Thursday, October 30, 2014

Together Wherever We Go!

Wherever we go, whatever we do,
we're gonna go through it together.
We may not go far, but sure as a star,
wherever we are, it's together.*

This business is tough! There are days when we want to give up and there are times when we get in our own way.

  • Do you have a list of things you need to do but somehow always manage to put them off?
  • Are you waiting for that certain piece of footage before you finish your reel?
  • Do you skip auditions because you are waiting for that perfect monologue?
  • Do your friends seem to be having more success than you?
  • Are you stuck in a rut?

Sometimes things come in threes when one thing is not enough to get through to us! Monday was that day for me.

Ah, Facebook is my first port of call in the morning.  And I saw the wonderful Heidi Marshall's blog about how we cope with these difficult times. I admire Heidi so much and she always seems so positive so it was comforting to read about her struggling too. In tough times, she uses crayons! 

And then this leapt out at me too. On Facebook, of course! Maybe I'll read a book again one day soon but I'm so busy reading all these online gems and playing Candy Crush.

"People's lives are a direct reflection of the expectations of their peer group. If your peer group doesn't expect much, it's just a matter of time before you lower your expectations of yourself." Anthony Robbins

And then, best of all, I left my tiny apartment and met my good friend and fellow actress, Fiona Graham. We ate a diner breakfast and talked and talked and laughed and put the world to rights. Obviously, we talk about acting and the business because we have that (amongst other things) in common. We were commiserating on how tough it can be and something really struck me about what Fiona said: "We have to be fierce warriors. We have to be so strong and able to take blow after blow. But we are also so sensitive and vulnerable."

YES, that's it. And, for my two cents, the actors who are not sensitive and vulnerable, are not the ones I like to watch!

Through thick and through thin,
all out or all in.
And whether it's win, place or show.
With you for me and me for you,
we'll muddle through whatever we do.
Together, wherever we go.

Wherever we go, whatever we do,
we're gonna go through it together.*

Obviously, we cannot physically go everywhere together (although at some of these EPAs it is great to have a friend to sit and laugh with during the interminable waiting and deal with all the other girls in the same teal dress and nude pumps).

We need a support network, though. I have good friends and a brilliant family but that is not always enough. Talking to people who are going through what you are going through is what matters. A friend recently told me that she loved seeing me because it was so much FUN but it was also PRODUCTIVE. 

I have started accountability groups with The Actor's Friend.  A safe place where I can be kind and supportive but am also known for giving you the kick that you might need! 

Wherever I go I know he goes.
Wherever I go I know she goes.
No fits, no fights, no feuds
and no egos, Amigos, together!

Though business is lousy and slow.
With Herbie's vim, Louise's verve,
Now all we need is someone with nerve.
Together, wherever,
Together, wherever we go!*

I may not have people called Herbie and Louise in my classes yet, but I can hope.  And I think you ALL have NERVE!  All we need is a little support to use it in the right way.

Join a supportive group of like-minded actors and be a super trouper!

*"Together Wherever We Go" from "Gypsy"

Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Sunday, October 5, 2014

You could drive a person crazy.

You could drive a person crazy,
You could drive a person mad.
First you make a person hazy
So a person could be had,
Then you leave a person dangling sadly
Outside your door,
Which it only makes a person gladly
Want you even more.*

Do NOT shake hands, unless the C.D. initiates it. In most cases, you have a very short time in the room. Go in and DO YOUR JOB. If a C.D. gets up to shake your hand, fine. But it is rare and NEVER go over to do that to them behind the table.  

This is a two way street. We think that C.D.s drive us crazy and we, as actors, drive them crazy. So what can we do to make it the beautiful relationship that it can be?

Have you had that moment in the room at one of those meet and greets you have paid for to be seen by a Casting Director and (s)he says (s)he loves you and will call you in?  At the E.P.A. where they tell you you're brilliant (okay, that one never really happens), or the time you get a callback from the same C.D. who gave you a callback 6 months ago and 3 months before that?

How do you deal with it?  How do you deal with them? Well first of all, let's stop thinking of it as being US and THEM. We are all human beings. Be a REAL person.

I hear SO many actors bitch and complain. If we want them to call us in after a bad audition and not hold it against us, we should do the same for them.  We all have off days. It is a RELATIONSHIP. And how do you make it a good one? So please stop judging and complaining. It does not help. 

What can YOU do to help YOUR career?

Casting Directors are the gate keepers and, even with a brilliant agent or manager, the real key is to have a good relationship with casting people.  So many friends I know are trying to get an agent and the first thing a potential agent asks is: "What C.D.s know you?"

They are the gatekeepers
We need the keys, the passwords

Knock-knock! Is anybody there?
Knock-knock! It really isn't fair.
Knock-knock! I'm workin' all my charms.
Knock-knock! A zombie's in my arms.*

How long? Well, that depends!

Here are a couple of my stories:

  • Met a C.D. at The Network. She seemed to like me. NOTHING. ZIP. Fast forward two years and I was called in for "Louie" for a C.D. I did not know. Turns out I had been recommended by that C.D. from 2 years before.
  • Built a relationship with another C.D. (E.P.A.s, meet and greet) who then called me in for a job I did not submit for because he remembered me and my work.
  • Met a C.D. and kept in touch via postcard and have been called in three times for HBO show.

Trust me, I have the same problems as you. I am investigating and learning.  But I have had made mistakes and had some triumphs so come and learn from someone who is living what you're living.

As brilliant C.D. Brette Goldstein says, it's like dating. And you have to go with your gut. I have casting directors who hug me now when I go in to audition. That is lovely but not to be expected. Even with my brilliant manager, a major broadway C.D. got in touch with me directly because she had met me and had my email address.  You never know!

All that sweet affection!
What is wrong?
Where's the loose connection?
How long, O Lord, how long?

How long is a very important question. But we might as well ask, how long is a piece of string? A good C.D. remembers good actors. Austin Pendleton had auditioned for Ron Howard for a project he did not book. NINE years later, he was offered "A Beautiful Mind". Sure, we do not want to wait nine years, but trust yourself and trust good casting directors. Do your homework and do your work. 

Exclusive you!
Elusive you!*

They may seem exclusive and elusive, but really, they are just like us!

*You Could Drive a Person Crazy from "Company"
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Monday, September 29, 2014

Something's Coming

Could be! 
Who knows? 
There's something due any day; 
I will know right away, 
Soon as it shows. 
It may come cannonballing down through the sky, 
Gleam in its eye, 
Bright as a rose! *

So much of this business is "Who knows?" and there is so much negativity.  I have heard so many actors sound defeated. Especially my non-union friends. And I am among them! I am still non-union. My immigration status has prevented me from joining and I have had to turn down Equity gigs but I am not ready to give up. In many ways, my struggles have made me work harder and I get so frustrated with American friends who have such a negative attitude about it all. Do any of these sound familiar?

No point in going to an EPA  -  I won't be seen.
I cannot get seen for that audition: it's Equity.
They only want submissions from SAG members.
Audition notice says AEA only.
I can't even book at a non union call so what chance do I have with Union gigs?

Who knows? 
It's only just out of reach, 
Down the block, on a beach, 
Under a tree. 
I got a feeling there's a miracle due, 
Gonna come true, 
Coming to me! 

Could it be? Yes, it could. 
Something's coming, something good, 
If I can wait! 
Something's coming, I don't know what it is, 
But it is 
Gonna be great! *

With a click, with a shock, 
Phone'll jingle, door'll knock, 
Open the latch! 
Something's coming, don't know when, but it's soon; 
Catch the moon, 
One-handed catch!*

Bottom line is that if you are sitting in your apartment complaining, that is not going to get you seen or get you working. It is true that often EPAs can be a waste of time, but I have so many good experiences amongst the bad and booked an Equity gig when I was last person seen at an EPA at 5.50p.m.  If I had been defeatist, I would not have been there. 

Around the corner, 
Or whistling down the river, 
Come on, deliver 
To me! 
Will it be? Yes, it will. 
Maybe just by holding still, 
It'll be there! 

How can The Actor's Friend help you?

I am going through the same problems so I understand. I blog about it! I have been seen at EPAs and seen for AEA appointments that specify AEA only. I can give you insights about when it is worth showing up and when it's a waste of time.  Tools to help you understand breakdowns. Tips about getting seen by C.D.s for Union only jobs.  Much as I love the video above, I can tell you that "Wicked" EPAs take place at Telsey. From the basics of how to sign up at an EPA to the more complicated submissions for AEA jobs, I can help you with practical strategies.

Take a Chance on Me:

How to be seen for Union projects as a non-union actor: 


Come on, something, come on in, don't be shy, 
Meet a guy, 
Pull up a chair! 
The air is humming, 
And something great is coming! 
Who knows? 
It's only just out of reach, 
Down the block, on a beach, 
Maybe tonight . . .*

*Something's Coming from West Side Story
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Putting it Together

Helen Gallagher said to me recently "I wish you'd been around in the good old days.  You'd be working non stop!"

Times have certainly changed and I would love to be living in a different era in so many ways. I am old fashioned. But, in some ways, I am not. I was born in 1975 and I came to New York in 2008. My apartment may have a murphy bed from the 1930s but that is as close to I get to the old New York lifestyle. We are not living in a Gene Kelly movie and we are not going to be discovered sipping a milkshake in a diner.

It is expected now for us to have an online presence. I recently met a broadway actress for a drink. We had been in touch via email and were meeting to discuss a new project. She said "Oh, I know you're an actress: I googled you."  Online presence is a given now (especially if you're starting out). Facebook, twitter, IMDB, YouTube, Actors Access, Backstage, etc.: these places are your friends and part of the puzzle to help you get in that room. That said, you cannot just post willy nilly everywhere and expect that to make you a star.

You can't divide art today
Into categories neatly
What matters is the means, not the ends
That is the state of the art, my dear,
That is the state of the art.*

You need to be smart online and make Smarter Online Submissions: 

It's not enough knowing good from rotten
You're telling me-
When something new pops up every day
You're telling me-
It's only new, though, for now-
But yesterday's forgotten
And tomorrow is already as passé

That is the state of the art, my friend,
That is the state of the art. *

We might not like it, but if we want to audition, we have to accept the changing times.  Of course, there are people who do not tweet, do not use facebook, have not accepted the ice bucket challenge and do not submit on Actors' Access. And, yes, some of them work all the time. But they are not the norm. We can wonder how fellow actors might get a lucky break and then we have a choice: be bitter or be pro-active. Agents and managers can help, of course, but we are our own best advocates. Yes, there is luck involved, but we cannot rely on that in either the good or the bad sense. Do everything you can for yourself so that when the luck comes your way, you're ready.

No matter how good your representation, if casting directors do not know you, there is not much they can do for you. 

Knowing Me, Knowing You: How to get to know Casting Directors and how to get them to know YOU!

It's all promotion, but then-
It's just impersonal, but-
That is the state of the art,
Isn't it? Well...*

And it does not have to be impersonal. You need to be professional, of course, but Casting Directors want to see a real person. And, even actors who have done Broadway shows and been on T.V. are finding new struggle with the business because it is always changing.

Art isn't easy -
Even when you're hot.*

So what can we do? I am an actress. I have the same successes and struggles you do. Most of all, I try to practise what I preach. I submit regularly.  Sometimes that can be several submissions in one day, sometimes just one or two in a week. You have to learn about what to submit for and when. What is right for YOU? I sent in 2 submissions this week on Actors' Access and received 2 cmails. 

2 for 2. Pretty good odds. Why? Because I know how the system works. I have spoken to so many casting directors and the great people at Actors' Access. I can give you strategies to help you stand out from the thousands of other submissions. I'm not saying I can book you a Broadway show tomorrow. I am not saying I work all the time, but I think that is what makes my class work. I am real person with the same issues you face. I have faced them and continue to face them but I have set in place practical tools that can help actors submit successfully and with confidence. I started teaching these classes because I saw a need for them among my circle of friends alone. As I talk about in "Here's to us..." And now it has grown and grown and I am thrilled to share. Everybody needs a friend out there.  

Bit by bit,
Putting it together...
Piece by piece -
Only way to make a work of art.
Every moment makes a contribution,
Every little detail plays a part.
Having justa  vision's no solution,
Everything depends on execution:
Putting it together -
That's what counts! *

You have training and you have talent. What piece of the puzzle is missing?

Learn from someone walking in your footsteps every day.
Any way you look at it.*

Your friend,

*Putting it Together from "Sunday in the Park with George"
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Hills of Tomorrow

Sophie's Success Stories

Behold, Mike Longo!

Behold the hills of tomorrow!
Behold the limitless sky!
Fling wide the gates
To a world that waits!
As our journey starts,
Behold! Our hearts
Are high!*

I first met Mike Longo at Sophie's first venue, The Cafe at Broadway.  Almost exactly one year ago. I have been hosting the weekly Monday night open mic since Sophie opened.  And I met Mike who was bartending that evening.  He was cute, he was young, he was charming. I was hooked!  


Mike in the Spotlight at Sophie's

One year on and we have had the privilege of enjoying Mike's bartending skills (he makes a great mojito) and hearing him sing almost every week (he missed weeks when he was acting in various great projects:  Tamar of the River, Committed, Grease at Papermill) at Sophie's Open Mic which we have labeled Monday Funday.  I have never looked forward to Mondays.  Now it is my favourite day of the week.

He discovered Sophie's when a music director introduced him to Sophie Yaeger for voice coaching. "I appreciated and respected her as a fellow professional and wanted to support Sophie's grand opening back in the fall of 2013."

Mike singing "What is it about Her" at Sophie's

Mike is leaving us soon and, while we are selfishly devastated, we are thrilled for his great success. He started acting and singing about 10 years ago: started in High School plays and "excelled quickly to my surprise!" Did I mention he was modest? And YOUNG (not jealous or anything).  He credits one of his favourite roles (Percy in the Scarlet Pimpernel)  "back in my senior year of high school. It was so much fun and really broke me out of my shell." 

What struck me about Mike has been how mature and savvy he is for one so young. His talent is obvious, but the other qualities are so important in this crazy business. Often we see someone young gaining great success and not seeing the hard work and long road that has come before. When I arrive at Sophie's on a Monday, Mike and I would catch up on auditions, successes, failures, near misses, frustrations and so on.

Between the hills of tomorrow,
At times the road may seem strange.
The hills are deep,
And the way is steep,
But for those who dare
The world is there
To change!*

Mike has worked and been in some brilliant shows in New York.  I was lucky enough to see him in the brilliant Tamar of the River  at Prospect Theatre. He was also in the hilarious Committed with fellow Sophie regulars, Erica Lustig and composer, Andrew David Sotomayor.

Committed the musical.
Can you spot Erica, Andrew and Mike?
Mike Longo in Tamar of the River at Prospect Theatre

 Mike Longo WORKING IT during the recording of the album for 
Tamar of the River: Album is to be released in September.

Then raise the torch and seize the day!
Behold! Our banners fly to mark the way!
Standards billowing, unsullied, proud!
Visions bright, voices loud!*

So where is Mike going?

 "I am currently in rehearsal for the Kinky Boots 1st National Tour! It is a dream!"

As Mike says, we are a family at Sophie's.  

"The best thing about Sophie's is it's supportive family like nature. Family is always incredibly supportive but also hysterically dysfunctional. You can fall on your face there. What kind of life can you lead without ever laughing at yourself sometimes? Sophie's has built confidence in my presence on stage. Also, has helped me learn how to sing with a microphone which is important in the cabaret scene and/or concert styled performances that many actors will come to face. Being present in a scene with props and a set and direction to follow is a lot less scary than standing and seeing and being the only focus on the stage. This has helped me tremendously in the audition room."

Mike you're an inspiration. Thank you for being part of our family.

Beyond the hills of tomorrow
Are skies more beautiful still!
Behold! Begin!
There are worlds to win!
May we come to trust
The dreams we must

Laughing with Mike at Sophie's Open Mic

I feel like a proud mother!

You can read more about Mike on his website and follow him on instagram and twitter.

Sophie's Open Mic takes place every Monday.  Come and sing and be one of our success stories!

*The Hills of Tomorrow from "Merrily We Roll Along"
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim