Take Her to Sea, Mr. Murdoch

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Take Her to Sea, Mr. Murdoch

Greets!

Credit: Giphy.com

Credit: Giphy.com

At present, it is now ten days, seven hours, and forty minutes until I depart for Toronto, Canada where, for roughly two months, I will be rehearsing a main stage track for the Disney Cruise Line. As the clock continues its inexhaustible march toward Zero Hour, I confess my nerves are beginning to get the better of me. Between the length and breadth of the contract, I can confidently say that this is the largest undertaking in which I’ve partaken. That said, with each new piece of intel that hits my inbox, the excitement of my impending departure sets in more and more. Flight itinerary? ✔️ Passport? ✔️ Port of entry letter? ✔️ With each completed requirement, I feel closer and closer to my mission (if I choose to accept it).

Between the background check and medical clearance, the Disney vetting process feels rather like I’m signing on for government work. Life on the high seas, as it turns out, requires a bit more paperwork than life on the road. I’m looking forward to my follow-up MMR booster any day now! Already, I feel like I’ve done more prep for this cruise than I’ve done for all my previous tours combined. I don’t suppose, however, that they’re too keen on releasing lunatics amongst the guests of a small floating city. I can’t complain, though, because cruising has been something of a dream of mine since my friends and I treated ourselves to one as a graduation present (too many) years ago. And, given the rate of returnees to the program, I would think the myriad benefits of working a cruise are too good to pass up.

Credit: Giphy.com

Credit: Giphy.com

Yes, I am nervous. But, it’s an excited nervous. It’s the butterflies you get just before boarding an exhilarating looking rollercoaster or the jambles you get on the day of the show y’all (thank you, Parker Posey). At this point in my career, I’m ready to embrace challenges I’ve yet to face. Ultimately, I look forward to continuing this lifelong education in the arts with what should be a true career highlight. Should you feel so inclined to follow along with me on this new adventure, check out the Magic's Winter 2017 Itinerary here!

Credit: www.disneycruiselineblog.com

Credit: www.disneycruiselineblog.com

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The Room Where It Happens

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The Room Where It Happens

Greets!

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of substituting my usual role of actor to don the guise of both an audition monitor and reader. These positions are a free education people! Mostly viewed as pawns in the audition process, these are jobs that every actor should experience. There is an insight to be had inside “the room where it happens” (thanks, Lin-Manuel) if one only knows how to sneak a peek. Actors making bold, confident choices inspire me, yet also reveal some vital what-not-to-dos. I've gotten a whole new perspective on performers’ preparation before their turn. These experiences have given me a much better understanding and, more importantly, genuine appreciation for the casting process.

Credit: Giphy.com

Credit: Giphy.com

A former employer asked if I would be available to help with their upcoming auditions and, as I had never been a monitor, I jumped at the chance to experience something new. How hard could it be, right? Truth be told, not hard at all. If you’ve some organizational prowess and a flair for crowd control, you’re golden! The only actual difficulty is, well, us! Actors are a notoriously insecure bunch, and that can sometimes manifest itself as bad manners. Here are a few holding room suggestions:

1.      DON’T BE RUDE TO YOUR MONITOR! Notice the caps lock? Don’t think that they don’t remember who was easy going and who was a right pain in the ass. Monitors will pass that information along.

2.      Be well informed! Please read the audition notice before getting there. Know what you need and when you need it.  In doing so, you will prevent a line of questioning guaranteed to aggravate everyone in your vicinity.

3.      A stapler goes for $6 on Amazon, and that includes staples and a remover! Do yourself a favor and show up with your materials already stapled. It is not the monitor’s job to provide you with office tools because you didn’t do your homework.

Much of this comes with being a decent human being. The monitor is there to keep the audition flowing smoothly, not cater to your needs. Remember to treat them with the same level of respect you'd show the rest of the team.

Speaking as an actor, it feels quite taboo when the team starts talking about who just left the room. Surely I shouldn’t be listening; my presence has gone unnoticed. Being the reader, I was a part of the conversation! As it isn’t my place to divulge too much of what happens in the room (and for my ignorance), I would only say that due to its myriad intricacies, the casting process is quite like an elaborate jigsaw puzzle. When all is said and done, your booking the job or not is the result of many hours of work done by all teams to decide if you’d best serve the production as a whole.

Credit: lasvegasdanceinsider.wordpress.com

Credit: lasvegasdanceinsider.wordpress.com

Being in the room is like browsing a show tune database with live samples. It's prime poaching time! As we’re always looking to update our books, sampling song after song in the room is an excellent way to get new ideas! Reading has also helped me reach a level of comfort in my auditions. Cold reading requires its skill and by acting with numerous people over the course of the day, you learn right quick how to make choices on a dime. You’re giving just enough as a reader so as to highlight the auditioner’s performance, but each actor is unique and makes different choices. You’ve got to change tack quickly enough so as not to throw them (or yourself) off.

I've had the privilege of experiencing actors deliver, with talent and certainty, performances that seem to transport the very room. Catching a glimpse of that calibre of performer challenges me to step up my own game with the same verve. I’ve gained a new perspective which reminded me that monitors deserve our respect, not our attitudes. Both positions have deepened my appreciation and knowledge of the casting process, which has helped to make me a more well-rounded actor. It would behoove us all to expand our understanding of the business as these opportunities allow us to learn and thrive as artists. 

 

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God I'm A Strong Mover

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God I'm A Strong Mover

Credit: South Park

Credit: South Park

I had a very interesting experience at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina Mary Poppins call the other day. Prior to the dance call to which I had been invited (don’t ask me how), I had informed the team that I was, in fact, not a tapper. I wasn’t even a dancer! A “solid mover” is the term I believe I used. Regardless, after a harried yet somehow successful audition, they wanted to see what I had in the rug-cutting department.

As the other actors sauntered in, it quickly dawned on me that I was way out of my league. All around me were tall, strapping Broadway bucks who had all donned their best leotards for the occasion. The stretching began. Much like The Hunger Games, this is the time when everyone sizes each other up. Even Cassius and Brutus were all smiles and hugs as they sharpened their blades. Then, from the monitor, comes my favorite quote of the day:

The choreographer wants tap shoes first and if you’ve got your leotard, put it on!

Now it’s bludgeoning me about the head and shoulders that I’m out of my league. Do I look like I own a leotard? And, again, I am not a tapper. Alas, as we were lead from the holding room I couldn’t help but think, “Yea, this is happening…”

Long story short, I got cut. Hell, I'd have cut me! But, it’s what happened in between that peaked my interest. Two thirds of the people at this call already knew the combination and after he reviewed it with everyone, the choreographer very generously sent the newbs back to holding to review with his assistant. Kudos to Nic Thompson for his consideration. No matter how many times we did it as the whole and/or smaller groups, I wasn’t going to get this dance. I don’t have the technique, or even the shoes. But, after we had reviewed it several times, I went up to her and said,

Clearly, I’m not a tapper, but I though I’d stick around and give it a shot.

She could not have been more kind and encouraging about it. She reassured me and proceeded to break down the combination step by step, reviewing each part. She simplified some of the more technical steps and helped in such a way that, even though we both knew I wouldn’t make it past this call, I could go in knowing I gave it a shot. And having gotten a free tap lesson out of it, I felt strangely accomplished. 

The real drag were the other dancers. To be fair, a few were kind and even encouraging to this tenacious, albeit hopeless schlub. I was even offered a low five by one dude after my group went. For the most part, however, my efforts were met with downward glances and contempt as if to say, how dare I present my two left feet at their Equity country club tap call?! That negative energy is so palpable and creates the most toxic of atmospheres.

This is by no means a pity party. I’ve got pretty thick skin and absolutely no disillusions about my dancing skills (or lack there of). I merely wish to highlight the dichotomy experienced on this particular morning. On one end, the choreographer’s assistant (and it kills me that I’ve forgotten her name as she deserves proper credit) who not only reviewed, but also broke down a tap combo for a struggling actor to give him a fighting chance. On the other end we have…well, to quote Louis C. K., a bag-o-dicks. Just a bunch of assholes who’s cancerous holier than thou attitude continues to infect this business and makes auditioning a chore rather than a challenge worth celebrating.

Image credit: South Park

Image credit: South Park

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Social Media Elitism

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Social Media Elitism

Image credit: Steve Cutts

Image credit: Steve Cutts


Whilst debating with some friends at a recent callback, I began composing a Tweet (bear with me) on the finer points of social media. As if the universe was reverberating, I came across an article which sent me right over the edge. Talent and confidence are two of the many qualities which casting directors look for but, thanks to the miracle of technology, it's time to tack on one more! Your Twitter and Instagram will now play a role in booking you that dream job. According to Malina Saval of Variety, Mitch Gosset, senior vice president at Cunningham Escott Slevin Doherty Talent Agency had this to say:

If you have two clients up for the same part and one has 6 million followers and one has 27 (followers), they’re going to give it to the one with 6 million followers because of the direct access to promotion that will cost them nothing.
Image credit: Luis Quiles

Image credit: Luis Quiles

Whoa, hold the phone! From a producer’s perspective, all that free Twitstagram press is a no brainer! Sure, the actor may or may not have been less qualified than another, but they’ve got “6 millions followers” so, they’re in! Thanks Mitch. All those followers; all that wonderfully free promotion counts for jack when the actor is a egomaniacal asshat. #lifeofastar

As Bob Dylan once wrote, "The times, they are a changing." These days, it is no longer enough to have great heashots, a compelling song book, confidence, and a measurable amount of talent. To stay ahead of the curve, it behooves us to produce regular and engaging content across a variety of social media apps. The good old days of getting up at 4am to hurry up and wait in line, agonize over your song, curl your hair (or lack thereof) for some good old fashioned human interaction are waning my friends.

Auditioning is the necessary grunt work that has remained a cornerstone of this career. But for how long? If casting directors subscribe to this balderdash, headshots (complete with duck face) may well be taken via selfie stick and 16 bars replaced with 150 characters. Instead of encouraging young actors to amass followers, why not encourage young actors to read plays or seek out appropriate audition songs? Rather than resigning yourself to 7 sophomoric seconds on Vine or your Insta bikini selfie, why not put your creative juices to good use and try raising the bar? It's acting, not an escort service.

Image credit: Luis Quiles

Image credit: Luis Quiles

Admittedly, I've taken full advantage of technology which has opened channels of communication that have up until now been more elusive. Thanks to Backstage and Actor's Access, it's easier than ever to gain exposure from the comfort of your keyboard. Twitter grants us the ability to chat with not only industry professionals, but celebrities to boot! There’s a difference, however, between filming a submission because you’re out of town and trolling social media for someone with 6 million+ followers. Until recently, I'd resisted the engulf myself in social media but, as Gosset declares:

…it’s not just about looking at YouTube and Vine, it’s about listening to what other people are watching and tracking these personalities as they rise and grow in popularity.

This is high school all over again. The Varsity stars of tomorrow are playing JV today. Despite my use of these platforms as a means of communication and promotion, I find the use of social media as a means of casting to be one of the more abhorrent ideas I’ve ever heard. You want to troll the Internet for the next Miley Cyrus, you go right ahead. God knows we need another one of her. Do we really need to lower the bar any further? Can’t we retain a little bit of integrity and class? YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter are all fun forms of modern day expression, but let's not rely on social media elitism to determine the next Sinatra or Streep.


Saval, Malina. "Digital Revolution Pushes Youth Talent Agents to Change Their Game." Variety. 1, Sept. 2015. 5, Sept. 2015. http://variety.com/2015/tv/spotlight/digital-revolution-pushes-youth-talent-agents-to-change-their-game-1201582677/

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Greets!

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Greets!

Welcome to Bald&Bearded! This is the first post, or maiden voyage, if you will, of my Blog. BUT, before you smash that bottle of champagne on your computer, let me continue. Whilst contemplating my life in the business, I felt compelled to loose my hysteria on the interwebs and what better forum than a blog?!? Old Facebook is reliable and Twitter is fun. Like Instagram, these are a fun and immediate means of expressing oneself (or so Miley tells us), but I wanted something I could expound on further. And, here we go!

There are myriad cliché stories about characters you grew up coming alive before your eyes. 

And here’s another!

After two weeks in the studio with Scoob & the Gang, Scooby Doo! The Mystery of the Pyramid is up and running! Watching this incredibly talented cast breathe new life into this classic cartoon was truly a pleasure. What an opportunity! The first stop on our International Tour: Cairo, Egypt! Not only will we get to see the actual pyramids on the company dime, but we also get to perform a show set in Egypt in Egypt. With the entire operation based out of Lebanon, this is one of the more unorthodox projects I’ve taken part in. As we’re the first American cast to work on it, we’ve encountered one or two cultural hurdles, but I think the youth of the Middle East will enjoy our interpretation. For all the shenanigans and hijinks this new adventure most assuredly will have, keep it locked right here on Bald&Bearded!

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