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What Are You Passionate About

What are you passionate about

What are you Passionate About

What are you passionate about?  Makes you think, doesn’t it?  I knew exactly what I wanted to do at a very young age.  I wanted to dance.  There were no ifs, ands or buts about it.  It was very clear, never a doubt or question in my mind.

Why?…because I was able to escape when I was dancing.  On the outside it certainly didn’t seem I needed to flee from anything, but as I recall I was escaping myself.  I was a very shy, insecure child.  I could become someone else while I was dancing, someone confident and assured and beautiful.  There was nothing else I wanted to do.

Ahh youth…

But, there were definitely some set-backs.  One stands out more prominently than the rest.  When I was about 11 or 12 I was at a ballet camp one summer in Champlain Illinois and I auditioned for a scholarship for their full time school (sort of like a performing arts school, but strictly for ballet dancers).  After the audition I was presented with a partial scholarship.  My mother was very displeased.  She promptly marched up to the Artistic Director and asked why not a full scholarship as she was clearly the best dancer in the room (an unbiased opinion, I’m sure)?  He excused himself for a few minutes and upon his return he handed her a letter with the answer to her question.   It said in a nutshell that I would never make it as a ballet dancer because my hips were too big and my neck was too short.  That I would never make any audition passed the body type cut, meaning that I did not have the perfect ballet dancer’s body.  My parents, after much anguish, decided that I should see said letter.  At the time we were driving back to Ohio and I couldn’t believe what I was reading.  My dream was being shattered right before my eyes.  I wept the whole ride home and for the next few days.

Ultimately what that letter did was made me even more adamant in my pursuit of becoming the next Gelsey Kirkland.   So, I picked myself up and went back to class determined to prove him wrong!  And did I?…No, but it certainly didn’t stop me from trying!  I danced with the Cleveland Ballet all through High School, but I wasn’t satisfied.  My dream was to dance with one of the major New York City Ballet companies and I wasn’t going to stop until I did, or so I thought.

I graduated High School early and in April of the year I turned 17 I asked my parents if I could move to New York City to pursue a career in Ballet.  They were not thrilled, but were 100% supportive.  They agreed it was something I had to do and off I went.  And, oh yeah, did I mention they had a backup plan?  If I hadn’t started supporting myself in 6 months they were dragging me back home and sending me off to college.

So, this brings up a good point.  Is it the parent’s job to prepare us for failure, or do they let their children fly on their own and allow them to have their own experiences?  After all everybody has a different path.  How could parents possibly predict with any accuracy how things will turn out for someone else.

I truly believe my parents did the right thing, one by letting me read that letter and two not telling me their backup plan.  I think that might’ve put doubt in my otherwise foolproof plan of getting off the plane in New York City and immediately being discovered by Balanchine!  So, off to New York City I went and never looked back.  When we landed I hit the ground running.  I surrounded myself with creative people who all wanted what I wanted.  My days were spent in class honing my craft to within an inch of its life.  My mother used to say to me, ‘If you’re not the best in class what’s the point”.  I took those words to heart.  I was at the top of my “game”.

So, as I mentioned before that Artistic Director just happened to be right, but when that door closed many more opened!  I had to expand my “game” to suit the jobs I was being offered.  I was asked to do things I’d never done before and never knew I wanted until the challenge presented itself.

Never tell me that I can’t do something as I will do everything in my power to do exactly that.  I spent my days studying each and every new art form being asked of me so that when I went into an audition I was as confident as I could possibly be.  Don’t get me wrong I had many flaws, but I worked diligently to improve and or conceal them!

My creative desire was exploding and I was being offered opportunities I never dreamed possible.   My passion had changed course, but it was more than I could’ve ever dreamed of!

The morale of that story is, if there’s something you want to do by all means go out and do it, don’t wait.  After all what are you waiting for?  Take chances.  No fear!  My theory is that fear is something that other people have convinced you of.  It’s their unsure, insecure feelings that they project on to you.

Wipe the slate clean and take one baby step at a time, just like we did when we were kids, and face that fear head on.  Don’t be afraid to look inside yourself and find what you really want in life.  If it seems the real you is buried a bit too deep try thinking about what you used to play when you were a kid.  What you used to fantasize about back when we could be whatever we wanted to be.  Before we knew what rejection and failure was.  Before we let other people’s opinions distort our own view of ourselves.  Trust your instinct.

A while back I read a book about an Indian tribe who when raising their children never hovered.  They stayed back and observed.  They only involved themselves when they were needed.  The idea is to allow the child to listen to its own instincts.  If the parent is always telling the child what to watch out for and when, then the child stops listening and trusting his own natural instinct.

Fast forward to the present…it actually does feel like it all happened in fast motion…but I now find myself without all of that ‘passion’ and excitement in my life.  I’m comfortable and have a beautiful family that I adore.  I am thoroughly enjoying experiencing life through my son’s eyes.

So I go back to the original question, what am I passionate about?  Do I have to be head over heels about something in order to be fulfilled?  My passion isn’t as overwhelming as it was when I was young, but I know it’s still there.  Or maybe it’s possible my ‘passion’ isn’t all about me anymore.  Maybe I’m looking outside myself instead of embracing what I already have.  What comes to mind is my Meisner acting technique and the one phrase that was repeated over and over again in class, “Be in the moment”, four simple words, but oh so hard to accomplish.

what are you passionate aboutwhat are you passionate about

 

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The Biz

The Biz

The Biz

The question I am asked most often is, do I miss the business.  It’s never an easy one for me to answer because it varies depending on the day’s events.  And it usually makes me a little uncomfortable.  That is to say, I’m not sure my answer will satisfy them, but here it goes.

There are so many things I miss.  Here are just a few;

  • My friends and the camaraderie that exists due to the nature of the business.  When you’re working life’s great, when you’re not life’s not so great, and it’s back to the old grind stone.
  • Performing.  There’s nothing like performing for an audience (or a camera for that matter).
  • That feeling in my stomach just before a performance.
  • The extreme highs that used to make my heart flutter.
  • The artistry and the creativity of making a character my own.
  • And believe it or not, the challenge.  I always did like a challenge.  Don’t ever tell me I can’t do something, because I’ll do everything in my power to prove you wrong!
  • And, of course, getting paid nicely for doing what I love and what comes oh so naturally to me and would do for free (although, don’t tell the producers that last part)!

So, yes I guess the short answer is yes.

But when my son came along my priorities changed drastically.  It used to be all about me.  Now it’s all about him and nurturing this perfect little mini person as I think nature intended.  And he’s the only one I got so it’s got to be perfect.  I don’t get another chance.  I can’t put into words how exciting it is to witness all of his amazing achievements.  I wouldn’t want anybody else to experience them, but me!

Sure I have my moments of missing “The Biz”, but I would miss my son way more!

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Commercial Anyone

Commercial Anyone

commercial anyone

Passat commercial

There I am running like an overloaded bridge and tunnel fool down that extraordinarily long Port Authority hallway, only to be inches away from the door when the bus pulls away.   I had just come from a commercial audition in which my character perspired excessively.  As I watched the bus pull away with sweat dripping out of every pore of my body I thought to myself, this would’ve been perfect for the audition!

I know what you’re thinking, how embarrassing right?  But at this point very little makes me uncomfortable.  Some of the commercials I audition for these days would make a Lady of the Evening blush.

I’ve been doing commercials for about 30 years.  I shot my first one when I was 18 for a fast food restaurant (not sure if this is like Wheel of Fortune and I’m not allowed to mention the actual product, so to protect the innocent I won’t).  I moved to New York as a dancer, but I was shooting commercials before I did my first Broadway Show!

I am exceedingly grateful for commercials, they got me through in between shows.  It sure beat waiting tables, which I sucked at.  My first job was at the Brew and Burger in Times Square and they promptly fired me within hours of being hired merely because I spilled a couple of plates of food on the patrons.  Now I ask you, is that a good reason to fire someone?  Okay, I guess it is if your job is to serve the people food, not dress them with it.

It’s funny how the products change as I age.  I can remember the days of hair products and beer commercials like it was yesterday.  Now it’s eyeglasses and fiber for me.  How did that happen?

At this audition today I happen to notice some cellophane (like Saran Wrap) around the camera and I started to ask the casting director what it was for when I noticed that it was actually covering the lens.  Ouch!  He, very gingerly, explained “It softens the image and is designed to make you look…pretty” (what he meant was “not old”).

Auditioning is a lot tougher these days since we moved out of the city.  A commercial audition used to take about an hour out of my day, door to door!  Now, for that five minute audition, it’s more like three hours.  And that’s without traffic!  Not to mention negotiating the timing so I can get back before my son gets off the school bus and I have to be at the studio.

But, I still love it.  I’ve retired from everything else in the Business so when I shoot a commercial it’s like the old Elisa’s back, only with a few more wrinkles and a lot of hair dye!

Commercial Anyone?

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So You Want to Be a Working Actor?

So You Want to be a working Actor?

The most important thing an actor should have is an arsenal of material to perform at the ready. You need a rehearsed and polished sample of every style of song and or monologue (classical, contemporary, funny, and serious) ready to perform at all times.

So you want to be a working actor

Your 2nd most important tool is a fantastic headshot. It is your business card. If you are under the age of 16 you should not spend a lot on pictures because your appearance will change. You will probably need new shots taken every year. However, if you are an adult, this is where you are going to want to spend a little money. A really good headshot is very important. Your photo is the initial meeting you have with agents and casting directors so it needs to make a good and lasting impression on them. It must be the best representation of you and your personality.

You should find a photographer who specializes in headshots for actors. Look at their book. Do their shots jump out at you? Look at the eyes, are they saying something? If not, find another photographer. Once you have picked a photographer they should be able to tell you what to wear that will photograph the best. And for a woman, they should have a make up artist available for you (about $150 extra, but well worth it). Make sure you have a couple of different looks, commercial & musical theatre, (usually smiling), a serious shot for TV and film, and possibly a business shot (for adults).

Once you get the photographs done, the hard part is picking 2 or 3 of your favorite shots. You may want to get some different opinions from friends, family and anyone you know in the industry. You do want to look your best, but make sure you look like your picture so the people you are auditioning for are not surprised or shocked when you walk in the room.

When you have made your choice of shots, take them to a reputable reproduction shop. My recommendation is Reproductions in midtown Manhattan because they will know exactly what to do. You will have a few options to choose from you can do a composite shot so you have all your different looks on one 8×10 or separate shots with your different looks (commercial, theatre and TV and film). Make copies of whichever ones you decide on. Believe it or not some auditioners still ask for a hard copy of your picture and resume.  It’s something you should have on you at all times.  Never leave home without it!  You will also have the option of putting your resume directly on the back of the shots (which could be a problem if you want to add or change your resume) or you can just staple your resume to the back of your headshot.

When writing your resume, it should be in a 3 column format. If you have access to the resume of a working actor, copy their format. Otherwise here are the instructions in a nutshell. Your name should be centered along with your contact info below it. You want to list your show categories in the first column, the role you played in the 2nd, and where it was done in the 3rd. You do the same for film and any television. At the bottom of the page list your training, vocal range, dialects you have perfected and any special skills. Be concise as possible. You do not want to bore them!

Make yourself a website with video of all your acting gigs.  You’ll want to put all of your different looks on there as well. Be as specific as you can as you are selling yourself as the perfect actor for the job!  Be creative as well, just like a headshot you want your website to stand out from everybody else’s.

Now you can call yourself a professional actor. All you have to do is get the job!  How do you do that?  You spend every waking moment studying and honing your craft!

So you want to be a working actor?

 

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