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On Singing Onstage
On Singing Onstage
On Singing Onstage
Электронная книга331 страница3 часа

On Singing Onstage

Автор David Craig

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A terrific take on theatre singing by a master teacher. “David Craig knows more about singing in the musical theatre than anyone in this country – which probably means the world. Time and time again his advice and training have resulted in actors moving from non-musical theatre into musicals with ease and expertise. Short of taking classes, this book is a must.” – Harold Prince
Дата выпуска1 апр. 2000 г.
On Singing Onstage
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  • Рейтинг: 4 из 5 звезд
    Great resource for singing and performing! However, it's very wordy and written in a more complex way than it needs to be. But still, the advice, technique and material Craig is outlining is absolutely beneficial to a performer.

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On Singing Onstage - David Craig


Copyright © 1978, 1990 by David Craig

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publishers, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper or broadcast.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Craig, David.

On singing onstage / David Craig.—New and completely rev. ed.

p. cm.


1. Singing—Instruction and study. 2. Musical theater—Instruction and study. I. Title.






Applause Theatre & Cinema Books

19 West 21st Street, Suite 201

New York, NY 10010

Phone: 212 575-9265 fax: 212 575-9270

internet: www.applausepub.com

email: info@applausepub.com

Table of Contents

Part One Techniques

1 Words As Script

2 Music: The Other Script

3 Phrasing

4 The Audition

5 The Song As It Reflects You

6 Alert Warnings

7 The Entrance And The Vamp

8 Air: The Space Between The Lines

9 Focus

10 Introduction To Five Technical Exercises On A Lyric

11 The One

12 The Two

13 The Three

14 The Four

15 The Five

Part Two Performance

16 Advice To The Songlorn

17 The Performance

18 Rideout

To my wife,

who taught me that theater,

like comedy,

is no laughing matter


I should like to express my gratitude to Gary Carver, my pianist and good friend, without whom my teaching would function without a right arm; to Henry Polic II, who granted me the use of bis creative technical work; to Leonard Gershe, whose aid opened the door to Irving Berlin; and to all those who, through the years, helped to shape the work described within these covers.


by Lee Grant

David Craig observes in his first chapter that the American actor is addicted to teachers. All of our lives, at all stages of our careers, we explore new disciplines simply to learn new crafts as the necessity to work confronts us. What if, God forbid, you were offered a musical and couldn’t sing?

Like eternal children we are forever being tutored for Great Examinations and Great Expectations, trying to mold ourselves into whatever it is they want us to be. When my husband, Joey, was a dancer, he wrote on his résumé that his height was 5’9 to 6’2—whatever it is they want us to be.

I first heard of David’s classes when we were in that period on Broadway when musicals were in and plays were out. Dramas were opening and closing out of town. I couldn’t work yet in television or film because of the Blacklist. I had to be able to sing in order to stay in a shrinking profession. My previous singing experiences had been traumatic and I was earning my own living by teaching acting. I entered David’s class with fear and caution.

In his Introductory Class, for purposes of demonstration, David had graduate students perform. I cannot tell you what it is like to see an ordinary actor, an ordinary extraordinary actor, perform after working with David. The mystery of it! Why is she doing that? How sure she is of herself! Why is she looking there? Now there? And the singing seems to take care of itself—the voice follows the thoughts. The concentration is not on the voice! A person in total command is on the stage, an elegant, interesting person who is telling me something through a song I’d heard a hundred clichéd times before, but telling me in a way I’d never heard or seen before. My fear left as I felt a pure hunger to be able to do that thing myself—that particular hunger that makes one want to act, to create, in the first place.

There is a great psychological difference between actors and entertainers. Actors need a situation, a play, and other characters to buffer them from the audience. The actor works for solitude in public, creating an area the audience shouldn’t enter, where we are free to create and re-create life. We feel impossibly exposed and uncertain in an entertaining posture. David Craig recognizes this dichotomy and, using the actor’s tools, shows us the way to create our own privacy and invent characters we need while we are doing this monologue called song. His approach is unique, image-breaking. For those of us who were still terrified of singing, his class was the Second Coming.

The fact is, I was so enamored of David’s classes that I haunted them. I attended his sessions three seasons in a row until he gently pried my fingers loose from my chair and told me it was time to go out in the world. I think he was wrong. If I could, I’d be there still.

As you come to know David through his book, you will treasure him as I do. He is not a teacher who encourages mystery. The mystery is one’s talent. It exists or it doesn’t. He is a master at creating exercises and tasks that release that talent, tasks that are measurable, that he can estimate you have carried out or have not carried out.

His work is taxing and inventive, and so is he—caustic when you are self-indulgent, loving when you achieve—a Papa-bird training and protecting the faint of heart until the day he pushes you to stand on your wobbly legs to fly.

David is also a snob in the very best sense. He brings to all his students a fierce conviction about who is a talent and who is not. When he works himself up about it it’s a terrible beauty, and pure oxygen to me because he cares. He maintains a highly rigid set of values and is so charming and witty that, even when I don’t agree with him, I laugh.

When you’ve read a book you’ve cherished and reluctantly turned the last page, it’s good to call a friend and say, You’re so lucky you haven’t read this—it’s all ahead of you.

It’s all ahead of you.


In 1978, in the preface to the first edition of On Singing Onstage, I wrote that the musical theater was in a ...demonstrably sorry state of sterility while the legitimate theater of comedy and drama presents a healthy and vital picture. In the final pages of the volume, I offered the suggestion that regional theaters would appear to be a fertile breeding ground for tomorrow’s musicals. More than a decade later the first quote is true but in the reverse while the prophetic prescription for the ailing Broadway musical theater of the seventies has become almost standard practice, viz., Big River, Into the Woods, and the West End of London, if one perceives it as an extreme outpost of regionalism. All may not be well with the American musical but, in the words of Ira Gershwin, things are looking up. And although ticket prices rise with promises of still further increases, the undaunted public pays with no apparent resistance. In a New York Times interview dated September 7, 1987, Rocco Landesman, President of Jujamcyn Theater Group remarked that ...the $47.50 we’re charging now isn’t really enough. I think ticket prices are going to have to go up, unfortunately, to reflect increases in costs. By 1989, the prophesy had become a reality. The top-priced ticket for Jerome Robbins’ Broadway soared to an all-time high of $60. The Broadway theater, now more than ever, has become exclusive in the sense that its price tag marks it as select and bars those who cannot afford to attend. There is a small faction of producers working to bring down spiraling costs (and in some instances they are successful), but the established methods of production and profit-sharing are still entrenched procedures, and as long as they prevail it will not be long before today’s five-million-dollar musical becomes tomorrow’s bargain. Just as the general audience’s appetite for a hit musical remains constant, the numbers of young performers who act, sing, and dance and want the world to know it has not diminished. For obvious reasons, this is both heartwarming and disheartening.

After forty years of teaching, I have concluded that everybody sings—those who can and do it, and those who cannot and do it anyway. Some people sing for money and some sing for themselves in closets, bathrooms, and in their cars as they drive. The thing is: Everybody sings. It is of no small interest to observe that doing it in public is not accomplished without enduring some degree of pain. Most people find it disorienting at best and, in extreme cases, self-annihilative. And yet...and yet...why are so many unable and even unwilling to resist the temptation to do it? Is it some atavistic impulse that compels us to use our bodies as instruments that quite literally make music? Or is it something we begin to imitate when, as babes, we are sung to and sung at—something that inevitably induces us to sing out? Furthermore, everybody who wants to sing for money yearns to sing with evident know-how and personal style. These elements that, in the long ago, identified the unique individuality of a performer were honed in theaters, on vaudeville stages, and in nightclubs. Today, vaudeville, even as a word in our vocabulary, is long gone, and nightclubs either present stand-up comedians exclusively or showcase singers who perform their acts before friends whose presence they are responsible for. By virtue of the entire world’s abiding affection for it, the musical theater remains the sole venue in which the actor/singer/dancer can work.

With almost no place to turn for training by doing, the phenomenon of study has established itself as the sole available method for learning stage techniques. Today one can attend colleges and universities where, as well as receiving a degree, an undergraduate can major in drama and/or musical theater. The expertise of the faculties is not always expert and, in the case of the lyric theater, an efficient pedagogy is yet to be defined. At this moment in time, the marketplace is in no way threatened by academia. An actor, a dancer, or a singer, intent upon a career in the musical theater, must inevitably seek out truly professional instruction. This search for and choice of teachers can be daunting to the young performer confronted with the number of teachers at work in New York and Los Angeles—and points between. There is, for the hiring, an accredited first echelon of established acting, singing, and dancing instructors, but added to their ranks are singing teachers who coach and coaches who will add a dollop of vocal technique to an hour of Give me more on the word love; there are acting teachers who will edit an actor’s singing performance; and there are dance teachers who operate quasigymnasia where actors can keep in shape while conquering a plié, a time-step, and a waltz-clog. The ascension of teachers has redounded to their advantage and they enjoy a distinct cachet. The performer’s biography in a playbill and on a resume, which once listed only work credits, now informs the audience and the hirer of the names of those with whom the performer has studied and furnishes a kind of presumptive validation.

It was inevitable that the hunger for study would breed addiction. Today, young people appear to have added to the need to learn, the illusion that study fills the void created by unemployment. They quite literally collect teachers, impoverishing themselves in order to feed their habit. I am not speaking here to the beginner. Now, more than ever, musical theater suffers from a bad case of amateuritis. The techniques and craft of the art of performing are acquireable and should be respected enough to be learned, but one fact cannot be denied: Any one teacher’s concept of how to can be, and often is, a "how not to under the roof of another school of thought. I exempt the workshop" from the notion that open-ended study can result in diminished returns. From my observation of its function, it furnishes a hall in which a body of professionals, chosen by an elected slate of officers, performs plays, scenes, and exercises. In actuality it can be educative, but the experience is proctored, not tutored, by peers.

Let me attempt further to define this somewhat unfashionable theory. When a beginner wants to learn how to do something, he or she searches for the teacher who teaches the subject. From the start, their roles are clearly defined. When the student has learned to perform what he or she originally asked of the teacher, those roles become blurred. No longer is it a question of how to do the work, but rather what the teacher thinks of it. In the study of the creative and interpretive arts those judgments, necessarily subjective, can be dangerous. A teacher’s opinion, regardless of its accreditation, is still a personal opinion and, by virtue of that fact, arguable. Further, an open-ended dependency on a teacher(s) contains lethal power: It can atrophy an artist’s sense of self-criticism. While the judgments made by an agent, a hirer, or an audience may be just as contestable and far more innocent, nevertheless they can influence and even govern a career. Clearly, I do not place dance classes and singing lessons within the context of this argument, since their contribution to the artist’s life is to maintain muscles that are required to sustain performance. However, it is important to remember that we study in order to achieve work but it is only through work—whether with good, indifferent, or even bad actors and directors before good, bad, or indifferent audiences—that we learn to assess what we do. Further advice to the neophyte: Attend performances and learn to measure the work you witness. Listen, reject, and even borrow from those you esteem. The late preemine