly say that they are some of my absolute favorite artists.  My top five artists, in no particular order, I just want to say, thank you for the music.


1. Taylor Swift

I was excited when Taylor Swift came out with Fearless, because at that time, I totally knew her music.  She is one of the only artists I can say I knew fairly well before she became mainstream.  I remember hearing “Tim McGraw” on the country station when I was in my brief country phase, and loving it.  So I looked up the rest of her Taylor Swift album.  I was amazed by her- she is two months younger than me, writing her own music (she was eleven when she started handing out demos to labels), and she had a beautiful voice.  To look at pictures of her, you wouldn’t believe that she’s only twenty.

The reason why I loved her was because I felt like I could relate to her songs.  The song “I’d Lie” felt like the story of my entire middle school and high school life.  I was in love with so many people who hardly noticed I existed.  And when they did notice me, I was just Amber.  Nothing special, even though it felt amazing just to be acknowledged by them.  Looking back now, it feels a little silly and childish, but it was perfect for me then.  Because I loved them to pieces in that immature way that high schoolers and middle schoolers love other people, but if you ever directly confronted me about it, I’d lie.

Her first album really reached out to me, and I felt like she was a normal everyday person that I could meet on the streets and have a conversation with.  I don’t feel that way about most of Fearless, but I’m a loyal fan of the Taylor Swift album.  But now that she’s a big name, she does feel bigger than life to me, and I don’t need to talk about her anymore.  There are other artists who need the love and attention more.


#2.  Ryan Cabrera

An artist that I discovered came up with only two results on was Ryan Cabrera.  I fell in love with Ryan Cabrera’s music after looting my boyfriend’s mp3 player.  I always assumed he was pretty mainstream.  I mean, Bryan used to sing the song “True” all the time, and that was indeed one of the two songs that popped up on  I don’t listen to the radio, I assumed that he was popular all-over.  But as I discovered when I looked him up on Wikipedia, Ryan Cabrera appears to have a sole purpose:  to have an extra page to talk about the song “On the Way Down”.  While I will admit that I enjoy “On the Way Down,” “True” is not one of his better songs.  The only other one that can be found is “Shine On”.

My favorite songs by him are none of these.  Ryan Cabrera is an artist that helps me through the hard times.  Whenever I’m upset by something, I find myself listening to “Kinds of Sadness”.  When I find that the world is just too much for me, I drone it out by listening to “Echo Park”.  Both of these songs are escapes for me, but particularly “Echo Park”.  I like the opening stanza the most:  “Today it rained in L.A. / smog’s been beaten down for awhile / drove up a hill where I could feel the ocean / and see for miles. / Feels like the top of the world / right here the world’s all mine.”  Those lines seem to give such window into the artist and while I live in the country (not the city, where there’s smog) I’ve definitely had days when I just need to drive away into a sanctuary to get away from all the clouds around my world.  Who doesn’t?  But for one reason or another, this song never was very popular.

I have an affinity for artists who play the acoustic guitar.  The first three of these five are all acoustic players.  There is something to the sound of an acoustic guitar that helps the song reach to the heart, instead of flooding the brain.


#3.  Matt Nathanson

My love for Matt Nathanson is simply proof that the Pandora Music Genome Project works.  I was listening to my Ryan Cabrera radio station on there, and Matt’s song “Curve of the Earth” came up.  I immediately got the song and listened to it over and over.  And over.  I loved it.  I still do- it’s a song I never get tired of.  Even a year after I discovered him, it is my favorite song by him.  I like almost all his music, but “Curve of the Earth” still makes me want to dance.  And I.  Don’t.  Dance.

Matt Nathanson’s one really big hit was “Come on Get Higher,” which, I believe, is not the best of all his songs.  However, that song is one you will still hear on a lot of radio stations.

Like Taylor Swift, Matt Nathanson is an artist who seems real to me.  On his official website, he keeps a blog.  Wow.  Like me.  Cool.  The only other celebrity blog I’ve ever stumbled upon that is actually kept up by the celebrity and not a trained team of ferrets (sorry people who actually do these things) was Alyssa Milano’s.  Matt talks mostly about music, as is to be expected with any musician.  He’s currently going through a rather detailed explanation of his top ten favorite artists and why he likes them and how they inspire him.  Every once and a while, who posts things not directly related to music, but definitely still incorporates them.  In May of 2009, he even wrote a not-quite-haiku about fried dough, which made me smile because I loath haikus and he said he was “taking liberties with the form” and it isn’t a haiku at all.


#4.  Serenity.

When most people hear the word “serenity” they think of the movie by Josh Whedon that was supposed to be a closure to the Firefly series that Fox cancelled.  There are many things I could say about that movie, most of them not-so-nice, but that is not the point of this right now.  The Serenity I am talking about is an Austrian group.  They classify themselves until Melodic Progressive Power Metal.

When most people think of metal, they think of a lot of loud music pressed together and screaming and high adrenaline pumping.  Serenity is a little different.  I found them by listening to my Sonata Arctica station on Pandora.  I was introduced to Sonata Arctica by my friends in middle school, and I loved the Reckoning Day, Reckoning Night album.  That album told the story of a struggle between vampires and werewolves.  None of their other stuff was quite the same, and so when I discovered Serenity, I was thrilled.

Serenity has such a sound that you feel like their music belongs in a fantasy movie.  Their latest music video is “Velatum”.  I haven’t been able to hear a lot of their music, unfortunately, since they are still in the shadow of bands like Sonata Arctica and Kamelot, but every single song I have heard, I’ve loved.  There are so many layers to their music, it’s amazing.  And their music videos are beautiful.


#5.  Off Kilter

This band is incredibly difficult to find things by.  While I love Disney animated movies to pieces, I get a little frustrated with their hogging of talent.  Disney is well-known to find people when they are just starting out in the entertainment business and to keep them tucked away doing television shows or performing in the parks, and they won’t let them do anything else.  Ever.

Off Kilter is a Disney band.  Disney doesn’t own them, no, but the only things you can find about the band are from Disney and their unfortunate, not very well-designed website.  They have been performing regularly at Epcot for the last thirteen years.  They’re not a very “pretty-looking” band, but they are unique.  They play Irish folk music with a progressive rock twist.  Also?  They have a bagpipe and they wear kilts.  I’m not sure if that’s classic or weird, but I do know that it’s awesome and unique.  Good for them!

They do a lot of stuff, including covers of well-known songs, but by far my favorite is a traditional Irish folk song:  “Danny Boy”. I know it’s not the “traditional way the song was played,” but the way that Off Kilter plays it definitely brings life into the song. The band is talented, and it is a shame that the haven’t (and probably will never) achieve popularity.


Awoo! Awoo! Awoo!

Tugging another player into the group.

May 21, 2010; Keene, NH: A small group of improvers trying to get a friend to join the fun by "tugging him in" with an imaginary rope. Effects added in Photoshop.

“With any part you play, there is a certain amount of yourself in it. There has to be, otherwise it’s just not acting. It’s lying.” ~ Johnny Depp.

I have noticed recently that almost every single day I get a hit from someone on WordPress who’s searching “ActingOut”.  I do tend to post pictures or snippets from the group, but rarely anything more.  So, I don’t know who is searching “Acting Out” constantly, and what they’re looking for, but I’ll tell you what it is to me:

I am an intern for ActingOut, a local community improv theatre group for the youth in my area.  We do many things, the most basic levels of which are:  community education, skill-building, and providing a safe and nurturing environment for the area’s youth.  That’s the most basic level of the services and such that the group provides.  There’s all sorts of definitions, but I find that a lot of them are incredibly personal.

This is my fifth season with the troupe.  I joined as a sophomore in high school when the improv group was first formed.  That was a short season, and I remember at the end of it there were very few people there.  In the end, just me and two friends.  Both the others stayed with it until they graduated high school, but they drop in every now and then.  I’m with it still.  Sometimes, I don’t know why I am.  It makes me so mad sometimes.  And it certainly eats up all my free time.  But I do stay because of the students.  Most of them become my friends, and I enjoy teaching them, and learning from them.

My expertise?  The games.  Sometimes I think that teaching the games is just my justification for watching far more Whose Line Is It Anyways? in my free time.  But that’s what I think I’m best at.  I’ve helped create a few games, and I keep teaching ones from Whose Line I think we can pull off.  I’m waiting for the right musical talent to try out Greatest Hits.  Some day, wouldn’t it be nice, if we wrote enough letters, we could get Ryan Styles or Colin Mochrie to cameo at our 24-hour fundraiser event?  That’s my dream, but it’ll never happen.

Teaching is a lot of fun.  All my student are immensely talented, in such a way that I cannot fairly capture it in my photographs, no matter how many I take.  I get the privilege to watch each of the students grow.  The only film I have available online is very old stuff, at least four years old, and the talent has changed.  I’m not saying that the videos are bad – Superheroes is one of my favourites, period.  But the 90-60-30 isn’t the strongest we’ve done.  Still, it’s an example of some of our “silly” work (despite the poor quality).

We don’t focus on the comedy improv as much as we focus on issue oriented improv.  That’s where we get our funding, and I’m not going to lie, it is important.  The games are used to teach skills, so we can do the issue-based improv better.  Unlike a traditional improv troupe, we are not there to entertain the audience.  We are there to educate them.  And what makes the group influential is the fact that they’re not well-dressed, stiff professionals.  They are the youth of the day.  They’re fourteen-year-olds, seventeen-year-olds.  All of whom firmly believe the things they say.  They are some of the strongest and most talented individuals I know.

And it is a pleasure to teach them and know them.

Photo of the Day: No, I Did Not Miss Yesterday

Erica at the ActingOut Performance

May 19, 2010; Keene, NH: Erica watching the ActingOut performance at the Starving Artist.

Live, Laugh, Love.

The "L" key on my typewriter.

May 17, 2010; Chesterfield, NH: A dimly-lit macro-shot of my typewriter. The letter "L".

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” ~ Charlie Chaplin.

Laughter is the very best medicine.  I cannot stress that enough.  Every day people are hit with a thousand things, demands for their time and money, harsh words, and other such things.  As the world moves faster and faster, people are shorter with each other.  Working in retail, I have learned that everybody has had enough of the world.  We’re running as it is and the economy keeps notching up the speed.  We’re out of breath, we’re upset, things aren’t falling into place, it’s okay, I understand.  Believe me, just because I am not you doesn’t mean I can’t feel your stress.  The strings are being pulled tighter and tighter and eventually they’re going to snap.

I hope people can go home and relax.  I don’t get the impression that they can.  In my home, my father has always brought work home with him.  Part of that is because he works in a “home office” (also known as, the living room).  The tension comes home with the job, family just makes it worse because they want something, too.  If we can’t go home and relax, how can we laugh?  How can we alleviate the tension?  It’s a matter of choice, I believe.

Work is going to be there whether we think about it or not.  When we go home, we have to be able to drop the worries about work and be happy with the people we’re with.  My friends have been trying forever (literally) to get me to live in the moment and I’m trying to do just that.  Because otherwise, I can’t drop worries about work and just sit down and laugh.

One of the reasons I have stuck with ActingOut for so long is the laughter that comes with it.  Unfortunately, it has become more work than fun for me in the last couple years, but every time there is that one improv game that makes me fall to pieces, it seems worth it.  Sometimes, I sit down and watch Whose Line Is It Anyways? marathons, because even if I’ve seen the episode twenty times, I’ll find something new to laugh at.  Maybe it’s someone’s facial expression.  Who knows.  But laughter alleviates everything.  There are so many different ways to find laughter.  Lately, for me, it’s improv theatre.

I challenge the world to put their day away when they punch out and come home and find something to laugh over, and to fellowship with friends and family.

After all, Charlie Chaplin was the master of laughter, and how can you argue with him?

Common Courtesy

Shannon eating candy Dots

“An excess of courtesy is discourtesy.” ~ Japanese Proverb.

In case you were wondering about the title, I am too.  Common courtesy- what is it?  What’s not enough, and what paranoia of the public?

For me?  I’d say not answering a phone call in the middle of a wedding is common courtesy.  Not screaming in the movie theatre is common courtesy (I have no problem with talking; as long as it’s to the person next to you.  Granted, my tolerance of this may be inspired by my own lack of ability to shut up).  But where does having common courtesy start infringing on your own happiness?  When does it stop being “common courtesy” and start being “slaving to someone else’s whims?”

Sometimes, I do things and have so much fun then find out other people were bothered by them.  Then I feel like I should feel guilty about it.  But I don’t.  Because I had so much fun, and after all, are we supposed to know telepathy to make people feel better?  If so… totally unfair.

Watched Labyrinth tonight and am wondering if my headache is related to the loss of braincells.  It’s a silly movie, but I’ve never been all that “in love” with either David Bowie or 80s flicks.  But the company was nice.

A note to myself:  tomorrow I am going to mention some of the things that are worrying me about the members of that group in order to try and clear things out of my head.  For tonight, there was more I wanted to write, but I don’t think my headache will allow it, so I’m going to shut off my computer and be done with this blinding light.  Adieu!


something to think about

"You know, I don't know if you'll understand this or not, but sometimes, even when I'm feeling very low, I'll see some little thing that will somehow renew my faith. Something like that leaf, for instance - clinging to its tree despite wind and storm. You know, that makes me think that courage and tenacity are about the greatest values a man can have. Suddenly my old confidence is back and I know things aren't half as bad as I make them out to be. Suddenly I know that with the strength of his convictions a man can move mountains, and I can proceed with full confidence in the basic goodness of my fellow man. I know that now. I know it." ~ End of Act I in the musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

competing for the house cup

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