This time last year I was just getting into the swing of performing in the Off Broadway run of Lili Marlene. It was an incredible opportunity and one that I will cherish forever as my first NYC show. As all actors know, you perform once and you get the bug. I was beginning to think about my long term future as an actor and what the longevity of my career would be as a performer. I started considering grad school to study acting further to really hone in my skill and have a better knowledge of what I have to offer in the industry. After seeking some counsel from a few mentors and working material with a coach, a few months later I was in the midst of auditioning for grad schools I’d only dreamed of attending.
Grad school auditions were amazing and intense but well worth the time, money, and effort I put toward accomplishing the goal of applying. After several rounds I was not chosen to attend the school of my choice but I came away with something better. While waiting for one of my callbacks I began thinking about what it was I wanted from this experience, from being an actor. And, if I’m honest, my answer was totally unclear. What I did know was that I was really tired of walking into audition room after audition room over the years in the city with one casting directors after another, waiting for them to want me. Why is that such a big thing in this world we as performing artists live in? I was fed up with having to please someone else behind a table who would barely give me the time of day and asking, through showing off my skills, for the job they were offering. I kept coming back to the same question; “why am I waiting for someone else to produce my art?”
Let me be clear here, there was initially a lot of blame put on those people behind the table in the audition room but through my journey over the last few months I’ve realized that it’s not about them but about me. My attitude and outlook on auditioning was totally wrong and only after some time off and much soul searching have I realized it’s not about getting the job and it should never be about walking into an audition, but about sharing a story and a character.
I’ve spent some time off from the audition circuit. Mostly to find joy within, but also to dig into what it means to be a singer and actor. I was becoming frustrated, doubting every ounce of the work I’ve put into being an artist. I’ve studied voice for over fifteen years, and I was in a place where I was considering singing as no longer my leading move. I was defeated from constantly trying to please someone else with my talent and hard work.
My work with my grad school coach was illuminating in many ways and for a while I couldn’t put it into words. Immediately he told me “the only differentiation between you and the person going before you and the person going after you is that they’re not you.” Everyone in this business has talent and what he meant by that, he went on to explain, was that the best thing I, as an artist, have to offer, is myself. Yes, honing the skills and doing the work is important but unless there’s an honesty coming from within it will never translate the way I work so hard for it to.
“You’re not going there to get a job. You’re going there to present what you do.” -Bryan Cranston
Full Clip Attached Below
I’m writing this today because something in my heart is tugging me to share this moment. To all my artists, women, and humans trying their best and working hard to achieve their goals- you deserve to be at that table. You deserve to be in that room. You deserve to be heard and understood and loved. To all my other actors out there, don’t loose sight of why you love, whether it’s to sing or act or dance. Don’t let someone else tell you that you can’t or that you’re not enough. You’ve done the work and you’re continuing to do that work. All you can do is share where you are and the story you have to tell. Just by getting up, being number 135 in line, and walking into that room, you deserve to be there. It’s scary to do this big thing but chasing dreams is never comfortable. Growth happens in the discomfort and the conquering of fears.
Please take the time to be gentle with yourself and your art. Learn what makes you, you, what drives you, what brings you joy. Then, walk into that room with the confidence that you are meant to be there. Share the story that you’ve studied and enveloped. Dig deeper into the character and find it within the person you already are.
I’ve attached a clip below of an interview with Greta Gerwig, Oscar Nominated director, for her film “Lady Bird”, that blew me away when I first heard it. I found so much comfort in knowing that I’m not alone on this artist’s journey. The specific part I’m referring to begins at about two and a half minutes, but she’s amazing so watch the whole clip if you have time! (:
As I say all of this, I want to edit and share that I am very much in the learning phase of all of this and am actively putting myself in positions where I have to practice the things I’ve been sharing. I’m right there with you, in the heart of diving deeper into remaining the best me I can be and pursuing that person first.
I’ll leave you with an Uta Hagen quote from her first book “Respect for Acting” that I find particularly helpful as a growing actor. “ I have spent most of my life in the theater and know that the learning process in art is never over. The possibilities for growth are limitless.”
Let’s strive for growth that is limitless, love a little deeper, share a bit more, and trust that the person you’re becoming is exactly who you were meant to be.