Sunday, July 29, 2012
Come September, I will be back on the performance train, and I can't wait. In the meantime, I've been considering other things I can do to take my 25 year career and turn it into 50. So, last week, I met with my manager to talk about a strategy. I wanted him to know that in addition to performing all my hits on a regular basis, I also want to branch out into musical theater (which has always been a passion of mine since high school), acting in theater & television and possibly pursuing becoming a talk show host. For some reason, I really believe the talk show host thing could happen. I get a little tingle when I talk about it. I was sure that my manager, Gary, would be against it, and give me the whole stay-where-people-know-you speech. But when I mentioned it to him, he AGREED!! Wow. I couldn't believe it. As he began to tell me what his plan is (which is a pretty good one), he looked up my Facebook, and began to explain to me the importance of having more than 100,000 LIKES on Facebook for the industry & media to pay attention to you. He pointed out to me that I only had 38,505 likes, otherwise known as fans. I told him that every single one of the 38,505 fans is organic, REAL! Yes, my friends, you may not know it, but there are secret ways in the industry to get more likes in a more dishonest way. But I will NOT be a part of it. When I was in 8th grade, a boy I had a crush on, begged me to give him an answer during the test. To win his affections, I gave it to him...and I got caught. It was the first and last time I ever cheated. No sir, I won't do it again. So, I just need to find new & more exciting ways to gain new fans, keep the ones that are already there & get everyone talking...but I will not do something scandalous, lol..although I understand it can be interesting, lol.I like my 38,505 fans...they are real, they are wonderfully devoted & at the end of the day, they've got my back! And trust me, they have defended me & lifted me up when I was down. And at this moment today, I have 39,043 LIKES...and I enjoy it, and I'm proud of it. I was just recently in the Off Broadway show, My Big Gay Italian Wedding. I have been an extra in a movie with Edward James Olmos & Maria Conchita Alanso. I was also cast in a movie last year called Elliot Loves, where I play Aunt Nani, which by the way, has been receiving RAVE reviews in all the film festivals in Miami, San Francisco, Pennsylvania, Italy, and this month, August 17th, debuts in the New York International Latino Festival!! And that's awesome, but it's not enough. So last week, in accordance with my desire to explore the acting bug, I decided to go to H.O.L.A. - the Hispanic Organization for Latin Actors in NYC. I met with AB Lugo, and he went over my resume and concerns with me. Such a sweetheart! He explained what the organization is all about, and it sounded very wonderful and fair to me. As I was thanking him and saying goodbye, he asked me to follow him. "Before you go...come with me." Ok. Mr. Lugo introduces me to Veronica, the director for a new play called Black Latina. Veronica smiles, we shake hands. "Judy, do you have a resume?" "Yes." (Thank God, I brought extras with me that day) "Do you have a headshot?" "Here you go." "Do you have a monologue?" Darn. 2 out of three ain't bad? "No, I'm sorry. I do not." I suddenly realize how unprofessional that sounded. Mental note to self: work on finding a great monologue FAST! "That's ok....would you be available to audition now?" Ding, ding, ding! "Yes, sure!" I fill out some paperwork and I'm handed 2 monologues to read: one entitled Anger and the other, Empowerment. She said to me, "I'll be back to get you in a few minutes." As I read them to myself, I liked them both, but I related to the Anger one better. Now allow me to explain to you that when I originally was introduced to Tirandra, there were only two people in the room. I believed I was going back to that room to those two people as an audience. I was amazed that I didn't feel nervous. I'm ALWAYS nervous when I audition & still when I perform. But it felt right - it felt good. About 15 minutes later, a girl who I didn't see before, came up to me. "They're ready for you now." They? Who's they? As we're walking down the corridor, the young woman smiles and says, "I'm such a fan. I love your music." "Oh, thank you so much." She opens this door. Not the same door I'd exited before. And BAM!!! I felt like the girl from the movie, Flashdance. The room was HUGE! The ceilings were incredibly HIGH, you could hear the echo in my footsteps. As soon as I walked in, there must have been at least EIGHT people sitting in front of a long table, all with pens in their hands and polite smiles. And as soon as I realized this was REAL, my heart began to pump...It pumped so hard, I suddenly wanted to run. And there it is. There's my little friend, nervousness...I can always count on her to be with me when I DON'T WANT HER TO BE!! I asked if I could read from Anger, and I asked how they wanted it read - I could see it read two ways - one very proper and the other like the chicas in my neighborhood (think Rosie Perez - who I ADORE). Crystal, the playwright, explained the level of frustration the character feels...and I take a deep breath and remind myself, "You can do this...you've been in these situations before. You know who you are - you show them now." I began to read. "Why??? Why...." And I was outside my body. To my absolute horror, I saw my hand shaking...shaking like a person having withdrawals from drugs!! What!? My hand NEVER shakes...holy....crap. I'm reading, but even my reading is getting worse. My stomach has so many butterflies, I think the butterflies will actually come out of my mouth. I put the paper down and tell the truth like the bad contestants on American Idol: "I'm sorry...I'm really nervous." Veronica smiles & says, "Ok. Put the paper down and can you give us some improvisation? Just tell us in your own words how you feel about being a Black Latina. (A black latina is a woman who is of hispanic descent but she also has darker skin...many of us, including myself have African and Native Indigineous blood in our heritage...a fact that many won't admit) So I take a deep breath....just tell the truth. "Okay. Well, I find it interesting that people are always telling me how beautiful my skin tone is...how gorgeous of a tan I have. But I know that the media will cast a lighter skinned woman before a darker skinned one...the African American community has the same problem. I remember a few years ago, when the census went around, it asked us what our race was...there was white, black, Native American, etc...but no hispanic. How do I choose black or white, when I am both. Why do I have to CHOOSE to LABEL myself?! Truth is I am half Puerto Rican and half Cuban. My mom who's Puerto Rican, has light skin. My father, who's Cuban, is dark - African American dark...and look. This is how I came out: a perfect marriage of both! And then when I'm in the NY area and people ask me what I am, I say Puerto Rican - because I most likely receive a positive reaction..but when I go to Miami and I'm asked the same question, I need to say Cuban first. Ugh. What does it matter? I thought I was Latina? And what makes me laugh is that I am Puerto Rican and Cuban...while my poor boyfriend, the Quiet One, is Irish and Scottish. What's gonna happen if we decide to have children?? What are they going to check off on the census? Poor things! They laughed. Then I was asked if I can dance. Can I dance? Sure!!! I did the running man, the roger rabbit...I felt at that moment, I just wanted to lift the tension of my bad reading. I walked out of there with sore feet, a massive headache and an almost 2 hour drive home. I told the Quiet One how bad it was but how great it was at the same time. I felt I was back in the game again. The Quiet One comforted me, "Darling, I'm sure you weren't as bad as you say you were! You're Judy, F$%*ng Torres!" LOL. He always makes me feel better. Well, guess what? I got a phone call. I got the part!! What?! Our first production meeting is this Tuesday!! YES!!! Funny, how life works...love it!
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Now that I'm almost ready to get back in the swing of things, I felt it is time to begin working on my comeback! Last week I had a meeting with my manager,Gary, at his new office - a much larger space, that has presence. Gary showed me around, and as he closed the door for privacy, he said, "So, how are you mentally?" "Mentally? I'm fine. Better." I was a mental wreck, way back in February, when my doctor discovered that I had a polyp on my vocal chord that had hemorrhaged. After two failed attempts with laser treatments to remove the polyp, I became discouraged. Upon realizing that surgery was inevitable, I became panicked...and lately, well, let's say, financially challenged. But after almost 2 months of speech therapy and lots of vocal rest, I am calm and excited to get back on stage and sing in September. So, I smiled and repeated, "Better." Before we were to get down to the nitty gritty, I had something on my mind that needed to be seriously discussed. I told Gary that from now on, no matter what, I want to have a working monitor on stage for EVERY show...or I will cancel. My manager & I went back and forth as if we were at an auction. "Judy, you did not get a polyp from not having a monitor." "Gary, for 25 years I've been singing at night clubs with no monitors and I cannot hear myself. As a result, I end up singing louder..and that's how I hurt myself in the first place." "Judy, you did not get a polyp because you couldn't hear yourself." "Gary, my speech therapist wants me to be cautious & have either an ear piece or stage monitor from now on....what's wrong with that?" "Judy, I'm afraid you'll lose shows if you make that demand. In the 25 years, how many clubs provide you with sound." "Gary, not too many, but that's not the point." "Yes, it is." "No, it isn't." "Judy, I can take 2 smokers who've smoked for 20 years. One will have cancer and the other is running marathons with no problem. It's a matter of genetics. Your voice is probably more sensitive and prone to this condition. " "So doesn't it make sense that if I know I'm more "sensitive" that I would be smart enough to be more CAREFUL now?" "It doesn't have anything to do with that...it is NOT your fault this happened to you. Mick Jagger had polyps 5 times...it's what happens to singers who sing their hearts out." I admit when he said it wasn't my fault, I almost had tears in my eyes, because the first time I found out about this, I wondered if I had done this to myself....but on with the debate. "Gary, I'm the one up there. Not you. And every single thing I do to make money is with my voice...no voice...no money!" "Judy,", he smirks..."I think this is a bad call." "Gary, can you please be supportive on this. I need you to support me on this...I need you to back me up." "Judy, haven't I backed you up now?...for how long?" "6 years, Gary...and yes, you've backed me up. But I'm the one up there...not you. I'm up there alone. And I get hired by these people to sing my heart out...to entertain...and these people make money off of that. And the audience, my loyal fans, are expecting a great show...do you have any idea how hard it is to sing, and try to express the songs when I cannot hear a damned thing? Everyone tells me to be more like a diva. Everyone tells me that I'm too nice. For 25 years all I've asked for was a quiet room before the show, and a bottle of water. Now, I am going to be a diva and ask for a bottle of water, a quiet room and a freaking monitor on the stage so I can hear what the hell I'm singing!!!!!" Silence. Gary calls in his assistant. "Make sure all the contracts on Judy's show read from now on that a working stage monitor must be made available, or the purchaser will lose their deposit and Judy will walk out. Be sure everyone initials it, and understands no monitor, no show." "Thank you. Gary, thank you." Done. I have to admit, I was exhausted. Debating and/or arguing with a person to me has a fascinating element to it. I read once in a book called The Celestine Prophecy, that people are all energy. And sometimes when we are not feeling good, we need more energy. When people argue there is an exhange for energy...energy = power. And because it takes energy, it can drain you. Have you ever argued with someone so hard, and nothing came out of it, and when they leave the room, you are suddenly wiped out? That's kind of how I felt. But I felt good, because I felt my energy was still with me, I maintained my power, lol. It was tiring but I was smiling internally. I kept thinking, "Oh, so that's what it feels like to stand up for what I want!" It wasn't about winning, it was about fighting for what I need this time around...I worry too much about what people will say, think and yes, at times I've even worried about not complaining for the sake of not losing a show. I have swallowed a lot of crap. I'm not doing it anymore. A singer has the right to hear himself or herself...it's a basic need for a performer. You think Lady Gaga or Beyonce fight to be heard on stage? Nope. Damn, that felt good. I can't wait to get back on that stage WITH A MONITOR in September...Check mic, testing...1, 2, 3...Woohooooooo!!!