Advice for Actors: Adding Hawaiian Wisdom into Audition SeasonPosted: February 2, 2014
So the SuperBowl is over. Christmas has passed. Chinese New Year has come and gone.
Now all we have to look forward to is the 50% off candy on February 15th and…
Audition. Seeing that word stirs up all sorts of emotions inside my bones.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the “season” lately. Living in Hawaii is extraordinary. It’s healthy. It’s beautiful. But I admit, missing the summerstock audition season keeps me up some nights. Five seasons in NYC have, well, seasoned me. But like all of us do after a tumultous relationship ends, I look back at my previous audition seasons with a fondness. I find myself only remembering the good things and conveniently forgetting the pain and the heartache.
This season, I can’t be there with my friends at Ripley-Grier digging for a photo I.D. on the one day a new guard starts working the ground floor and actually requires it. I won’t be there to tie my friends’ jewel tone halter dresses, or to take turns bringing Starbucks to an EPA at Nola, or to lend out my baby blue stapler at an open Gateway call.
But just because I can’t be there to take part, doesn’t mean I can’t be there in spirit.
So this month, I dedicate each post to you – my auditioning friends who are bustin’ their tail every day in the cold, tryna getta job for the summa.
Now if you aren’t an actress, or a dancer, or a singer, and you are lost as to what “audition season” pertains to, I welcome you to continue reading. Because you can probably relate to us more than you realize.
You know how you head to a job interview excitedly, making yourself presentable, and wearing a nice outfit, and updating your resume, and hoping – praying really – that they like you, and then leave wondering if you’re qualified or not, knowing that you did all you can and the decision is now all theirs and it’s completely out of your hands, and maybe having a lot of anxiety about it, not being able to completely let it go?
Actors do that process every single day, sometimes more than once.
Auditions are like interviews – only we have to sing, dance, and act on top of having a fabulous resume. And also play nice with others. And also look amazing. All the time.
So actors – this month is for you. This blog was born for you really. For us. For all of us who struggle with the ups and downs of this labor of love we have pursued for so many years.
And non-actors, this is for you too. In reading the next few posts, I hope you find yourself gaining new appreciation for performers at your local regional theatre, or for your granddaughter who has big dreams of moving to NYC after attending college for musical theatre, and even, for yourself. Whether your significant other is pursuing their dream this spring, or your brother or sister is traveling up and down the east coast to fill up their 2014 with gigs for their health insurance, these posts are for you as much as they are for the artists.. Empathy is a powerful thing. I hope this helps everyone find empathy and understanding for the lives of performers and artists.
1. The respect for “auntie”.
There is so much respect for elders in Hawaii. When we come across a woman older than us, we call her “auntie” as a sign of respect. The same applies to men – we call them “uncle”. It’s still not ingrained in me, and I forget sometimes, but I didn’t grow up here. It’s a different story for children who are born here. As soon as they learn to speak, little kids call everyone older than them, including me, “auntie”. It’s part of their culture. It’s how they’ve been raised.
When the four and five year olds that I teach forget my name, they call me “auntie”. Those children walk into my classroom without questioning how nice, or mean, or boring I might be. They give me the benefit of the doubt. I am immediately respected, and I am immediately “auntie”.
What if we walked into each audition room in the same manner?
Often times, I find myself walking into the audition room assuming I won’t get kept even if I do well. I assume the person sitting behind the table is “over it”. This is partly a protective measure for my ego, but it’s also the result of many audition experiences that have, what’s the word, oh, right, “jaded” me. Rarely do I find myself heading into that room full of respect for the people casting the show I’m auditioning for. But truth be told, we’ve all auditioned for some visionaries. We walk into that room expecting a casting intern, and much to our surprise, Kathleen Marshall is standing there waiting for us to line up. Shit. Hello, Kathleen Marshall. I wasn’t expecting you at all. I left my A-game in the changing room. I’ll…be right back. #jaded #shit #whydidn’tIwearmyflourescentleotard
This season, I just thought it might behoove all of us to walk into that room full of respect for the pianist, the director, the choreographer, the music director, the casting director, and even the intern who is taking lunch orders. I know that the people behind the table can sense the energy that comes through that door. Although they might not be able to put a name to the powerful aura we let off, they will feel it if we walk into that room full of respect for them – those “aunties” and “uncles” behind the table. Leaving our cynical attitude in the holding room and giving each person in that room the benefit of the doubt might change our entire thirty seconds in that room. And then, we can walk out of there feeling like we #nailedit.
2. Only use your fins when you need to.
If you ever have the opportunity to sit on hardened lava and observe sea turtles in the wild, I highly recommend you put your iPhone away and do so. You’ll find that sea turtles often float in the roughest of seas, near cliffs and rocks that would prove fatal for any human who finds himself so close to a dangerous shoreline. As a turtle comes up for air, you can spot his fins flapping above the surface, enabling you to follow him through your sunglasses as he floats in the treacherous water.
The turtles have been around for centuries, and when you watch them float, you can almost see why. They allow themselves to be carried into shore by each wave, but they never, ever crash into anything. As the waves ebb and flow, the turtles only use their fins when they have to to keep themselves away from danger. They float in, and swim away from the rocks just in time to get back into the flow of the sea. Over and over, they float with the waves looking helpless, and just when you gasp in fear that they’ll be crushed by the powerful water, they use their ancient fins to steer themselves clear of peril. It’s truly amazing to watch, and we can all learn a lesson from these protected creatures. By only using our fins when we have to, we can go with the flow a little more.
This audition season, things might not always work out the way we want them to. We might not get the time slot we want, and we might not get called back for the character we really wanted to read for, and we might miss one ECC because we’re caught dancing a second time at another. But hey, e ho mai baby. Let it come, let it flow. Flow with the waves this season, so that when you really have to use your fins – aka cut a bitch who jipped you in line at the one EPA you got up at 6am for – you’re calm, collected, and ready with a piping hot cup of Starbucks to chug after the confrontation. Don’t exhaust yourself on anything that doesn’t really matter in the long run. Only use your fins if you have to.
3. Don’t forget to look up.
Before I left for Hawaii in August, I made a final trip home to say goodbye to my family in Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful day in July when I drove down the lane to my Poppop’s farm and hugged him, assuming I’d see him again in November after my time at the yoga retreat was done. We both looked up at the sky and he said, “Man, that’s a blue sky. You know, sometimes I call Rick just to say, ‘Rick, did you look up today?” Rick is my uncle, my Poppop’s oldest son, and he shoes horses, so he’s often looking down when he’s working. Grandfathers are always full of simple wisdom, aren’t they? I’m so lucky to have mine in my life, even if it’s only over the phone ever two weeks.
Here in Hawaii, we’re blessed with beautiful skies most every day. But we’re also blessed with the humpback whales who make their home here for the winter. They come here from up north to have their babies and mate before beginning their trek home in April. Johnny and I are kind of obsessed with them, and often find ourselves in danger of rear-ending the car in front of us because we’re watching the ocean for whales breaching instead of the road ahead of us.
There have been times where we’ve been chillin’ on the beach, and a whale will breach two, three, four times in a row and we fist pump and cheer. We look down the beach and everyone has their nose in their phone. They only look up because they hear us cheering and they have no idea why. They miss the humpback breaching, and then they board their plane back to the mainland complaining that they didn’t see a single whale on their trip.
This season, don’t forget to look up. If you take your nose out of your phone in that holding room, who knows what might happen. You’ll make a new friend who will sign you up tomorrow morning at Chelsea while you’re at Nola. You’ll catch the eye of the casting director who is familiar with you who ushers you into the room just before lunch so you don’t have to wait all day. You’ll spot a girl across the room wearing your same dress, giving you ample time to change into the second dress you bring to each audition for emergencies like a good little actress always does.
Observe your surroundings. Pay attention to who gets kept and who doesn’t. Make nice with the monitor. While everyone else is playing Candycrush, you could find opportunity for networking and inspiration without even trying. Don’t miss the whale breach. Don’t forget to look up.
4. Finally, show off when everyone else is resting.
We have spinner dolphins here who live up to their name whenever we have the privilege of swimming with them in their natural habitat. These wild dolphins feed at night, and rest during the day in quiet bays where snorkelers and paddleboarders don’t seem to bother them. The dolphins shut off half their brain when they rest, and travel in small groups for protection.
However some of them, don’t seem like the resting type. They’re actually little stars waiting to be discovered by their snorkeling audience. The dolphins jump, and play, and shoot so high out of the water that they spin multiple times before splashing back into the clear blue sea. They’ll often do this jump-spin several times in a row, and you’ll hear lots of people chuckling that the beauties are “showing off”. Because they rest the majority of the day, everyone squeals with delight when the dolphins “show off” because it’s a real treat.
This season, pull out your element of surprise, and show off when everyone around you is resting.
It’s a Thursday. You worked late last night. You’re in the third group of men to be seen at an afternoon dancer ECC and you’ve already been to a singer call this morning and you’ve only had time to pick up a banana and a coffee today. You look around you, and every other guy in the room bares the same, bored, exhausted look on their face as yours. No one even feels like going in that room to learn any sort of dance that might require physical exertion. It is now, that the spinner dolphins can inspire you. It is now, that you can think of the sea turtles, and use your fins.
This is a time to pull your energies together and show off when your exhausted group gets called to dance in front of the casting team. Make those poses pop. Use your face. Walk into that room respecting those “aunties” and “uncles” and find the passion in your heart to make them look up with your energetic dancing. The same applies to a singer appointment late in the day, or pulling a second monologue out of your ass even though your boyfriend kept you up all last night crying about his fear, of your fear, of commitment.
Show off in the room (and I mean seriously, in the room only, none of this holding room show off crap) when everyone else is resting. When everyone else is “over it”. When everyone else walks into that room hating the casting team with a passion without an ounce of respect for their artistry.
This is YOUR time to shine.
This is your season to shine.
I can’t be there to shine with you, but honey, I am cheering for you like you wouldn’t even believe. That cheer that Johnny and I do when a whale breaches – when we fist pump like idiots and yell “YEAH” like big burly men who just watched the Seahawks kick the Bronco’s sorry asses – that obnoxious cheer is for the whales, and the turtles, and the spinner dolphins, and for you.
Go get ’em, Broadway baby. This year is yours.
And I don’t know what it’s worth, but I’m sending you all the aloha. All the love. And all the support. Because you’re my ohana. And ohana means family.
Shit, I’m crying. I gotta go. But next week, more audition season February Hawaiian love for you. Also, I made a shitty poster of these tidbits of Hawaiian audition advice so you can hang it on your bathroom mirror if you so choose: Hawaiian-Audition-Wisdom. That’s all.
*If you haven’t yet considered contributing a positive body word picture for my next video project for the Roar movement, please read the guidelines here (short version) or here (more specific, long version.) I would LOVE love LOVE to have your participation!