Trust Yourself: A Talk with Arbender Robinson
Posted Monday, December 13th 2021 by Greg Kefalas
In this second installment in our performance series, Arbender discusses taking your practice and putting it to work!
How do you not loose technique in the moment on stage?
It’s trust. I think you have to trust that the technique is going to be there and go back later and fix something if it’s not.
When you get up and go to the bathroom, you don’t think ‘let me put my feet on the ground and walk forward.’ We trust that the technique of walking is there and if I trip, we go back and try again.
Your job is to simply perform the story. The technique is naturally going to be there. And after you finish, you say ‘maybe I can adjust and fix this.
Sometimes we work so hard with technique it becomes about connecting the dots instead of telling the story. That’s not what the composer wants. Trust that the technique is there and tell the story your way. Honestly connect with it from your own point of view.
Sometimes we teach performance and technique separately. When people study with me it is rare that we do technique. It’s a performance so we can go back later and fix the technique.
How do you endure the mental and physical toll of eight shows a week?
Yes, eight shows a week along with tech and organic storytelling! Singing in a rehearsal room versus performing on a stage or in a concert hall are all different skill sets.
In a concert, I can belt and sing at double forte because I’m only performing once. In a rehearsal, the work is highly calculated and monitored so I can be exactly the same. This way, the technical engineer can adjust for the actual performance later. In a performance, I don’t do crazy belting, but mix instead. In performance every day is high repetition but low rate.
But you sometimes you still have to be “big” on stage? How do you maintain that and your vocal health?
Yes. How far back can my pianissimo be but have it sound like a mezzo forte to the audience? I know I have to give more diction when I’m singing softer. That way, the words are crisp and make an impact without laying heavy on my voice. I’m not going to give you a triple forte!
You have to also be fully aware of what your instrument can do on that particular day and how you can adjust things.
What is the one key you always keep in mind?
Keeping the story alive! Always make it about the other person. What do I need to give the other persons so they can return the moment?
In solo work, what is important to give the audience? Even if it’s my big number in the show, it’s really a small moment. So what is important for the audience to fully understand what is happening? It’s all very specific so that they understand and then when the other artist comes back on stage, it clicks!
It’s about keeping myself in tune with someone else! I try to take myself out of it as much as possible so I can do all the little things that I need to do. It’s all in service of the big picture; the story itself.
Meredith is the Studio Manager at New York Vocal Coaching, as well as an experienced actor, director, and choreographer. She served as the director of Musical Theatre for the North Carolina Young Artists Program. During the summer of 2011, 2012 and 2013, NCYAP traveled internationally to Bulgaria and Italy to perform her works. She has also worked as the Assistant to the Producer of North Carolina Theatre where she maintained the daily workings of every production throughout the spring season of 2013.
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