Friday, June 3, 2016


Signing up at Actors' Equity

Easy now.
Hush, love, hush.
Don't distress yourself,
What's your rush?
Keep your thoughts
Nice and lush.

This week, I went to the Equity Membership department and signed myself up!  To say I have been waiting and hoping to get my Equity card for a while now is an understatement.  It does not come easy.  And nor should it.

Before I went, my friend Toni Stanton (an Equity business rep) was so excited for me and wanted to meet me and come with me to see me make it official.  I met her at her office and we went down to the membership department together and the lovely John Fasulo (National Director of Membership) came out to congratulate me.

Toni and I were in a short play in a festival off-off Broadway years ago when I first moved here. I first met John at an E.M.C. (Equity Membership Candidate) meeting and he was so informative and supportive. I've kept in touch with both of them over the years.

They both know, in depth, (as does anyone who will listen!) about my struggles with immigration and Equity.  The first thing Toni said to me was "You got your Green card and five minutes later you're getting your Equity card!"

In many respects it was relatively fast.  Just a few months. But in reality, it has been seven years of hard work in the making.

I gave up my full time teaching job in 2008 (I had been a high school drama teacher for eleven years). I thought I would be married with children but God had another plan for me.

Giving up and moving to another country and a city like New York was terrifying and wonderful. I still pinch myself when I walk home and pass Grand Central and The Chrysler Building.

Job hunting when Backstage was still in newspaper form.

Hush, love, hush.
Think it through.
Once it bubbles, 
Then what's to do?
Watch it close.
Let it brew.

I've been thinking, flowers--
Maybe daisies--
To brighten up the room.
Don't you think some flowers,
Pretty daisies,
Might relieve the gloom?
Ah, wait, love, wait.

I came on an F1 student visa in 2008 (to study at HB Studio) not sure if this would just be a gap year for a 33 year old in crisis, but quickly knew I wanted to stay and WORK. HB was where I first met Austin Pendleton and took his class. He does not believe that I sat quietly at the back during that first semester. I sat and listened and learned. During my second year of full-time study, I starting pounding the pavement. Knowing nothing! Excited and scared. I went to my first EPA, thanks to encouragement from the wonderful Amanda Quaid.

I first met Judy Bowman (casting director) in May 2012 at The Network. But it is not as simple as meeting once: you have to build a relationship and keep auditioning.
There are so many ways. EPAs, ECCs, appointment auditions, pay to plays, submissions, Stagelighter, and so on. Training, auditions, keeping in touch, working, working, working. It is a long journey with many ups and downs.  There are people who succeed without doing any of it. And there are people who fail while trying to do it all.

I have learned that we are never auditioning for one person or one job. This business seems so big but it's actually very small and people talk. I've been submitting to The Mint and met Jonathan Bank (Artistic Director) a few times and he is a delight. I also went to see plays there and was always impressed by them.  I was in callbacks in the past for The Mint for a role I really wanted. It was tough not to get it, but it was not for me. This is the role that has my name on it.
"A Day by the Sea"

But if I had not built the relationships over the years, I am not sure I would even have been able to get in the room.

I don't think of myself as a patient person. I am genuinely happy for friends' success but, of course, there is an element of jealousy when seeing others succeed.  It has not been easy and no one should think that it is. We have chosen a tough business and there are obstacles everywhere. The immigration obstacle was huge but I am grateful. It made me tougher, stronger and more determined. I have found ways to keep myself motivated and passionate. Having to turn down Equity work in the past and deal with rejection has made this all the sweeter. As my mother often tells me: Whit's fur ye'll no go by ye!

My first Equity Card

with Toni Stanton and John Fasulo at A.E.A.

Slow, love, slow.

Time's so fast.
Now goes quickly--
See, now it's past!
Soon will come.
Soon will last.

Don't you know,

Silly man,
Half the fun is to
Plan the plan?
All good things come to 
Those who can
Wait. *

*"Wait" from "Sweeney Todd"

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Into the Woods...a conversation with a friend.

Into the woods,
It's time to go,
I hate to leave,
I have to, though.
Into the woods-
It's time, and so
I must begin my journey.*

Jean Ann Garrish has been part of my journey in New York since I arrived!  I remember auditing classes at HB Studio and hearing her sing in Helen Gallagher's class.  I was blown away and wanted to know her.

Since then, we have taken class together and become friends and colleagues.

The Actor's Friend (A.F.): When do you first get involved in the business?

Jean Ann Garrish (JAG): I got my first professional job in the industry right after I graduated college.

A.F.  What are you working on now?

JAG: I'm currently working with my editor on a comedic mockumentary web series that I wrote, directed and acted in. We'll be releasing the first episode in April on YouTube and Vimeo.

Trailer for "Composing Life":

I'm also getting ready to perform, with my band RED WINE + WHISKEY, at a benefit for the Drama Bookshop at 54 Below; as well as our album release concert at Rockwood Music Hall in May.  

A.F.  What classes have you taken with The Actor's Friend and how do you think they have helped you? 

JAG: I've taken some privates with Polly; and I'm a Super Trouper (a member of her accountability group). I'm also taking her #100daysinthelifeofanactor challenge. 

The way is clear,
The light is good,
I have no fear,
Nor no one should.
The woods are just trees,
The trees are just wood.
Into the woods
And down the dell,
The path is straight,
I know it well.
Into the woods,
And who can tell
What's waiting on the journey? *

A.F. How does being in the accountability group motivate you?

JAG: I hate to say it, but sometimes we're more accountable to other people than we are to ourselves. I know that if someone else is depending on me, I'll do everything in my power to not let them down. That's what accountability does for me. I don't want to go to the meeting and not have my homework done. If I was left to do things on my own, as the ultimate procrastinator, I'd get them done...eventually. Now, I'm right on top of what I want to do, and what I should do for my career.

Into the woods-
You have to grope,
But that's the way
You learn to cope.
Into the woods
To find there's hope
Of getting through the journey.*

A.F.   What are your plans and goals for the future?

JAG:  Ultimately, I'd like a career where I can work on both my own projects, as well as outside ones. I want to create projects and work on things that mean something to me while reaching an audience where those things will  hopefully mean something to them.

*Into the Woods
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Someone in a Tree (The Room Where it Happens)

I have many actor friends who have been in the business for years.  They tell some great stories about what it used to be like. There were fewer people out there clambering for the same jobs. One friend with Broadway credits talks with fondness about popping into her agent's office and looking through the breakdowns while they enjoyed a glass of scotch!

I was good at climbing trees 
I was younger then 

I saw everything! 

Where they came and where they went 

I was part of the event.
I was someone in a tree!

I was younger then!*

I'm certainly no spring chicken but I came into the business later in life and that, combined with immigration challenges made it harder for me, which as a result made me more determined to do what I could to get in that room.

If I weren't, who's to say
Things would happen here the way
That they happened here?
I was there then.
I am here still.*

"The Room Where it Happens" from "Hamilton"
Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda**

A new year always brings fresh hope, resolutions and commitments to make it a good one. I was lucky enough to return from Scotland to several great cmails and auditions. In fact, 4 days after I got back to New York, I had 3 auditions in one day. Lucky, yes. But also this is not something that happens overnight.

It's the fragment, not the day.
It's the pebble, not the stream.
It's the ripple, not the sea.
Not the building but the beam,
Not the garden but the stone,
Not the treaty house,
Someone in a tree.
I'm a fragment of the day.*

One audition was a Cmail via Actors' Access from a Casting Director for a job neither my manager nor I had even submitted me for. Why? Because she knows and remembers me and my work from several meetings. This takes WORK on your part.(KNOWING ME, KNOWING YOU) Consistency and commitment. If you want to OPEN DOORS, you need to knock on them several times.

The other 2 were the result of knowing HOW to submit to get to the top of the list (S.O.S. SMARTER ONLINE SUBMISSIONS) There are certain tips and tricks that are basically common sense! Casting Directors are busy and you can do them a huge favor by saving them time and NOT wasting their time. You can read more about these tips in GETTING IT TOGETHER IS THE WHOLE TRICK.

It's the fragment, not the day.

It's the pebble, not the stream.

It's the ripple, not the sea

That is happening.

Not the building but the beam,
Not the garden but the stone,
Only cups of tea
And history
And someone in a tree.*

*"Someone in a Tree" from "Pacific Overtures"
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

** For regular readers of my blog, you know that I always use Sondheim lyrics. Here I also quote the brilliant Lin-Manuel Miranda. Sondheim has mentored him through "Hamilton" and "The Room Where it Happens" is also a nod to "Someone in a Tree".