Tone Deaf* and Stiffs

*Unable to perceive differences of musical pitch accurately.
It’s not a disease, though there are many of us (not me) who have it; some are frightfully impaired while others are merely limited to a small extent – dependent on what you think small means. It’s kind of like explaining what is, is.
I have a younger sister who happens to be completely tone deaf. She cannot carry a tune, albeit singing, whistling, or even her relentless attempts at humming. Playing a musical instrument would be hopeless at best, unless she was to use it as an implement of protection. She once tried to hit me over the head with my trumpet. Fortunately for me there is a nine-year age difference between us, and all it did was create uncontrollable laughter by our Mother and Father. (Yes, Mom and Dad did have a weird sense of humor. We all have to get what we get from a reliable source, don’t we? They were truly a reliable pair when it came to finding a thing or two to laugh at or about.)
By age six, my sister was well into a lifelong love affair with commercials. In her young era of life, there was a preponderance of singing commercials being constantly played day and night on both radio and television. She had the lyrics to all of them memorized. While she may have given up on her feeble attempts at crowning me with my own trumpet, her singing at the most inopportune times, never failed to take over whatever important moment in my life might have been revealing itself.  
As an example, on the rare moments when I thought it important enough to be studying for a school exam, Sis would enter my room on tip toes and then without warning, begin singing about how AJAX – the foaming cleanser – would float the dirt right down the drain. Then, as I began to giggle with pretend annoyance, she’d follow up with her version of the ever popular Doctor Ross Dog Food and, if the situation demanded an encore, there was nothing better to place the nail in my laughter coffin than the Chesterfield Cigarette theme song – how mild can a cigarette be.
Because I was the older brother, this then seven-year-old little girl would hopelessly take part in any theatrical scheme I came up with. She’d put on display a marvelous exuberance whenever I chose to be nice to her. It didn’t take much goading on my part to convince her to get up and entertain at a family get together. There we would be – aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered together, talking and having a great time, when I would call them to attention and announce they were in for a big treat. Sis would come up to center stage and without hesitation, begin singing her own rendering of the most readily heard commercials of the day. Without exception, all in attendance enjoyed having a break from whatever problems they might have. She may not have been able to carry a tune, but for sure my sister wasn’t an on-stage stiff. 
The Stiff
In voice over, I suppose the synonym for not being tone deaf would be having good diction. Both good pitch recognition and good diction are held in similar esteem when making other comparisons. As an example of my theory of working comparisons, I offer you a couple of interesting (at least to me) contradictions and questions to consider…
  • What is there about the game of golf that makes it so difficult for most people? 
  • What about the condition of stage fright?
  • Why do most people desire to be first, but when given the chance to go first invariably turn it down?
  • Why does a tone deaf little girl have the courage to step up center stage and perform?
  • Why does a person with perfect diction, to go along with a beautiful voice, find it almost impossible to be hired as a professional actor in the field of voice over?
If you’re reading and questioning my premise of a skilled group of people displaying great ineptitude for success, then I presume you are not attending to any form of professional aptitudes requiring a display of creativity within the world of any subjective art forms.
At this point, I’ve lost about 62 percent of my readers. Why 62 percent, you may ask? Because, I say so. Now isn’t that subjective? The man who delivers such a statement regarding more than anything attributable to the mass population of average human beings, should earn their living in only one comparable world – live your life and times in search of success through striving in a creative art form structure. Short, and as sweetly stated as I can make it, only about 30 percent of humanity should ever attempt to “draw a straight line.”
Note: “Draw a straight line” is the Harvey Kalmenson definition of creative ability.
Although my little sister was tone deaf, she nevertheless has creative ability. She could step up onto whatever of life’s platforms it happened to be, and without total inhibitions, she would proceed to be. What you got was truth. Hers. She didn’t pretend to sing, she sang. My sister will never be a stiff.
Real wood has a look and feel to it, which will never be replaced by real plastic. Perhaps it’s because plastic will never be real.
Real Wood:  “See. Spot. Run.” 
Plastic:        “See…spot…run….”
It was during an acting workshop, many years ago…

I was fortunate enough to be in attendance as our guest Greer Garson demonstrated her interpretation of reality.
Miss Garson was aware of an interesting problem, which a lesser actor may not have been aware of; her unbelievable beauty was always a distraction. No audience was able to let it go without notice. 
Center stage, she hesitated for a moment, obviously in a display of truthfully deep thought. She appeared to be holding and petting a small animal in her arms as she began.
“The bandages will soon be off,” flowed from her in a stream of consciousness. She leaned forward and said gently as she appeared to be releasing the animal from her arms, “See spot run.”
Miss Garson had created her before, during, and after scenario in a matter of a moment or two. Yes her beauty remained, but it was no longer a distraction.
We learned from her disarming presence, the power of truth and focus. I heard statements delivered that day about the suppleness of pure thought – how suppleness and stiffness were at the opposite ends of communicating with a live audience. Then, add to the bearing suppleness had, not only having to do with delivery, but also with the understanding the actor is attempting to convey – either by sight, sound, movement, or by lack there of. 
Perceiving the truth is the very first step in order to convey it.
“I inwardly prayed for the little girl’s ability to see when the bandages were ultimately removed. I felt her anxiety as I said the words to myself, ‘God help her to see my puppy.’”
Then, one of us asked Miss Garson why she prayed for the little girl to see the puppy and not see her beautiful face as her first glance. Her answer was direct and simple. It brought our giggles to the surface.
“I believe my line was, ‘See spot run,’ not, ‘Look at my beautiful countenance.’”
All during this all too brief learning experience, Greer Garson never seemed to raise her voice. I’ve always wondered if what she taught and believed in was tailored entirely for our very young group of 16 year olds, or whether it would become my own belief through the ensuing years. 

Greer Garson donated millions for the construction of the Greer Garson Theatre at both the Santa Fe University of Art and Design and Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts.
The theatres were funded on three conditions: 1) the stages be circular, 2) the premiere production be William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and 3) they have large ladies’ rooms.

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