The Mock Open Call Audition/ Saying Goodbye

Today was the Mock Open Call Audition. I auditioned for Leah Gardiner, Heidi Griffiths and John Baxidine.

I signed up for the first slot, ready to get it over with. I performed my Julius Ceasar monologue and my monologue from House of Blue Leaves.

After I finished the two, Leah asked me if I would do my Portia again, but softer, she felt like it came from a place of love rather than anger.

Are you kidding me?! All this time I was punishing myself thinking I “did it wrong”, when my instincts were spot on for this audition. I did it again, the way I was most comfortable with it.

They were all very complimentary, saying they would cast me today for a classical piece. They loved my clear character work, and they said watching me was a “pleasure”. They did not ask me to sing, which was disappointing, but I was thrilled to have such an incredible audition! It was sort of my first New York audition!

It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to everyone, though… my new family. We’ve already started a facebook group that we are all apart of. This is my new network. My new family.

We are supposed to hang out tonight again now that the program is officially over, but many have already caught a plane home. I found my personal statement that I wrote back in 2010, and I am surprised by how spot-on I was….

““When you find it, you’ll just know”, the casual line tossed toward anyone anticipating major life transitions. Love? You’ll just know. Buying a house? You’ll just know. The perfect outfit for Saturday night’s semi-formal dinner date? Well, you get it…
When I first visited New York City in 2007, I found it: my husband, my house, my perfect outfit. I just knew that this is where I was meant to be. Where I belonged. The feeling of finally arriving home shook my core. A wave of excitement tingled at my feet, crawled up my spine and soared to my head, nearly knocking me over. Here I stood in New York City with my entire future waiting for my return, fruitful with success and fulfillment. My arrive into the city jolted my spirit as hard as it did the day I realized I needed theater in my life for the rest of my days. It was no longer a question of “if” but “when”.
I am not fearful of being ambitious or an unwavering big dreamer in a small world, but I know that my hard work, ambition and dreaming have not solely earned my success as an actress. I have grown under the patient guidance of many different teachers, mentors, directors, professors and friends. I love theater because it is a profession and art that one can never master. You can never reach the “top” because there are always new opportunities to learn and grow. And your best can always get better, as I learn time and time again throughout my career.
Spring board is the program that I’ve been looking for and it feels like it was specifically formed just for me. As if someone heard all of my concerns, things I desired to learn, goals I have and experiences I wanted and formed a summer intensive based just around that.
I fell in love with a foreign land; the actor scene of NYC, and I can’t succeed in this new strange land without first understanding how it works, the language, the livelihood, the flow, the people, the workforce, everything there is to know to fully grasp this place and use it to my advantage. I want to avoid the clumsy footsteps of a wide-eyed tourist turned NYC actor who is learning through experience, but such is my fate if I pack the U-Haul and set out on my own. I want to arrive confident and prepared. All I know of theater is my passion and the art itself; however I know nothing of the business or networking side of it. How will I fare when auditioning for complete strangers who haven’t seen me in a classroom setting or my previous work? Do I have what it takes in this moment for my dreams to manifest into reality?
I want to go to Springboard and learn all of my auditioning weaknesses so I can improve as an actor and all of my strengths so I can further use them. I am excited for the opportunity to improve. I want to understand what it is professional New York City is looking for in a sea of actors who are my exact type so I can stand out. I am eager to hear words of wisdom and the “dos and don’ts” of those who have been exactly where I am today and their journey in finding success in acting in NYC.
Springboard will be my opportunity to experience New York City not as an outside visitor, but as a living, working actor. ”

Well Shakiera, You did it. And look at all the new beautiful artists that are now in your life….

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Your Ace of Hearts

Today Randy talked to us about the Business of Acting. We learned about EMCs and Agents and Managers, the importance of Thank You notes (we are required to write one to everyone we have encountered at SBNYC) We got our resume’s back with notes on them on how they could improve. “A resume is an invitation to have a conversation.”

I didn’t feel well today, I had a nasty stomach bug. I asked Randy to be removed from the list of participants for the workshop, and decided to be an observer instead.This was and Audition Workshop with Tony WINNER Kathleen Marshall, who directed NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT and Anything Goes. (Did you know Rob Marshall is her brother???)
Here are some main points I wrote down:
*Movement follows emotion, she said, not vice versa.
* You must be specific, and honest!
* find a personal connection when singing, the rest will take care of itself.
* why do we repeat a line when singing? what is different?

Next was one of my favorite workshops with Cara Greene, “So You Wanna Be An Actor?”

This workshop was more spiritual. We learned about how to keep our self love, through an exercise with playing cards. We walked with a card on our heads, unaware of our status (2 being the lowest, and Ace being the highest), and through how other people interacted with us, we determined our status. The second time we went through, we looked at our card, and no one else knew our card, and through our interaction with others, people figured out our status. There is a way people treat you and the way you treat yourself. You can’t let other people define how you feel about yourself. You are always in control of your internal status… so always be your own Ace of hearts! Love what you do, or do something else!
We then learned about dream mapping, backwards mapping and using these tools to create goals for ourselves… and thus, a successful, happy future.

After that, we met Christian Borle of Smash and Peter and the StarCatcher. He had a fascinating story, and admitted that he does very little prep work for a role, which I found very unusual. “Other people’s success is not Your future”. He talked about over preparing for auditions, which is what he believes to be the secret to his success.

We quickly grabbed dinner (always on the run, here!) And went to go see Newsies! I have to admit, I didn’t think I would like this show very much, but here I am, listening to the cast album on my iphone… ;P
The show was full of energy and extremely difficult choreography, and the lead cracked on his money note, which most people would be turned off by, but I found it humanizing… it made me enjoy it more, actually.

We talked back with most of the cast, some of them who were as young as 20! They talked about the intense audition process. The first audition was about 1,300 people!
Despite their young age, they were full of wisdom:
* Your time is coming, never give up. Don’t compare and despair.
* Keep it positive
* Learn all that you can in all aaspects.
* Don’t be crazy! You will see people again.
Learn from auditions. Each audition is a chance to perform.

“Broadway needs you guys.” Yes… yes it does. 🙂

Truth is Comedy

We started our morning with and Audition Monologue Workshop with Jonathan Burnstein (who is dating the girl from the dance auditions… thanks, Randy)

I went first, performing my House of Blue Leaves monologue. Well, this was probably the most difficult workshop, and I found myself resisting a lot of what he said… not on purpose, it was just extremely frustrating. First, he told me not to do it with a dialect, it is not the idea of the character, but the person that lives in the character. He had me talk about what was going on, which was something very vulnerable and scary for Bunny. He told me to make this a conversation, the dialogue and to imagine his reactions. He told me not to approach comedy any differently than drama. “Just talk to him, Shakiera”. He told me to get in touch with my honesty, and that part of being an actor is being off balance. He got through all of us, leaving us with this wisdom, “You have to bring YOU to the character, it has to be real to you.” A few of us were near tears in frustration trying to understand this concept.

Our next workshop was much more relaxing. This was our Audition workshop for the camera, with Jodi Collins. We read a comedic scene, which I freakin’ Nailed! I felt like I had the timing of Debra Messing on Will and Grace! We were learning how to audition for 3- camera sitcoms. After we each went up and performed our scenes with notes, she went through each and every one of us (with Randy) and told us our “types” based on our look and what she saw.
First, Your “type” is who you are in your group of friends. My type: not a city girl, Indie, with an edge. Very quirky. I would be the best friend in an mainstream, but lead in an indie. She saw me as grounded, quiet strength, and power through acting. Earthy and smart characters. Celebrity types: Hilary Swank, Joan Cusak, Judy Greer.

Our final workshop of the day was Money Matters! This gave everyone a headache. It was basically: How to do your taxes as an actor. we learned to keep everything for 7 years, about 1099s and W-2s, tracking our transportation, write offs, and receipts.

Aaaannnnddd then we saw PORGY AND BESS! I thought I would be upset, as I know the opera really well, and this is a VERY cut version with added spoken dialogue. All I could think of was Bob reading Sondheim’s angry letter during Dramatic Lit one day about this play. However, this play was phenominal. I can see why Audra McDonald won the Tony! She and Norm and everyone came out to talk to us afterwards. They were all so beautiful, and so humble. We found out that two of the swings were out and that they had to fly in the strawberry woman who was doing the show at another theater! It was amazing! You never would’ve known. These performances were breath taking.
I asked the cast why they thought it was important for this show to be reformatted in this way. One cast member answered that musical theater is more about story-telling, while opera is more about vocal styling, and this way they were able to make the story more accessible to a wider variety of audiences.

I bought this soundtrack tonight on my ipod, too. 🙂 Tonight I will dream of stars….

Success Is A Question Away

This morning we met had a “Who’s Who In The Theatre” session. We met Eva Price, Producer, Jim Glaub, Creative Director of Serino Coyne Digital, Robert Jones, Senior Account Executive at Serino Coyne Digital, Tracy Geltman, Company Manager at 321 Theatrical Management. We heard about what they do, and some of the things they’ve learned along they way. I asked Eva Price, “Is Peter and the Starcatcher a GP, LLC or LP? Also, how do you switch from communicating with creative individuals to more business and financial focused people and make they are able to understand one another?” Before she answered my question, she told me to contact her in a year because she had an internship for me!!! Thank you John Mac for your Theater Management course last semester!

Our next session was “How Shows Get To Broadway; The Making of Newsises”. We met Thomas Schumacher (President of Disney Theatric Group) and Jeff Calhoun. Thomas was extremely sassy and bold, saying such things as “Disney raised you. We are your childhood”. However, his story was the most inspiring rags to riches story. He told us to lie, yes to lie! Make yourself indispensable, and meet everyone you can! “I am whee I am today because I answered a payphone and said yes!” Networking is absolutely everything. Adjusting = success, because nothing goes according to plan, but have a plan.
He also told us that Beauty and the Beast was an AIDS metaphor and that Geuston (sp?) was gay culture. He said this is the most evident in the lyrics of “Kill The Beast”. That was interesting.
Afterwards, I talked to him about Disney being credited with cleaning up broadway and internationalizing American Musical Theater. (Just applying some general Musical Theater knowledge) and he told me that I should look into an internship at Disney theatrical!!! What?! Needless to say, today has been pretty amazing. 🙂

Our next session was “Show Me The Money” With Joesph P. Harding of Forrest Solutions. He told us that he used to be an actor, and was in the final call back with the guy from seinfeild for Merry We Roll Along! He told us “To whom much is given, much is expected.” He decided to stay in his career, frankly, because he likes being financially well off (he has 3 houses!). He told us about having both a business and theatrical resume. He told us that we have to set aside time for auditioning and working, no matter what. We talked about day jobs, what would work, and what would be too consuming. He told us to look at Harlem and Brooklyn for apartments and The Bronx, we could get a one bedroom for $800 a month! He told us that we must sell a skill of ours for our day job. You must run your credit report, criminal records and always bring two forms of ID when applying for ANYTHING. He was incredibly helpful and told us that we could contact us anytime for anything, tell him we are with springboard and he would help us PROBONO! What an incredible heart that man has (and an incredible sense of humor).

Next was the session that I have been looking forward to the entire time… “SINGING FOR ACTORS!” with Jeff Blumenkrants (Jeff Blum for short). He told us to pick a song that shows us “the you-est YOU!” (a theme here.)
He said to think about 3 things before choosing a song: 1. Who are you talking to? 2. Why are you bothering? 3. What is your problem?

I was terrified when I went up to sing, but I didn’t push, and the song sounded great. Jeff leaned back, his face stoic, and told me “the musical theater kids are across the hall”. A compliment… I think. He told me that I should definitely be doing singing auditions. 🙂
Here were the notes as we workshopped the piece: 1. riff later in the song so you have somewhere to go. 2. Riff with a verb, justify it. 3. Show vulnerability, “daddy” can be omnipresent since he is dead. 4. Don’t go into pop singer mode (head back, eyes closed), Only justified, human movements.

Hmmm… maybe it isn’t unrealistic for me to look for a career that includes musical theater. 🙂

“The Curtains Are Fucking Blue!”

Today we met agent Mark Schlegel. He told us that we are our own company, and that we must be clever. We must have a strong sense of who we are, and our monologues must serve us.

Then we split again, the general performance students went to director Carl Forsman, a complete goof-ball and font of knowledge. I have 3 pages of notes from his session today! He taught us about EPAs and guidelines to picking monologues. (13 points!)
I performed my Homebody/Kabul monologue for him, but it didn’t go well… it just felt… wrong. He told me he didn’t think it was a wise monologue choice because he didn’t see the conflict. When I was defending my choice, describing the character’s hunger for love and affection from her parents and being hungry for a world that feels instead of numbing himself, he sat back, smiled and said, “Then do that. Show that. I want to see the same frustration, the same passion you had when you explained your monologue to me.”

We met with Dani Super of Super Casting (for film and television) and learned how to nail the under 5 (under 5 lines given to you at the audition). She taught us the 3 Ps (Pacing, proximity and Punctuation). “I can elevate the text to its full potential”. She also told us that casting directors do not have much imagination, so you have to help them place you. She told us that educators teach you the craft; but coaches teach you business. Preparation, context, comprehension and tenacity are key… but she also told us not too go too far into it… sometimes, it is what it is. “The curtains are fucking blue!” she shouted.

We ran over time so we rushed over to see Clyborne Park, the new play that parallels A Raisin In the Sun. What an incredible show! I have never seen a play that was so socially necessary!!! (Especially in Memphis. Yes, I said it!)

Afterwards, we had a chance to talk to the cast. I was shocked to know that the actors did not do any table work, research, or talk about any of the issues presented in the play… I don’t know how I feel about that. I guess that is what kept the tension so alive on stage… maybe some of the actors have the opinions presented in the show. They did provide several points of advice.
* Don’t get so far into your character that you forget the play.
* Don’t e afraid to ask when you don’t understand. Nothing’s worse than faking it.
* You must be flexible, don’t marry your choices.
* Finally, it is not our job to make people think something, just our job to present.

I would love to see this play in Memphis.

“New York Isn’t Going Anywhere”

Today we met Meg Mortimer, Manager with Principal Entertainment. Meg taught is about the differences between an agent and manager, and how a manager should approach you (with contract, taking no more than 10%). We also learned how a typical meeting with a potential client goes, as well as when she knows she wants to sign an actor. She also reviewed our headshots (ugh, not again… I get it, it’s bad!) She told us that glossy is NOT anyone’s friend. She told me specifically that my headshot was “too perfect” and that you never want to compete with your headshot. She told me I was prettier than my headshot, which didn’t look like me, and that I am very “indie” and my headshot should represent that.I never saw myself as indie, but everyone keeps saying it… hmmm…

We met past springboarders who are now working actors: Joel Perez, Brian Drummy, Kaylon Howard, Sheira Feuerstein and Sarah Saakan. Most of them now live in the Upper West Side, but Sarah lives in Williamsburg for under $850!!!! Most of them are servers, but Sheira is a web designer on the side.
They gave us several audition tips which I wrote down:
* 16 bars of your best and what you feel good doing that shows who you are… not necessarily something that shows off or is difficult.
* Plan something after your audition… get your mind off of it!
* Remember the name of the people you audition for, keep a log, and research who they are and the company before you audition.
*Greatest audition moments come from our ‘horror stories”.
* Life still happens outside of auditioning… don’t forget that!
*”I am not their problem, I am their solution”. I am their treat! They are so lucky!
* Use each audition as a goal. “This audition I will fix ____, I will improve ____, I will work on ____”
* Take classes at 1 on 1. They gave us several names to look out for.

They also pointed out that you may only get “one big ask” from the people you know, so choose wisely. Don’t be a person who only speaks when you need something. Keep in touch with those that you have met in the theater community. Don’t feel above certain projects… and don’t burn any bridges!

Finally, we were supposed to meet Jo Sullivan Loesser, but something came up, so instead we had a brief conversation with Ted Chapin, the chair of The American Theatre Wing! He also told us he is ahead of the rights to Rodgers and Hammerstein Co. (Which is pretty freakin’ cool). We asked his opinion on several shows including A Streetcar Named Desire He was blown away… and Ghost: The Musical to which he said that there should be a ban on movie musicals. Hm,I guess we can disagree. He also said that the newer technology in theater is economically frightening, causes theater designers to be lazy, audiences to rely on it and to be distracted by it. I thought that was an interesting perspective. I, on the other hand, think that it makes the possibilities in theater expand, and reaches to a younger generation of audiences…. and the musical style, just like with all musical theater, is responding to pop culture and the sound that the masses are responding too… but that’s just me :).

We were done early today, out by about 6pm. We are all going to hang out in Williamsburg again and then find some nightlife closer to the city.

Beautiful Brooklyn

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Guess what I did today? 🙂 Yep. WE WENT TO THE DRESS REHEARSAL OF THE TONY AWARDS! I saw Neil Patrick Harris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, Burnadette Peters, Cassie Levy, Audra McDonald, Norm Lewis, Norbert Leo Butz…. so many incredible performers! It was so unreal and amazing! I felt like I was in on the secret before the rest of the world. This dream doesn’t feel far away for me anymore… intangible. I can do this. These people are just like me, I can be performing on this stage for my nominated show… maybe even MY nomination!

After the dress rehearsal, a group of us went out to explore the city. We grabbed lunch, then headed to Brooklyn to shop in local thrift stores and a Sunday flea market. We found the artsy district of Brooklyn, Williamsburg. For the first time I found an area I really loved, affordable, with a sense of community, not overwhelming like Manhattan. I am compromising a longer commute to possibly live in an area near parks, shopping, art and at an affordable price! We had a blast. I’ve just arrived home, and I feel like a small child that played hard all day. Beaming, and exhausted. I could pass out right now. I’m so happy that I found a place that my heart responds to… New York can be the dream, not the compromise, you know? Plus, cute, cheap shopping is always a plus 😉

How can you not fall in love with this view?

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