Friday, February 25, 2011

Productive Time.

7:30 AM till 4:30 PM I waited patiently, hoping to be seen at least for one of the three auditions I had put my name in for. See, because I’m not in the union (Actor’s Equity Association), I am not guaranteed an audition slot. Even though I may be there earlier than others, and have waited all day, an equity member can swoop in and take the space that could have been mine at any time. 
Now, I understand the system, I do. Equity members have done their work for this title and privilege, putting the time and effort to get where they are now. It’s still hard and surprisingly exhausting waiting there all day to not be seen. As I sat there - basically motionless mixed with spurts of conversations with friends and acquaintances I ran into throughout the day - I was thinking about what I could be doing during this wait; I can only look over my music and lyrics for so long before I go insane and or psych myself out. 
So what could I do?
I thought I could knit. I do know how, and that would be productive. But that even gets boring. There must be something else, something that would benefit my artist track and get me in the right mindset for my audition. 
After this long day, I got back to my room and found on my bookshelf Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity”. I was introduced to this book four summers ago by Carol, a friend and co-worker of mine. But let’s take a little farther trip back to the beginning of that summer...
I was introduced to this book was the summer after my freshman year at Middlebury. I had become a big time journaler after having been introduced to it by my first boyfriend during my second semester. I couldn’t stop journaling; every moment I had, I was writing. The words that fell on those pages became chances to get out what I was feeling, seeing where I had come from, where I was going, and understanding more about myself, my being. 
This summer (2007) I had the wonderful opportunity to be a horseback-riding camp counselor at the Adventure Unlimited Ranches, a Christian Science camp in Buena Vista, Colorado. I had been there as a camper for three years, a Counselor in Training for one, and now would be a full-fledged counselor in my fifth year. I came to camp with excitement, confusion, and fear. Homosexuality is not accepted at the Christian Science camps. At that point of my life, I was still questioning. It was only just recently and after the counselor application process that I had fallen in love with Adam; everything was still so new and unclear for me. 

Not knowing what to do, I continued on to A/U, having had signed the contract that denied homosexuality at camp. In return, I did everything to keep my recent past a secret from others. What was so hard for me though was that my “recent past” made me so happy, actually the happiest I had been in a really long time. However, I wasn’t ready to accept this happiness as my own just then. Not only could I be fired from an institution that I still felt so connected and committed to - a place that had provided many years of loving support through countless life-changing experiences - but I myself just didn’t know if I was actually gay or not. At that point in my life, I could still see the white picket fence, golden retriever, kids, and a wife. With this lingering connection to be nuclear, to have that All-American dream that I was already so beautifully en route to, I felt that I still belonged at camp, that I was not breaking my contract agreement. 
Little did I know that it was my time at the Ranches I found myself and saw that whatever my sexual identity was, there was no negative correlation with my true spiritual identity. I saw that I was able to be gay and still have my faith no matter what other people told me. Through journaling my thoughts and experiences with my co-workers, campers, and horses, I found balance and happiness. This discovery allowed me to live an honest life and in return become positive thinker that I am today. 
That summer I ended up talking with a few girls about my inner feelings; I had to talk with someone about them. They were all so supportive and were there to talk with me whenever. These young ladies kept my questioning a secret; it was almost as if they knew that camp was the perfect place to be during this time and in turn buttoned their mouths to make sure I stayed there to find myself. I don’t know how I would have been able to get through that summer without their support and love; it was their love, members of this institution that could easily have thrown me out, that showed me compassion, that I did still belong someway or another. 
At the end of youth camp at A/U, there is a banquet for all of the staff members. This ceremony is filled with wonderful food, fun speeches of the summer’s happenings, and awards are given out for various accomplishments. They were explaining the Cap Andrew’s Award for Excellent Leadership in the Christian Science Way, and all of a sudden Deb (the camp director) was talking about me. Me. Me, the questioning guy, the one who may be gay. But what I realized at that moment, as I walked up to accept my award, was that my sexual identity was actually by the wayside throughout my entire eight weeks as a counselor; it was a part of me, but wasn’t entirely me. Never were my questioning thoughts at the forefront of thought when I was tacking hoses, working with the other counselors, or guiding my campers. My real being was what I expressed there in the mountains of Colorado, losing myself in the joy and harmony daily expressed. By leaving my fears and questions to the judgement of the good being lived in every moment of the camp day, I fully found myself and my own connection to the beauty that Christian Science is in my life. 
I was handed my award, I turned around to see my girl-friends, the ones who I had trusted with my secrets, all crying. All of a sudden it hit me; this award was a wonderful marker, a beautiful moment showing me that I could be gay as well as a positive member of the Christian Science community, no matter what anyone else, any institution, any "rule" tells me. 
I flew straight from Colorado to Maine to return as a camp counselor for Family Camp at Camp Newfound & Owatonna, another Christian Science camp that I had grown up in. This was my fourth year working there in the "Little Loons" and "Bear Cubs" childcare programs. Over my time there, I had watched infants grow into toddlers and toddlers into big kids. Each year I looked forward to being there, catching up with the perennial families and co-workers I had made such close friendships with over the years. Each year I saw the children in my program grow, learn new things, and overcome previous years’ challenges and fears. Truly a blessing experience. 
It was at Family Camp that I met Carol. We were both counselors and had a mutual love for journaling. When I got to Maine, I would get up early every morning, go to the lodge porch with my coffee, look out over the still lake, and write. As the mist would rise off the glass water, I acknowledged the waking birds, follow the occasional Common Loon break the glass with its rippling bobs and greet campers as they slowly emerged from their cabins. It was one of the moments I looked forward to each and every day.

This year, Carol was holding a workshop during the rest hour right after lunch period. It was a journaling session based on this book called “The Artist’s Way”. Now, I only went a few times, but I loved those hours and enjoyed giving my journaling more direction. It brought me many news ideas of how to journal, how to learn more about myself. But those few hours was it, and I forgot about the book.
I couldn’t have imagined being anywhere else than the Christian Science camps as I was figuring out my own identity. But I knew my time with the Christian Science camps was going to be prematurely finished for me. When I finally accepted myself and came out, I wasn’t going back into secrecy for anything, even though that meant I wouldn’t be able to go back to camp. I have had conversations with people from both camps and unfortunately my time with them on staff is over. While I do my best to understand their ideas and reasons, it still hurts. Here is a place that I love and truly believe in; it was at these camps that I had the majority of the experiences which have made me person I am today. Even though there is this barrier now, I do still love camp. Some think that's crazy, but when you've had as many truly life-changing moments as I have at these camps, you understand why I can, and will never turn my back on the Christian Science camps. I do hope I can go back someday, that they will see I am still a worthy Christian Scientist, that I want to continue to learn, express, love, and that my loving men does not get in the way of that.
It was months after my last summer at camp that I came across “The Artist’s Way” at a Barnes & Noble. I immediately brought it to the cashier, and took it home. I started reading it, but set it back on my bookshelf for no apparent reason. It did end up here in New Jersey with me though, and I am so grateful it did. This book is all about releasing the natural creativity we all have within our natural being, something I am so intrigued by in connection with my theatrical dreams. I am looking forward to bringing this book with me to my auditions and filling my time with a new journey. 

It’s funny... I started this blog in regards to talking about the introduction of the book itself, about what I found in those first pages. Then all of a sudden this memory, this story came out and I just started writing. So, take it for what you will. I truly believe all of our experiences make us the artist we are, no matter how amazing, hurtful, wonderful, confusing, small, or large they are in our life. 
Here’s to my creativity, uniqueness, nerve, and talent that made me who I am who I am today. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


My auditioning adventures have brought a brand new and wonderful friendship: Karen
We met a couple of weeks ago and have been bumping into each other ever since then.  Not only is she a fierce singer, belting minds away in her mezzo glory, but more importantly she is such a fun and positive person (her card’s tagline is “Everything is going to be alright.”). While the auditioning realm could be really intense and daunting, Karen’s joy and bright being calms me, giving me the ability to step away from all the possible fears, which are at the ready to break me down any moment I let them in. 
This past Monday I was auditioning for a production of RENT, and Karen was there early waiting for the girl’s call later that afternoon. They were luckily seeing non-equity, so I got my 16 bars of a pop song together. I was singing one of the solos that I sang with my a cappella group back at Middlebury, “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay. Now, I have used this once before for at an audition, and I knew after that one I just needed to have fun with the song, not feel like I needed to interpret every word as a story. 
I went in and sang it. I got all the notes, techniqued the crap out of it, and it was so boring. I might as well have been yawning myself as I sang. The grit needed for this show was no where to be found in my rock song; it was pretty, and being only pretty doesn’t get you anywhere. 
Karen had waited outside the room and was there to catch my arm as I came out, walking back with me to our chairs. Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t upset about my performance. I hit the notes and was on pitch finding the ping of my upper register. But the essence of rawness and grit that RENT is so known for was absent in my performance. Karen was agreeing with everything I was saying, and I was so grateful to have someone to talk frankly with about an audition, to get some sort of feedback. 
Immediately it was apparent that I was trying too hard and thinking about it all way too much. From Karen I was seeing that I just need to let go. 
Karen was going to another audition after her RENT one, an Off-Broadway drama, and she said that I should come with her 'cause it called for a scruffy 20-year-old... Luckily, I hadn’t shaved that day. :-) After a divine lunch of McDonald’s, we booked it over to the theater holding auditions to look over the sides. As I was getting there, I realized I had just used my last headshot that morning and would need another one for this cold reading. Leaving my bag with Karen at the theater, I ran to the nearest STAPLES with my photo CD, and got some more prints quickly and scooted back to the theater. I get there, and ask the box office manager if he has a stapler and pair of scissors that I could borrow to put my headshot and resume together.
“They have those at STAPLES...”
So, back to STAPLES I went! And they didn’t have them, so I quickly snatched the stapler off the counter while the gal’s back was turned. It was then that I realized that the headshots were printed on 8.5 x 11 paper, not 8 x 10. But at the point I just let it be, didn’t trim it down to the preferred 8 x 10 version, and slid right in before being asked to go in. 
With a quick look at the sides, I went in and read. The idea I was holding onto was that many times I am better being thrown into situations on stage. I remember being in rehearsal for After Mrs. Rochester at Middlebury my junior year. That was the semester I was finishing up my swimming season, taking three classes, and rehearsing three different shows that all went up different weekends of April. I had stretched myself way too thin, and would often sleep in the aisle of Wright Theater between my scenes. I will always remember one time when I was supposed to be onstage, and was just passed out on the floor. Immediately, the stage manager and Vanessa (my director) hurriedly woke me to get onstage for the scene. Flustered and still half asleep I jumped up there and did my scene, and promptly left after the scene feeling silly and still a bit lost. 
After the run, Vanessa said, “That was one of the best times you’ve done that scene Schuyler.” I had to just let go and not think about it. By being caught off guard and quickly rushed up onto the stage, I wasn’t given the chance to over-think what I had to do, how I had to have my “straight-man walk”, how I had to perform with an accent, how I had to be an active part of the scene. When I removed the unnecessary preparation, when I just threw myself into the character and scene, not thinking about the tools I had used to create him, I in turn had a better performance. 
So that’s what I tried here during this cold-reading. I threw myself in. I let the words infuse the character from within; I didn’t lean on or expect myself to bring this character to life. 
It was so freeing. Do I feel I nailed it, no. But I don’t care about that. I felt I had found some really great moments and had fun just going in to do something completely different from a 16 bar phrase or dance combination. I just let loose and fell into this forward, crude character, relishing in the joy of it all.
Later, Karen and I went to a Starbucks and watched some of the footage from my cabaret at Middlebury. I told her early on that I wanted any criticism she had, anything to make my performance better in terms of the actual cabaret as well as my auditioning. She had SO MANY wonderful things to say and give me to work on. I received a bunch of notes about my physicality while I sing; I need to commit to whatever I feel naturally coming from within. She was seeing my core feel a physical action as I sang, and then in return I immediately second-guessed the natural urge, resulting in a partially committed physical action in accordance with the true impulse. As she was giving me these ideas, I immediately thought of Stephanie J. Block, who I have watched on YouTube a bunch. She does an amazing job of being unapologetic with her physical choices while singing, and I feel I can learn a lot from her.

When it all came down to it, Karen was seeing that I needed to hone into the vulnerabilities of the characters - as well as my own - and to stop controlling my emotions. That rang so true with me. I have to plunge into each piece, into each character and let it happen, just like I did that day during After Mrs. Rochester rehearsal. 
I have to stop thinking so much. When I’m over-thinking, over-analyzing every note and every possible motion, it is then that I become a restricted robot singing some pretty notes. 
So now it’s about releasing. For my upcoming auditions this week as well as the third installment of “Another Staged Experience” (Guilford Congregational Church on the Green at 4:00 this Sunday, February 27th) I am going to let go, planting myself into the words I’m singing, letting them infuse my whole being. 

p.s. I would like to thank Todd Langstaff for following my blog. I guess I forgot to "personally" thank him on Facebook the other time. :-) Hahahaha! But really though, thank you everyone who is reading and following me; it means so much.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It's Official! + Me Time.

(Written 2/14)
Well, it’s official, I finally have moved. 
Hello New Jersey! 
I brought way too much stuff, but I have a feeling that I’ll be using all of it somehow, someway. With a truck-bed full of shelving units, bedding, groceries, books, and clothes, my parents and I made the trek to North Bergen, New Jersey. Just under two hours, we pulled up to my new home. 
Kathleen wasn’t home and I’m kinda happy she wasn’t; I wouldn’t want her to freak out about this random dude coming in, making countless trips up the stairs with so much stuff. After the truck was unpacked, Mom started ironing the duvet, Dad rigged up a rogue wire, and I started envisioning the room, my room as a whole. With the bed made, Mom and Dad got back in the truck and headed back to Guilford as I took the wheel and organized the rest of my new place. 
After everything in my room was set-up and the groceries were put into the cabinets, Kathleen came home and we both quickly agreed that we were too exhausted to stay up, so we turned in for the night. My new bed (queen-size) is SO COMFORTABLE! Now, let it be known, I sleep in an extra-long twin at home like a little kid. So to upgrade to this huge bed is such a blessing. And boy did I sleep well. :-)
Waking up in a new place never felt so amazing. I realized then that this all was happening. This was real. I was about to get out of bed and get ready for the quick commute into New York City for my two auditions of the day. Today I had my audition for the Male Swing in the non-equity production of “Angelina Ballerina The Musical” with Vital Theater at 1:50 and then was hoping to get to the dancer call for the Second National Tour of “Wicked” at 2:30. It would be tight, but I would speed-walk.
The first one went pretty well. I sang my 32 bars of Barrett’s Song from “Titanic” and went through the sides for the two male characters, Dad and AZ. The artistic director, casting director and I seemed to be having a really great conversation in between singing and acting; it felt natural and genuine. It was noted that my resume shows that I have a lot of dance experience (well, that’s good to know...) and I was then asked if I had any “tricks”. 
“Well, I can do a cartwheel and a round-off...”
“No, like any break-dancing tricks.”
“I can do this hand-stand roll down thing.” 
I then proceeded to demonstrate this move that I created for myself junior year of high school for the Guilford High School Dance Team. Yeah, I kinda fell out of it at the end, but it got the point across, and was then noted that what I just did was not what he was thinking about. Oh well... I told them though that I was definitely willing to learn.
On a whole, it felt pretty good. Vocally I felt great, acting wise during my 32 bars was much better than my other recent auditions (even though it did take me a moment to fall in), and the acting during my sides felt grounded and fun. I did have to do a little impromptu hip-hop dancing in the middle of the AZ side. Trying to dance with a piece of paper is really difficult by the way. It just flaps around everywhere and looks ridiculous. 
What I was proud about in this audition was that when we were just talking, I was totally myself and relaxed, just like that audition workshop I took last November taught me was best. So now it’s just another waiting game.
Before this audition at Ripley Grier Studios, I had stopped by Chelsea Studios to sign myself up for the “Wicked” audition, and was surprised that only two hours before the audition I was #21 on the non-equity list. I got back to Chelsea just before the first equity group went in, so I quickly changed and got stretched out. 
I knew that I had to have more confidence going into this dancer call. All of the guys there were definitely dancers first and foremost (one can tell just when someone stretches). I had to go in and have fun and stay confident. It’s when I get freaked out I can’t pick up the choreography, so I couldn’t let myself get in the way of my learning. 
Now, they have workshops on this very specific dancing audition for “Wicked” to help dancers prepare for the actual day auditions are held. A lot of the guys there today had been to a “Wicked” audition before, multiple times for some. This was my first time and I just was going to go in and do the best I could. 
I LOVED the choreography. It was totally my kind of stuff: lyrical jazz with very specific timing. It was a blast to dance, and I was feeling really great. When it came to my group,   our first time around I was in the back line, and then we switched lines. There I was, all 6’3” of me, front and center and proceed to totally forget the whole piece and look like a idiot. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I not only felt like a fool, but from my own experience when someone is in front of me messing up, I in turn mess up. Thus, I felt really bad for the guys around me during that second round. 
I have to get over this fear of being in the front. Over my many years of dancing, I’ve rarely been in the front due to my height, so I’m just not used to it. Not to mention I’m used to cheating by watching the others in front of me through the corners of my eyes. It was amazing because the first go-round I felt great, so there is no reason that I could just forget everything within a minute. I just let my position in the room totally freak me out. 
More and more I keep thinking about how I have to get back into dance classes to not only get back in shape physically but also mentally. When I was in London two summers ago, I was taking dance classes almost daily which whipped my butt back into gear after a few years off. I was more flexible than ever, on my center better, and was picking up all the combinations much faster by the end of my two months there. So now it’s a matter of getting back to that point as best as I can amidst auditions, the day-job I’ve yet to find, and figuring out how I fit into the New York City scene. 
It will all happen in time. What I’m realizing so soon into my time here is that so much is already coming at me; there’s already so much to do and get together. And while I could get into my “deer-in-headlights gaze” funk (as my friend Cassidy describes it), letting stress and fear overwhelm and freeze me in its enormity, I know that that isn’t helpful at all. In fact it’s quite destructive. To stay away from that swirling madness, I just have to take each step in stride, and not try to conquer and figure out everything all at once. For example, I was done with my auditions by 4:00 today, and I thought I may go and see if I could get an application to work at Abercrombie or Hollister before heading back home. But then I decided I needed to go make sure I knew how to actually get myself back home first. I had to get myself a bus pass, find the correct gate for the 127 bus to Ridgefield, and make sure I press the red button before my stop at 69th street. So I went back to Port Authority and took the time to figure out that I can only get a monthly unlimited pass at the beginning of the month to make it worth my money, and that the next best deal was a 10-trip pass. I then was able to find the correct gate, boarded my 4:45 bus, and got off at my stop a-okay. 
Just knowing that I could get back home and figure it all out by myself allowed me to check something off my “To Do/Figure Out” list for this new chapter I just stepped into. I find it funny that it was such a big thing for me to be able to leave and come back in one day with no problems. That must sound so silly - ‘cause it definitely looks silly now having just written it - but this little suburban boy is seeing life in a different light and is loving it in its energy, confusion, spontaneity, and newness. 
Right now for me it’s about taking everything step by step. There must be a sense of building my own foundation with clear care and logical steps for where I currently am as a brand new entity in this big city. With this “building block” mentality, I hope my confidence continues to grow with more audition experience, an auditioning workshop, dance classes, and a day-job. Just one thing at a time, that way nothing will be rushed. 
(Written 2/15)
Being with myself is a good thing for me, and I need to learn how to be better with that. What’s hardest for me right now is that I have free time, time to spare, space to fill, and I  have a tendency to let that freak me out. In that seemingly sprawling period, I start grasping for anyone and anything, wanting something or someone to join me in these new strides I’m taking. Whether a friend, an acquaintance, or a boy, I send out the masses of texts, emails, and calls to everyone and anyone, looking for someone to fill a void that I have created in my own mind in which I believe others can fill. And then when there’s no response, I freak. 
Basically, I’ve reverted to my high school days, a time when socially I was desperate, awkward, and annoying, all stemming from over-analytical behavior. 
I hate it.
I had the great opportunity to quickly meet with my best friend Leah today amidst the craziness at her job (she works at Lincoln Center which is in the middle of Fashion Week). She told me that while taking time to be by myself and not always trying to get together with someone to be with others is hard, but it is so important. Obviously that’s hard to hear as right now all I want to be doing is meeting people, creating new friendships and relationships while catching up with old friends now that I’m finally here. Not to mention I’m ready to find someone, my special someone that I can be there for and who can be there for me. 
Basically, it’s all coming down to me, me, me... That’s no way to live. Leah also mentioned that I should try to do something that would bring the focus off of me. She immediately responded knowing how hard that actually is as an actor who is just trying to make it. As an actor, it’s all about putting myself out there, auditioning to get myself a booking, taking classes that will continue to provide experience and connections, etc., etc., etc.... But she’s right, so right. Actually, she’s never wrong. :-) Hopefully something will come up that I’ll be drawn to as a good option to take a break from me. 
It’s going to take time to get my rhythm here in the city, and I just need to accept that. And I’m going to have to continue telling myself to accept that. Over and over again till it sticks, reminding myself that I need to sit back and let it all happen and listen for the answer to come. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Move!

6:45 this morning. My alarm goes off to get going to the Non-Equity audition for “Guys and Dolls” on Long Island this summer. With a brand new outfit, a new kind of hair wax (American Crew Fiber... simply amazing. I’m in love.), and Old Devil Moon in my heart, I made my way to Nola Studios with gusting winds blowing around me, making the already frigid air sting that much more. I then proceed to wait a half an hour outside with my iced coffee from Starbucks (Note to self: Iced coffee in the winter is maybe not always the best choice.) waiting for the doors to open. Sure, there was the classic “Unofficial List” of an order which I signed and then could have left to go and wait in doors somewhere. But I decided to stay after putting my name on it, as those are usually just thrown out. If you want it, you wait for it, even if your fingers feel like they’re going to fall off in a clean slice from the bitter cold. The proctor ended going off the list after all... Go figure. Luckily I signed up early.
I ended up being number 18 with the people who didn’t show up being cut out of the way. I went in and sang my 16 bars (shhh... it’s actually 18) and felt pretty decent about it. As I waited to hear if I got called back to dance, I struck up a conversation with a new friend I met at the audition, Matt. That’s what I love about auditioning. You start meeting people and just chat about the business, learning new things every time. Matt got called back to dance while I didn’t, but we had time to go and grab a bite to eat before his next section of the audition. We chatted about auditioning, the Circle in the Square program, work (He suggested tutoring, which was a perfect idea! So I’m totally going to look into that...), and living situations.
Now, let’s back up a bit. I was going to be living with my real-person-banker-college friend Peter, but it unfortunately fell through. I do hope to live with him someday, but what I need housing wise right now is not a full year lease. So, I started looking into sublets and was finding a lot of great options. I was directed to Gypsy Housing on Facebook by my friend from “Finian’s Rainbow”, Jayson, which is a group dedicated to actors looking for housing opportunities. And that’s where I found Taylor’s add for her apartment in North Bergen, NJ. Only 20 minutes from Port Authority with a huge room, great price, and a super roommate who’s in the biz that I’d be living with (Kathleen), it was perfect. Sure, I wanted to move to NYC, but this feels so right for now on all levels. The sublet goes through April, and maybe June depending on Taylor’s show schedule. 
So today, after my audition, as I was heading back to Connecticut, I got the call from Taylor saying that she wanted to offer me the sublet after chatting with a few other options. I was so happy I could barely make out a sentence. Finally, I can actually start! This is what I have been waiting for for so long now. This is what I needed to feel that sense of foundation, that connection to the Big Apple that would hopefully just infuse a stronger grounding sensation in my auditions. Just the knowledge that I will have a place of my own with my own bed and fridge only a half an hour away makes everything in my body relax somehow. 
Now I have to get all my stuff together. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time now, so it’s just a matter of pulling it all together and transporting what I need. It’s all in my room; I just need to put it in bags. Lots of bags...
I wanted to chat about sending in your headshot and resume via email to some shows. I’ve sent in a good amount and have only heard back from a few, which is totally understandable. I got one response recently that was so sweet and renewed a whole sense of support and confidence in me:
Hi Schuyler,

Thank you so much for submitting.  I wanted to personally write you, because I would like you to know, that there are two reasons why I regrettably can not have you come in at this time.  One, we have already filled all of our slots this Saturday.  Two, you are simply too tall for this show.  The other person that has been cast is much shorter and would not look proper on stage.  The reason I want you to know this is because we feel strongly about you.  We will keep your p/r in our files for future shows.  Thank you so much for submitting again.  We look look forward to hopefully casting you in the future.

Jeremy Neal
Artistic Director
theatron, a theatre company
The fact that he spent the time to write that email meant so much to me, and I obviously responded with my biggest thanks. Today after my big news, I got an email from the casting director for “Angelina Ballerina! The Musical” to come and audition for their male swing after having sent in my headshot and resume a few weeks ago. I’m super excited and will be fitting in that work whenever I’m not packing. I also got an email back from “Madame the Musical” which I had sent my information in for as well that we’ll all be hearing back about audition slots soon. That sounds like a show that is right up my alley: a dark, 1930‘s, drag musical. AMAZING! What’s not to like about that?! Be sure to check out their Facebook page and website under “Madame the Musical”. Looks like a great project!
Tomorrow’s plans include a trip to COSTCO (when one eats as much as I do, one must buy in bulk) and lots of packing. It’s like going away to college, but intensified on so many different levels. Sure, there are things that I’m still terrified about like finding work and being able to pay for everything while also trying to save and pay student loans. But I know that that fear isn’t helping me any bit. I need to be confident and smart, not wary and feeble. 
I’m so close.  

Saturday, February 5, 2011

“Urinetown”, The Apartment Search, Goodspeed Locals, Joni.

What a whirlwind since closing night of “Urinetown”. But how could it be any other way really? And of course, now for a mass catch-up.
Middlebury College’s production of “Urinetown the Musical” was an absolute joy to be a part of. Now, I was worried about going back and how people would respond to my return. What would people say? “Is he just bumming around because he has nothing better to do? What actually has he done since graduating?” Luckily though, it wasn’t too strange. Sure, that first week was a constant explanation, making sure all knew that I wasn’t just lollygaging around for JTerm, but rather I was hired to come back and choreograph the musical. Once people started seeing me regularly, word seemed to spread and the Middlebury community welcomed me back with loving and warm arms. 
One thing people kept asking was where was I staying while there. Doug Anderson, the director of “Urinetown” set up two wonderful host families for me. For my first week, I was with Professor Robert Schine at the picturesque Brainerd Commons House. For the rest of my stay I was at the Hewatt/Joselson family’s beautiful, cozy, and loving home. I am so grateful for their generosity and willingness to bring me into their homes for such a long period of time. My ability to have places so close to campus as well as the Town Hall Theatre made my time choreographing so perfect and easy during this very snowy month. I literally would not have been able to be there without their help, and I am so grateful.
“Urinetown”, I was realizing, is the fourth musical that I have choreographed in one year. Out of those four, “Urinetown” was the first production where I wasn’t performing in the show itself as well, and I loved it. It was an amazing experience to be completely on the outside, looking into this piece as a whole and seeing how movement and dance truly influence the flow of the show. I could bring my full focus to the task of making the production’s movement a primary entity to highlight this hilarious and smartly written musical of musicals. This outside placement allowed me to play with the craft of choreography in a way I had never been able to before. Previous productions I always had to be thinking about where I would be onstage, my own lines, my own songs, as well as the complete choreography. Sure, there were definitely moments when my “performer self” was jealous and wanted to be up there singing and dancing with everyone in “Urinetown”, but overall I was so happy not to be up there and to occupy this new seat I had filled. 
After opening night, my two friends Kelly and Max said the exact same thing to me about my choreography: “It’s so you.” 
What was “me”? Kelly, Max and I were all in Middlebury’s production of Lippa’s “The Wild Party” in which Kelly was the mute dancer Jackie, Max played Black, and I was Burrs as well as the choreographer. From this production they had an insider’s look on how I worked and what I liked to create with dance. Kelly was also in the piece that I choreographed to Kesha’s Tik Tok for our dance troupe last spring as well as having the opportunity to come and see the production of “Finian’s Rainbow” that I was in and choreographed this summer, so she has seen and been a part of A LOT of my work. But still, what was “me”? Finally my mom got to see the production, and I asked her what she thought, knowing that I would get a truly honest answer from her about what “me” concerning my choreography was. Her first response almost killed me:
“It’s like cheerleading.”
I was on the verge of tears. Now, I have nothing against cheerleading, but that is not what I want people to see my choreography as, not to mention I don’t want my choreography to exude only that peppy, sparkly, gushing of energy all the time type of performance. Seeing/hearing my despair in this remark, Mom reworded her response to explain that in my choreography I make sure I can make all of the actors, whether dancers or not, come together with capable movements that are sharp, precise, and together. Also, instead of using a lot of jumps and kicks that the non trained dancers (the majority of my cast) wouldn’t be able to do, I instead bring in a lot of formations and upper-body work, combined with a need for knowing where the focus needs to be at all times for everyone from the leads to the chorus. It’s like “unified precision”. This made me feel MUCH better, BUT I do want to make sure that I can expand my own style, whatever that means... How do I do that? 
I hope an answer will come soon.
I love choreographing, and I do hope to do more in the future and see where it can bring me. Working with Doug and Carol is always a joy, and my actors were absolutely phenomenal and so fun. They committed to my ideas and moves with such dedication, bringing all my visions to enlightened life. 
Since Middlebury, I have been doing the whole New York City apartment search. To put it frankly, it sucks.... Not only am I moving into one of the most expensive places ever, but finding a place that works for both myself and my real-person, banker roommate Peter is just the silliest and craziest. I’ve been using Craigslist, which is just so crafty and tricky at times, but I am definitely getting closer to my actual move in. What’s so awful is that I am constantly back and forth, in and out of the city seemingly every other day, and it’s getting pretty exhausting. I’m going in tomorrow to chat with a broker about some apartments that I really like on the Upper West Side near Columbia and try my best to get the fees taken down a bit so Peter and I can afford them. 
I just can’t wait to be there. I want to get started. I want to be able to begin my life there. I want a place to live. 
Today I had my audition for Goodspeed Opera House’s 2011 summer season for local non-equity members. And it was interesting to say the least. We were asked to bring an up tempo and a ballad. For my up tempo, I have the great “All I Need is the Girl” from Gypsy. But I was having trouble finding a ballad until last night I came across South Pacific’s “Younger than Springtime”. I had sung it once before with Carol at school and knew it would be the perfect song for Goodspeed. So I worked it last night in my room till I felt really solid with all my choices.
Come the audition, I sing the wrong verse for my “Younger than Springtime” 16 bars screwing up the ending and creating an awkward pause before the final high G’s... I felt like an absolute idiot. I knew the words, I did! But there I was singing the wrong ones. I did my best to cover them, and I think it was okay, but still noticeable obviously cause it’s a flippin’ classic that everyone knows... Ugh... At least I hit the G’s...
I sang my next song and was still a little shaken from the first, so my focus was kind of all over the place. I totally had a Cathy moment from “The Last 5 Years”, having an out of body experience seeing myself auditioning and being like, “What am I doing?” 
Overall I felt really great vocally despite the lyric slip. So we’ll see. I got back into the car and screamed out my frustration and then started my drive back home. As I was steaming, all I wanted to do was try again and be better. I want to get better at auditioning, and this flub up of one made me want to go out and do just that and not give up. I luckily have some leads on places for auditioning classes, and I will definitely be looking into those when I get into the city. Cause frankly, I’m not going to act if I can’t audition...
I feel I’m looking for a lot of answers right now, way more than could ever be put into one blog post. I know in these times when I feel the need to search tirelessly, I actually need to sit back and just listen, and that is when the answers come, in that peacefulness. 

I was once told, “Joni. Joni is the key to whatever you need unlocked. I promise.” So now every night as I’m falling asleep, I listen to Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” album as I drift away, hoping for these doors to be unlocked.