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

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Here's to us, Who's like us? Damn few.

Hey, old friend,
Are you okay, old friend?
What do you say, old friend,
Are we or are we unique? *

We are all unique.  Of course.  And it is what actors need to channel and embrace. Of course, you can fit into a type and might choose to market and sell that. The really special work and best auditions, however, come from embracing what makes us different and not like anyone else. Our friends and family know we are special. But the real trick is how to share it in the audition room and, more important than that, how to GET INTO THE ROOM! This is not news!  I am an actor and I have the same struggles which is why I have started The Actor's Friend.

Helping Charles Baran with his online profiles
He's currently working in a regional production of "Hello Dolly"

Time goes by,
Everything else keeps changing.
You and I, 
We get continued next week. *

Things in the business are always changing. And it is our job to keep on top of it all.  It would be lovely if we could just turn up at the theatre or on set and not worry about the other stuff, but I think we have to accept it as part of our job now. I have many older actor friends who tell wonderful tales of auditioning in Broadway Theatres, turning up at their agents' offices and having a wee dram and browsing the breakdowns. Times have changed. And whether you have representation or not, YOU have to look out for YOU. You are your own old friend.

Jean Ann Garrish gets a cmail after using
The Actor's Friend's strategies!

The actor's friend sprouted from several little seeds that were planted by friends.
I am an actress and teacher, by nature and nurture (from a family of artists and teachers and I have a masters in Theatre and Post graduate in teaching and almost 20 years experience teaching). More than any of that, I am a friend.

I started blogging about my experiences as a working and auditioning actor in New York,
warts and all.  People were reading. Friends were asking for help, insights and advice. The blog about getting more Cmail had over 1300 views and casting directors and Actors' Access were sharing it. And the same tactics work for Backstage and any online submissions. A few tricks and you are at the top of the pile of submissions. With or without an agent!

One particular evening, I was out with a few actor friends who said, 
"Can we take you out and pay for lunch if you'll explain all of this stuff you know?" 

And then, a week later, my coach, mentor and friend, Heidi Marshall, said to me, "All these people are reading your blog and it is helping actors. Do you know how many of them would like workshops to teach them all of this practical stuff?"

Actors need tools, not just talent.

Even friends with agents and managers are finding this helpful. Do you have an agent and wonder "Why is he or she not getting me in the room?" YOU can help. Your agent and manager submit you so often through breakdown services and if you have clips and profile that shows YOU, that will help them! 

Most friends fade
Or they don't make the grade.
New ones are quickly made
And in a pinch, sure, they'll do.
But us, old friend,
What's to discuss, old friend?
Here's to us --
Who's like us?
Damn few! *

Extolling the wonder of Audition Update

We are different. Acting and the business is not easy. A community is important and you have to find people you trust who help you grow. I have taken many classes and know that there is a chemistry involved. Learning from fellow actors is so important. I have made lots of mistakes! And I am passionate about helping other actors. I have never viewed it as a competition. Of course we vie for parts but we are either right, or not, and so much is out of our control.  Let's stop being jealous. Let's stop competing.

We are there to help each other and I want to help you.  Come and learn from my many, many mistakes! Come and be motivated.  Come and laugh.

Click image to play video

Learn from someone walking in your footsteps every day.

Your friend,

*Old Friends
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim