break the mold, make spaghetti, and join the a-list.
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, but I’ve just been that busy. Busy in a good way, of course. I’m finally getting the hang of things and I am becoming more and more confident taking on the responsibilities that come with the projects that I’m assigned to.
I was inspired to share a conversation that I had with an actor friend this past week over being pigeon-holed, type, and the kind of work that actors get vs. the kind of work the actors want to get.
This particular friend got into theatre because a lifetime of dance training was only going to add up to a lifetime in the corps de ballet…and she needed more than that. We can all relate to that. I can relate to that! Heck, that’s why I’m in casting! But what do you do when you’re perceived only as a dancer? (or singer, actor, contortionist, cheerleader — anything and everything is considered a “triple threat” these days)
You build relationships.
First of all, embrace your training. There’s a reason you’re good at what you’re good at. There’s a reason that you’re cast in the dance ensemble. Obviously, the reason is that you’re trained and you’re killer. Understand that your forte is going to get you in the door and there is nothing wrong with that. In order to break out of that, though, it is important that you build relationships with the creative team and let them get to know you. Once a director (or casting director, choreographer, producer, etc.) gets to know all about you and that kind of stuff you want to do - they will keep you in mind for future projects.
Being on the other side of the table doesn’t mean that your friends are suddenly not your friends. Believe me, directors bring along the artists that they enjoy working with. A successful creative team has done more than one show together, that’s how you build a successful creative team. Likewise, a successful ensemble of actors is going to be compromised of people that the the creative team already knows will be successful. This isn’t to say that a fresh-faced, one-year-out-of-school actor doesn’t have a shot getting cast - there’s always that possibility, but I’m saying that within an ensemble, there’s always going to be the handful of people that the director has prior experience with. As the newcomer, you need to aspire to become one of those actors.
Look at the ensemble of If/Then. 75% of the ensemble is made up of actors who have already worked with the writers. You have alums from Next to Normal (similar) and Bring It On (um. not similar. I mean, I don’t really know because I don’t see I/T until next month, but it’s an educated assumption) and I’ll bet they didn’t just saunter in and land the part, clearly Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey have enjoyed working with these actors who throw forks and throw people enough to put them in their new project.
Basically, what I’m saying is that you might be a cheerleader one day and singing with IDINA MEZEL, ANTHONY RAPP, LA CHANZE, JENN COLELLA, ETC. the next. You never know. It’s all about who knows you. It’s about the impression that you make. It’s about building relationships and friendships so that the people who like you will market you. I’ve heard agents market for their talent time and time again, saying things like, “she’s ready to create a role” or “she’s ready to do a play”. And in my own office, I have become familiar with the casting director’s go-to actors, they come in for EVERYTHING and hear me when I tell you that this is a diverse bunch, but they are the actors that the casting director has grown to admire to the point that she brings them in for every project. I got an email last week from a choreographer with a list of his favorite dancers that he wanted to make sure we brought in when we start casting his show next month.
I guess the bottom line of this industry rant is that building relationships is a big part of gaining some control over your career. As an actor, do you ever really have control? No, but that’s why you chose to do this, right? :)
Another something that I’ve picked up on that is worth sharing: be good at a lot of things. Okay, maybe that’s asking a lot, but let me tell you what I mean. As I mentioned earlier, “triple threat” doesn’t necessarily mean the traditional sing-dance-act combo, it could be anything, really. Do you play an instrument? KEEP AT IT. Do you write? KEEP AT IT. Do you make kick-a spaghetti? I KID YOU NOT, KEEP AT IT. In the appointments for the B’way show I’m working on, the director read every resume, and anybody who could play fiddle, piano, guitar, or drums was asked how proficient they were and if they’d be comfortable playing if they were to be cast in the show. Now, actors playing instruments is not written into this particular script, but because so many instrumental actors were coming in, it started giving the director ideas. Also, many actors are being hired as writers on the side, these days. Actors are funny. Actors, apparently, write great film and television scripts. As for the spaghetti comment, there’s a show going on right now at George Street where the leading actress has to make spaghetti for ten people on the front row of the audience. Anything can happen, I tell you. I was in a production of Miss Saigon with flag twirling. Like…color guard. flag. twirling.
Anything can happen.
All the love,