Monday, December 2, 2019

Well, Maybe Next Year.

The last couple of years as an actress have been lucky ones. I worked right up until December 30th, 2018.  In terms of getting work, I was busy, busy, busy. Straight offers, long runs, working with so many people I admire and respect and, of course, a Soderbergh movie with Claire Foy (I think I've mentioned that once or twice). 

And all without representation. Thank you, Casting Directors.

After years of ups and downs I ended 2018, feeling very grounded and hopeful for more work to come. I had my Green Card, Equity card and was a member of SAG.  I was ready for more.

Isn't it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air,
Where are the clowns? *

As is the case with many actors, though, there are highs and lows and periods of "resting".  And I spent much of the years feeling down and thinking I'll never work again. So, as the year is coming to an end, I decided to practise (British spelling for the verb) what I preach with The Actor's Friend and gave myself homework I have given to students who have felt stuck.

Isn't it bliss?
Don't you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can't move,
Where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns.*

After years of tearing around, I felt I was  doing well so maybe took things a little for granted.  So many people said after UNSANE, "Your career is going to take off." And being offered jobs without auditioning is so lovely! Heading to the grind of E.P.A.s after that can be a struggle. And I still could not find representation. I've spent much of the year on a bit of a downer. 
And it's time to stop.

Yesterday, after reflecting on Thanksgiving, I gave myself a good talking to and went through my planner to look at everything I did achieve in 2019 and accentuate the positive. In no particular order:

1.  Readings, readings, readings.
Left:  Indigo: A New Musical
Right: 2 short Thornton Wilder plays at Irish Rep.

These are such a joy to be a part of. I've been involved in many this year, ranging from a first table read to A.E.A. 29 hour staged readings. It's such a thrill to be there at the early stages of new works or revisiting old works. S
ome are in very early stages.  Some are on a path to Broadway. Most projects are years in developing and it's very exciting to be a small (or maybe loud) voice in that process.

Left: Reporter Girl by Laura Noni Rohrman
Right: The Unmanageable Sisters reading at Lincoln Center.

2 readings of The Caucasian Chalk Circle with Nomad Theatrical
ahead of a run in Autumn of 2020 at La MaMa.
2. Representation.

I love how small this business is. I first met the wonderfully talented LeeAnne Hutchison when we worked together Off-Broadway in A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur last year and we've kept in touch and worked on 3 readings together this year! While we were chatting, I explained I was still struggling to find representation and she kindly sent my materials to her manager, Robert Graham at Baker Management. He sent a lovely email, we met in person and it was a great match! He's been sending me out and getting me in some great rooms.

Left: Mouthpiece
Right: The Perfect One
3. Short Films.

So often these are made with such great love and passion.  This was certainly the case with both of these short films. Mouthpiece, directed by Yaron Lotan and The Perfect One, directed by Matthew Szewczyk.  And it's always nice to get some more IMDb credits!

4. On hold!

Don't you love farce?
My fault, I fear
I thought that you'd want what I want
Sorry, my dear!
But where are the clowns
Send in the clowns
Don't bother, they're here.*

I've been on hold for 2 commercials, a movie and 2 T.V. shows.  Frustrating as this can be for an actor to be so close but not book, it also gives tremendous hope. It's the sign of a good audition and you're never auditioning for just one job. Good C.D.s will remember and call you in again. In fact, one was lovely enough to ask my commercial agent to tell me how right I was and that she would certainly be calling me in again.

Top: with Helen Gallagher
Bottom The Irish Rep Gala with Bill and Hillary Clinton

5. Singing.

I've been taking class with the glorious Helen Gallagher since arriving here in 2008. Every Tuesday, it's a joy to sing and continue to learn from her. In June, I had the huge honour of singing at The Irish Rep 30th Anniversary Gala at Alice Tully Hall, thanks to the brilliant Musical Director, John Bell. And, of course, every week there is Polly's Follies. 

6. Family (or, as we say, Flamily)

This slow work year has meant I've been able to visit my family more than any other year. Last year, I was in A Child's Christmas in Wales at Irish Rep. and had to miss holidays at home. And while I'd love to be in a play just now, I'm incredibly excited to see all my nieces and nephews and bring in 2020 with family.
Left: My nephew and Godson's 21st Birthday
Middle: A long overdue holiday to visit my dear cousin, Jane and Auntie Ray and Uncle Chris in Canada
Right: My Dad's 80th Birthday

As for 2020,

Isn't it rich?
Isn't it queer?
Losing my timing this late in my career
But where are the clowns?
There ought to be clownsWell, maybe next year.*

*Send in the Clowns,
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Friday, April 12, 2019

In Praise of Casting Directors

I am so grateful to the people who read my blogs.  It's been a while. Mainly because I have been busy working. Lucky me! Some people see that I am working and want to know how. Good question.  It has not been easy and it continues to be a struggle. I have learned from the ground up.  I came to New York as an immigrant on a student visa and already 33.  I knew nobody, I didn't have an apartment, I was struggling for cash, I did not even know what an E.P.A. was. I had to learn quickly.  Acting classes lead to me wanting to stay and pursue my life here. On social media, it might look easy and that luck has served me well. The reality is long and hard work, patience and tenacity. Success (for most of us) does not happen overnight and it is certainly not a constant. The Actor's friend blossomed from people asking me about getting in the room.

And questions like these:

How did you get your Equity Card?

How did you book  Soderbergh film without an agent?

How did you get in the room at Irish rep?

How did you book your first Off-Broadway play?

How did you become SAG-AFTRA?

How did you get appointments for T.V. without representation?

The answer to ALL of the questions above: CASTING DIRECTORS.

I often hear actors complain about how hard it is to get in the room.  Often they think getting representation will solve this.  Not so. Of course good representation can help you but you need to do ground work in building relationships with the gatekeepers. Casting directors hold the key.

Get to know CASTING DIRECTORS and help them get to know YOU!  With or without rep, they are your friends.  And they will bring you in regardless of rep.  I love so many of them.  Here are just a few, in no particular order:
How I got may Equity Card
1. Judy Bowman
We first met at The Network a long time ago. After that one meeting she remembered me and would call me in for projects.  And I made sure I kept in touch. I went in for a few things and never booked. Now I have the experience and wisdom (maybe?) to know that does not matter.   We're never auditioning for one job.  She called me in for a play at the Mint. I have since found out it was a very close call between me and another actress.  At the time I was devastated but I realize now, it was not meant to be. I was called in for the next play at the Mint and booked it.  AND it was being directed by my first acting teacher in the city, Austin Pendleton.  So it felt very special. Oh, and I got my Equity card. (oh and as I was typing this, I just received an audition appt for something Judy is casting!)

2.  Debby Brown.

Many friends would ask why I had never worked at Irish Rep. It wasn't from the want of trying! I had gone to some E.P.A.s and even managed to get an appointment for one of their projects. But, as ever, I kept in touch with casting directors I have met. I invited Debby to come and see "A Day by the Sea" at the Mint. She came and we chatted afterwards. So when something came up at Irish Rep that I felt I was right for, I emailed her and she gave me an appointment and I booked the job. Charlotte Moore wrote on my opening night card, "Why did it take us so long to find you?!". I had been there just waiting for the right time. I've since worked at Irish Rep three times. Lucky me!

3. Robin Carus 
Far from the Madding Crowd
Stu for Silverton
During the run of "A Day by the Sea", I submitted for a role in a A.E.A. staged reading of a new musical of "Far from the Madding Crowd". And what a treat that gig was with some very special and talented people. We became friends in that short week and I love following all their stories and successes on social media. I even booked another reading from that because of the multi-talented Will Reynolds (acting and singing in Madding Crowd and then Musical Director for Stu for Silverton). Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, late on Thursday evening, facebook messenger pings.  Robin asking if I was around. The next day an offer for another A.E.A. reading: Indigo, a new musical. It was an American role and I asked Robin after, "How did you know I could do an American accent?" Her reply, "I think when we were working on Madding I seem to recall you doing a bunch of accents and thank goodness for YouTube. So, I knew you could do accents with ease. 
And I decided, well, I have a pretty good ear and so this lady will not let me down - and there you are!" An example of another great C.D. who is good at her job!

4. Kimberly Graham
Another facebook ping! I met Kim at her wonderful class which I highly recommend. So far, I've talked mainly about theatre connections. The film and T.V. world can be a much tougher nut to crack, especially without representation. But again, Kim is great at her job and remembered me and I made sure to follow up with her. And she has called me in since for a new show on Showtime.

And finally...

5. Carmen Cuba
Flashback to March 2012: The fabulous Heidi Marshall coached me and put me on tape for a new film. As is often the case with this particular director, it was all very hush hush. I was called back to meet Carmen Cuba (L.A. based) in New York. Sadly, I was non-union and still without a Green card. It was not meant to be. Of course, I kept in touch with Carmen (do you see a running theme here?) and she remembered me and asked me to self-tape for another secret project. I was in tech for "They Promised Her the Moon" so had no time to go anywhere to record the scenes. I frantically called my friend, Vanessa who came to the dressing room and filmed me on her iPhone. We were very tight for time and had to record 5 different scenes. I think I broke all the basic rules of self-taping and uploading the videos in a basement dressing room (with sketchy wifi) during tech was stressful to say the least. But lucky me, again. I was the director's choice. On my last day on the set, I told Soderbergh that I had auditioned for Carmen for Side Effects in 2012 and that she had remembered me for this. He hugged me and said "I'm so glad she did!"  Thank you, Carmen! 

with Claire Foy in Soderbergh's UNSANE

I have always kept records of auditions and C.D.s that I meet and so much of what I have learned as an actor has informed my teaching with The Actor's Friend. Something I have found invaluable is Casting About. After years of using notebooks to keep track, this tool is wonderful.  I've been using it since 2013 and I have records of every C.D. I've met and the auditions. 

Be patient, be kind, be yourself and remember that C.D.s want you to be the solution for them. By doing a good job we let them do a good job. We're all in this together.