[Originally published in the Star & Wave newspaper on February  21, 2024.]

By Roy Steinberg, Producing Artistic Director 



Milestones such as anniversaries provide us with opportunities to look back and reflect on our journeys as well as prepare for the future.  2024 marks Cape May Stage’s 35th anniversary and, happily, my 15th year as its producing artistic director, so allow me to share a few observations as we head into the new year. 


Most of us rely on our five basic senses—touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste—to help us understand and navigate the world around us. This is particularly important for those of us in the arts.


Artists specifically train themselves to be more sensitive to the world.  Visual artists pay attention to color and form.  Composers and musicians hear music in a wolf’s howl or a breaking wave.  Chefs work with textures and tastes to enhance their dishes, and fragrance-makers create scents that conjure up desired images.


Theater has taught me the importance of listening to all of our senses as well as noting other bodily cues such as tensing and relaxing our muscles. While tensing tends to numb our senses, relaxing actually opens us to them.  If we think something may hurt us, we might clench our teeth or furl our brow, for example.  If we see something beautiful, however, we are more likely to open our mouth and breathe. 


Athletes know how critical breathing is to a good performance. I do breathing and muscle-relaxation exercises before every appearance I make on stage.  It gives me the tools I need to do my best work.


Anyone who has visited one of Cape May’s wineries knows that staff there instructs people at wine-tastings to sip the wine slowly, observe its color and focus on its aroma before trying it.  Similarly, the theater has taught me to use all of my senses to fully experience a moment, which, in turn, may trigger an emotional response.


“Affective memory” is an acting exercise in which an artist recalls sensory data such as the smell of dried leaves or an echo in a tunnel to recall an emotional response that they can use on stage. Actors learn their lines and rehearse their movements, of course, but it is just as important that they stay alive in the moment for every performance.  A life lesson for me has been to always be prepared by doing the work required so that I can be free to live in the moment and feel secure when something unexpected happens.


The good news is that you need not be an artist to live life with greater attention to your senses.  I invite all of you to pay attention anew to the world around you as we journey into this new year.


I also invite you to help us kick-off the 35th anniversary season of Cape May Stage by indulging your sense of taste at our Fin’s Sunday Social on February 25th from 10:30 am to 2 pm. Thanks to the generosity of Fins Bar and Grille, half of what you spend that day will go directly to Cape May Stage.

Cape May Stage © 2024. All rights reserved.

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