Inspiration is possible everywhere I go (and is often free). Yet, it has been made particularly possible for me to be inspired in New York City. I really have found it to be a playground for theatre where I find world-famous actors up on fancy, bright stages. I also find extremely talented actors in tiny studio theatres simply sharing experiences to inspire each other.
I tagged along to a talk-back event tonight with Kathleen McNenny, Joanna Adler and Stark Sands for the Tom Todoroff Summer Intensive Program at Shetler Studios. I realized that it is valuable to take the time to share experiences as actors (whether students, recent conservatory graduates, or experienced stage and film actors).
Why am I inspired? What did I learn?
“My job is to audition” I heard Kathleen say before jetting out of the theatre. We all love this woman. Being the Masks teacher at the Tom Todoroff Conservatory it is easy to forget that this down-to-earth person who gives her heart to her students really does pound the pavement every day as an actor. It can actually be discouraging to realize that my whole life will be such an active pursuit of work; but Kathleen embodies staying positive and loving what we do as actors WHICH IS TO AUDITION!
Both Stark and Joanna reiterated her statement. Auditioning is the heart of what we do. It was notable for me to hear these actors state this in front a quiet, yet strong presence in the corner, Tom Todoroff, who carries on the legacy of Michael Shurtleff’s book The Audition. Having worked through audition guideposts in Tom’s classes myself (and believe-you-me he is a stickler for them) I know that he’d agree with this statement on auditioning.
In terms of actors fresh out of Conservatory training (like me) part of the struggle is just to get auditions in order to exercise the chops. I liked hearing Joanna trace back her various jobs and all the times that she said “YES” to an internship with a non-profit arts agency, had tea or lunch with another actor or a director and then noticing that it led to an audition, and even a job. Hearing her speak I thought, “there is method to the madness of this business!” Joanna shared that, “this business is uncertain for everyone. I accept that I am a part of this chaos. I paid my conEdison bill and therefore I can let it go!”
We are all people looking for work and in order to collaborate I am first required to seek out relationship and community and then say YES to opportunities as they come. Just like every actor that has come before me- and just like Joanna and Stark!
The last time I’d seen Stark was on one of those big fancy stages playing the lead in the musical Kinky Boots. Tonight he mentioned having done 400 performances with that show. Having gained success so early in his career both in the theatre and in film I was definitely taking down notes from him. One interesting point he made was that even as an actor who has made New York City his home-base he always has to be open to job opportunities in other cities.
On being prepared for auditions Stark shared that his process involves getting off-book (learning the lines of the script/scene) before the audition. It helps him to have “lived in the skin of the character for a while”. He makes strong choices for his auditions and then must be malleable to take direction in the room.
In parting I’ll be letting these simple new mantras ring in my head for a while:
MY JOB AS AN ACTOR IS TO AUDITION.
I PAY SERVICE TO THE TEXT.
I LOVE WHAT I DO.