Tuesday, June 29, 2010

10 Things I've Learned in 11 Days



  1. Buy a copy of Backstage every week.  It’s worth the $2.95.  Also watch job listings and casting calls at www.Playbill.com and the Actors Equity Association (AEA) website.
  2. There are lots of acronyms: EPA (Equity Principal Audition), ECC (Equity Chorus Call), EMC (Equity Membership Candidate)… Unless a casting call explicitly says “only seeking AEA members for this audition,” GO.  You never know when…
  3. Lots of calls for straight plays will post one set of sides (script excerpts from which auditioners read) prior to their audition time.  Everyone crowds around four sheets of paper taped to a wall, scribbling furiously to get all the lines down and get the heck out of the way.  Others use their iPhones.  In this instance, I recommend keeping up with the Joneses.  Use the iPhone.
  4. Headshots are 8x10, usually surrounded by a narrow black border, then a thick white one.  Across the bottom of the white border, your name is printed in thick black lettering.  Resumes are cut to fit the back side of your 8x10 and stapled at all four corners.  Staple through the photo side first, not the resume side.  It’s prettier that way.
  5. Bring a book, your iPod, your Nalgene, and a sack lunch.  Saves money.  :)  Trail mix is my snack of choice.
  6. In college auditions, actors were asked to wear clothes they could move in.  Not so in New York.  It’s all risky necklines, pencil skirts, fitted bodices, and chunky belts.  Don’t worry about wearing character shoes unless you’re going to a dance call.  Spike heels are all the rage.  Don’t ask me why.  Needless to say, I feel like a nun in my relatively un-low-cut cocktail dress.  Oh, and if you’re a boy, lucky you.  You get away with just about anything shy of holy jeans and a Corona t-shirt.  Boo.
  7. Get in line EARLY for auditions.  And if a non-Equity call says there will be no unofficial sign-up lists before the hour-prior sign-in time, don’t worry.  Some competitive diva will start a list.  And if the casting director won’t agree to honor it, you can be sure the first five girls in line will make you honor it.  Yes, there has been some drama.
  8. Invest in one of those rolling backpacks.  Sure, in middle school the mean kids would kick yours until you reverted to the old-school backpack, but here, the wheels save your back.  And you sweat less.  Most women pack a dress, heels, makeup, a curling iron, a brush, their “book” and a laundry list of other must-haves.  Take it from the girl with the duffel bag slung over a rubbed-raw shoulder.  You want the wheels.
  9. Since you’re packing it anyway, skip the hair and makeup at the apartment and just do it at the studio while you wait.  You get there earlier and if it’s a really hot morning, you can wash your face.  Believe me—makeup doesn’t survive long in 50% humidity.
  10. At the end of the day, remember this: you’d be surprised how many other people are just starting out, too.  You’re really not as alone as you think.

Week One

It seems a nearly impossible task to sum up these last few days in one blog post.  But I’m going to give it my best shot.  Here's week one.  More to come soon.
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I mentioned two job interviews scheduled for my first full day in the city.  Well, God is indeed amazing, and after less than 24 hours in the city, I was hired as a nanny by a family in Brooklyn.  Liam is a year old with blond curls and an enormous personality.  Love him already.  I spend a few hours each weekend at their place so Mom can get some errands done around town.  The other interview, for Little Maestros, was a dud.  I didn’t like the vibe of the place anyway.  Ever get the sense that you’re being viewed as a disposable piece of merchandise?  Yeah.  Not the folks you want to work for.

Now for the interesting stuff!
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Thursday, June 17

My interview for 10:45 Little Maestros is cutting into my morning audition for Jekyll and Hyde.  I leave the sun-yellow-glaring Hungarian church, the basement of which houses the Little Maestro offices, and take a few trains to the West Side.  This is my first open call.  I arrive sweaty and disoriented.  It’s one thing not to understand the city and public transportation, but for anyone who has never been to an Equity casting call, it’s a whole other world.  There should be an easy-to-read guide book for kids like me.  I not just green.  I’m “positively phosphorescent.”

Jekyll and Hyde is my introduction to Equity, firsthand.  The monitor has a list for Equity Member Candidates (EMCs, or those working to join the union) and non-Equity actors.  Equity actors have pre-arranged appointments, and he calls those lucky ones six at a time every 20 minutes.  If there’s a no-show, an EMC fills the slot as an alternate.  Once the monitor has run through the list of EMCs alternates, non-Equity kids get a chance.  There are thirty-something “non-eqs” today.  I’m number twenty-six.  It’s 5:10, and the monitor stops us at number eleven.  No more for today.  But we’re invited to come back for the open call the following Friday. 
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Friday, June 18

This morning, I show up early for the 9:30 Baltimore Centerstage EPAs.  It’s in the AEA building which is massive.  I feel very small and young here.  Someday, I’ll be a proud member.  I sit and wait with a couple dozen actors, and most of them audition with monologues.  I don’t have one.  I’m singing because I know their big musical for next season is The Wiz.  Do mi sol mi do.  But every singer I hear through the thin-enough walls is black.  An interesting trend.  Ten minutes.  Twenty minutes.  Every few auditions is some gorgeous diva belting out Ragtime or Porgy and Bess.  I double-check the casting call in Backstage, and whaddya know?  It’s gonna be an all-black cast in the tradition of the original 1970s cast.  Well shoot.  I’m as white and freckled as they come.  I gather my bags and slink out the door, take the elevator sixteen floors down to the lobby, and tiptoe past the man at the shiny, massive front desk.  Why do I feel like I need to whisper?  Probably because I still feel very small and humbled.  Little fish.  Big pond. 

And it’s back to Times Square.  And home.  No more auditions today.

I meet Taryn and her friend Jeremy in the East Village for lunch at this amazing Japanese ramen restaurant at 10th Street and Fourth Avenue.  It's called Ippudo.  Apparently, the place has been reviewed several times by the NYT, and anyone who’s anyone goes here at least once.  Jeremy is really nice and conversational.  I always appreciate when people are easy to talk to, since I can get a little awkward and freeze up when the conversation seems forced.  He’s from Redmond and is a med student like Taryn.  He’s actually moving into my building for this weekend.  It’s nice to know somebody nearby.

That night, Taryn and I walk down a few streets to another friend’s apartment.  Christina and Gabe are grilling Mexican food on their rooftop as a last hurrah before everyone splits for the summer.  The guacamole is amazing.  And the margaritas are heavy on the tequila.  (Rachel, I now understand how quickly it goes to your head!)  The sun sets while we’re on the roof, and I can see the Chrysler Building in all its glittering gaiety.  Not much beats the New York skyline on a summer night. 

After dinner, we catch a cab to a club in the village that’s hosting a private party for Cornell med students.  There’s an open tab, so I order a Blue Moon.  The music isn’t my style, but I’m fascinated by the walls.  They’re covered in what looks like micro-suede couch cushions of all sizes and colors.  The people are friendly enough, and the beer is nice at the end of a hot day, but I don’t quite jive with it all.  Gabe asks me how I like it, and I tell him it’s fine.  “You sure you don’t want another drink?”  I tell him I’m fine.  I’ve had plenty for one night.  He seems mildly amused.  He asks about Whitworth and what it’s like.  He knows it’s private and “religious.”  I give him my scoop, about how I love everything about Whitworth, and how much it means to me that we don’t have a ton of rules and doctrine being shoved down our throats.  I tell him Whitworth is great about fostering discussion and welcoming tough questions.  I tell him about the Big Three: no alcohol, no co-hab, and no “disruption of community” (such an umbrella term).  I’m pretty sure I start looking like an alien to him.  “You mean, no sex?”  Oh boy.  “Yeah.  It happens but if that’s your thing, there are plenty of other places to go.”  I make a few comments about how less alcohol and such make for a more conducive learning environment.  I want to stuff a sock in my mouth.  It all makes sense to me, but I know this is coming across as totally bonkers to a 31-year-old who spent eight years in the Air Force before going to med school.  “So, you’re pretty religious then.”  Oh how I hate that word.  “Religious is a pretty narrow term,” I tell him.  “As clich├ęd as it sounds, it’s a relationship for me, more than a set of rules.  At the end of the day God is number one in my life, and I try to live like he would have me live.”  I tell him a few more things about me and God and my take on faith, consciously avoiding any language that might be taken as trite, preachy, or hyper-conservative from somebody just asking a few harmless questions.  I try not to spill my guts.  But I do my best to be honest and open with him, too.  It’s a careful balance.  At the end of the night, I pray that Gabe takes whatever came out of my mouth and hears it the way God would have him hear it, because goodness knows I'm about as eloquent as Moses.

It’s funny.  I went to a Christian college for four years and not once did I really share anything substantial about my faith with a “non-believer.”  I have a feeling I’ll grow more as a Christian here than I ever imagined possible.
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Saturday, June 19

In my apartment, I explode in a hurricane of homemaking.  I unpack all my clothes and give them a new home in lots of drawers and closets.  I marvel at Taryn’s empty sock drawer.  It’s organized with cut-up Ritz Cracker boxes to keep things straight and separated.  A girl after my own organized heart!  I spread myself around the bathroom and explore all the kitchen cabinets.  It’s fun having my own space!

Today is also my first day nannying for Liam.  Hilary, his mom, spends the first part of the morning with us.  We take the subway out to Fort Greene Park to a Greenmarket which is kind of a like an extra-hipster Farmers’ Market.  I push an empty stroller most of the way.  He’d rather walk with Mom and explore on his own.  This kid is great, but he’s going to be a handful when he’s older!  Back at their apartment, I give Liam his lunch and finally get him to go down for a nap while Hilary is at the store.  She arrives at 3:00 on the dot with $60 cash for me.  Not bad, considering I wasn’t banking on any income this summer!  God is faithful to provide, and I, as usual, am immensely humbled.
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Sunday, January 20

I make plans with Jeremy to meet downstairs at 10:20 so we can walk to church together.  He goes Redeemer Presbyterian Church, the church Taryn goes to as well and recommended to me earlier this spring.  I’m all set to go when I turn the doorknob the wrong way and it comes off in my hand.  I am stuck in my own apartment.  Already sweating with mild panic, I call Jeremy.  “I’d come downstairs, but my doorknob just came off, and I’m stuck in the apartment!”  So he comes to my rescue and lets me out from the other side of the door.  I jimmy the thing well enough to get it to lock.  “I’ll worry about fixing this after church.”

Redeemer’s morning service is more traditional than the evening service.  But I like it.  The music is classical but beautiful with brass and hymns and an organ.  It reminds me a little of chapel at Whitworth. :)  The sermon is fantastic, and the pastor makes me think, which has become quite the accomplishment the longer I’ve been in school.  There is a slew of volunteer opportunities and groups for me to get involved in.  It’ll be a perfect way for me to meet some people and strike up a few conversations.  I’m going back to the evening service next week.

Back at my apartment, with the doorknob securely in place, I embark upon a deep-clean of the kitchen.  I scour the refrigerator and purge it of all expired foods and unidentified Tupperware.  The cabinets get a good wipe-down, and I organize the spice cupboard.  Yep.  Alphabetically.  It’s even inventoried.  The stovetop gets a good scrub, and soon everything is shiny and smelling like soap.
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Monday, June 21

Today, I tackle the floors.  Armed with a broom, plenty of hot water, and Pine Sol, every room is soon dust- and dog hair-free, not to mention that the whole place smells wonderful.  There’s just something about having a nice clean living space.  Clutter I can handle (have you seen the way I can take over a dorm room?), but the dirt has to go.  Happy to have that done.
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Tuesday, June 22

As if there hasn’t been enough re-hashing of The Phantom of the Opera, yet another composer has decided to write a musical of the same title.  The Players Theatre casting call is at 10:00, and I arrive at 9:30 to sign up, but there are already two dozen names before mine.  I make a mental note to disregard the sign-up time and just come as early as I can next time.  I sing 16 bars of “Tell Me On A Sunday”—poorly.  Everybody has their days.   Better luck tomorrow.

For a more productive turn today, I make a trip to Trader Joe’s at Union Square.  This is cheap by New York standards, and the place is packed.  The line is literally halfway around the store.  But it’s worth it.  Several weeks’ worth of groceries for $63.  I cram it all—foolishly—into two eco-friendly totes and carry it home.  My shoulders are numb and knotted by the time I walk through the door.  Regardless, I’m happy to stock my own fridge with all the food I love.  Call me ridiculous, but it’s one of those homey things I’m learning to take pride in.
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Wednesday, June 23

Oklahoma auditions are at Ripley Grier Studios at 520 Eighth Ave.  It’s a touring production based in Florida, and when I show up for the 9:00 sign-in, there are already 113 girls on the list.  I’m 114.  They tell us, “If you’re not a strong dancer, if you just move well, go home.”  I swipe on an extra coat of mascara, decide to gamble, and stay.  “Sing 16 bars from the show or in the style of the show.”  I sing 16 bars of “It Might as Well be Spring” and, thankfully, sound much nicer than yesterday’s audition.  And that’s it.  Show up.  Sit and wait for four hours.  Sing for thirty seconds.  Go home.

But I don’t go home.  I head to The Producers Club to audition for a show called Karate Tango.  The wait is much shorter, and the monitor is really friendly.  His name is Eduardo, and he banters back and forth in with one of the other bilingual girls at the audition.  I wish I were fluent in Spanish.  For the audition, I sing 16 bars of “Still Hurting” a capella, and the two nice ladies behind the table say I have nice tone and ask me to take a side for the character of Amy.  I prep in the hall, go in for my reading, and feel good about it.  “Do you dance?”  “I do.” “We’ll be making calls tonight if we think we’ll need you tomorrow.  Thank you.”

I don’t get a call for either show tonight.  But this is just the first week.  I’d say I’m rolling with the punches, but I don’t even feel that bad yet.  I just know I have to put in my dues and eventually something will work out.  I’m eager, but not in such a hurry that I’m going to get bent out of shape.  I feel like that’s a good attitude to have.
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Saturday, June 19, 2010

from Wednesday, June 16

I step off the plane in Atlanta, and the first thought that crosses my mind is, “oh my gosh.  I really hope New York isn’t this muggy.  I’m going to be dripping all summer.”  I make a quick pit stop at a restroom and catch my 2:40 connection to LaGuardia with a few minutes to spare.  This leg of the flight is much shorter than the first, but my routine is the same: iPod, orange juice, and dozing in and out of consciousness. 

Every time I fly, I am reminded of how easy it is for me now.  When I was little, I used to cry and fuss from the pain of the cabin pressure change.  My ears just couldn’t handle the takeoff and landing.  But I fly so often anymore that I think my body has gotten used to it.  Now all it takes is a yawn from time to time, and I’m good to go.  

Before I know it, my iPod and I are halfway through the original cast recording of JRB’s Parade, and the pilot’s voice crackles over the intercom, telling us to prepare for landing.  From my seat at the window, all I see is suburbia.  My directionally-challenged brain has no idea if I’m looking east or west, but my best guess is that what I see is Long Island, or somewhere thereabouts.  There are a few tall buildings but nothing like the Manhattan skyline that I’m sure is in view from the other side of the plane. 

After a short wait for my suitcase at baggage claim, an airport employee directs those of us obviously from out-of-town to the taxi pickup out at the sidewalk and to the right.  Standing in line, I feel almost like a regular New Yorker.  There are two Chinese business men and a gorgeous African mother with her two kids.  The baby is slung across her middle, and the little girl, who can’t be more than four or five, has a head full of beaded braids I would have envied at her age. A sixty-something woman with frizzy brown hair, a neon-pink pedicure, and enormous sunglasses strikes me as the uppity socialite who tries to look half her age.  It’s a fun bunch.

My taxi driver is a middle-aged man with a fabulous accent.  I think it’s Arabic.  Bold as I can be, I don’t have the guts to ask him where he’s from, despite the fact that that’s the first thing he asks me.  So much for looking like a native!  I tell him I’m from Washington state—Seattle, actually.  “Oh, the West!  It is very beautiful there.”  “Yes,” I tell him, “but not now.  It’s cold and rainy.”  He doesn’t believe me.  “Well, it is good you come here.  Summer in New York is very beautiful.”  I love it already. 

Windows down and sunglasses on, we dodge traffic through Queens and across the bridge.  Anyone who has never ridden in a New York taxi has not fully lived.  The drivers are crazy, but very capable.  I laugh to think at how my mother would handle a ride in the back seat of this man’s taxi.  She’d probably make him pull over and let her out.  I just giggle and clutch my purse as it slides toward the front of the seat.  There is a stupid grin on my face, and I’m sure that at this moment, I look like the ultimate tourist.  I don’t care.  I am deliciously, unabashedly happy.

Thirty dollars later, I’m standing outside 113 E 70th Street, and it’s all wrong.  No pub below the apartment, and no student housing across the street.  Hmph.  I call Taryn.  “I’m at the corner of…Park Avenue and 70th.”  Wrong corner.  I turn around and drag my ninety pounds of luggage four blocks east toward First Avenue.  How did I get 113 stuck in my head?  It’s 413.  Fail.

Up to this point, my take on New York in June has been lovely.  But weigh me down with suitcases, jeans, and boots—bad idea—and I’m toast.  I let Taryn know I’m hoofing it, and she just giggles: “See you in a few minutes.”

This will be the summer of weight loss.  For one, I’m the one paying for all my food and as such will eat frugally.  It’s warm—as summers should be, even in Western Washington—and I will undoubtedly sweat.  I’m also walking everywhere.  And that includes the five—count them, FIVE—flights of stairs up to the apartment.  I thought packing my suitcases this morning was a feat.  Try lugging them up five flights of stairs in sweat-dampened skinny jeans and a shirt that is already sticking to your back.  Needless to say, I made two trips.  Jess, I’m gonna be in fabulous shape for that 5k! :)

The apartment is small but perfect.  I can’t wait to get settled in.  After meeting Taryn’s roommate and a friend of hers across the street, I make a beeline for the shower.  I smile, remembering that the water is free, so I can take my time.  There is something almost sacred about a nice cool rinse when you’re drenched in sweat and tired from a long day of travel.  Now to find a way to keep the shower curtain from billowing in and clinging to me like saran wrap as I try to suds my luscious locks.  Windows, maybe?  After throwing on my jammies, I crank both windows open to let in some air.

Human again, and several degrees cooler, I sit down to my laptop and attempt to connect to Taryn’s wireless.  Fail.  An incoming text from my lovely friend says there’s Indian food in the fridge, and I’m welcome to it.  Score.  It’s delicious, and I revel in the thought that this city’s microwaved leftovers are surely superior to any Indian food to be had within a fifty-mile radius of my house.  And chances are, the delicious little foodie haven responsible for my first-rate meal is probably just a block or two away. :)

But despite the abundance of adventurous food, my brain is still calm and back home—or in the dorms at Whitworth.  A return to the bathroom confirms this.  Obviously, modesty is not at the forefront of my thought because lo and behold, I can see my neighbors’ windows!  All three floors of them!  Note to self: check to make sure your windows are closed before going to the bathroom, especially at night!  I’ll remember this for tomorrow.  Hopefully, no one was scandalized. 

And so ends the first day of my adventure.  Now it’s time to pull out the futon and get some shut-eye.  I have two job interviews tomorrow.  But more on that later!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Headshots! Woot!

I had some headshots done today and really want all your opinion on which one to choose.  I think that's the hardest part of the whole processs--choosing.  None of the photos are retouched or cropped, so keep that in mind.  There's still room for improvement.  Go to my facebook album and comment on the ones you like.  Thanks everyone!  Love you!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

To Be a Child Again

I hate writing thank-you cards.

I've been pushing off writing a bunch of Whitworth professors for weeks, knowing that I'd fall apart as soon as I did.  And I did.  I got through two cards, one of them to Marc, and totally lost it.  This sort of thing is hard for me because somewhere in my subconscious, writing a goodbye makes for a much more solid closure than just saying it.

I'm terrified.  I want so much to have good things to say to everyone in the fall.  I want to go to the fall musical and the Christmas concerts feeling like I have something to show for myself, and I'm afraid I won't.  At the end of the day, I feel paralyzed by my fear.  Fear of failure, of self-sabotage, of mediocrity.  At Whitworth, things are safe.  I feel loved and capable and supported.  Being removed from that, it's hard to reassure myself that these things are all still true, despite the fact that I don't hear it and see it on a day-to-day basis.  Life is much less predictable, and I have to make everything happen on my own.

The pressure I'm feeling at home to do all the right things in the right order and at the right time to make my dreams come true! is near-suffocating.  Is it possible to be loved too much?  Because Mom and Dad don't seem to be okay with me pounding the pavement and working hard and--God forbid!--maybe moving back to Seattle in the fall.  Most of the auditions in New York are Equity, meaning I have to have my AEA card to even be seen... I think Seattle is the better bet.  For now, at least.

But maybe I'm freaking out about nothing.  Maybe this summer will prove me wrong.  Regardless, I just want to get the hell out of dodge.  I can't breathe here, and I have too much time to think about how scary life actually is as a grown-up.  Can't I just be five years old again?