Friday, April 22, 2011

NYC Audition Play by Play

After being on tour for 6 months and performing all over the country I returned to NYC for a little over a month to audition and find the next gig! I came into this time knowing that it was going to be full of VERY hard work, lots of rejection, and hoping for some positive feedback. I have never been one to love being in New York. It is just too hard, cold, and loud for me. It is the toughest city in the world, truly. As the lyrics say, "If I can make it there, Ill make it ANYWHERE!" I realize from a distance that my life seems to be a lot of fun and very little work, but this business can be really brutal. I thought that I'd give a quick picture of what life is like when I am auditioning in New York. The times I am here auditioning is when the real work happens. Here is what a typical audition day looks like during a good, busy week:

-Wake up at 7:00 to get ready. Shower and be dressed looking your VERY BEST to head out and present yourself as the ideal for what a company would want to hire. You are your own product so being groomed and styled is not an option. Since it's a busy day you have to have with you dance clothes and options for other dress, headshots and resumes, and your audition book with your music. This means your bag has 2-3 pairs of shoes (dance, sneakers, and dress), a huge binder, a couple tee-shirts, dance belts, 2-3 pairs of dance pants, deodorant, hair product, a book, ipod, water bottle, umbrella. This will be your lifeline and you will carry it ALL DAY LONG.
-Head to the studios where auditions are being held. On a busy day you may try to get to 3, 4, or even 5 auditions in a day in buildings all over NYC. You have to prioritize and decide what auditions are really worth going to based on what you are right for, what you think you can realistically be hired for, times of auditions, locations, etc. Because you are not Equity you have to wait in lines so this means that you get to a building at 8:00 to stand in the snow, rain, etc. until 9:30 when the doorman finally lets in the 100 people standing outside with you. At this point you are texting your friends at other auditions hoping they can sign you up for things. Once you are on the list to be seen at the Equity audition (if they even have time to see non-equity actors) you head over 3 blocks (with your giant audition bag) to jump in the line of the open call and hope you make it on that list before 10:00 when they cut off the list. Your name is now signed up there!
-You've got your name on 3 lists now to be seen so now it's a waiting and juggling game. Wait around literally for HOURS at this studio and hope to be seen. All the while you get updates from a friend at the other auditions to find out how close they are getting to your name. You run over to sing at one of those auditions and end up missing your name being called at another. It is like this all day, every day. Wait and hope to get seen for 30 seconds by casting directors, producers, etc.
-Once you get in the audition room any number of things could happen. For a singing call you may be asked to sing 16 bars or 32 bars of music appropriate to the show(s) the company is doing. You may only get to sing 8 bars of music if there are too may people to be seen that day. 8 bars of music is literally 10-15 seconds long. That's all you have. You walk in the room, give the accompanist your music and explain your well-thought-out, perfectly designed cut of the song that you have rehearsed relentlessly in all of 5 seconds. Literally. Say hello to the people behind the audition table (casting directors, producers, choreographers, directors, etc.) and try to make charming small talk to be remembered. Try to make a connection with them.
-Finally you get to sing! The music starts and during those 10-15 seconds your inner monologue goes something like this. "Oh my gosh! The accompanist is going really fast! Wait- are they looking at me? I think they just flipped my headshot over and I've only sung 2 words! Oh great- he's eating his lunch. He's drinking his coffee! Seriously- this accompanist did NOT listen to the tempo I gave him! I sound terrible. UGH! Dang it- just missed my funny acting beat, but here comes the money note...!!! You've got to be kidding me. The accompanist didn't hold that like I asked him to. I think my fly is undone." Your song ends in a flash and that was your only chance to show them how excellent and wonderful you are. A polite, "Thanks" from behind the table signals your exit and just like that you are done.
-If it's a dance call you have 10 minutes to learn a combination from the choreographer that has been designed to show every jump, turn, and trick in the show. Since you are learning it in front of the choreographer you try to be especially attentive, laugh at all their jokes, and ask really smart, insightful questions. Take in EVERY specificity, look in the mirror to make sure you look as much like the choreographer as possible. You have to be polite to the other dancers since there are 50 of you in one studio. You won't learn the whole dance. You stress over the moves and then after you learn it the choreographer will insist that really the most important thing to remember is the acting and story behind the whole piece. Wait- we have to act during this, too?
-If you're lucky you get seen at multiple auditions in a day and all the while you sweat your way through, you don't expect ANYTHING. You assume that you WON'T hear from any of the companies because if you hope too much you will just get down, depressed, and overwrought. You have to look at every audition as an opportunity to perform. If you it is 8 bars of music, you are thankful you get to sing that day. If it is a dance call that is far beyond your training, you are thankful for a workout and dance class. Above all you have to be positive, friendly, and open, leaving it ALL on the floor as you leave.
-The day ends still lugging that bag around as you meet up with friends for dinner. You may hear from companies weeks later and you know.... you may even book a job! Auditioning is the hardest and strangest thing I've ever done.

From an outsider's perspective it must seem truly crazy. This is my job. It is SO hard. There is so much rejection, so much unknown, so much trust. I have been blessed to have some great things happen. In the month I've been here I have book multiple jobs, had DOZENS of callbacks and am getting emails and phone calls about opportunities every day. It's been amazing, but I. AM. EXHAUSTED!!! Hope your days are a bit more peaceful.

Love to you all,

ps- Today is Good Friday. I am stunned today by the power and might of the cross. Jesus came as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. I am proud to worship a God who loves us regardless of our gender, our class in life, our sexual orientation, our bad habits, our likes and dislikes, our strengths, our looks, our bad decisions. He LOVES US!!! He loves us so much that He died for us. That is remarkable.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Drawing Inspiration

I am living in New York City at the moment and while I have found a good church that I am starting to get really plugged into I miss my church families back home. I also have wonderful dear friends here, but I can't help but miss so many of my family members and friends back home. They are a constant motivation and inspiration to me in my art, my faith, and my everyday life. One thing that, whether I'm living and working on a ship, on the road, in NYC, or some far-distant country, is able to take me back to those I love, is music. It may sound cliche and typical, but that's fine. I can listen to certain songs, albums, and artists and be immediately in a certain mood or reminded of certain friends, events, etc. I love music. It's in my blood. For many years I've been given and have passed on some of my favorite artists. Below are some that are part of my "soundtrack to life." They are artists and songs that becoming driving background noise to my everyday. I hope that they become part of your life!

1. Gabe Dixon Band: Their self-titled album was given to me while I was performing on the cruise ship by Laura. It is some of the best writing. I always refer to this album as the best car-driving music in the world. Period. You MUST get this album. I have had more friends fall in love with this music... you will, too!
2. Andrew Peterson: This is the most recent addition to my life soundtrack, but his "Counting Stars" album has some great storytelling and melodies.
3. The Weepies: I know the name sounds so forlorn and hipster-ish, but The Weepies are a charming duo with a really unique sound. Their music has been used in a lot of soundtracks. My favorites of theirs are spread over three albums so I can't recommend one in particular. Take some time to listen on Itunes and find your favorite! Ok- I can't help it... a few song faves... "Somebody Loved," "World Spins Madly On," "They're in Love, Where am I," and "Gotta Have You."
4. The Wailin Jennys: Again with the name, I know.... The Wailin Jennys are a trio of some of the most pure female voices I've ever heard. They have incredible abilities to tune and sing some excellent, simple tunes. Take a listen to some of their live albums. It's ridiculous. I also LOVE the album "Firecracker."
5. Ben Sollee: Ben is from Kentucky and is an incredibly talented writer and CELLIST! He strums, bows, and picks the cello and all the while produces some of the best folk music around.
6. Crossroads: Yup- Crossroads as in my church in Cincinnati. The best part about their music is that it's all FREE and able to be downloaded from their website. Whether you are a Christian or not you will certainly appreciate the music and the fact that it is actually well written and recorded by talented musicians. This ain't your typical praise chorus, people! Some of my faves of theirs are "Clearly," "When Freedom Comes," "Run, "This Is, and "Rebuild."

There are a lot more that I would love to mention, but that's a good starter! Below is a song that I probably listen to a couple times per week. Sara Groves' music is excellent, but this song in particular connects to me in such a great way. It gives a feeling of connectedness between all Christians from me to the Apostles to Mother Teresa. There is certainly a feeling of "if they can live like that why can't I?" in the song that I love. Hope you enjoy!

Happy day! Live rejoicing,

Monday, April 18, 2011

My tempestuous relationship with C.S. Lewis

I have been trying to read C.S. Lewis's "Mere Christianity" for three years. Now I will admit that while I love learning, storytelling, and so many of my family members are complete bookworms, I am not the greatest reader. I know that sounds silly. I can read fine, but it was always something that I struggled with in school and have NEVER... EVER enjoyed. I have to force myself to read because it is one of those things that I hope one day (with some persistence) will be something I love. Sort of like the taste of olives. I generally travel with a few books and try to get through a couple per year, which I know sounds pitiful, but if you are around when I finish a book you will certainly hear all about it because it is such an accomplishment for me. One of those books I have had with me for years is "Mere Christianity." I have heard so much about Lewis and particularly about how this book is one of those essential reads for any Christian. I have read the first 5 pages probably 15 times in my attempts to get into the book, but Lewis is so complex in his writing that I could never get much further. It seemed every sentence was packed with more theology and apologetic theory than my little brain could handle. This spring I knuckled down, though and I am proud to say that I did the impossible and finished the book!!! Ha! Lewis is truly a genius and obviously has a mind that works unlike anyone else in the world. The ideas are heavy, hard, and complex, but brilliant. One of my favorite commentaries was at the end of the book in the last chapter. The author writes of how we as Christians are a nation of different beings, hardly related to humans at all in our transformation through Christ. He describes what this group of "new men" will be like:

"Already the new men are dotted here and there all over the earth. Some, as I have admitted, are still hardly recognisable: but others can be recognised. Every now and then one meets them. Their very voices and faces are different from ours; stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant. They begin where most of us leave off. They are, I say, recognisable; but you must know what to look for. They will not be very like the idea of "religious people" which you have formed from your general reading. They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less. (We must get over wanting to be needed: in some goodish people, specially women, that is the hardest of all temptations to resist.) They will usually seem to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes from. When you have recognised one of them, you will recognize the next one much more easily. And I strongly suspect (but how should I know?) that they recognize one another immediately and infallibly, across every barrier of colour, sex, class, age, and even of creeds. In that way, to become holy is rather like joining a secret society. To put it at the very lowest, it must be great fun."

I love this. Such simple, but precise thoughts on what Christians may look like after being changed by Christ completely. I can think of a few people in my life who come so closely to the description above (my grandparents, Edgar and Virginia Drake, my dear friend, Laura Cochran, my sisters, Taylor and Shannon, and so many others in my family) and it makes total sense. I am thankful that I have those people to look to and see what Christ is doing in the world. Their gentle spirits and quiet wisdom are tangible. And the radiance Lewis speaks of: they have that. You can see it from a mile away.

Becoming more radiant everyday,