“Die, Vampires, Die!” or, Assuming That You’re Brilliant.

We began our morning with a “Meet the Artist” session. This was a Q/A session with 4 working actors: Jeremy Shamos (of Clyborne Park, Tony Nominated), Leslie Odom Jr. (From “Smash”), Donna Lynne Champlin and Patti Murin.

How incredibly insightful, here are success stories, sitting feet in front of me, telling me that they’ve been where I am. They took the risks I’m terrified to take (moving to NYC alone, making my career happen), did alright for themselves, it was hard then and it is still hard. 

Jeremy Shamos told us that he lived in a 2 bedroom apartment with 4 people for 2 years when he first moved to New York. Donna Lynne told us that she went from sub-let to sub-let until recently. Both of those sound terrifying to me.

When we asked, “How do you balance?” Donna Lynne said that you can’t try to make sense of it. She said to give yourself 3 years to find a job, a home and feel comfortable here FIRST. Jeremy pointed out the importance of staying in touch with your community, or your “people” and not to get lost in the survival process.  Leslie told us to be ready to make a bold move, or you won’t get anywhere.

They all focused on following your own path and finding happiness before work.

Patti said “Be nice to everyone on the way up because you’ll meet them again on the way down”.  So far everyone we have met have said to either be yourself or to be a nice as you can to everyone…. but in this meeting, all of the actors talked about honoring yourself as well. Don’t get involved in projects that take away from you in some way, or hang around people who you feel take away from you. Yes, you can be nice to everyone, but you don’ t have to surround yourself with people who do not add to your life in some way.

I filled my binder with notes from this discussion, names, agencies, books, boroughs to look up so that our transition here isn’t so difficult.

The most surprising/ eye opening moment was when Jeremy Shamos told us, that even now, as a broadway star and a Tony nominee, he feels insecure about some of his choices and, “I still don’t know what the fuck is going on!” What a relief!!!

We traveled to the Majestic Theater, home of The Phantom of the Opera. We watched an understudy rehearsal, then, we vocally warmed up on the stage!!! We went up the scale, all the way to a high “C”, a girl in front of me, Britney, on the Musical Theater track turned around after hearing my high c and said “Aren’t you in general performance?” I smiled back. We took a tour of the theater, the costumes, the special effects, trap doors and stage magic. My tour guide was an understudy for Carlotta, Madame Giry and Christine Daae. I can’t imagine being a swing for this show and being responsible for so many parts… it’s absolutely incredible… but I wonder… could I do something like that? I’ve never had that asked of me before…

Upon our return, we met Nina Arianda, who is nominated for a Best Actress Tony this year for Venus In Fur. She got the role without a callback! She went to NYU and told us two great phrases: “Assume you’re brilliant” and “Truth has no size”. She stressed the importance of being focused, prepared and present in the rehearsal/ audition process. She talked about the difficulty of working with the ego that comes with film… how honest! She said that in film actors tend to act like they are entitiled or deserve something, but in theater, people are still hungry.

“It’s not about you. That’s where the freedom comes from.” -Nina Arianda “I don’t have a life… there’s no time; it’s exhausting.”

Finally came the MOST TERRIFYING workshop thus far. Joanna and Jeremy with “Survival Guide #2: Get Your House In Order”.

In this workshop they handed us pages of maps with boroughs. There are 3 factors of NYC real estate, and you can only have 2 out of 3. Space, Cost and Location.  We learned about brokers and broker fees, websites to search for apartments, the meaning of pre war and renter’s rights in New York City. We left for the day, feeling confused and a little discouraged. I don’t see how I can live in New York City… it’s so expensive and I have yet to see an area that I respond to me.

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