Blogosphere. I am overflowing with joy. I can barely wrap my head around this. Today, March 3, something absolutely wonderful happened. And for once, it’s actually related to the reason I moved to this insane city in the first place. Theater. No, no I haven’t been cast in anything, don’t get too excited, but this is certainly a step in the right direction. And although it’s nice to feel good after an audition, its nice to have something concrete positive as a follow up rather than just a self pat on the back. But let me back track a little and lead up to today…
To be an actor, or rather, attempt to be an actor, in NYC, it’s all about what you put into it. There’s no one holding your hand. There’s no one giving you a bad grade anymore if your monologue is not prepared. If you want even a chance to make it in this business, it comes down to you and only you. Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out the correct and most effective way to do this . And I bet the majority of other people auditioning haven’t either. Because here’s the thing. Even though I learned how to audition in college, even though I have friends who have siblings out here who have had experiences, even though I’ve talked to and picked Broadway actors’ brains, even though I’ve tried tons of different outfits, looks, songs, monologues etc, I have learned that there is no right, magical, golden way to go about this crazy audition process and to guarantee and get oneself a job. Do I go and sit at an EPA? Do I tell them I have dance experience even though I haven’t had formal training, I just happen to move really well? Do I go to a chorus call? Should I sing from the show? Is this audition really worth getting up at 6 AM for? Should I audition for things that don’t pay me? Someone tell me how to do this!!!!
The list goes on and on. And depending on who you ask, you’ll get different opinions. Some of you reading this right now may be laughing at me for still having these questions. That’s cool. But I really think it’s all about finding what works for you and taking huge, terrifying sometimes stupid risks. That’s the only way you’re going to figure this shit out. And I’ve got a few personal examples to back up my current reasoning.
Exhibit A: I was told never to submit via email or snail mail for an Equity Principal Audition because they’ll consider it a waste of their time, get pissed and discard anything you give them and put you on a blacklist. Dun dun dun. I accidentally (yes I’m telling the truth, accidentally) submitted for a Shakespeare EPA a few months after moving out here. I just didn’t see that it had listed EPA submissions only. Their response? “Do you have video clips you can send us?” Well. Sweet! Exhibit B: I was told never to go to a dance call because I had no formal training. I know people who are dancers who insisted that even they wouldn’t go to a dance call. Well. I went to a Rock of Ages dance call and I got seen more than once. I didn’t get cast. I wasn’t the best. But I certainly wasn’t the worst. And more importantly, I went. I broke down that “you should never go to a dance call” wall. I mean, I’m not auditioning for 42nd Street anytime soon, but certain dance auditions aren’t as scary anymore. Plus if I’m getting up at 6 AM, few things are better than dancing like a stripper to Pour Some Sugar On Me that early. Pretty damn good way to wake up;)
I’m certainly not trying to toot my own horn and brag. I’m just proud of those moments. Those risks. Those flukes that turned out well. They’ve made me more confident. They’ve made me realize that just because you know the business, doesn’t mean you know the business. One company might be pissed you submitted for an EPA only. One might find time and say “what the hell, we’ll see her anyways.”
On the flipside, however, for those of you who do think I’m bragging, are flukes that have not gone well. I’ve gone to really weird creepy auditions, gotten cut off doing a monologue that went over by probably a second, gotten cut just by not looking like a character, not gotten seen at EPAs, forgotten and then made up words to a song, and slept in my fair share of times instead of getting my ass out of bed. Ahhh such a wonderful profession I’ve chosen. It sure does help you get a spine, some balls and a thick skin if you’re lacking in those areas though, I tell ya.
I had been at this for almost a year. Trying new things. Talking to people. Getting up early and putting myself out there. And come Christmas of 2013, I was kind of fed up. How the hell do I go about getting a fricken job out here?! Someone just tell me the secret!!! How do I show a casting director everything I’m capable of in 8 measures of a song? Seriously. How do I know which auditions are good and which ones are a waste of my time? My brain, body and heart were tired. For this much money, is this much failing and missing people I love worth it? If I’m not doing theater, I have no reason to be in NYC.
And then, while at home for two weeks at Christmas, away from the stress and craziness and stuffiness of this city and it’s people, I realized something. (and bare with me for a bit so I can explain) It doesn’t matter. There is no right. There is no wrong. I care so much about theater. I absolutely love it. But you can only dwell and focus on things so much. I need to pick songs I love. I need to pick monologues I love. I need to wear things that I like. I need to stop listening to everyone else, stop caring what people think and audition and try this theater thing for me. Duh! Hello! That’s why I’m here. I got into theater for me, not anyone else. Not to be a star, but to have fun! It makes me so damn happy when I’m doing it, why would I make anything, even the audition process, more stressful than it needs to be? And I know the professionals have some weight. And the college professors we’ve had. And the people in the business. Listen to what they say and take note, but if it doesn’t feel right or you don’t like it, don’t do it. Regardless of who they are. Kind of simple right? We really do over complicate things as humans. Life shouldn’t be as hard as we make it, and therefore, neither should theater.
So this is where I landed on Christmas break. My big epiphany that I had heard mention of before, but never truly grasped until that moment. This is the philosophy I adapted and was riding high on when I walked into my Texas Shakespeare audition. I had emailed them a while back and requested an appointment and to my delight, was scheduled with a time. The productions they were auditioning for were Macbeth, Cymbeline, Noises Off and My Fair Lady. If you know theater, you know why I submitted. Fantastic shows. Definitely a couple dream roles in there for me. And I felt really good about the company. At least, I got as good of a vibe as one can via email and website.
So I’m jazzed about the shows and I’m really happy that it’s an appointment, as they are far easier than open calls. With an appointment you literally can get there a few minutes beforehand, go in at your time, and peace out. No lining up in the cold at 6 AM and leaving 12 hours later. In and out. To make it even better, I then found out what the audition requirements were. One Shakespeare monologue. And one cut of a song from My Fair Lady, using the accompaniment provided for whichever song you picked on their website. I get to do any Shakespeare and any song from My Fair Lady? Epic. Win. I know my Shakespeare pieces better than any other pieces (not sure how that happened) and I’ve been singing My Fair Lady since I was 5. Finally an audition that fits me!
That morning, I left early but of course, just barely made it to the damn building on time. Stupid New York and it’s delayed trains, repeating street names and confusing addresses. But, as I was running high on adrenaline from barely making it to the building and getting lost in the process, I didn’t really have time to psyche myself out before going in. I took off my coat, handed the monitor my stuff, took a few deep breaths, switched my shoes and entered. Although not intentional, this has proved effective for me in the past. The waiting game always messes with my head. It’s better if I’ve been running around doing something else prior to an audition. Frees up my right brain so I don’t think as much and freak myself out. So all in all, although out of breath from running, I was off to a good start.
I walked into this really open room which had some sort of leftover set design in it. There were columns and arches everywhere, but it was really kind of cool. Made you feel like you were on a stage and part of something rather than just in some open, empty classroom giving a presentation for a teacher, like most of these appointment auditions feel like. Behind the table was just one, mid 60’s gentleman who before either of us even spoke, gave off this incredibly welcoming vibe. I know monitors aren’t supposed to show emotion so as not to give any hints as to casting, but this man was just so warm. He smiled at me when I walked in and greeted me with enthusiasm. He asked my name and where I was from, and then asked a little bit about my background. And he seemed genuinely interested in all of it, not just following protocol. Or maybe he’s just a really good actor himself. We bonded over the Midwest, which instantly made me feel at ease. That’s always a selling point for me. That also explains why he was so nice:)
I started with my Shakespeare and a couple lines in, I could feel that I had a good rhythm. If you’re an actor, you know that feeling. And because of that, you feel unstoppable. I felt so free. I know this piece so well, I was just able to let go. And that carried over into my song. I sang “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady and it just felt so good. I was so in the moment. Again, not tooting my own horn, but it’s just so nice when you feel like you did good, regardless of what the people sitting there deciding your fate think.
The gentleman, however, must have thought I did a somewhat decent of a job too because after I was done singing he leaned forward and said with a grin on his face “well. It’s a shame you can’t sing.” And chuckled, clearly joking, as he followed it up with “that was very very nice. Very nice. Thank you.” He then explained some facts about the company and said that, whether we were cast or not, he would inform us by the end of February.
I was incredibly happy with my audition and was eager to hear back from them. But being it was so far away, I tried not to think about it. Which got easier as the months past.
When it came to the end of February and I hadn’t heard, I was anxious. I kept checking my inbox and my spam, checking the website to see if things had been posted. Nothing. They had said they’d let us know either way, but maybe they had changed their mind within the past month. So I wrote it off as not getting a part. Which was totally okay! I had had an incredible audition and I was able to keep that in mind for the future. Remember what I had done, keep that carefree philosophy in mind and mimic that for other auditions.
And then today, I got an email from the gentleman I had auditioned for. Quite a lengthy email actually. I skimmed it once, as you do, to see if there was any mention of a character. My eyes flitted over the words unfortunately, so I knew I wasn’t in. Not unexpected in the least. No big. So then I went back to actually read the email.
It started off with saying how difficult it was to cast shows. That even though everyone is talented, sometimes it really does come down to how you look or how you look next to your cast mates, whether or not you live in the area etc etc. Then it went on to say that I wasn’t cast due to one of these small things, not because I had a lack of talent.
And at this point in the email, although it’s very complimentary, I was thinking okay, they’re just writing this to make us feel good. Props to the company because it is very nice. But I’m sure they don’t really remember me. It’s probably a copy and pasted email, altered maybe slightly per person.
I continued reading.
The next paragraph went on to state, however, that the reason it took so long to contact me and whoever else received this email, was because they were trying to find spots for us. That we were essentially in the final running. That those who didn’t get cast received an email a week ago, but that they were trying to find some sort of position for us. I still didn’t make the cut, but Texas Shakespeare put me on an “on call” list.
I had never heard of that. And because this very personal and nice email was so different from anything I had ever gotten or seen before, I was still a little skeptical. It made me feel good, if nothing else, that this was indeed a good company who cared about their actors and the process, but I wasn’t sure if it was all BS or not.
Apparently, it’s not. I mentioned the “on-call” list to Maya who immediately went “oh heck yeah, that’s a thing.” Basically it’s this. Think of football. You’ve got your quarterback. You’ve got your second string, basically the understudy. You’ve got your third and fourth string who are understudies/swings, what have you. And then, I guess if all of them go down, they would call in someone “on-call.” Someone who was good, who could play the part, but didn’t quite fit into the mix that they were going for, but is capable of doing so if need be.
Now, I am well aware that there are a slew of people before me, and a slew of people who are probably on this list as well. Trust me, I’m not quitting my day job. But this is the closest thing to getting a part, hell just being acknowledged as someone with talent, that I’ve gotten since moving here. And, now I am tooting my own horn, I feel pretty freakin awesome about it. And you know what, maybe it still is a load of BS. Maybe they don’t have an “on-call” list. Maybe this company is so devoted to making people feel good that they have some email all gussied up and ready to send to the masses of poor souls who got cut and just need to hear “you don’t suck, really” in letter form. And maybe “on-call” means absolutely nothing at all.
But you know what, I don’t care. Because, as I told you, I felt good about that audition. And if this “on-call” thing is legit, then I did something right. No, nothing is going to happen. I don’t anticipate moving to Texas to fill in for anyone. Honestly, they’ll have other people. But it was the ego boost that I needed. It helped me find what I’ve now adapted as my new audition/theater/life philosophy.
When I say “I don’t care,” especially involving theater, it doesn’t mean that I actually don’t care. What it means is the age old saying that you can’t get hung up on what other people think. You can’t let other people tell you what to do or how to feel. Along with that, we all have our biases, I guess you could say. Just because I say “sing what you love,” doesn’t mean if Ramin Karimloo came up to me and said “sing this song the rest of your life, it will get you work,” I wouldn’t listen because “I don’t care”. But I would do it only if I wanted to do it and if I felt good singing it. Okay that’s a lie, I would do anything Ramin said to me. Bad example.
Here’s a better one. Apparently in the theater world, no one likes hearing songs from Jekyll and Hyde. Well. That’s one of my favorite shows. And if I can work on a song and get it to sound really good where I’m happy with it and think its worthy, maybe I’ll bust it out one of these auditions. And if they hate it, then they got their laugh in for the day. But if I do it well…well, you never know. As I said, there is no right and wrong. You don’t know until you try. One casting director might hate it. One casting director might have a secret love for the show just like you and that might just get you a part.
Perhaps you think this post has turned rude or preachy. I am certainly not saying this is the right way by any means. Everyone has their own way of living and their own opinions. And if I don’t want you to judge me, then I am certainly not going to judge you. I just wanted to share with everyone that I think I’ve finally found a way to make this audition thing more bearable. For now. At age 25. Being in NYC for one year. And that’s an accomplishment for me and where I am now and I owe it all to this Texas Shakespeare audition. Where I went in, I sang what I loved, I was confident, I had fun, I didn’t freak, and it paid off.
I’m off my soap box now, but I will leave you with this. On my birthday this year, I was so lucky to get to see Sierra Boggess perform. She had a piece in her showcase called “I Don’t Care.” She prefaced this song with her experience in The Little Mermaid and how she made the silly mistake of checking out reviews online, post her Broadway debut. And then, after a series of cry sessions and breakdowns, she found a quote, and a song, that I will now leave you with. Because I think it’s bloody brilliant and is now my new outlook on this whole crazy acting thing and this whole crazy living thing.
“What other people think of me is none of my business.”
Listen to the song. Enjoy. Love life. Be happy.
I apologize. WordPress is refusing to let me upload the entire song. So here’s a clip. Meh. Better than nothing.