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actor complain

A Little Perspective

This week we’re taking a slight diversion away from our normal “how to” vibe, and treading out into deeper waters.  

If you’ve read the byline below, you know that I’m currently a standby in the NYC Off-Broadway mainstay, The Fantasticks. And since you’ve been following the StageAgent blog religiously, you know that as a standby, I’m often in a Starbucks during most performances (it’s a tough life). Well, circumstances have resulted in me being on for the last couple of weeks as Hucklebee, one of the Fathers in the show.  

Fantaticks logo

My initial response was, “Damn, there goes all my free time.” I mean seriously, I have two guaranteed hours (four on two-show days!) to write, to plan, to concentrate on what’s next, to make a grocery list…you get the idea. As a parent of two small children, time is at a premium. But you may think I’ve completely missed the boat, that I should be elated at having a performing opportunity—and you’d be right, it just took me a couple of days to get here. Well, a couple of days and a close friend who reminded me that performing is always better than not performing, and a wife who said simply to do the job I was hired to do.  

So I’ve been doing the show, and after a few performances, it began to feel comfortable and, dare I say it, enjoyable. I’m truly blessed with a giving, loving, talented cast, who were there for me when I said some…questionable lines…let’s say. Soon I’ll be back to my coffee and protein bistro box (pretentious twit), but for now it’s a blast.

That isn’t to say that it all comes without challenges. There was the stress of being ready, as this was my first time going on in any of the roles I cover. June was a crazy busy month, with school ending for my children, their activities coming to a close (dance class, gymnastics), new activities starting (summer swim team, more gymnastics, theatre camp is coming)—frankly I’m exhausted. And with school ending, I’m the primary caregiver as well, as that lady that makes our lives possible (my wife) works 50-60 hours a week. Caring for the kids is an all-day job, and when I’m relieved of duty at 6:15 pm, then it’s time to go to work!  

I know, I know, poor me—I’m getting somewhere I promise.

A weekend or so back (Pride weekend, I believe), I was walking from the show to my car (I drive on Sundays when the parking is free) when I locked eyes with a woman, probably around my age. I nodded in that weird New Yorker “I’m acknowledging you, but I promise I’m not crazy” way, and kept going, but about ten feet later, I feel her tap my shoulder. She said to me (and all of this is paraphrased to the best I can remember), “Excuse me, but didn’t I see you in The Fantasticks last Saturday? The show was so great!”

I thanked her, and we struck up a short conversation. Her name was Ellen, and she too was an actor. Her family had just come in from Texas, and her mother wanted to see two shows, Les Miserables and The Fantasticks. I remembered the performance she was at, and it was a good show, with a lively, responsive audience.  

We were slightly above Hell’s Kitchen, she lived in the neighborhood. I told her I used to live close by, but moved to New Jersey when my wife and I had our first child. She seemed lovely, genuinely interested in praising the show and chatting with a stranger.  But as we began to say goodbye, she said this, and it practically floored me:

“Well, you’re married, have two kids, a great show to be in, you really are living the dream!”

I swear the blood ran out of my face. I thought, “Wow…if you only knew.”

Look, I preach a lot of positivity and self-love and self-reliance, but let’s be real for a moment. This life is hard. I’ve talked before about the sacrifices and the lack of money and the disappointment and having to pick yourself up over and over and over again…it’s exhausting. And sometimes, maybe even lots of times, we as actors choose to complain. We have to let out these feelings of discouragement. It’s only human, and we aren’t to be punished for it, but it can take over and become our default position.

actor complain

I’ve been super lucky in this career:  two Broadway shows, four National Tours, lots of amazing Regional Theatre—yet somehow I tend to retreat to how little money I’ve made in my lifetime, or how quickly those two shows (which I loved) closed in New York, or how I’m not certain where my path is leading as I get older. Currently, though I’m absolutely proud to be part of the New York theatre tapestry if you will, even my current job can seem like a glass half full. I think it’s a terrific show, with great people and a timeless message, but let’s face it, we’re not Wicked or The Lion King. It can be hard to be a simple, sweet, and sentimental show when you are surrounded by flying monkeys and herds of animals.  

I thanked Ellen, wished her luck and continued to my car, half smiling with gratitude yet shaking my head. “If she only knew… .”

But she does know. It was me who didn’t. Everything she said was absolutely true, and as I repeated this story a few times, I began to realize it myself.  

I’m sure there will come a time…or many times…when I fall back into the old habits of diminishing what I have accomplished. A director friend I love told me once, “You know how New Yorkers survive? They complain. They look at each other across the subway car and say, ‘man, it’s @#$%ing hot outside.’ They take solace in a short of shared misery.” Maybe we as actors do exactly that, we share our misery so it eases the sting, until we can celebrate a new win.  

So for me, a little perspective and a lesson learned. Ellen, if you’re out there, if this message somehow reaches you (go viral troopers, serve your dark Web overlords!), good luck to you again, and thank you for stopping me.  

And also, thank you for stopping me.

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An Ode to Summer Stock

What a feeling! You get that call on your cell phone (back in my day, we had answering services and we liked them…cough, cough, shakes fist at sky…), and you’ve got a job for the summer doing theatre. Someone is ACTUALLY PAYING you to do theatre! What a rush! What a high!

What the hell do you do now?

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This isn’t a nuts and bolts article about subletting your apartment and forwarding your mail, this is more of a “What to expect when you’re expecting to do summer stock” piece. First of all, for the uninitiated, what is summer stock? Stock theatre companies perform several shows over the course of…the summer (I hate myself sometimes). You learn a show, tech it, open it, and the day after you open, you rehearse the next one, while performing the previous one at night. So you are constantly working, either rehearsing, performing, sometimes helping with the stagecraft of it all, maybe even ushering or selling raffle tickets—you can literally do almost anything while you are employed as an “actor” in a summer stock company.  

I mean no disrespect by using quotation marks around our beloved profession, it’s just that we often aren’t asked to do anything other than act. Certainly if you are a union member, you perform, and that’s all that can be required of you. But if you are young and new to the business, there’s nothing wrong with learning as much as you can about what it takes to really run a theatre company. You should know how to hang a light, paint a flat, manage a box office, empty the garbage, press some laundry—these are good life skills! Don’t bemoan them too much if they fall your way; learn from them and take these skills with you wherever you go. And of course you develop such an appreciation for the design team, the tech crew, the management staff, all the people who share the same goal as you—producing the highest-quality theatre you can.

So—what to expect. Let’s start with your arrival at the company. Generally speaking, housing is provided for you, but if you are a non-union actor (and we all were at some point) your living conditions may be…less than ideal. You could (uh, will) have a roommate; you may have two, or even three. You will be sharing a bathroom with a lot of people, which will cause you to wake at ungodly hours of the morning to ensure you have hot water for your shower, or you will make the choice to share your smell with your new friends. If it’s a non-union company, you probably won’t have air conditioning (and maybe not in a union company either). So it’s probably going to be a little less than comfortable.  

Don’t bring everything you own. Keep it as travel-friendly as possible, avoiding any arguments over spatial issues with your new friends. You will be crowded; that’s just how it goes. You’ll need one nice outfit for parties, but beyond that you just need casual and rehearsal clothes. Think like a minimalist; it makes life easier in a communal living environment.

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You’ve shown up, unpacked, and you’re ready to begin rehearsal. In many cases you already know what roles you are playing throughout the summer, but sometimes you don’t. Sometimes producers need to see more of what you can do before they offer you Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street. You may have gotten the job though the Strawhat or Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) combined auditions, and they may only have spent twenty minutes or so with you prior to offering you a job. Occasionally there will be large roles yet to be cast in a big summer stock season, and you have a period of time available to show your best work. Do that.

In a non-union company, rehearsals can be long, but generally speaking most companies adhere to a standard 8- or 9-hour day, at least until tech begins. Many companies, even if non-union, adhere to the union guidelines for breaks and meals (5-minute break every 55 minutes or 10 minutes every 80; 1 hour for lunch, 90 minutes or more for dinner). And they often adopt the union rules leading into a performance, which can vary a little but generally mandate a specific period of time before the half hour evening call, to allow for meals, rest, and preparation.

You learn the first show, go through that baptism of fire known as tech, have an opening night party and you are rewarded with…another show to learn.  

In the beginning of the stock season, this will be so exciting. You CANNOT WAIT to get to the next show, do something different, show your wide range as a performer. But you never know how it’s all going to turn out—maybe the new director doesn’t notice how wonderful you are. Or maybe you’re allergic to the mold in the house and you’ve now got the bubonic plague that will last 3 months. Or maybe you don’t do very much in the new show. Maybe you hate the choreography. Maybe you’ve been overlooked for a good role…again…but you trudge honorably to the next show, and the next.

And then comes summer stock’s dirty little secret—CHILDREN’S THEATRE!!!!

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With all due respect to children’s theatre, it’s not why anyone came to work for any stock company. It is however, an absolute necessity to the health and vitality of the theatre, and for the cultivation of future audiences and performers. This kind of theatre is very inexpensive, entirely profitable, and the lifeblood of many stock companies. Unfortunately, it’s also the annoying uncle who won’t go home. You rehearse it around the mainstage schedule (meaning on your limited off time, usually after a mainstage performance). As if you weren’t exhausted enough, you have this to contend with. But contend you must. These may be your largest roles all summer, you’d better try to enjoy them. And at the end of the day, you’re going to be making lots of children laugh and scream, and as a parent, I’ll tell you there’s nothing better.

So you endure, because that’s the job. There’s good stuff coming down the pike, you can feel it. West Side Story is only two shows away, and you know they’re going to cast you as Anita. You just know it! All you have to do is finish the run of the show you don’t really like, then get through the next show that you truly can’t stand and won’t be doing very much in, and take out the garbage and paint the scenery and settle the disputes in your cast house (because you have been elected House Mom), and your reward awaits!

Hopefully. The truth is, who really knows? You just keep grinding away. You fall in love with someone, or maybe even a couple of someones, you get your heart broken, you break one in return. You don’t really learn to be an actor, but you can learn to be a professional. You serve the theatre, your friends, your employers, the Gods above. And then one day, likely in August, it ends, and you each go your separate ways. Some of the people you’ve met, you’ll never see again, and that will be okay. Some you will remember fondly. A few will become your lifelong friends.

embrace the moment

Stock is hard. Some actors do it once and never pursue it again. But it can also be so, so rewarding. My closest friends in life, I met through stock. I went through major life changes, including the loss of a parent, while working in summer stock. Those people were there for me, and I love them all to this day. I met my wife there. We’ve been married for nearly sixteen years and have two amazing children. There’s a perfect tree in this town where we worked, the kind of tree you’d see drawn in a children’s book. I think about it all the time. I don’t really know why, but I imagine my ashes scattered there when I’m gone, a tribute to the place and the people that helped me grow up, helped me find my way.  

I hope the same experience for you.

Photo credit: BoB Knapp.

New Editor Joins StageAgent

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Photo credit: BoB Knapp.

“Welcome to StageAgent!” A few weeks ago, that was the subject of a very anticipated email.

Hi. I’m Laura Ware, the new editor for StageAgent, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Let me share a little about myself.

I’m a performer and acting teacher living in Astoria, Queens, New York, a quick subway ride away from Times Square and Broadway!

I’m originally from the Los Angeles area in Southern California, so I swapped one coast for the other and I love both. I attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting and following that I got my Master of Fine Arts in Musical Theater from San Diego State University. I spent many years working around California on the Civic Light Opera circuit, working my way up from the ensemble in shows like Carousel to supporting roles in Oliver! and 42nd Street to leads in Annie, Me and My Girl, and Nunsense.

I’ve been living here in New York for about 9 years, ever since I finished a 2-year run on the road with the Second National Tour of Mamma Mia! when I was lucky enough to play the delightful role of Rosie, singing my favorite ABBA songs from my youth every night and clowning around on stage in sparkly red spandex! We toured the United States, Mexico, and Canada, and I had the opportunity not just to perform but to make lifelong friends and connect with audience members of all ages during that amazing time!

Mamma Mia! Second National Tour 2006. (L to R) Laura Ware, Lisa Mandel, Laurie Wells. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.
Mamma Mia! Second National Tour 2006. (L to R) Laura Ware, Lisa Mandel, Laurie Wells. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

Once I finished my run in Mamma Mia!, I decided it was time to try out New York, so I arrived with a couple of suitcases and my computer case. I love living here! I love public transportation, having so many iconic places to visit, the fabulous places to eat, and access to so many shows to see–big and small. I haven’t yet hit the Broadway performing dream, but as a character actor, I still have lots of time. Ironically, most of my early work here in New York was in television–crazy since all I did in LA was theater. But I keep busy auditioning and singing in the occasional cabaret and working as an acting coach at a local non-profit New York conservatory, in addition to my new gig here at StageAgent.

An actor often must have many jobs to support themselves in this crazy acting business, and I have had my share: substitute teacher, pet sitter, marketing and promotions assistant, discount ticket distributor, audition monitor, babysitter, musical theater teacher, PowerPoint designer, acting coach, temp everything, office manager, medical proofreader and copy editor, developmental editor, and grant writer. I’ve worked in large corporate settings to freelancing all alone at home. But now I get to take my bread and butter “day job” in the editorial field and marry it to my love of theater as the new editor of StageAgent. It’s so exciting to be able to justify my student loans again!

In the two short weeks since I started at StageAgent, my head is spinning with all the exciting things we have planned! My primary goal is to keep bringing our readers new and exciting Show Guides and guest Blog posts, and to expand our song and monologue database to give you, the StageAgent user, more amazing tools to utilize as you pursue acting, singing, teaching, directing, and more!

See you around!

 

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Call for Show Guide Writers

Apply Now Button For Work Job ApplicationAt StageAgent.com, we are on a quest to inform, guide and improve the lives of performing artists. But in order to succeed, we need your help! StageAgent.com has multiple openings for part-time content specialists to write original show guides about musicals, plays and operas. You should be an excellent writer with expert-level knowledge about Broadway musicals,  straight plays and/or operas, including extensive industry and/or academic experience. This is a part-time, work-from-home position. We are open to hiring the right experts regardless of your geographic location.

Job duties:

  • Write detailed study guides for musicals, plays and operas including context, plot summaries, character analyses and other information.
  • Classify monologues and songs by category, genre, vocal range and other criteria.
  • Assist with product testing
  • Help promote StageAgent content via your personal social media channels.
  • Mentor interns

Required qualifications:

  • Extensive experience working in the theatre industry either as a performer or on the production side.
  • Strong musical abilities with the ability to easily classify character vocal ranges.
  • Strong research and writing capabilities.
  • Access to source materials via a music or drama library or personal collection.
  • College degree
  • Flexible schedule with 5-10 hours per week to work for StageAgent
  • Other primary source of income. *StageAgent writers are paid a fee per completed guide

To Apply:

Submit your resume and cover letter to jobs@stageagent.com.

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StageAgent is Looking for an Editor

quill-pen-and-ink-well-with-paper-scroll_My4FZuIu_LAt StageAgent we LOVE theatre. We are actors, directors and teachers who are on a quest to use technology to inform, guide and improve the lives of performing artists.

But in order to succeed, we need your help! This is a part-time, work-from-home position.

 

Job duties:

  • Edit show guides
  • Recruit, train and manage a team of writers and interns
  • Write analyses and context for songs, monologues and author bios
  • Manage the StageAgent blog including recruiting interesting bloggers, editing,writing and publishing posts.
  • Evangelize StageAgent to the theatre community by posting regularly to social media and participating in meetings with thought leaders.
  • Create web copy, video demos and marketing documents to educate users about StageAgent’s features.
  • Assist with research, new feature development and testing.

Required qualifications:

  • Extensive performing and/or directing experience
  • Excellent writing and research skills
  • A ‘people person’ with a large network within the theatre community
  • Strong leadership and organizational skills
  • Marketing and social media skills
  • Strong musicianship abilities
  • College degree
  • Flexible schedule with roughly 20 hours per week to dedicate to StageAgent
  • Live in the United States

To Apply:

Submit your resume and cover letter to jobs@stageagent.com.

 

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