I love talking to actors. I’ve started calling these alternately formal and informal conversations “Actor Chats.” My Actor Chats are a product of the first day that a generous friend decided to take me under her wing, and invite me to her home for a discussion on the biz to offer up all the knowledge she’d culled on her journey so far. She’s been kicking around in showbiz as long as I have, and had success on both sides of the table – in acting, modeling, casting, and producing.
In that first actor chat where we poured over the “dos and don’ts” of the actor’s business world, I heard a lot of things I already knew and had experienced over and over again. But there were some little details that I was flubbing. And these little details, were all compounding one another to cloud my visibility to the people I most wanted to see me. We had hours of conversation and worked together on some of these things and I am incredibly grateful to have been a part of that first formal conversation with her. It really got the ball rolling on the actions I knew I needed to take – but hadn’t yet. And she gave me a great piece of advice that I’ve continued to carry with me: Ask questions of those who are where you want to be.
Now, I couldn’t just call up Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone and go “Hey, can you give me some tips on my resume?” But I did find an opportunity to ask an actor on a group night out a few weeks later; a friend of a friend, our first time meeting. He confided to me that he was having a touch of career trouble as well. He’d been doing work at notable regional theaters across the U.S. for years… when was it going to be his turn to get on Broadway? His words jolted me. I have NOT worked at the most prominent regional theaters. I have not been in the chorus, let alone a lead at the Papermills, the Goodspeeds, and the La Jollas! I started asking him some questions and it was a wonderful, stimulating and inspiring conversation. He said his current struggle was that he was in a totally different place as a 40-something year old man rather than a 30-something year old man. Type was something that recently had him flummoxed. Really? A notable regional theater veteran had issues? Yes. It was refreshing… and confounding. I told him I was struggling with my type. That I knew I wasn’t the ingenue, but I couldn’t possibly be the mature character woman just because of my size. Why can’t Carrie Pipperidge, the quirky, emotional, fun loving best friend in Carousel with a gorgeous soprano voice … be played by me? Am I always to be at the mercy of a tiny stereotype? He said, “Prove them wrong.”
And I’ll tell you something else about type that I just heard from actor Michael Tucker: Instead of getting too worried about what they want you to be, your focus when choosing material should be about what’s good for you. What lights you up.
“This is me,” he said. “See this.”