Art is awesome. I love making art. All I’ve ever wanted to do was tell stories, the kind that help us examine the human experience. That’s what I believe acting to be, particularly in the theatre. Now from a working actor’s perspective, reality has to come into play. You want to do stage work, it’s your passion, but do you remember all the times someone in your past told you that “there’s no money in theatre”? I hate to break it to you, but that person was right. But there’s a way to survive. You can act for a living. But to me, the only way to do it, is by using ALL of the mediums that are out there beyond the stage.
Should you be an understudy, a standby, a swing? It’s kind of a vague question, but usually the undercurrent there is that once you become known as a reliable cover, you’ll be an understudy forever. You could ask Shirley MacLaine, Anthony Hopkins, Bernadette Peters, Taye Diggs, Matthew Morrison, or Lea Michelle; they all started out as understudies and moved on to exceptional careers. But let’s backtrack a little, what’s the actual difference in these special stage roles? Each of these positions holds its own unique advantages and challenges.
Standing on the stage of the Richard Rodgers Theatre, after a quiet Sunday matinee of Hamilton, I looked out into the gilded, empty house, and thought, “What would Hamilton think of ALL THIS?”
My first night in town I waited at the stage door to ride the train home with a friend in the cast. I thought to myself, “Why is there a fifty year old man standing in a planter box waiting for a glimpse of these people he doesn’t even know? Why are people screaming SO loudly? WHY CAN’T I JUST WALK ON THE SIDEWALK!?” I’d never seen a stage door so reminiscent of a Hollywood red carpet. And they’re all here to watch a play.
I have found, both in my life as a creative and in my career in casting that there are two kinds of people: those who love auditioning and those that would rather eat glass, but know they must audition in order to work. Either way, auditioning is a necessary evil, if you want to be a professional actor. There is just no way around it. If you are a person who loves auditioning, consider yourself blessed.