How It Began
My first real introduction to acting was with Vermont Fairy Tale Theatre Company run by an amazing woman named Jennifer Lavoie. Jen is an incredibly talented force of nature and one of the best Peter Pan's I have ever seen. She created a group of kids from 8-18 and we wrote, composed, choreographed, performed, and built fairy tales and put them on the Flynn Theater stage.The Flynn is a gorgeous theater in the heart of Burlington that houses the likes of famous musicians, comedians, ballets, and professional touring companies. To perform on it at nine years old really germinates big Broadway dreams. By participating in this theater company from it's beginning to it's end, I learned to love creating. My brain was sparkling with ideas constantly and my love for writing grew as well. I was writing my own fairy tales with a group of amazing humans who all were in deep. To be that committed and that passionate at such a young age was the best education I believe I could have received growing up. It lit a fire in me that continued to burn into college.
I went to college in New York on Long Island at Hofstra University. My passion morphed into a craft. I was taking my love for creating and narrowing it down with training and techniques. It was an incredible education that I am thankful for every day. The professors I had there got to know me and allowed me to take risks and gave me amazing opportunities. I became an actor there, not just an imaginitive kid overflowing with ideas that had no throughline. With VFT, I had learned how to craft my ideas and make them into a story that flowed and moved and crecendoed. At Hofstra, I learned how to performed something that was already created and do it justice. I learned how to shape stories and characters better. The fire in me burned brighter and higher.
I arrived in New York. I was ready. I hit the ground running, broken heart and all, and started what I considered LIVING. I had a dream job working for Disney with some of the greatest kids I know and treasure to this day. We all were on fire, passionate, fierce, and fell deep into the Broadway community. I was getting call backs and booking work here and there. I had meetings with agents and was so very very close to booking a Broadway show (Spring Awakening) as well as other big gigs.
I went on tour and saw the country. I was in original pieces and musicals. I got to be funny and dramatic. I used all my skills and my imagination almost every day. I was confident, I was happy, I was whole.Then I was sucked into the social aspect of New York and focusing more on boys than my career because it had been coming so easily to me.I had been getting called in for decent companies without even submitting. I got into working background on huge TV and movie sets with just a phone call.Then the phone stopped ringing. I found myself in shows where six people showed up to watch the performance in a fifth floor black box theater (and they weren't bad shows!). Everyone was talking about having websites and going to these seminars and classes to meet casting directors. I had been spoiled and didn't think I needed to do any of that. I had been successful thus far. I didn't need to try that hard.The business changed. Everything cost obscene amounts of money suddenly. New headshots were needed every year and the trends kept changing. I listened when casting directors told me I needed new ones. That resulted in having my headshots taken (luckily some were for free) over nine times in ten years.
When I put them all together, are they really that different?
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I needed a brand. I needed to market myself. I needed to take this class and meet this person and why wasn't I spending $500 on improv classes? I changed jobs and finally committed to being a server: a job I always viewed as a cliché thing city actors did. And, well, it is. I worked with mostly artists in the restaurants I was employed at. I made better money but lost my heart. My fire was going out. I sunk in deeper into the restaurant world of going out and sleeping all day. New York was becoming harder and less sparkly.
I started modeling. I fell in love with that. It added some fuel to the fire. I became involved in various theater groups by doing readings and workshops. I wanted to get out of background and onto the screen saying words. I needed an agent for that. I couldn't get one. I had wonderful meetings, I paid for seminars, I took classes. Everyone loved me, no one wanted me. Small quirky brunette is a common type. I couldn't figure out how to market myself differently. Even being in the unions which I worked hard to get into I wasn't finding my light. I was in the door but the door kept shutting behind me.
I began to realize I was just living in New York. I was working a lot, sleeping a lot, eating takeout a lot. I had become a New Yorker and part of me loved it. I was in the greatest city in the world and surrounded by talented mofos and getting to see world class theater any time I wanted/could afford to. But my dream was laying there, flat on the ground, lifeless. I was getting on stage but leaving the theater empty. I wasn't using my technique or my imagination. I was just saying words on stage playing characters I didn't live in. I was doing what I thought I had to do.
I have friends on Broadway or have been on Broadway. My friends started booking work and I watched the careers of the actors from the shows I worked at move on after it's doors would shutter. Some succeeded. Some started selling real estate. Some were practically celebrities in big popular shows and then went back to tending bar in midtown waiting on the next gig. Slowly it was becoming clear to me I wasn't sure that was what I wanted.
Then the opening night parties distracted me. Working on movie sets and meeting my heroes distracted me.
Attending seminars and getting great feedback distracted me. I thought I was understanding the new business. I took a marketing course that I am still paying off and I got new headshots (I love this round the most though). I made a website.
I sent thank yous and postcards and I got up early and went to auditions. I hustled.
Secretly I cried when I thought about the little girl with the dream. The little girl who fearlessly stood up in front of the packed Flynn Theater audience and belted a four line solo she had helped write. That moment started that fire. I couldn't feel the fire any longer. I felt more like a machine running on batteries. I was doing things I was told I had to do by various people and castings and marketing ploys. I was lost.
I look at my emails and my Facebook and see nothing but advice on how to be an actor. You need to get these type of headshots! You need a reel that is no longer than two minutes! You need an agent! You need to drop your agent! You need postcards, a website, branding shots, seminars, a target list! You need to do yoga and use essential oils!
It was all about how you sold yourself. And that is important, I am not discrediting the idea of knowing who you are and what you offer in this business. But everything I was experiencing was telling me it didn't matter if I was talented. If I didn't have the right headshot with the right font and cut the right way and a resume with the right format, I was going to fail.
I have successful friends that luckily didn't fall into this bullshit. Musical theater powerhouses that went into that audition room and killed it so much they were given contracts on the spot. That gave me hope projects were still being cast on talent. Unfortunately for myself, a non-musical theater performer, my roles in plays were being taken away by celebrities. Another pile of dirt thrown on the fire. Auditioning for Carey Mulligan's understudy was enlightening to say the least.
I wanted to live. I wanted a sunny spot to read and write in and I wanted to make people feel things with work I created. I had stopped doing that years ago when I started working just to work. While I do believe that is important and experience is one of the best teachers there is, my personal experiences were killing my fire. It wasn't being lit by work and having my name on Broadway World. And it took leaving the city to realize it.