Typing It Out

Today I nearly reached my limit.

I wouldn’t exactly say that it’s my current aspiration to tour with a non-union musical throughout Asia this summer, but I nonetheless woke up early and dragged my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed self to the Legally Blonde audition this morning.  I arrived around 7:45am, more than two hours before the audition was scheduled to begin, and yet… I was number 260 on the “unofficial list.”  For those of you lucky enough to be unacquainted with audition procedures, non-equity actors (read: me and hundreds of other hopefuls) sign up maddeningly early at auditions (especially those set for equity members).  The first to arrive starts a list of names, usually on a ripped out sheet of binder paper.  The most infuriating thing, however, is that these horrendous, maniacal beasts of the dawn have somehow created conniving cliques reminiscent of high school.  And not only do they occupy most of the physical space available with their rolling suitcases and caboodles of makeup, they sign up ALL of their friends on this aforementioned unofficial list.

Do you dance?

Therefore, a torrential wave of prodding, crazy-eyed actors is able to descend upon EVERY audition available in New York City.  The unofficial list is not usually honored at equity auditions, so it does require being present to actually sign up on the “official” list, but enough of these daft and loud-mouthed divas are usually commanding the lowly non-equity folk to remain IN ORDER OR ELSE.

Today somehow promised the dream of a non-stressful audition.  A non-union tour.  In Asia.  So in theory, we should all be seen, yadayadayada.  As I stated, 7:45am… and number 260.  That’s ridiculous.  By 9:00am, the list was nearly to 400, and the Ripley-Grier Studio staff was starting to complain about the noise level coming from the holding room.  Or maybe the real problem was that the holding room was only about 300 square feet.   FOR 400 PEOPLE?  Jackets, suitcases, binders, headshots, heels, mirrors, lipsticks and droves of hopefuls spilled out to the hallway, down the staircase and into the elevator vestibule.  It was absolute hell.  I was lucky enough to be one of the first through the door when the studio space opened, so I snagged a nice spot in a chair and set to working on reviewing my script for The Ride (Sidenote: I am hosting this weekend!)

I maintained a cool composure the entire time I sat there – but in my head… well, what started as positive mantras started to morph into a murderous chant against any that so much as glanced at me.  Sweet hellos like, “I really like your hair color!” translated through my brain as “I’M GONNA STEAL YOUR SONG BITCH” and observed smiles between reunited friends read to me as “LET’S FUCK UP ALL THESE OTHER WHORES BY SPILLING THEIR BARE ESCENTUALS POWDER ON THEIR NYLONS.”  The number of bodies in the room became unmeasurable, and yet the radiator pumped steaming air into the crowded, airless room.  A young woman with stringy hair and arm acne squeezed onto the floor beside my chair and next to her friend and I couldn’t help but be completely distracted by the dirty scent emanating from her presence.  You know what I’m talking about, like she had been wearing the same outfit for the last week or so.  Dirty.  Oh god gag in my mouth.  Another constant distraction for me was a pair of odd-looking identical twins that sat on the floor together, one was clearly the actress and the other was there for moral support.  I say this because the ‘actress’ was wearing a hot-pink bejeweled dress that I’m nearly certain was from the 1999 Jessica McClintock collection and the other was pocked with acne scars and sat listening to music on a Walkman.  Yes, a WALKMAN.  But the disturbing thing was that they were holding hands the entire time and kept whispering into each others’ ears.  It was seriously so creepy that I snuck a picture on my iPhone, but I decided against posting it in this blog.  Do you think that identical twins that are obsessed with each other are narcissistic?

The other standard musical theater audition stereotypes were there… dozens of ditzy blonde young things, a handful of flamboyant gay black men, crews of mousy-haired and overweight men and women that haven’t yet gotten the message they NEED to purchase clothes in the correct size, three straight guys, and of course… a lot of people like me.  The ones that were not running their mouth about AMDA or previous Summerstock gigs were silently fuming  Teeth were starting to slightly bare and everyone firmly maintained control over their reserved physical space in the holding room.

Just after 10am, a message was passed down through the trenches similar to a children’s game of Telephone.  “They’re typing!”  Typing, for those of you lucky enough to be unaquainted with audition procedures, means a quick review of headshots and resumes to determine who will actually be given the chance to sing for the casting directors.  “They’re lining everyone up in the room and you have to tell them what part you want!” shouted a bright-eyed young man who proclaimed he was a Taurus and ‘what did everyone expect’ shortly thereafter.  (I didn’t understand that.)  “Shit!” I thought, and quickly pulled out my mirror to apply eyeliner and mascara before I was to be judged on my appearance.  And that’s what happened.  About 100 of us at a time lined up in snaking line in the audition room and dropped our headshot in front of the casting director, quickly saying the name of the character we wanted to be.  IMMEDIATE JUDGMENT.  So that’s what happened… when I got to the table, I smiled, said “Vivian,” and the casting director resolutely placed my headshot in the much taller pile (clearly the ‘no’ pile).  And moments later, they read the list of those that should remain.  My name was not called.

Myself and the other rejects gathered our things and left the building.  Part of me was so unbelievably glad I didn’t have to wait the rest of the day to audition, and yet part of me was just… bummed.  But guess what?  I’d rather stay in NYC this summer.  Asia does not have Governor’s Island, lots of free concerts, summer biergartens, backyard grilling, and… The RIDE!  😉

Another day, another experience, another reminder that life is certainly interesting, to say the least.

Is There Life On Mars?

Is there recession in outer space?  Well the National Bureau of Economic Research finally agreed with most Americans today, declaring that the nation has been in a recession since last December.  A year late in acknowledgment, but thanks for the heads up.  

On a lighter note, I am gearing up for my first Broadway audition tomorrow morning: Mamma Mia!  This was the second musical I ever saw, and it blew me away after being obsessed with ABBA for a number of my pre-teen years.  I am thrilled to meet up with two friends from my musical improv class as we, the three mighty non-equity actors, attempt to be seen in a see of headshots.  In an attempt to fill the “contemporary pop song” requested for the audition, I have finally decided to go with David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” as my audition piece.  Of course, they will only ask for about 30 seconds of music, but I am looking forward to singing 16 bars of an obscure 70’s classic.  Now I just have to pick out an appropriate outfit…

Facing Reality

Our country is going through a crisis right now.  Whether or not our leaders choose to use the term “recession,” the people of this nation are feeling the sheer strain of a troubled economy.  Businesses and banks are failing, prices are rising, jobs are being lost.  There seems to be no end to the troubles we face.  I have been neglecting Ash in the City for the last few weeks, trying to ignore life and the reality I am lost in.  Two weeks ago, I got the call from my employer that my job was being cut.  It was completely unexpected.  My boss explained that the financial crisis had trickled down to our newsletter, resulting in fewer subscribers and the need to reduce costs.  After working at The Nilson Report for 20 months, I was jobless with a five-minute phone call.  

Luckily, my brother Travis was in town, and he (and a few fantastic friends) made sure I numbed the pain with the comfort of a night out.  As painful as it is, I know this is for the best.  I moved to New York with the intention of performing.  Singing, acting, dancing… whatever.  I took an improv class and fell in love.  I met a brilliant group of friends to perform with, and expanded my comedy interests to sketch, musical improv, and solo work.  Now that I am unemployed, I am taking this as a sign to get off the chair in front of my computer, and get out to wait in line for auditions.  In the next few weeks, I have plans to hit up a variety of Broadway auditions, including Mamma Mia!, the new musical Spiderman, Mary Poppins, and Avenue Q.  Of course, I am frantically searching for another form of income in the meantime, but it feels good to know that there is the smallest fraction of hope for me to actually make it in the activity I love most.  Ever since my Mom took me to see Rent on my 16th birthday, my dream has been to be on that stage, capturing the attention of everyone in the theater.

I am now forced to rethink my lifestyle.  Of course, the cost of my rent cannot be adjusted, but I can make other small changes to live a little easier.  Today, I headed to Astoria and bought a bike I found on craigslist, for the same cost of a monthly subway pass.  Of course, I had to get a high-quality lock to ensure my bike is not stolen, so that cost another chunk of change.  But I am looking forward to saving a little green and living a little greener by riding my new (old) Schwinn.  No more gym membership, cutting back on the Netflix (I can’t COMPLETELY give it up!), and no more beers with the boys (that one is hard).  

The holiday season is arriving, and I am struggling to conceive gift-giving and flying Marcel back to California with me.  Even Marcel is sporting a new pet bed… a free vintage suitcase from craigslist!  The one thing that gives me complete peace of mind is the notion that I will soon be at home with my very best friends, my family.  December 20th will be the start of a much-needed vacation.  But for now, I am living one day at a time and praying for the best as I pursue a new start.  I think I may even need to start up the Know York series again… this time on my bicycle, and this time under $5!

Just another Manic Monday

Yeah.  Hello.   Hi, I’m alive.

Honestly, when I don’t write in this blog, the anticipation of my next entry and the realization that I have more and more to write just builds and builds until I have absolutely no drive to sit down and update this here thing.
But here I am.  
I have got a lot going on these days.  It feels good to be busy.  Looking at my last update, I mentioned that I had just gone to an audition and gotten a callback.  Well, I went to two more auditions and ended up getting a part in the musical. (I actually ran into 50 Cent in the hallway of the audition location – yeah, he was casting for his new movie.)  If you want to check out the website of “Nudists in Love” (my musical – not 50 Cent’s movie), you can read about the show and the awesome people putting it all together.  Rehearsals start tomorrow, and the show goes up in August as a part of the NYC Fringe Festival (one of New York’s finest Scottish imports).  

Which leads me to my Tuesday night conflicts with our rehearsals: my new Tuesday night gig at Upright Citizens Brigade.  Yup, I mentioned it here in my last entry, but since then I have worked two fantastic Harold nights and met some wonderful people at the theater.  The internship translates to two free classes at UCB, which I am using for my Sketch 101, and most likely, Sketch 201 classes.  My job on Tuesday nights entails prepping the theater for the show, selling tickets in the box office, checking tickets as patrons enter the theater, and cleaning it all up just after midnight.  It’s a pretty good gig, considering it also allows me free admission to any show at the theater, even if it’s sold out.  Yeah, it’s tough work (especially after working eight hours during the day), but I feel I’m just putting in my dues before I really make it big.  (Only half joking here.)

In other improv news, our sketch/improv group “The Knife Parade” recently went through an identity crisis and renamed ourselves “The Karate Parade.”  One of our members used to be a knife salesman and is now teaching karate to kids, so our group’s moniker seems to be following his career path.  Henceforward, I will refer to it here as “TKP.”  So, TKP enjoyed a fun show last Saturday, opening up for a group called “Sherpa” with another group called “Kape.”  We had a great turnout and a pretty awesome show, so we are stoked for our next public appearance, this Friday at Gotham City Improv with “Bombardo.”  If you’re in the NYC area, you should check it out: 7/18 10pm, 48 W 21st St., 8th floor, $6, BYOB.
What else is new…. hmm… 

I’m going to be moving down to the East Village next month with my pal, Brooke – though we are still anxiously awaiting confirmation from our management company that our application was accepted.  I have been neglecting covering the topic in my blog for my amateurish fear of jinxing the place.  It’s beautiful.  Great big living space, beautiful exposed brick, a TUB, great neighborhood.  Couldn’t ask for much more.  I’m ready for a change from my current location in the Upper East Side.   Brian will be moving up to a nice apartment in Harlem, to live with his fellow theater friend from Palo Alto.  I think we are both ready to escape the incessant construction, loud traffic, and cheap frat boys that litter our ever-decomposing block.  Wow, do I sound a little jaded?  I think I have just finally found my calling as an East Village punk (see Cyndi Lauper at right.)  Too bad I already let my monroe piercing grow in… I would have fit right in!  I’m having remorse.
Have you ever been to Chelsea Market?  I popped in Saturday afternoon to enjoy some free A/C and feast my eyes on restaurant equipment… but MAN oh man – they have some top quality produce in that joint.  If you’re in need of some veggies and fruits, head over there and spend a fraction of the cost.  You wouldn’t expect the prices to be so affordable, given the ultra modern architecture and factory-turned-trendy interior design, but they had a wide variety of amazingly fresh and organic ingredients for CHEAP.  Check it out.

The last note I will end with today (though I have SO much more to cover) are some thoughts on my new Sketch class at Upright Citizens Brigade.  I’m currently in the second week of 101 with Dominic Dierkes (he’s got some fantastically funny videos with his sketch group Derrick).  My most recent sketch involved a heterosexual man’s experience of “coming out” to his gay Dads, and was pretty well received by my teacher and the rest of the class.  This week, our assignment is to write a “character” sketch, or an SNL-type sketch which utilizes the funny philosophy or “game” of a character in any given situation.  Think Chris Farley as the “Motivational Speaker”  (in a van down by the river!)  So if you have any brilliant ideas for a character you’d like to see incorporated into a sketch, please be my muse and comment!
Peace out – enjoy the sun and humidity, NYC.

Closing Time…

… for the weekend, that is.

What a beautiful spring we’re enjoying here! New York City has truly transformed into a bright and blossoming landscape. Last Thursday evening offered temperatures in the seventies that put most New Yorkers outside, enjoying the first glimpse of warmer times ahead. I know I’ve said this many times before, but I just love that New Yorkers never take a beautiful day for granted. If the sun is peeking through the clouds, or temperatures reflect the slightest imitation of summer – Yankees are out and about, enjoying the day. I had a lovely weekend: improv show on Friday, a trip to the Union Square Greenmarket, some spring cleaning, a night out with friends, lots of cooking, and a Woody Allen film to finish it up. Not bad!

And in other news… I thought I would share with you some [exciting] news in my life. Last week, I attended an open call for the National Tour of Spelling Bee (the musical). That day, I was asked to come back for a second audition the following day, and yesterday was informed that they would like me to audition in front of the producer and director for a third, and final, audition. I thought about writing on this experience last week, to keep you in tune with my “attempts at Broadway,” but I was too superstitious and couldn’t risk jinxing my chances. The last audition is next Monday, a week from tomorrow, so I have some time to physically and mentally prepare myself. I felt a little jilted at Tuesday’s callback… nervous and insecure. After realizing that my anxiety affected my performance, I firmly decided to be completely prepared for next week’s audition. I’m looking forward to showing them my improv skills, as they are a big part of the audition (one of the only musicals that incorporates improv)! I’ll update accordingly, I promise.

Okay, I’m exhausted and need to get in bed. Oh look, it’s 12:49 AM. Happy Monday.