Monday, August 29, 2011

The "Dry-Spell"

There is this alleged “dry-spell” when one receives the Equity Card. Everyone is excited to finally get the recognition that a simple piece of oaktag provides, but there is also the fear of the period of time right after. Who knows what actually “causes” this, the time in which we as actors don’t book gigs even though we’ve just proved that we have something in us that puts us on the same page as all other professional actors. The “dry-spell” is accepted. People just deal. 
I don’t like this, and I refuse to buy it.
Life is and should always be full with artistic intention whether cast in a show or not. I believe that this outlook can only bring good things. By staying open with an assured sense of beautiful things to come just around the riverbend, -  

- further inspiration for the positive steps to take can only be taken with grace and confidence. It’s with this mentality that we are immediately open to meet new and eager talent in this surprisingly small city who come together to create great work in the times when the commercial theatre industry may not need us. 
When I’ve been open to the joy and harmony that art brings, new artistic adventures and opportunities spring forward into view of any shape or size, all being equally beautiful and important in my life. That is what I will hold onto, not to the fear of the “dry-spell”. 
I am committing to staying open, to listening. 
It is time to break that spell before it even begins; I will be the one who does not let that supposed possibility hold me back. The “dry-spell” is quite simply a human creation from times that, yes, have happened before, but never 100% of the time. People who are affected by the “dry-spell” are the ones who let themselves be a part of the depressed, fearful, stressed percentage in this timing bracket. 
CHOOSE HAPPINESS (as Ms. Cassidy Boyd would say). 
Does this mean I feel I’m going to be cast in a show within the week? 
No. (If I do though, fabulous!)
What I’m trying to get at in this blunt manner is that whether I am cast in a show or not, that doesn’t mean that my life will ever be void of my artistic endeavors and jubilation. My art is my life and my life is my art. No one will ever be able to be take my artistic-living life away from me.
Instead of a “dry-spell”, I am entering an “art-filled-spell”. Here I am World! I’m ready!
To start this “art-filled-spell”, I have great news. I have just locked down on a place and time for a performance of my brand new cabaret, “Braver. Stronger. Smarter”: An evening with me as I recount moments of my first love, my father, and the auditioning world of commercial musical theatre through an unconventional combination of stories and show tunes. I have paired up with my awesome director, Martin Peacock, and my amazingly talented musical director, Shannon Collins, all pulling together some stories of mine for a new, edgier view of what cabaret can be. 
We will be at The Duplex Friday, October 14th at 7:00 PM. So mark it in your calendars now for a fun night of songs and stories!
This performance is only the beginning. With only one night, my hope is to have family and friends come out and share this experience with me: my first ever solo show in NYC. From this night, we hope to expand, find what was intriguing within the piece in performance, and continue to create more cabarets to be marketed to a wider audience, including cabaret fanatics as well as high school and college communities around the country. 
I am so happy with where we are going with this project. Please stay up to date on my Facebook profile about how to reserve tickets as well as how to donate to the creation of this piece. 
Here’s to an art-filled life for everyone! 
Whether it’s your career or not, commit to doing at least one artistic action a day simply for yourself. Sketch a tree, sing a little louder in church or the shower, go out to see a show or movie, or even write a journal entry or blog post. :-) 
It’s a beautiful way to live.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Week 2 of Audition Workshop: At the Edge of the Diving Board

And in a flash, my workshop has ended. So much has happened in these two weeks that I am grateful for, and they all started with the addition of this workshop in my life. Not only did I get that kick in the butt to finally go out and get new headshots, but also my resume has been revamped and rendered down into a clear, clean, classy, and professional format. Along with these technical yet absolutely necessary aspects of the business, I was re-introduced to those basic acting necessities that accompany a good, strong audition like salt and pepper partners scrambled eggs. 
What more can I ask for? 
Well, of course coming into this class, my big dream was that on the last day of our class, when we auditioned in front of Duncan Stewart (casting director), Jesse Vargas (musical director), and Jen Namoff (talent manager/producer), that one of them would see the spark of talent inside of me and offer me some sort of job. I mean, who doesn’t want that? “Oh, you would be so great as ______. Here’s your contract; you start next week.”  
And that didn’t happen. 
With performances that vocally felt great, a few spot on acting beats, and a lot of spastic, nervous energy coming out through my hands, I had a decent audition. Definitely not my best, but I took what I had learned and how I was directed through the class and just had fun, not worrying about having to impress or perform for everyone behind the table. And I had fun. I did. I was really happy with those acting aspects I honed in on and know that they can only get stronger with the continued work through the steps I revisited in this class:
  • Find the scenario that works for you. It may not relate exactly with the actual story of the show, but that doesn’t matter. The scenario of the song must have super high stakes to allow the growth of the story to soar without the aid of all other theatrical devices (lights, costumes, book, other actors, etc.). Have the scenario and then find the truth of that situation through each lyric, rhythm, and pitch.
  • Understand that you are only talking to your imaginary scene partner. One person. Pick that person and simply talk to them. 
  • Ask this: What am I saying? Don’t just tell what the song is doing, what the song goes through. Just do it. 
  • Create a journey: beginning, middle, and end. Create realizations. Create beats. There is an A to Z path that should be taken with hills and valleys, ups and downs, all ending with a positive “Z”. 
What resonated with me was that my intended choices don’t need to be, and frankly shouldn’t be, heady or complicated. Simplicity is relatable, easy to grasp, possible to understand. What I was feeling, working through my songs with Jimmy and Benton was that when you just say it, you are able to “act on the line, not around it”. So, instead of using all of my intention in weird, useless motion and eye choreography that leave my words plain and boring, focus all of that acting foundation onto the actual words, which will in turn infuse my words with an amazing essence of beautiful emotion. With that, I fell into my scene, into my character, into myself and just was there, present in the moment of the story, of my journey through the song. Truly enchanting. 
Now I’m at the edge of the diving board. Before, I was climbing the steps, then walking the gravely runway towards the crystal blue water. My toes are curled over the edge, ready for a few bounces and a final spring into the refreshing opportunities of new artistic endeavors. Will it be a splash-less entrance? Will I have to get out and climb those stairs again? Maybe. Probably. But at least I have the tools now to get back to the edge of the diving board again.
Am I all of a sudden the perfect auditioner? Will I book the next thing I go out for because all the tricks are in the bag? 
Hell no. 
BUT, I have come a long way through simple steps that may seem small, but are so important. When these are fully taken, only huge progress can come. Without this workshop, I don’t know if I would have been able to take that catwalk to the edge of my diving board and feel confident to jump in. 
Thank you to Jimmy and Benton for getting me up on that board and grounded to know where to go next. I am so grateful for what you both have done for my confidence in this field, in turn aiding me in the continuous understanding of who I am, where I am going, and what I wish to become not only as  performer, but as a person. I will always look back on this time as a hard - sometimes spiraling - but definitely positive time in my life that has only helped me in my further growth through this artistic career I have set out towards. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Week 1 of Audition Workshop: Tears Creating a Blog Entry.

I had the great fortune of coming across an audition workshop that started right when I got back into the city. I’ve been wanting to take one of these workshops for a long time now, but it never was working out. Finally this one screamed out my name and I am so happy I took the plunge. I could go on and on about how happy I am about getting the kick in the butt of how to set up my resume properly, to get a new headshot, and to come back to those necessary acting basics that auditioning needs at heightened levels. I could go through my notes and talk about all the little tips I’ve been getting. 
But no. I have something else. 
The people who seemingly don’t work are always the best actors. I’ve seen this time and time again. I thought it was natural talent, just oozing from their pores in perfected pitch, time and rhyme. They couldn’t help it; their souls just needed to let go of all this talent, thus every time is a grand old time. 
Then there was me, the one who had to search, pry, scratch apart, and rip through to find that connecting factor to the natural creativity - that I do believe - we all have. I’ve been through that hell, that work, and have found the results where people applaud me and praise the creation that had happened before their eyes.
Even when I do that strenuous work, the “connection” doesn’t happen 100% of the time, and that sucks balls. Why can’t I have the natural, raw talent that they do? Why can’t I tap into the reality that brings my story across to the people behind the table? Why can’t I do it?!?!?!
What has separated me from those talent-oozing people is that they perform for themselves, not for the people behind the desk. I need to create for myself. 
This realization came today from my dear, wonderfully talented and amazing roommate Jayson, whom I’ve done FINIAN’S RAINBOW and THE PRODUCERS with. I came home tonight in, as I’m going to call it, a “raging-deer in headlights” mode. So, to define that, I was stunned, freaking out, and not knowing where to turn, all the while venting my pains and anger. In that spouting madness, Jayson (about a third of the way through) pulled out a piece of paper. I didn’t know what he was doing, but I didn’t care, I was a raging deer! After about 20 minutes I guess, Jayson picks his head up from the paper and says, “You said the word ‘like’ 13 times in 60 seconds.” 
Now, Jayson has been on my back about over-using the word “like” for some time now. I have been really trying to stop, but it has been hard, especially when this raging deer violently prances out of me. So who knows what it was, whether it was tonight’s class or using “like” too many times, but I started balling. Like (Yes, I used that word. Sue me.) BALLING to the point of not being able to speak. 
Jayson of course came over and started apologizing, but it wasn’t his fault. I needed that release. I can’t remember the last time I cried that much. 
So now I was a crying, savagely bounding deer who was just spastic and didn’t know where to turn. I was freaking out that I couldn’t tap into that work that I had done for the song I was preparing for class. I was just that pretty boy singing with a pretty voice and nothing else to offer. I was unable to make a correct choice. I would never understand how to connect to a song ever again properly. Grrreeeaaaat.
Luckily, Jayson was there to talk through tonight’s class, and this is what he finally realized through my conundrum: I have been performing for others, not for myself. “You have to do it for yourself”, he said to me. “Have pride in what you are creating. Are you proud of the work you did in your performance after working with the teachers?”
Yes, I was. I was happy with the new backstory I created with Jimmy (one of my workshop teachers) and felt I really connected to it in my song; I found so much joy with that change. 
The only thing I was getting caught up on was that I didn’t get the response that I was hoping for, the words that said, “There you go Schuyler, see, you aren’t just a pretty boy who can sing. You have so much to offer and will be cast in so many shows because you have the talent to be always working.” 
That is EXACTLY what I NEVER need to be looking for to feel successful. 
When I start performing for others, all I do is fail to connect to myself, because I’m simply focused on them, not myself. My ego doesn’t need a good pat on the back with a, “You’re so great”; it just isn't necessary. Their (the people behind the table) approval of my joy is totally unrelated to my success in this field, on these stages, in these auditions.   
I am here to share my joy for performing. I love to perform, to create, to emote, to tap in. When I share that joy, I will get those jobs. Simple as that.  
I’m so lucky that my career is one that lets me do what I truly love. What I’m now seeing is that I need to remember that I love this, that the joy of performing, whether in an audition or on the Broadway stage, brings me pure happiness. As long as I can perform, I will be happy.  
So, does this mean I’ll stop working and just say, “I love doing this, and because of that I’ll be good.” Hell no. Part of what I love about performing is the background work that goes into these creations. Lord knows I’ll be working my tushie off for next week, our final week of our workshop. We’ve all been given a character to come in and sing for. I’ve been given Lucas from THE ADDAMS FAMILY and I couldn’t be happier. I really connect with him and know that I am the right type for this role. So, on Tuesday we will work on the sides and songs with our teachers, Jimmy Smagula and Benton Whitley, and on Thursday we will come back in with those same scenes and perform them in front of some members from the industry (casting directors, agents, etc.). It’s a wonderful opportunity to be seen by some major people in the industry, AKA the people who help people like us get jobs. 
Obviously there are nerves, but that’s what my preparatory work will quell, along with my newfound re-realization of how much I love to create and perform.

P.S. As I was writing this, of course I got a text from Jimmy that said this: "You did great tonight!!... I felt like you really let go on the last pass and it was awesome." That made me SO happy, BUT it's not what I need to feel successful though, as I have learned. :-)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dancin' Again!

I took my first dance class since a year year ago tonight. 
It was amazing.
I had forgotten how much I love dance classes: stretching, sweating, strengthening, and picking up choreography. My good friend Sally Swallow, whom I went to Middlebury with (she was our Sally Bowles in our version of CABARET up there) suggested that we go and take class together then have dinner after to catch up. I am so grateful that she suggested getting back into the studio; I always get nervous going back, knowing that I’ll be out of shape, stiff, and rusty on picking up the steps. 
But this was different somehow.
We were taking the Intermediate/Advanced Musical Theatre Dance class at Broadway Dance Center. Tonight we had a sub, Michael Mindlin, and he was superb! Be sure to check out his BDC faculty bio to know when he is teaching. So talented and grounded in his art.

Our warm-up was definitely a workout, but also so fluid and relaxed, allowing me to center myself and really let my muscles warm-up properly as they came out of hibernation for their solid stretching session. Then we got to learn a routine for the second hour: a Fosse inspired piece to “Don’t Rain On My Parade”. It was subtle yet so powerful in its direction changes, intricate turns, head pops, and arm extensions. Dance heaven.
I was really nervous when it came to do the full combo in our small group of guys, wondering if I would remember the steps with all the other dancers watching along with the instructor (whose dancing was quite literally effortless... pure beauty.). What I told myself though before those first hip hits began the combination was, “Have fun Schuyler. Just have fun.”
Did I get all of it perfectly. No way. But I got a lot more than I ever thought I would with my dusty technique. And more importantly, I had an absolute blast. My goal in the future is to feel confident enough to step up to the front line and perform there without the safety of the other better dancers in front to jog my memory when I go blank. All in good time... 
So, Sally and I now have a weekly date: Mondays, 4-6, BDC, Int./Adv. Musical Theatre Dance. Screw a gym membership; time to get my BDC dance card and get back into class. I had the time of my life tonight PLUS got in shape! What’s better than that? 

If you’re in the area and want to come, dance, and have a smile imprinted on your face, come on down with Sally and I. We all will have a grand old time yessir! We’ll have a grand old time!