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To Infinity and Beyond

Something exciting happened yesterday, which was that I actually got scene for an Equity call! Last week I learned that it actually happens, and this week I learned that not only does it happen, but it can happen to me. It’s been a good week.

The audition itself didn’t go all that well, but it wasn’t terrible. I wasn’t nervous, I think more than anything I was too excited. It was like seeing what’s on the other side of the curtain. I ended up skipping to a new part in the song I was singing, but thankfully the pianist followed me, for which I thanked her profusely when I finished. But because I’d done that I wasn’t focused on singing and performing, but on trying to make sure that the pianist actually was playing the same part I was singing. I didn’t sound horrible by any means, but it was probably clear that I was distracted. In any case, it was a very good learning experience. Hopefully next time I won’t be so excited and things will go more smoothly, now that I know exactly how it works when it does actually happen.

I’m now back at the Equity Building, waiting to see if non-union will be seen at an audition for the North Shore Music Theater. It would be fun to be seen for this, if only because I grew up in the town next to this theater and went all the time as a kid and teenager. I think there’s a chance, at least.

I’m also signed up at a different studio for another Equity call, which will hopefully happen as well. If the timing works out that I get to do both of them it would be a small miracle, but we’ll see. I have a good feeling. Until then, back to work! The good thing (or silver lining, I guess) about sitting in a holding room for extended periods of time is that I get a lot accomplished, both for my career and for work. Onward and upward!

History is Happening in Manhattan…

It’s been a busy week, and there’s good news: I was offered two things! Unfortunately I was unable to accept the first one, which was a real struggle emotionally because it was so great to be offered something and I so badly want to get out there and perform, but the schedule just didn’t work for me and there was no way around it, so I had to decline. It was for an improvised theater company, and I had a feeling after the audition that I was going to get the offer, but didn’t know the schedule until after. Oh well.

On the other hand, just a few days later I was offered a spot in a Cabaret at Don’t Tell Mama, which will be happening on March 26th. It’s a five person set and I sing two songs, which is kind of ideal at the moment. It’s not a huge time commitment, I don’t have to spend a ton of time learning new material, and I get to get up on stage and sing for a room full of people who are paying to be there. I think it’s a perfect way to jump back in and feel comfortable with all of this again.

The audition itself happened in one of the cabaret spaces at Don’t Tell Mama, on the stage, with a mic. I sang “Giants in the Sky” from Into the Woods, which I’ve sung a million times, but something about this audition just made me absolutely sing the shit out of it. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older, or because I’m so committed to wanting to do this (and not as a secondary thing), but I just feel a lot freer when I’m auditioning I also don’t tend to get even close to as nervous as I know that I used to, which is great. I’m able to actually perform and be myself without worrying about the circumstances.

Another thing that normally (hopefully this is in the past now too) happens is that when I’m doing well and am aware of how well I’m doing during an audition, I start to freak out. You’re doing great, you’re killing it, don’t fuck up don’t fuck up don’t fuck up! I think. Inevitably this causes me to fuck up. THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN THIS TIME. About halfway through I realized that not only was I singing well, but I was performing like my life depended on it, and I acknowledged it and kept going without anything crazy happening. I was booked on the spot (which I don’t think has ever happened to me before) and was elated when I walked out of that space.

So, it feels good to have been made two offers and accepted one in the two and a half weeks I’ve been back at this. There is, of course, no time to rest, and as such I’m sitting in the Actor’s Equity Building hoping to be seen for two shows. One is a production of Kinky Boots that I’m #16 on the non-equity list for, and the other is the first part of the season at the North Shore Music Theater, which I’m #27 for. The North Shore Music Theater is in the town next to where I grew up, and I went there many, many times as a kid and young adult. It would be incredible to get to perform there (I just remembered that I did once… I was a trombone player in The Music Man but I remember absolutely no other details about it…) and to be in a place that I know, and near my family. Hopes can’t get too high, of course, because I need to get seen in the first place, but I’ll hopefully cross that bridge when I get to it. If not today, there’s another call tomorrow, so I’ll try again.

My 37th birthday has happened since my last post, and I’ve realized that though the title of my blog is a nod to the play “To Gillian on her 37th Birthday,” it’s been at least fifteen years since I’ve read it and as such I think a reread is necessary.

I’ve spent the past week waking up early, signing in for Equity calls that I know I’m unlikely to be seen for, and here and there attending auditions that I do actually get seen for. All the while working from wherever I am to make that money.

I’m lucky enough that the wine shop I’ve worked at for the past two and a half years offered me the opportunity to basically work remotely 95% of the time, which has been an integral part of my plan to get back on the audition trail. I think it’s going to work out, though I’ve got to give it about a month to see how much I’ll be able to fully support myself this way, and then analyze to see if I need to add something else to supplement. Part of my work is now going to be commission based, so if I have large sales and can make a whole lot of money one month, perhaps I’ll be able to then take a slow month if it happens.

Currently I’m waiting for my turn at an audition for Celebrity Cruises, where I’m number 135. It was approximately 5 degrees when I left my apartment this morning at about 8:15, and I was signed in before 9am, and still 134 people were here before me. That said, the other day I was number 270 for something and had gotten there at about 9 as well, so this isn’t so bad. It will be a long wait, but I’m pretty certain I’ll be seen for this one.

I’m also signed in on the non-Equity list at the Equity building for Flat Rock Playhouse’s upcoming season, and I’m number 27 on that list. This is an Equity Chorus Call, which means that the Equity Membership Candidates are in the same boat as non-union people, so there are a whole lot fewer people that could possibly be before me. They’ve also had Equity Principal Auditions two days this week already (which I woke up and signed in for, but they didn’t have time to see non-Equity those days) so perhaps everyone who was looking to be seen has auditioned already. I can hold out hope, anyway.

I’m nearly two weeks into doing this all again, and I feel good and focused. I’m trying to list and work on goals for the day, week, and month in order to get all the little career things done that I need to have done, and should I actually follow this plan, I think it will be a good way to get shit done. Every day is a step forwards, and if I get all of those things done I’ll be in a vastly different place this time next year than I am now.  Not everything works like American Idol, and not every success is immediate. That’s this week’s mantra.

Something of note was that on Tuesday I accidentally found myself at another dance call. I don’t know if the wording in the casting was weird, or if I just got confused, or what, but there I was. I’d already signed in for three auditions that I didn’t have a good chance of being seen at, and since this was for some non-union production in the middle of Ohio I figured I couldn’t embarrass myself too badly.

Not only did I not embarrass myself, but I wasn’t even close to the worst in the room. It was to the point that after they conferred and came back to the holding room to announce who they needed to see again, I was half expecting my name to be called. It wasn’t, but that’s not the point. At a dance call you essentially all go in the room, learn the combination, and then dance in small groups, while everyone is still in the room. The whole time I kept thinking, I am here by accident, am ten or fifteen years older than all of you, and yet not only am I keeping up but I’m outperforming a bunch of you. How did you guys get here? It was weird. If nothing else, it was a free dance class, and I felt really good about myself when I left.

Trains and Typing

Today started out much like yesterday, despite a particularly infuriating interaction on the subway this morning. I live at the last stop on the F train before you get to Manhattan proper, and during rush hour (which I think is just a hint that I need to get out even EARLIER on these days), it’s not uncommon to have to be unable to board the first train to arrive in the station because it’s too full. It looked like that was the case this morning, but as the doors opened I saw that there was clearly space for at least one person, so I asked a man to please step in further into the train. He continued to read his book (which there wasn’t room for him to be holding out in front of him, but that’s a different issue) and pretended not to hear me. I asked again, louder. He looked at me, then looked back at his book. “Sir,” I said, “please step in. There’s clearly space on this train.” Nothing. Now other people were getting annoyed, but not at me. I was standing in the train doors, which were trying to close, but they were glaring at him and a few muttered at him to step in. “Sir,” I tried again, “please step in the train so I can get on.” He looked at me, and actually said “No, I’m good where I am.” WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?! I should also mention that he was wearing his backpack on his pack, stickout out and taking up the space that another person could have been standing in. Here he is, at the height of rush hour, knowingly taking up the space of two or more people and electing not to do anything about it. The MTA sucks everyone: we don’t have to do anything to add to the horror of it all. Somehow the other passengers at the door, who were fully on my side, squeezed and shuffled so that I could force my way in by holding my backpack above my head, and the doors closed. A strap from my bag fell and hit the short woman in front of me in the face, and upon my apology she just said “Not your fault, honey.”

We got to the next station and those of us by the door got off the train to let people off, and lo and behold the self-absorbed prick got off. This was a man of about 50, wearing a suit, presumably on his way to work. This wasn’t a vagrant or a druggie or some sort of punk (if I wasn’t already feeling old just saying that ertainly makes me); this was a business man on his way to work who just decided that he didn’t care about his fellow New Yorkers. What I love about this city is that even when it sucks, there’s a sense that we’re all in it together and we’ve got each other’s backs. We’re New Yorkers. But this guy was just a douche. When he got off and walked past me I looked him in the eye and said “Try not to be such a dick for the rest of the day. I hope it gets better for you!” Killing with kindness is something I’m trying to work on.

Anyway, a few stops later I got off and headed to the Actor’s Equity building again, this time to sign up on the non-union list for a production of The Bridges of Madison County happening somewhere in Wisconsin. I got there at 8:48am and signed up as #111! What the hell? This is number 111 on the list of people who only have the vaguest chance of being seen in the first place, and it’s before 9am. What time are these people getting there? 6am when the waiting room opens, I assume. From there I once again headed over to Pearl Studios, where I now sit.

There are two auditions here today, and I signed in for both of them. I’m #109 on one list, but it’s going quickly and is actually the same company, though I think different casting directors, that I auditioned for on Monday, so I think they’re having people do 8 bars again. The other didn’t have a sign in list, but instead were taking headshots and resumes to bring into the casting panel so they could “type” people. Typing is what happens when they’re going for a particular look, and though it can be annoying is actually great, I think, for everyone involved. It wastes no one’s time. I got typed out, meaning that I wasn’t going to be seen. Again- an annoying process, because everyone made the effort to be there by 9am, but I’d rather be on my way than sit there all day with no real possibility of booking the job, even if I sang my face off. So now I’m in the waiting room for the first audition I signed in for, where I think they’re already past #50. I just asked the girl next to me, and they have in fact cut it to 8 bars.

I imagine I’ll be seen before lunch (which is likely at 1 o’clock), at which point I’ll head back to the Equity building to see what the status is there. One step at a time.

Here I am, back at the Actor’s Equity building. Again, the board has been updated to say “check back after 2pm.” Fine. If that’s how these always go, I have no problem getting here early and then coming back after lunch to see what’s going on. If there are other auditions to go to great, or I can just go home and work on some other things while I wait for 2pm to roll around. I’m not going to take this as the norm just yet, but after another week or two if this seems to be what happens on a regular basis it will be very good information to have.

I was in fact seen at the other audition before lunch, and it went well. I wasn’t asked at the time to stay and dance, but who actually knows if that means anything or not I mean, I was clearly at least ten years older than everyone else there, so for all I screen_shot_2017_07_13_at_1.09.20_pm.0know they’re casting a roll that requires someone older and they don’t need to see any more from me. Wouldn’t that be cool. Anyway, I went in with my 8 bar cut but ended up singing probably twelve without being cut off, and I thought it sounded good. Chalk it up to another practice audition, to getting back out there and making sure I remember how to do this.

What’s refreshing about the holding room at the Equity building is that I see other people my age, signing up for the non-equity list with the hope of being seen. I’m not alone, and it’s not crazy to be doing this: there are other people out here who are trying to make their dreams come true as well, regardless of how much time has passed. It’s encouraging to see.

As expected, around 2:30 we were told that there wasn’t going to be time to see any non-union folks, but were encouraged to leave our headshots and resumes, which I did. There certainly weren’t 110 people waiting there with me, but there were more than there had been the previous two days, perhaps as many as 40. I can only think that the reason there were more people for this call was that the casting noticed specifically noted that some roles, mostly the ensemble, were going to be cast as nonunion. Each time I do one of these I can dig deeper into finding rhyme and reason, and hopefully figure out how to break through at some point.

I find myself back in the waiting room at the Actor’s Equity Building, hoping to crash the same audition that I didn’t get seen for yesterday. Now that I’ve done it once I was way less intimidated by the process. There’s a dance call that I plan to go to at noon a few blocks away (wtf?) so I figured there’s no harm in waking up early to come over here and sign-in. I got here at about 8:30am and am #19 on the list. Better than yesterday, but it looks like things haven’t changed since years ago—if you want to be at the top of the list you’ve got to get here before 7. I’ll try that soon and see what happens. If this was a call I’d definitely be seen for #19 would be great, but since the hope is that they have time to see some non-union people, in reality they may only have time to see five people, so being near the top of the list for something like this is imperative.

So the dance call… yeah. I’ve only ever really been to one dance call before, and it was kind of as a favor to a friend, and it was fun but mostly a disaster. I didn’t feel TOTALLY out of place, but I was clearly the least experienced dancer there. That said, today’s call seems like a good chance to dive right in and see what’s going on in the scene nowadays. It’s a non-union production in small town Pennsylvania, so I’m not terribly worried about embarrassing myself in front of people that I’m likely to encounter again in the future. Also, and I know it doesn’t really work like this, I’m hoping that all the best dancers will either already be union or think that this project is below their pay grade. The thing about dancing is that I’m good at it—I just don’t have tons of formal training. I pick up choreography well, but it largely depends on the style. I figure I’ll go to the call, learn the combination, and if it’s totally out of the question just bow out. There’s no shame in that. But if it’s something I can do, why not? If all goes well they’ll ask me to stay and sing, at which point I’ll likely be one of only a few real singers amongst a batch of dancers who can carry a tune well. We’ll see.

The casting notice for this dance call also notes that dancers must be physically fit, and will be asked to dance with their shirts off. Even six months ago this probably would have been out of the question, but I’ve been eating properly and working out like a crazy person and I’m not intimidated by this. I don’t think I’m stretching to fit the call, either. I think I actually am physically fit and can dance with my shirt off without a bunch of stuff jiggling around that shouldn’t be. The part of the call that I am stretching a little bit is the age range. It calls for men 18-25. I am two days away from turning 37. That said, I definitely look younger than I am, and I think on stage read even younger. Is 25 a stretch? Probably. Is it out of the question? I don’t think so, but I’m going to be found out.

I’ve just been told to come back after lunch, so now I’m off to sign in for the dance call!.

Step one: not taking sign ins for men until the women clear out a bit, but when I inquired with the proctor he didn’t look at me like I was a senior citizen. Hooray!

Step two: just signed in, and am #2! Wow. This is going to be… interesting. Also I’ve literally never been this high on the list for any audition, so of course it’s for a dance call.

Well, I’m back at the Equity building waiting to see if they’re going to see non-union people. The board has been updated to say basically the same it did yesterday, which is that they MAY see people but to come back after 2pm. We’ll see. The dance call… happened. It did not go particularly well, but you know what? I didn’t embarrass myself. giphy At all. I didn’t get the combination quite right for like, the entire middle section, and I was cut immediately, but there were other people there in the same boat as me. It served exactly the purpose I wanted it to, which was to see what dance calls are like these days and if it’s totally insane for me to go. I won’t be crashing any union dance calls anytime soon, but if something like this comes up again and I have nothing else going on I think I’ll go. I’m also going to look into taking some basic dance classes—Steps on Broadway has a good ten pack of classes that comes down to about $15/class, which is totally reasonable. Like yesterday’s experiment with the Equity call, now I know what to expect from a dance call and where my abilities lie in relation to what’s expected.

Shortly after 2pm the monitor let us know that they wouldn’t have time to see anyone, but today they were accepting headshots and resumes if people wanted to leave them. I literally left a headshot and resume one time ever before and was called in the next day, so hoping for a repeat I did the same today. More learning, more growing. It didn’t happen today, but it might be tomorrow. When it gets tedious, I need to remember: it could happen any day.

Knowing is Half the Battle

1/22/19

Today there weren’t any non-Equity auditions that made sense for me to go to, so in the spirit of jumping right back into this thing, I decided to go crash an Equity call. Actor’s Equity Association is the actor’s union, and there are strict rules governing how auditions for union productions are run. There are also two basic ways to get into the union, and one of them is to be offered and Equity Contract. It’s very much a Catch 22, because you can’t audition for and receive an Equity Contract if you’re not already Equity, but you can’t get into Equity unless you audition and are offered a contract. The other way is (I think, but I’ll probably discover more about this) kind of antiquated now, but basically you can work at certain theaters for points toward membership. These jobs are hard to come by as well, because so many people are fighting for them and there aren’t very many to go around.

In any case, one of the ways to break through is to go to an Equity audition and basically hope for the best. If the casting panel sees everyone from the union that has signed up and there is extra time, they may elect to see non-union performers who signed in earlier (MUCH earlier) that day. Or they may not—it just depends. This means that you might be sitting in a holding room from as early as 6am until 5pm and not have the opportunity to audition. This is what I decided to do.

I’d only actually done this once before, and it hadn’t quite gone according to plan (like most of my life) so I didn’t totally know what to expect. However, I was delighted when I got to the Actor’s Equity Building to find that there’s now an entire waiting room that opens at 6am that will have the non-union sign-in sheet in it. I had to work for a few hours this morning, so I didn’t get there until about 1:30, but already this was better than I remember. I signed in (#44—not great, but I guess not horrible…) and parked myself in a comfortable spot. The board by the sign-in indicated that non-Equity actors should come back at 2pm (after the lunch break), so I figured I’d at least have some information shortly. At about 2:30 or so the monitor in the room got a phone call from upstairs, then came over and announced that no non-union performers were going to be seen. I would have liked to audition, but this was fine with me.

I’d only spent about an hour there, but got lots of first-hand information so that I know what I’m doing the next time I do this. It’s not scary, and is in fact pretty easy—way easier than I remember it being years ago. There’s still a whole lot of waiting involved for only a slim chance of even getting the chance to audition, but it’s better than nothing. It would have been so easy to go home after work, but then I’d be wondering “what if I’d been seen?” I wasn’t seen, but at least I know. I’m done with “what ifs.”

No Day But Today

1/21/19

Today begins a journey that I’ve been longing for for years. I’m finally (I think?) in a place where I can have a survival job that I do on my own time, freeing up the rest of my time for auditions. I’ve been out of the scene for the most part for about ten years now, and if it’s going to happen the time is fucking now. No excuses. Now. dsc_0118

            I have new headshots, fancy looking updated resumes, and my trusted book of songs. Though I’m likely older than most of the people out there doing this, I don’t necessarily feel as such, and I am ready to pound the pavement and make my dreams come true.

There’s been a lot of wondering where I’d be if I’d done this ten years ago; made sacrifices wherever necessary in order to make the time to get out there. Would I be making my living as an actor? Would I have toured to fun places? Would I still be in the same position I am today? I try to tell myself not to worry about what could have been, because the truth is, everything that has happened has led me to where I am today, and I’m happy about it. I am here. I am doing this, and come hell or high water I’m going to give it my all.

Today I went to an audition for a Cruise Line. I’ve always wanted to book one of these, because (and I’m sure it’s a much different situation once you’re onboard) it just seems like it would be a really fun gig. Cruise around the world, sing and dance every night, etc. In reality I’m sure it’s stressful and there isn’t all that much leisure time, but still, stress on a cruise ship seems like it would be more fun than stress at a survival job I don’t entirely like. In any case, I went, which is truly the hardest part after so much time away, because I was afraid. Afraid that I didn’t know how things worked anymore, afraid that I wasn’t good enough (which I’m sure everyone feels, but frankly in this case I know that I’m actually way better than I was before), and afraid that I’d fuck up because I was so out of practice. But I went.

I arrived to the holding room somewhat early (I learned long ago that if an audition starts at 10am you need to be there by at least 8, depending on the size of the project), and signed in. Number 38! Not too bad—I’ve definitely been like, 163 or higher before. The breakdown was to sing 16 bars of pop/rock or contemporary musical theater, and I spent the next little while going through my book, trying to decide what to sing. At this point the proctor came in the room and said that due to time restrictions, and because they wanted to have a chance to see everyone, everyone was only going to sing 8 bars. Great. I mean, this has happened before, and I’m sure everyone in the room was prepared for it and had an appropriate cut, but it was still annoying.

In any case, my time in the audition room came, and I did well. I wasn’t particularly nervous, presumably because I kept telling myself that this was a practice audition, to get back out there and remember what it felt like. I was personable in the six seconds I actually spoke to the panel, and then I sang. It was not perfect, but it was good. It was pretty good, actually. They had mentioned that they’d be telling people on the spot if they wanted them to stay for the dance call, and they didn’t ask this of me so I knew I wasn’t going any further, but still, I left the room feeling good. I had done it, hadn’t fucked it up, and in fact did a good job.

I went back to the holding room, gathered my things, and headed home. As I was walking to the subway I kept thinking “I’m back.” I didn’t get cast, I didn’t get a callback, but I’m back, and it feels good.