This is my first blog post since... 2012! I think this video is self explanatory.
I just closed Hair, and I'm exhausted, but fulfilled. The story of Hair is still relevant and, according to the letters that poured in, we touched a lot of souls with our message of peace. Plus, it was liberating being naked in front of over 19,000 people! (And that included my parents, extended family, neighbors, friends, and plenty of strangers. Yikes.)
So now that I have some free time and audition season is upon us, I think it is a perfect time for the next installment of "What NOT to do at an audition." This next true story might be my most embarrassing. If I believed in hell, and if I ever ended up there, it would involve the following events on an endless loop. Enjoy.
#2. DO NOT... PERFORM AN INTERPRETIVE SOLO DANCE, UNLESS YOU ARE MARTHA GRAHAM
A few years ago I was visiting a friend in the lovely Twin Cities. A well-known dinner theatre in the area happened to be holding auditions for a production of Oklahoma at the same time I was there, so I planned a little detour and popped in to audition. I went in, sang my face off, and wowed them. They went on and on about my voice and asked for a second song. They loved me! (Don't worry, I'm done bragging. It all goes downhill from here.)
After my fabulous songs and witty banter, they wanted to see more from me. (That's the goal, WooHoo!) They invited me to the dance call they were having in a few days. I explained I was only in town for a little while and I wished I could stay but I had other obligations. "Do you have any Youtube videos showing your ballet skills?" "No, unless you want to see me wearing a red and white striped unitard and a dunce cap when I was featured as a candy cane in The Nutcracker." (OK I didn't say that. And don't google it. You won't find it.) I was just about to leave the room knowing that while I might not get cast, I probably made a good enough impression for them to keep me in mind for future projects. It would have been a great audition. But this is where is gets sad.
As I was walking out of the room they stopped me and said "Wait! We really like you and want to gauge your dancing abilities." I really wish I would have thanked them and just kept walking toward the door. (I go back to that moment often.) But they had been so nice, and I do have dance experience, and my adrenaline was pumping, and my brain stopped working. They asked me if I would put together a "32 bar ballet combination." That sounded easy at the time. "Sure, I'll see what I can do." Next thing I know I was being led to a basement rehearsal space so I could choreograph a short ballet combo. No big deal, right? The monitor said he'd be back to get me in a half-hour. And suddenly I'm left alone in this dimly lit room with a mattress on the floor, old props and costumes in every corner, a mirror, and a ballet barre. And the panic sets in. They gave me my own rehearsal room. They must expect a lot from me. But I'm not even wearing dance clothes, and oh yeah, I'm not a choreographer! What am I doing?! I have many years of ballet training, but it has been years since I had to perform a ballet solo, especially at an audition, and especially one I had to make up myself. I am usually dancing in an ensemble, performing steps that were carefully crafted by professionals. As I sat alone in this dark room staring in the mirror, Cassie in Chorus Line style, I started to sweat. I considered sneaking out. But then I remembered I have no idea how I even got down here. I might get lost in the labyrinth of hallways. I had to come up with something. So I pieced together some basic ballet steps. Balancé, chassé, grande jeté (ooh, fancy!). Soon the monitor was back to collect me.
The monitor led me through the maze of hallways and through the holding room as other actors whispered about me and wondered why I was being led back into the room. It was like the green mile. If only they knew. Before I began, I stressed that I was not a choreographer and that I just put together your basic ballet class-style combo. They already looked disappointed. Oof. I stood before the team wearing my cute audition dress, shorts I happened to have in my bag, and bare feet. And so began my interpretive 32-bar ballet combo with NO MUSIC. Oh, did I not mention this piece of art was performed with no accompaniment? The only thing more awkward than performing a self-choreographed solo ballet for a team of judging eyes is performing a self-choreographed solo ballet for a team of judging eyes IN COMPLETE SILENCE. It was the longest 32 bars of interpretive silence. Ever.
Even you seasoned dancers out there- just picture yourself - performing a combo you just whipped together - in a panic - with only the sounds of your bare feet squeaking on the floor - while five strangers stare at you...
When I finished, the team was quiet. I couldn't tell if they were underwhelmed, or disappointed, or maybe time just stopped for a moment. It certainly felt like it. Or maybe they were speechless in the presence of greatness. (Sarcasm. Clearly.) The choreographer finally piped in and asked me to do some pirouettes. (Really, you didn't see everything you needed to see with my stellar routine?) I did some extra turns and a grande battement upon request. I am not as flexible in my more advanced age, so the look of sadness on her face after my grande battement was unmistakeable. So... everyone looked at each other with the "I think we've seen all we need to see" look, and my torture was over. They thanked me for staying and gave me the "nice meeting you" send off. My interpretive dance was obviously not what they were hoping for. I never heard from them again.
LESSON: Sometimes less is more. Don't be afraid to say no.
Please feel free to leave a comment if you have a good story!
I've decided to start a "what not to do at an audition" series. I've learned some important lessons over my years of auditioning. In my defense, most of these stories are from many years ago. Due to the embarrassing nature of some of these lessons, I probably shouldn't share these experiences, but I'm an actor. I don't have much dignity left. So here you go.
#1. DO NOT... ATTEMPT TO MAKE UP YOUR OWN SONG
We've all had those moments when we are asked for a second song. Yay! You get to show off some more of your talents! You have the perfect contrasting song in mind. But before you can speak, the accompanist or director starts paging though your book to make their own choice. You know you should speak up but you are frozen and panicked as they flip through your tome of songs. It is a rule that they will always land on a dusty old song that you've had in your book since the beginning of time. This was one of those times.
I was auditioning for a show that I will call "The 27th Bi-annual Spelling Contest." I looked cute and I was ready. I thought so, anyway. I walked in, made chit-chat, and performed my well-prepared light soprano-mix song. Nailed it! I saw a glint of interest in the casting director's eye. Then came the usual question that plagues my existence: "Can you do something belty?" Sigh... As my mind went through the possible belty songs I could do, the accompanist flipped my book open, landed on "Waiting for Life," from Once on This Island (which I should not have in my book for, um, multiple reasons), and said "This one would be fun!" Yup. Fun.
I should have just suggested something else, but I went into smile-and-nod-robot-mode and enthusiastically agreed. (Bonus lesson: Don't ever let yourself go into smile-and-nod-robot-mode.) I don't even remember why I had that song in my book. I had never performed it in public before, but I loved the song and listened to it all the time. My common sense melted away and I thought to myself "Yeah, I can do that song! No problem!" The accompaniment began and hilarity ensued.
Halfway through the first verse, I realized that listening to a song all the time does not mean that you know it well enough to perform it as a solo. You know how when you sing along with a song on the radio, you feel like you know it really well, but if the main vocal track was suddenly taken away, you might not know all the words as well as you thought? Well, you can guess the rest. I performed a reeeeally interesting version of "Waiting for Life." I am proud to say I created some really inventive lyrics such as "flying as free as a fish with his head in the trees" and "I'm here on the ground with my face in the air and my feet on the field." (I wish I could write the word "proud" in a font that would indicate sarcasm.)
I became a brilliant lyricist that day. But not quite brilliant enough. Even before the last few notes of the song, I was laughing at myself. I shook my head and said something that just amplified my mistake like "I think I might have mixed up a couple of those words." If I remember correctly, the casting director's response was "Something like that."
LESSON: Know every word of every song in your book.
*****Check back soon for more "What NOT to do at an audition" stories!*****
Hey everyone! It has been a while, so I thought I'd pop in and say hi. My last post was pre-Sweeney, and I was so busy! Blissfully busy. I adore my job. Being in a show is like a vacation. Now that Sweeney is closed, the real work begins. More auditions. What other job requires you to do hundreds of interviews per year, even while you are working? None that I can think of. But you have to embrace it.
Some good news- My next show will be at the Paramount Theatre! I'll be in HAIR as a member of the tribe. I'm really thankful to be a part of the inaugural season at Paramount, especially in a musical that I adore.
After that, I'll be working with the lovely ensemble at Lookingglass Theatre again. They are putting up the full production of Eastland (the musical I workshopped with them this past spring.) While I won't be an official cast member this time, I get to understudy the three lead roles in the show. It is an honor. (P.S.- Lookingglass won the regional Tony award this year!)
In the meantime, I'm doing some songwriting and relaxing. (Gasp!) I've also got some great auditions lined up. Keep your eyes crossed for me.
I'm in my first week of rehearsals for Sweeney Todd at Drury Lane, and holy smokes, this is going to be an amazing show. Everyone in the cast is unbelievably talented, and the set and costumes look like they will be stunning. You need to see this one. Really. I mean, come on. Get your tickets. Get them now. Here, I made it easy for you with a link...
This summer has been jam-packed with spurts of work that keeps me awake until all hours of the morning, followed by bouts of relaxation. My life is lived in extremes.
I didn't book a show for the spring/early summer, so I said yes to way too many bridal projects. So many in fact, that recently I was awake for three days in a row, surviving on cat naps in between clients. But luckily all that work lets me take some small vacations every once and a while. This summer I hung out in the Hamptons with my family, and I spent this past weekend with some girlfriends at my parent's lake house in Wisconsin. And while we were at the lake house, something crazy happened. We SAVED A GUY'S LIFE! Here is the story:
The three of us gals were floating in our blow-up lounge chairs near the dock when my friend Abby pointed out a guy swimming across the lake. We continued chatting for a while until Abby noticed the guy was trying to yell something from the middle of the lake. We listened closer and heard him say "Help! I'm not gonna make it!" We thought he was kidding until he started bobbing and losing breath. In a flash, my friend Molly (who conveniently spent many years as a lifeguard) jumped off her lounger Baywatch-style and swam out to him. She was very calm and explained what she was going to do as she approached (so he wouldn't grab onto her and take her under). As she was being heroic, I swam out with a floaty so he could grab onto it and stay above water. Then we brought him to shore. He was pale as a ghost and could hardly breathe, but he was alright and didn't need CPR (thank goodness). But he did throw up on our beach for about ten minutes. His friends from the other side of the lake saw what happened and showed up on a scooter to pick him up. Yes, a scooter. (I don't think they understood how bad of shape he was in.) When he was done vomiting next to our fire pit, Mol drove him home (so he wouldn't have to ride home on the scooter) and we all wished him well. He was very appreciative, even in his weakened state. When Mol returned, we all looked at each other and had a collective "OH MY GOD I CAN'T BELIEVE WHAT JUST HAPPENED!" All three of us helped rescue a stranger from drowning. I still can't believe it.
So now I'm back home, and back to work. I had a costume fitting today for Sweeney, and I start rehearsals next week. I am so excited. I get to be a blonde again! Well, a blonde wig, but I'll take it. Long blonde PRINCESS HAIR! And I still have some big weddings I'm working on this summer, but I've tapered off my bridal orders a bit. And now it is time to lose those pounds I packed on while eating lobster in the Hamptons and piles of candy at the lake house. (Having a costume fitting today was slightly embarrassing.) It was worth it. Plus, we saved a life, so hopefully Karma will give me a leg up on the rest of the summer. Right? I hope so.
Hey, Chicago actors! There is a new audition forum website that is kind of cool. It is a site where local actors (both union and non-union) can discuss the latest information about auditions and callbacks in the Chicago area.
Everyone knows sometimes the hardest part of the callback process is waiting. And waiting. Waiting to hear if you will get a callback. Waiting to hear if contracts went out. Waiting to hear if there will be another round of callbacks. Well, this website is the place where you can post and read about the latest updates. I know I have been in plenty of situations where this website would have come in handy. (I could stop bugging my friends by emailing and texting them trying to squeeze information out of them!) Here is the website:
Sign up and bookmark it! Right now there are only about 30 members, but it is brand new and I'm sure the membership will snowball soon. I have no idea who runs the site and I'm not associated with it, I just thought I'd spread the word. Chicago is a great community for actors and it never hurts to help each other out.
It is finally spring here in Chicago! (*Knocks on wood.* You never know... It could be snowing again next week.) So much has been happening and I haven't even had time to write about it.
First of all, April was filled with rehearsals for the new musical "Eastland," written by Andy White. We workshopped the show for a couple weeks and it was such a fantastic experience. The locations alone were so much fun. We started out in Lookingglass' rehearsal space high up in the Hancock building, and then moved to the Pritzker Stage in Millennium Park. (Plus there was a pit stop at the Intercontinental Hotel to sing at the Lookingglass gala. Not too shabby.) The material was emotional and moving. Workshopping a show is great because you can feel like you are contributing (in some small way) to the progress of the show. Each day we'd get changes in the script and music which would continue to shape the show. We performed three nights in the park to very responsive audiences. In fact, real life family members of some of our characters, as well as the authors of the Eastland books came out to see us. The full production of Eastland will be at Lookingglass next spring, and I can't wait to see how the show develops.
I also took a short trip to NYC to see the opening of People in the Picture on Broadway. My little sister is the wig supervisor and took me as her date. The show isn't getting as much attention as some of the other shows on Broadway right now (*cough cough Spiderman*) but it really was a gem of a show. There are some songs that are really powerful. And Donna Murphy gives a Tony-worthy performance. I got to meet Chip Zien (the original Baker from Into the Woods) as well as Paul Huntley (one of the two major wig designers working on Broadway). The reception party was at the Marriott Marquis and was filled with odd food and awkward people standing around. The usual. But I still love openings. (Although I miss the opening parties at Tavern on the Green when we could pose with the "bangle" tiger and the 47 chandeliers.) And it is always fun to see my sister and the hair crew.
Some of you might know that I also work as a bridal designer, and this season has been crazy! I had to pull three all-nighters last week to keep up with wedding deadlines. Luckily I had a Vegas vacation planned for the weekend, so I got to relax for a few days before I jumped right back into work. As I write this I am covered in alencon lace bits and threads. Since I didn't have a show lined up for this season, I took on a lot of design clients. A lot. I'm going to be working 14 hour days every day for... well... until July. With small breaks to see some shows and maybe take a shower once and while. This will be a record wedding season.
Then in July I'll be starting rehearsals for one of my favorite. shows. ever. Sweeeeeeeeney! I'm so excited about it I get a little sick to my stomach when I think about it. I will be playing Johanna. A crazy shut-in with a yearning for romance and a tendency to sing to animals? Right up my alley. I am so happy I will be back at Drury Lane. It is a bit unbelievable. In fact, I keep waiting for someone to call and tell me they made a mistake and that I wasn't supposed to be cast in the show. But it is too late now. I'm showing up for rehearsals no matter what. They can't get rid of me now!
And now I just have to figure out when I can see all the shows I want to see! I'm going to see my gal Megan Long in Always, Patsy Cline tomorrow at Fox Valley Rep, and then I'm seeing White Noise with my gal Anna Hammonds on Sunday. Seeing shows will be my sanity breaks between sewing marathons. Let me know if there is a show I definitely shouldn't miss! Alright... It is 2 AM and I have to get back to work!
I am happy to say that I am participating in this year's Porchlight gala! The theme this year is "Chicago Sings: Rodgers, Rodgers, and Guettel, Three Generations of American Songwriters." I get to sing "The Beauty Is" from The Light in the Piazza. The event is Monday, April 4th. Doors open at 6:30 and the performances start at 7:30 at Mayne Stage. I hear this event sells out easily, so get your tickets now! There are general admission seats and VIP reserved seats. Here is a link to more info:http://www.theatreinchicago.com/newswire.php?newsID=409weeblylink_new_window
I'd love to see you there. There are so many fantastic singers on the list. I can't wait to hear everyone's performances!
January and February is a crazy audition season in Chicago. All the companies are announcing new seasons and actors are lining up contracts. It is a scary and stressful time year, but also thrilling because of all the opportunities. The last couple of weeks have been filled with coachings and callbacks. One week I'm singing a folk song, the next week I am singing high C's, and the next I am belting out The Hills are Alive!
There has also been some tension in the air regarding unions in the last couple of weeks. I am from Wisconsin, where the governor is doing everything he can to break up teacher and public worker's unions. This is a scary trend. I am thankful that I belong to a union that not only does all it can to guarantee a living wage, but also protects our work environment. If AEA didn't exist, many actors would not be able to survive in this industry. The arts community would suffer greatly without unions to protect our rights and wages. I stand in support of everyone in Wisconsin fighting for their union bargaining rights.