16 May, 2009

Airport reflections

Today I’m writing from a nook in the corner of the “National Airport” (as it was referred to by the flight attendant though I always heard it called ‘Reagan’) I’m ½ way to my destination of one of my 4 towns: Orlando, FL!

Orlando is where I lived for 6 months in 2007 after I finished at Liberty. My final year at Liberty was filled with classes, shows, socializing and dreaming about my next adventure. The first day of classes that fall of 2006 (my senior year) I turned to my best (Liberty) friend Leslie and said “I look around this campus and the other kids just look so much younger than me.” I was ready to discover the new, feel challenged and have my senses sharpened by fresh experiences. So when Josh suggested I come down to Orlando and audition at Disney (I could maybe possibly pass for one of the Ariel girls) my heart skipped at the adventure. Then my friend Katie asked me to stay with her at a lake house she’d be babysitting for the summer. What? Ok, dream scenario I will live you.

During that 6 months I lived on my own for the first time (I paid my own rent! Thanks Anthropologie! And Disney World! And Starlight Dinner Theatre! [RIP]) Orlando is special to me for a number of reasons. I was always totally enchanted with Disney as a child (ask my parents—the ones who didn’t have the right to keep walking when we passed the Disney store at the mall in Birmingham on our annual pilgrimage to Mobile.)

I remember our trips to Disney World as a child. Unlike some performers I never felt the impulse to one day work there. Because in my totally-buying-in-hook-line-and-sinker mind no one there was at work. They were princesses and dancers who lived in the magical place. There was only 1 Mickey Mouse and he was the boss and AWESOME. So fast forward to Hil at 22. Free and dreamy. Why not move to Orlando with Katie where rent is free and a magical land is but a stone's throw away? Yes, please.

So my 6 months in Orlando were filled with my first professional theatre gig (not associated or attained through being a Liberty student), my first dip into the world outside of the Christian bubble and out of the Bible belt. I made friends who spoke Spanish as well as English. And found my belt. Alexis Kramer did magic on my vocal cords and opened up a new world of songs and sounds. I always knew the possibilities were there but I had never been taught what to do. Oh how even now I feel like I am capable of things that I know not of simply because I haven’t been taught them. (These things are not the splits or pirouettes though. Honey we know our limitations.)

Fast forward a year and a half later and I’m sitting at a Juan Valdez in Times Square with my friends Maura and Lacey. Lacey was one of my first friends in college. I was a lowly freshman in Concert Choir where snobbery ruled. I knew these people would want to be my friend if they’d notice I was there. But whatever, I was ready to get out and move on to the Chamber Singers anyway (the more elite, smaller group that got to perform more challenging music.) Anyway, Lacey was the sophomore who actually smiled at me and noticed I was there! When the choir traveled to Roanoke to sing with the symphony Lacey was my saving grace. A friend to laugh with and smile back at me (not unlike my friend Kara at Anthropologie in Soho—a lot of those girls had trouble finding the time to smile back at me at first too!) Anyway, Lacey had always dreamed of being a flight attendant and being beautiful and flying cross country all the time. Now its 2 years post graduation and she’s doing it! And she’s in New York for a day and meets Maura and I for coffee. Somehow we get to talking about how Lacey has never been to Disney. Wait, what WHAT?! You, Lacey?! You’re like, the epitome of Disney! Ya know in personality and looks or something. I tell her if she can hook me up with a flight I can hook her up with free days at Disney. Thus this trip was born.

So now I’m on my way to Orlando. US Airways doesn’t fly direct to Orlando so I’m in DC for an hour and a half. Feeling reflective as I oh, always do when I’m traveling and alone. (which I do most of the time.)

This week has been all work and auditions and trying to find sleep in between. Monday I had those 2 cruiseline auditions, had dinner with Mark and Bill in Astoria (I ate Thai food! And I liked it! I’m branching!) then went to Gerard’s to look at his apartment (a potential summer sublease) and go over callback music with him (who knew a noticeably wrong interval in “Someday My Prince Will Come” had been severely ingrained into my brain for the last 24 years? Oops. Good thing I had Gerard’s help!)

I have to stop in this moment and ask WHY THE HECK IS THERE A BIRD IN THE AIRPORT RIGHT NOW? ANNNDDD WHY DOES IT FEEL INCLINED TO BE FLAPPING AROUND NEAR ME? Don’t these birds sense my bad energy?!
Tuesday I had lunch in Bryant Park and so did some pigeons. Stupid, stupid pigeons. I guess they were hovering looking for dropped crumbs and such. And in my stupidity I dropped a chip and a pigeon pounced (Who doesn’t love that salty goodness? I can’t blame the pee-brained pigeon.) But he pounced too suddenly and threw me off and I gracefully succeeded to fall OUT of my chair. To the chagrin of the businessmen (and assorted extras) who stared at me accusingly when I stumbled up. “The pigeon startled me” I muttered at the important people. They didn’t buy it.

*A pigeon-phobia is not warmly received while dining in the park. Note taken.


Tuesday I had my audition for Beauty & the Beast (it went kinda meh. Whatever. To be awkwardly transparent I have no emotional attachment to that show. I actually have a bit of loathe. I don’t want to be a spoon. Sorry. [There are many shows in which I wouldn’t mind being hobo in the back {Les Mis! Ragtime! Wicked! Legally Blonde!} But not Beauty&theBeast.]) The callback for Disney went well I guess (you really alwaysnever know.) Then went straight to work then went to bed then went to auditions (didn’t get seen) then went to work then went to bed then went to auditions (didn’t get seen again) then went to work then went to bed then went to auditions today and DID get seen! I got to audition for the new Broadway revival of A Little Night Music and thanks to some encouraging coaching from my friend Hanley (who has been taking classes from the bigwigs) I think I found a better, more connected level of acting in my audition today than I have…ever. Not trying to be dramatic but yeah. Seriously.

That was a great way to finish off a really hard, exhausting full week. Now I’m going to enjoy seeing friends in Florida, going to the beach, sleeping, shopping (prudently), watching shows and taking Lacey to Disney World for the first time. Happy weekend to those of you who actually have “weekends” and “weekdays.” ☺

I’ll leave you with a little excerpt from Kristin Chenoweth’s memoir. I promised a snippet a while back. At this point Kristin has just lost a beauty pageant while in college. Her goal is to go to Miss America and compete so she can be on tv and get an agent. When she loses her acting coach gives her a bit of a pep talk.

“You nailed it, Kristi. But sometimes you nail it—sometimes you’re the best—and you still don’t get it. Whatever you do as a performer, you have to do it for the performance. You can’t do anything with the expectation of winning an award. It’s best if you learn that now.”

I got used to getting up in front of people, getting judged, getting rejected. And I discovered an untouchable kernel of confidence instilled in me by my mom when I was too little to know or care about any other point of view. You do your best out of respect for yourself, not to make someone else feel less, and when you know you’ve done well, no one can take that away from you. At an audition now, I never compare myself to other girls. It’s me and the character. Do we fit? Another girl’s performance doesn’t change the answer to that question.

11 May, 2009

Update! (Brilliant title.)

Hello friends, family and people I don't actually know,

It has been a couple of weeks since I’ve written which is lame but as I always point out things here are busy busy busy! Since I last wrote I went on a Broadway SPREE seeing everything though paying no more than $36.50 per ticket. I actually saw 4 Broadway shows and spent $110. And I had excellent seats for ALL of them. (West Side Story, Shrek, Hair, 9 to 5 and Guys & Dolls) There are tricks to seeing Broadway shows on the cheap. And boy did we turn tricks! The first show I saw on Broadway since moving to New York—West Side Story—(which I saw from horrible standing room seats in the back of mezzanine in February—don’t do it!) I got to see again from the perfect lottery seats on the FRONT row. It was really like seeing a different production. My other favorite show that I saw this week was (I can’t believe it) SHREK! I went to the performance with the lowest expectations and was blown away by the music, staging, costuming, production creativity and performances by the leads. A little tip—go see shows RIGHT before the Tony nominations are announced in May because every performance is stellar top notch. We saw a Sunday matinee of Shrek (which is historically the most wah-wah performance of the week) and it was FABULOUS! Please go see this heart-warming show. I dare say Shrek could make you cry. He made me cry. So touching. And the anthem of the show is “Let your freak flag fly!” Who doesn’t love that?

This week while Josh was here we also traveled down to DC to attend another audition I had been invited to from when I went to the Washington Unified auditions earlier this year. I actually got to introduce my twin cousins (My dad’s twin’s twins. Who knew that happens?) to Josh and Leslie. Everyone loved life and the delicious chicken and fries we munched on.

In other news! Sunday night we saw Hair which was great music and great performing though I didn’t really connect with the disjointed plot. I think Hair is just one of those shows you either love and totally get or you’re like…hmm…the music is good but why are they dancing on the audience members? The greatness of Hair though is that after the show we went to the stage door to meet some castmembers and one of my Broadway heroes—Audra McDonald—was chilling, waiting for a friend. You’d probably recognize her from “Private Practice” on ABC. She’s truly one of the best vocalists out there and really was the face of color blind casting that waved in during the 90’s. Audra is phenomenal. And she starred in one of my favorite musicals of all time “Ragtime.” So I got a photo op with Audra and Josh got a photo op with his bway hero Gavin Creel (the original “Jimmy” in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”)

There were also a thousand other brilliant highlights of Josh and Leslie’s weekend in the City including strolls through Central Park, a carbide home in a hummer limo, cupcakes, Grey Dog brunch, and lots of rooftop chilling. And laughter. Laughter. Laugh.ter.

The great thing about having a job that is technically “part time” is that I can request off and arrange my work schedule around my life. So basically I put my two “weekends” together and was able to take off 6 days of work. Now is kind of intense because I have 8 days of work straight but the payoff of taking off during friends vacations is just fabulously worth it.

Other excitement: I nailed down a part time nannying gig for the summer watching my 2nd cousin Rufus. This is great on a variety of levels: fun cause Rufus is hilarious, helping out family feels good, money is better, consistent schedule is fab and I’ll be getting off by 9 pm so I’ll be able to get a decent night’s sleep for early auditions the next morning! Major yays.

Audition update: this week I am making efforts to attend (brace yourself) 11 auditions. They are as follows: Gary Musick company (they cast for various cruiselines), the Disney Cruiseline, the Beauty & the Beast national tour, A Little Night Music (broadway revival), the Cincinatti Playhouse (they’re doing the Fantasticks), Long Wharf Theatre (also doing the Fantasticks) South Pacific (Broadway) chorus call, the Sound of Music at the North Carolina Theatre, Georgia Love (a play about Georgians—I think.) a chorus call for Wicked (Broadway and tours too I’m guessing) and a chorus call for Molly Maguires a new work that is going to be performed in Pennsylvania and broadcast on public television!

Now I will inevitably not be able to be seen for all 11 of these auditions. With auditions in New York there is SO MUCH to go to you have to prioritize, figure out which roles you’d be most right for, which roles you’d be most likely to book, which auditions are in the same locations that you can hit at once and which ones are equity/non-equity and play the guessing game of if you will get seen or not. It takes a lot of plotting—that’s for sure.

All the while this week I have to begin (can you believe it?) looking for another sublease. I have leads on 3 places through friends (which I definitely prefer) so hopefully I won’t have to Craigslist my way all over town. Although, the place I am in now (a Craigslist find) has turned out to be perfect. But this next go around I’m looking for more: a bed included, cheaper rent and closer to a Starbucks. You know, the important things.

Oh one more highlight of this past week was getting to meet a slew of my 2nd cousins at a brunch on Saturday! I met my mom’s first cousins Lisann, Rick and Ken and their families. All New Yorkers. It’s kinda crazy to think that if my grandfather had not left New York on military service and settled in the south I could’ve grown up Jewish in Manhattan. What a different life that would’ve been…ya know, I quite like my mix of musical theatre singing Baptist Jew. I think it fits me. ☺

Addendum added tonight: I got a callback for some roles on the Disney Cruiseline! Think glass slippers and 7 little guys and you’ll figure out which roles. ;-) Hooray for a victory! As they say a dream is a wish your heart makes...