Things I Wish I Had Been Told at [CCM/CMU/Michigan/Anywhere Else Is Irrelevant]

My actor friend, Callam Rodya, recently published some of the fundamental lessons he learned while pursuing an acting career in Canada. However, I believe the life of an actor in New York City is somewhat different.

I may have just graduated from my BFA program last May, but I spent an entire summer pounding the pavement before booking my first Broadway show in September. That difficult time in my life provided me with several lessons that I wish were shared with me before I walked off the stage at my showcase and into the offices at Gersh.

  1. “Stealing the show” is not a compliment. It means you were trying to have a “moment” when the rest of the ensemble was discussing dinner plans and making fun of the principals. Like you’re supposed to…
  2. You’d be surprised how few of your friends and family, or people with a personal connection to you are not willing to pay for theatre tickets whatsoever.
  3. You can totes play roles in your forties when you’re in your twenties. But, only if you book something out of StrawHats or NETCs, and nobody takes that shit seriously on your resume.
  4. By the same token, there are very few roles in the theatre for twenty-year-olds, unless someone from the casting office went to your school. Then that shit don’t matter.
  5. The stage manager may work harder than you. But technically, they don’t werk harder than you.
  6. Most people get drunk on Opening Night…because they can always callout the next day… dzuh. So, don’t ever be a swing.
  7. Being attractive and under twenty-five is the single MOST important thing you can do after you graduate.
  8. Background work does shit for your career. But posting the words, “on set,” “early call,” and “Craft Services” on social media will fool your friends back home into thinking you’re #nailingit.
  9. Unions are awesome when you’re on Broadway and the worst when you’re on tour.
  10. When people said you would be poor thanks to your brilliant career choice, it’s because their parents aren’t paying for their apartment. And that’s okay.
  11. EPAs and ECCs are on one level. Actual appointments are a completely different level altogether.
  12. Directors, casting agents, and producers care as much about how easy you will be to drink with as they do about how moderately acceptable you are for the role.
  13. Remember how you used to have five weeks to get off book? It’ll be another five weeks before there is a finished book.
  14. Save up a certifiable shit-ton of money if you’re going to move to New York. That is, if you want to actually be able to live off unemployment, prep for Broadway Bares at the gym, day drink, netwerrk, and you know, any of those other career-building essentials.
  15. Don’t do everything. Seriously. Know when to turn something down. And believe me, you’ll know. (i.e. SETA, LORT, LOA, GUEST ARTIST, 99- SEAT, COST, DINNER THEATRE, SHOWCASE)
  16. It’s not unreasonable to expect to be paid for your work. But you won’t always be. So when you do regional theatre, which will be a lot, make sure that after taxes and agent fees, the contract is more than you are making on unemployment plus your under the table job.
  17. Ninety percent of casting decisions have everything to do with whether or not you’re wearing Lululemon.
  18. Most of the time, when you don’t get the part, it’s not because you suck, it’s because you weren’t in someone on the creative team’s previous project.
  19. Nothing is more important than appearance. Sleep is important, but don’t skip the gym to take a nap. After all, there’s always frozen spoons and a hair and makeup person on set. But they aren’t a fucking wizard when it comes to your body.
  20. Take your “me” time. And make sure to share it on Facebook.
  21. Don’t embrace your “physical flaws.” Just try desperately to forget they’re there.
  22. Don’t actually spend money on Schmackary’s. Wait until they show up at your rehearsal studio. That means you’ve arrived.
  23. The camera really does add ten pounds. So don’t eat the Schmackary’s.
  24. No matter how big of a star you were in school, out here, just keep acting like it. Somehow that shit pays off.
  25. Acting is actually easier than you want to believe it is. And more people can do it naturally than you want to believe. And I want you to remember that when you pay your soul-sucking student loan every month.
  26. You are replaceable. And probably by someone like Karen Cartwright.
  27. Stage and screen are completely different worlds, unless you’re on SMASH, then you can act to the back of the house.
  28. You thought there was “technique” to acting on stage? Just wait until you have to be happy for your friend that booked the role you were up for.
  29. Rehearsals are hard. Actors weren’t meant to work from 10 – 6.
  30. It is not okay to be drunk, stoned, high, or any other kind of intoxicated while you work. That’s what travel days are for.
  31. Try not to get discouraged/cynical/jaded/resentful right after graduation. Wait until you’re about two weeks into your first Broadway show.
  32. And finally, don’t go down this path just because you’re “good enough” to be a professional actor. For the love of God, do it because you think you are.

Always be #grateful and #SoBlessed.

7 comments

  1. Yourworstnightmare

    Really? Everywhere else is irrelevant? I’m assuming you’re from one of those pseudo star-factories that thankfully I’m not receiving my BFA from so:
    1. I’m surprised you’ve learned how to spell, just like I’d be surprised if you could locate the library on your campus.
    2. Your attitude about pounding the pavement for 3 horrifying months before landing a Production contract attests to your idiocy. Sadly, though, your wonderful humility isn’t untypical and it speaks to the worst in our business.
    3. I’m assuming you’re joking about most of the other drivel you say, but regardless my suggestion is to find a good therapist with your Broadway money because your insecurities will need a long time to work out.
    4. By the way, I graduate in May and have just booked a Production contract starting this summer. This after singing, dancing, and more important, acting, my way through non-equity contracts (I got through SETC and UPTA) and a Guest Artist job. So maybe I’ll see you around in the West ’40’s, and if you throw me some of your lovely attitude, I’ll gladly kick your ass into Sunday and save your PSM the trouble.

  2. India Pearl

    Coming from a full-time actor in Boston, you shouldn’t say things like “noone takes that seriously on your resume” about StrawHats or NETCs. Lots of working actors based out of NYC and Boston get work all around theaters in New England, and those companies are taken pretty seriously. Maybe in your circle it’s is your understanding that it is the case, but outside of that you’d be surprised at how valuable the connections are to those companies and companies just like them. Many directors and artistic directors came from those places when they were young and acting, and a summer of touring or festival work shows commitment and experience in full time work on your resume. You never know who you’ll audition for this side of the east coast, so saying something negative about those companies is probably a bad move.

    I know some actors that started out in comedy dinner theater that are now on Broadway, so not sure if you meant #15 to be slighting towards the craft but it’s really hard work and it’s nothing to be ashamed of if it pays the bills and you’re good at it. Lots of those shows require a lot of improv and thinking on your feet, which not every actor is even capable of attempting. Commercial agents and directors love comedians and people that can do improv, which is why people that do those sorta things get a lot of commercial work and a lot of bit parts in film, because the director doesn’t have to work hard with them. They’re known to be easy to work with and great with timing.

    And you do realize how lucky you are that you only had to spend one entire summer “pounding the pavement” for work, right? Most actors spend years looking for a part with some credibility, let alone something that can support them enough to only be acting to pay their rent. How tough life must have been that after just a few short months you found yourself on Broadway…

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