Friday, August 23, 2013

Let Me Entertain You

When my friend, Sophie Yaeger, first told me about this exciting new venue, 
The Cafe at Broadway, I was thrilled. I was excited for Sophie and her future. 

The Cafe at Broadway
917 287 2392

I went to see the new space and saw the potential, possibilities and, above all, Sophie's passion for the place. Then she asked me to be the hostess for their new Monday Broadway style open mic. I was flattered, excited and absolutely terrified!

I saw the empty room.  It's a lovely room, as you can see.  I saw the blank canvas.  And, of course (as you can tell from my previous blogs) I immediately starting quoting Sondheim.  White: a blank page or canvas.  His favorite  -  so many possibilities.*

The Cafe at Broadway
917 287 2392

For me it was dark: a blank stage or platform.  Her favourite  -  so many possibilities.  That feeling of adrenalin when we see a space to perform. 

I don't need a lot,
Only what I got,
Plus a tube of greasepaint and a follow-spot!^

But, wait.  I DO need a lot!  A script, a director, homework, a costume, rehearsal. Sophie wanted me to be me. And that's the most terrifying thing of all. No rehearsal. No plan. No idea who would be in the audience. No idea what they would sing. No idea why Sophie asked me. 

People laughed at my insecurity: "But you're so good at stuff like this.". Really? How do you know? I don't. So I realised that I would have to fall back on the lifetime of training I had being part of the McKie family. I come from a family of talkers. Well, my father does not talk much when my mother is around (as you can read here) but he is more than capable (as you can hear here).
Public speaking, debating, after-dinner speaking, reciting poetry, singing parodies, performing at parties were all part of normal life as I was growing up.  Both my parents are teachers and I was (and still am, but not full time) a teacher. It is something in one's soul. My sister is a teacher too. A brilliant one. One brother is a lawyer and the other two are writers. All five of us learned poetry and had to make speeches in public.  It was the norm in our education. My middle brother, Johnnie, is the quietest of us all and the only one out of the five of us who did not debate at University. He was, and is, however, the great deliverer of one-liners and comebacks that will have everyone laughing. That's a gift. And he proved he can make a magnificent speech (as best man at my eldest brother's wedding and as groom, obviously, at his own). My natural instinct and familial and cultural training is to insult the crowd. In Scotland, that's a compliment.  But I feared this was not going to be my friend.  I also feared that nature would kick in and that is what I would do.  I did, of course. Sorry, Vanessa Spica!

Photo by Daniel Yaeger

Hello, everybody! My name is Polly.
What's yours?

Let me entertain you,
Let me make you smile.
Let me do a few tricks,
Some old and then some new tricks,
I'm very versatile!+

Singing a little Gilbert and Sullivan parody
for our parents' Ruby Anniversary

I started to realise that I did have the experience and years of training. I had done the homework. What is hosting? I have been thinking and realise it is not really very different from all the other things that are second nature to me.

Banter (the McKie family), being able to hurl insults and take the heckling in return (again, the McKie family), 

Singing for our father's 70th birthday party
(and encouraging the next generation along the way).
getting up to sing and entertain, even if the crowd is small and you don't want to 
(yet again, the McKie family) making the audience feel loved, wanted, amused and itching to get up and show their stuff (just what I want to do for my classes when I teach) and winging it (well, that's the story of my life).

But let me make it clear, that is not enough. This is the venue that helped me to be myself and relax enough to do my job. Well, to be honest, I was never relaxed and was a nervous wreck throughout, but the crowd (small though it was) did not see that. The Cafe at Broadway has devised the most welcoming open mic in the city. There is NO COVER charge and not only is there no minimum, they even have half price drinks all night for the open mic on Mondays!  They have lighting, sound, a glorious grand piano and cheap booze! What's not to love. The people who were there were wonderful.  I am grateful to all of them. It is a warm, friendly, supportive place. Come and sing or listen or drink or laugh or clap or meet new people or, do what I plan to do: all of it! See you on Monday.

And if you're real good,
I'll make you feel good  ---
I want your spirits to climb.
So let me entertain you,
And we'll have a real good time,
Yes, sir!
We'll have a real good time!+


 * "Sunday in the Park with George" by Stephen Sondheim
 ^ "Broadway Baby" from Follies by Stephen Sondheim
 + "Baby June and Her Newsboys" from Gypsy: Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Perpetual Anticipation

Perpetual anticipation
Is good for the soul
But it's bad for 
The heart.*

This weekend I drank the bottle of fizz that my friend, Jean Ann Garrish, gave me for my birthday back in April.  I had explained to her that, in the past, I always had a bottle of champagne in my fridge so that I would be ready to celebrate but that, in recent years, I had neglected the habit.  So she gave me a bottle to remind me.  My sister and her husband drink fizz in times of trouble.  As Napoleon said "Champagne: in victory you deserve it. In defeat, you need it!"

It has been one of those weeks.  Victory and defeat.  And waiting.

It's very good for
Practicing self-control.
It's very good for
Morals, but
Bad for morale.*

Being an actor means a whole lot of waiting.  Waiting to be seen at E.P.A. (a whole different level of waiting for the non-union, as discussed in Merrily We Roll Along, and ...roll along, following dreams.); waiting for an appointment after submitting; waiting for your agent to call, waiting for a cmail (not a typo  - an actors' access reference), waiting to hear about a callback, waiting for a job offer, waiting in the wings, waiting for the next season of "Orange is the New Black" on Netflix.

This week has been a week of waiting.

Well, of course, much more than this week!  I have waited since childhood to start following my dream.  Several false starts and deciding to take the plunge in my thirties (Growing Up).

So many status updates on facebook read "I nailed my audition"  "Callback: woot, woot".  What does that even mean?  I am betting 90% of them do not book the job (not based on any scientific facts!)  Actors do not come out thinking they nailed the audition.  Or is that just me?  I ALWAYS think I could have done more, done better, done more and better.  But I do know that I did an acceptable job at this particular audition.  I did my work.  They liked me.  I rarely feel that but sometimes you just know.  And this is a role I want to play.  A job I really wanted.  

And so the waiting started. 

Perpetual anticipation's a
Delicate art:
Playing a role,
Aching to start,
Keeping control
While falling apart.

Perpetual anticipation
Is good for the soul
But it's bad for 
The heart.*

This is when my 'phone becomes an issue.  Did I miss a call?  Double checking. Triple checking.  Posting on Callback Corner on Audition Update.  Going on the subway and praying for a voicemail when you come back up out of the ground.  

Well, after four long days, the waiting was over.  I did not book the job.  At least my waiting was put to an end.  The director was lovely enough to email me and tell me how much they liked my work. That's a rare thing. When I was called back for Mrs. Brill in Mary Poppins, the call came over two months after my first audition.  Four days is nothing.  Even if it seemed like an eternity at the time.

So, that was my defeat.  That accounted for half of the bottle of fizz. 

I have been lucky enough to be in email touch with a wonderful manager.  After several emails and attempts to find time, we finally met last week.  I knew in my gut from the emails that I liked her.  And I was right.  She's even better in person!  Thank you, Kathy Olsen and Encompass Arts!

Now, I'd better go out to Sussex Wines and buy a new bottle of champagne to keep in the fridge so I am ready for the next victory.  Ready to do some more waiting...and grateful for it all.

*Perpetual Anticipation from "A Little Night Music": Stephen Sondheim, of course.