***Before I begin my story, I just need to say that I didn’t realize how long it would be. So if you’ve clicked on this post in mere curiosity of my Broadway audition experience, I suggest you have a nice, cold drink in your hand. Or a coffee.***
Ladies and gents, I have just auditioned for my first Broadway show! Honestly, it feels quite a bit surreal to know that I’ve done that and I now sit here reflecting on the experience, especially since many wonderful, supportive people are dying to hear details. Well, what better way to relate what transpired than right here in this philosophical space? Cue flashback music… ah, this will work:
Thursday, July 23. It did not start particularly as I would like as I found out that my place of work no longer exists and I, among many, was now out of a job. Spending a few hours at a nearby pub coupled with retail therapy at a local consignment store, I didn’t get home until about suppertime, tired, hungry, and a wee tad depressed. I flipped open my laptop to check the necessities (ahem, email and Facebook) and just happened to notice that one of the groups I’m a part of had a new posting. Clicking on the link, I found myself face to face with unbelievable words emblazoned on my screen: “Want to Be the Green Girl? Wicked Holding Open Calls for Broadway.”
That was my exact reaction. That’s right, good people, Telsey and Company were holding auditions for an Ensemble member who would just happen to be the understudy for Elphaba. The MAIN CHARACTER. Now, if you’re not a theatre person, perhaps this may be a tad confusing. “Understudy?” you might say. “Do you even get to be on stage? Is that even worth it?” Yes, my good fellow, indeed it is, because if the lead ever gets sick, BOOYAH, it’s all you, baby! And if you understudy the role, perhaps one day you might even replace the current lead when she moves on to another show. Not to mention, this call was 100% completely open! Anyone and everyone who wanted to audition could, no Equity rules to mind!
All of these thoughts ran through my mind in a matter of seconds and almost instantly I could feel a little pull, a tug inside my gut. I knew what that tug was saying, but I am a practical person (or so I like to think). I couldn’t just hop on a flight to be in New York for the day; I had just lost my job! What I should be doing is looking for work or setting something up with students of mine to continue lessons.
Click. My mouse opened a new browser and I was suddenly casually typing “cheap NYC flights” into Google. My eyes scanned the possibilities. Hmm… not too bad, if I didn’t care what time my flights were. With specific requirements, however, it would definitely be more expensive, like… yeah, okay, that’s a wee bit more. I wonder what would happen if…
Wait. I pulled up short. Am I actually considering this? Fingers drumming the table, I took a breath and did the only logical thing: I sent a Tweet and called my Mom.
The thing with calling my Mom about these kind of things is that she never says, “No, don’t do it.” Instead she says things like, “Well, looks like you’re going to have to think about it,” and “There’s only one way you’ll know,” both things that would only feed the growing ache inside me. Friends’ comments on Facebook did not help:
I stood my ground, though. I closed my laptop and went to sleep. I woke up at about 8 the next morning, fully intending on going to the gym and instead found myself booking a return flight to New York City for the day of the audition. The response?
Well, now that I’d made the decision to go to New York for this audition, I’d better prepare. I really didn’t know what to expect, though, and all I had to go on was what the audition poster had listed on it:
Cue the lovely Bev! She commented on the above post offering to share tips of wisdom from the time she previously spent in New York auditioning for Broadway shows. Well, lucky day! I sent her a message begging her to give me all her tips. They were as follows:
Thing #1: Though the poster says not to show up before 1:30pm, do get there early so you can see what the situation looks like. Others may try lining up as early as 6am. Better to find somewhere close by and wait than be late! (Fair enough. I was getting there before 8am anyway.)
Thing #2: Be prepared for typing. What is “typing,” you ask? Typing is “when they collect everyone’s resume and headshot and bring them into the casting room and they come back out and announce who they actually want to sing. Aka they need someone who looks a certain way and they don’t want to hear anyone not fitting that mould. […] They may type for height… they can type in anything.” (Whew, well that would suck if I flew all the way down for nothing… although I am the same height as Idina Menzel…)
Thing #3: If there’s a list going around, sign it. Sometimes someone will start an unofficial list of people who are “in line” and give it to those running the auditions. They may honour it, they might not. But sign the list. (O-okay…)
Thing #4: Bring your book. In addition to the cut of music they request you to sing, have two or three others songs ready to sing that highlight what your voice can do in case they ask. You don’t want to be caught off guard. That’s amateur, and Broadway producers don’t take well to amateur. (Well, thank goodness I’ve got some pieces lying around, though now I need to dust them off…)
Thing #5: Bring a second resume/headshot combo, just in case. (Done!)
Thing #6: Be prepared for the girls to get loud, especially since Telsey is a small space. (I’m sure I can take them.)
Thing #7: Be prepared for the producers not to look at you much. (Ouch. Hit to my ego… but note taken. Also, I kind of want to sing “Be Prepared” from Disney’s The Lion King right about now…)
Thing #8: It might be a good idea to get a travel data plan for the day, since WiFi is hard to come by. (Why do I need a data plan?)
Thing #9: You’ll need the data plan in order to check auditionupdate.com. It’s a great tool to be aware of because people will be posting things like how many people are currently in line, thoughts about the audition process, possibility of typing, if someone has started a list, and the like. (Data plan it is!)
Thing #10: Wear something that’s classy, comfortable, and you. Most girls tend to dress up in dresses and heels, but if that’s not you, then don’t worry about. You can wear jeans and a nice top and it’s fine. Also, wearing glasses is fine. (Yes! I love my glasses!)
A long list of tips, I know, but they really did help. I put together my book and headshot/resumé combos, purchased a travel data plan, scoped out auditionupdate.com, and checked Google Maps for the easiest way to get from the airport to the studio. All I needed now was to make sure I had some clean clothes and pack my backpack with the required items. Alas, disaster: the laundry room in my building was busy the entire day on Sunday so I couldn’t get any laundry done. My outfit choices became reduced to one possibility: patterned pants and a top that I had previously worn that week but luckily did not show sweat marks and didn’t smell. Not my best option, but it was the best I had. Throw in my favourite pair of comfy lace-up pumps and I was feeling okay.
Next step: what time would I need to wake up? Well, the flight was leaving at 6:30am, so I should be there around 5:30am. It takes about 15 minutes to get to the airport, remember I have to find parking, and I really should shower and wash my hair, which means I need to do my hair, so… 4:15am. That settled, I went to sleep around 11:30pm, just praying that I would fall asleep fast and get as much out of those 4 hours and 45 minutes as possible.
The thing about me and setting a wake up time, however, is that I usually give myself the benefit of the doubt and, due to a desire of wanting to sleep as much as possible and believing that “this time I will actually be quick to get ready,” I usually end up needing 15 more minutes than I give myself to be fully ready. Monday was no different. 4:15am hit and “Stand Out” from Disney’s A Goofy Movie blared out from my iPad. I groggily got up, stumbled into the shower, and proceeded to get ready in a leisurely-quick sort of way. It’s no wonder that by the time I started doing my hair, I had about 10 minutes until I needed to leave, and I still needed to get dressed and get out the door. Grumbling to myself about being foiled again, I finished up as quickly as possible and was out on the road by 5:25am, five minutes before I needed to be at the airport. In due time I was there, but not before I realized that this was an international flight and they usually require one to be at the airport earlier than domestic flights. I really hoped that my tardiness would not prove to be a problem. Alas, like all obstacles that God decides to throw in the way, just for fun (or as a reminder to wake up 15 minutes earlier), the security line was moving at an all-time slow, and I still had to go through immigration pre-screening. Of course.
I checked the time. 6:00am. The flight would just be starting to board and I still wasn’t through security. The jitters were starting to get to me. I entertained thoughts of asking the people ahead of me if I could bud, but I didn’t want to risk judgmental looks or scoldings. I opted instead to breathe deep and pray, and eventually I got to the other side, the Promised Land that was Gate 12. I stopped only to grab some water and a bag of chips (the Timmies had no breakfast sandwiches), and in time was on the plane and fast asleep.
We touched down at La Guardia Airport right on time. My task now? Freshen up, get some food, and get Midtown. Easy peasy, right? Fairly. Of course, it was rush hour on a Monday morning in New York City, so traffic was bound to be slow, something that was confirmed as our “express” bus tried to cross from Queens into Manhattan. I was supposed to get off at Penn Station, but by the time we arrived at Grand Central Station we were already on the road for about 45 minutes and it would’ve taken me the same amount of time if I walked. I had a better idea: take the subway to Times Square from Grand Central. Hey, it was no skin off my back. Grand Central is beautiful and the subway is cheap. I slipped off the bus and followed the crowds towards the 7, my stride matching theirs as my feet picked up the rhythm of my previous trip to NYC.
15 minutes later I emerged into the midst of stereotypical New York, the roar of traffic a constant din and the lights from the mile-high billboards blinding even in fully-risen daylight. I took a breath, soaking in the sights and sounds, and then sped off with a purposeful stride to reach Tesley and Company, a mere block and a half away. As I approached the location Google Maps pinpointed for me (thanks again, Bev, for the data plan tip!), I could see a small group of young women congregating by a chain link fence across the street from where the auditions were being held. I caught the eye of one of the girls and nodded, she returning my knowing expression and adding a vocal affirmative to confirm my suspicions that these girls were here for the same purpose I was. I noticed one of them had a paper in her hand. “List?” I asked. “Yup,” she replied, and I moved forward to sign it. Number 50. Man, some of these girls must have been here early, I thought to myself (4am, to be exact, I later found out). Thing #3 completed, I left to go find a Staples. Turns out in preparing my book I had forgotten to print off a copy of the audition cut and now I needed to fix that. That was a relatively quick fix, and with a quick stop to Starbucks for some caffeine, I traipsed back to that same chain link fence, surprised by relatively less girls than before. Why? “They told us to leave,” one girl said when I asked where everyone went. “We can’t even wait over here.” Ah. Where should I go then? “There’s a Westin just east, across the street. They sometimes let people sit in there.” Sounds like a great plan. I turned around and left, finding a comfy chair to sit in and check the status of auditionupdate.com. To my surprise, the girl I had been speaking with plopped down in the seat next to me and promptly pulled out a book.
Tick tock, tick tock. About a half hour went by before we spoke again. She was tired of sitting around and had decided to see if any nearby studios were available for her to warm up. Wait a minute… there are studios you can rent to warm up in? This totally blew my mind! She said I was welcome to come with her, so I packed up my book, hoisted my bag onto my shoulders, and off we went in search of Pearl Studios, just a few blocks away. We each rented our own studio for a half hour (after I veered off to find an ATM to get cash) where I had a ball of a time playing around on the piano, wanting to do that rather than actually warm up. I figured I better put my $13 to good use, though, and did my best not to panic about how tired my voice was sounding thanks to my early start. I wasn’t completely convinced that I was warmed up after a half hour, but it was a start and I still had at least a couple hours until my audition.
The girl and I didn’t cross paths after we went into our separate studios, so I went in search of some lunch and then headed back to my seat at the Westin. Only about 45 minutes to go until 1:30pm! I was starting to get a little bit nervous, wondering exactly what would happen when all the girls rushed Telsey’s doors. Well, I was about to find out because before I knew it, 1:15pm hit and a group of girls a few metres away began whooping and collecting their things. I looked to my left and noticed another girl who had also started collecting her things, obviously an auditionee like myself. We made eye contact and admitted we were both here for the audition and had no clue what we expected.
We moved outside, closer to Telsey’s offices where employees were still shooing girls away. Wow, when they say 1:30pm, they mean 1:30pm. When at about 1:25pm a mad rush began towards the door, however, the tidal wave of hopefuls succeeded to penetrate the barrier, pink and green slips grasped tightly in at least 200 hands, mine one of them.
I looked at the top lefthand corner of my slip and read my audition time: 4:10pm and I wasn’t supposed to arrive until 5 minutes before I had to go up. Whew, another two and a half hours’ wait until I had to be back. What to do, what to do? The girl I had just met was in the same boat as she had the same time slot. We decided to grab some Starbucks and then head back to the Westin to wait. Initially I thought perhaps I’d have some time to do other things in New York City while I waited, like visit the Strand Bookstore, but no dice. See, if you think about it, Times Square is kind of an awkward place to be when you want to kill a couple hours, because there really isn’t anything around other than Broadway, and as much as I would have loved to see a show while I waited, 2.5 hours really isn’t enough time. Plus, I had no idea what was playing, especially since it was a Monday, typically dark day central. So, the Westin it was. It was fine, though, This girl, Callie (spelling?), and I actually had a good chat about what brought us to this audition, and how theatre and Broadway had touched our lives. She actually had a brilliant story as her friends had all pitched in to buy her a flight the New York as they knew she wouldn’t get one for herself. What a story! I also had the privilege to meet one of her best friends who decided to surprise her at the Westin with his presence. A very sweet man, indeed.
Time went by. We chatted, listened to the accompaniment, checked out the sheet music, walked around, stretched, and just killed time. I kept checking Facebook from time to time, truly touched by the messages I was receiving from friends from Edmonton, Ottawa, Dublin, all over:
I even got a message from my brother:
Except it was too late. I was sniffling here and there, simply overwhelmed by the amount of support I was receiving from various parts of the globe, so much so that I had to retreat to the ladies’ room several times to make sure I was presentable. But I had no more time! It was now 4:00pm and I needed to be on my way. Callie and I gathered our things, said good bye to her best friend, and make the very easy trek back to the Telsey Offices.
There were several girls already waiting as Callie and I handed in our filled-out slips to those working the auditions, some warming up, most just talking excitedly (I see, what you meant, Bev, about the girls getting loud). The clock struck 4:10pm and we were all ushered into an elevator, someone making a joke about how everyone deserves a chance to fly (hey, someone had to say it). They separated us into two groups, depending on what colour slip we received 2.5 hours earlier, the pinks filing in line behind the greens. The room we entered was long and narrow, one wall lined with six doors leading into different studios, the other plastered with framed posters of shows Telsey and Company had no doubt previously produced. We passed the first two doors (auditioning for Netflix and something else that I can’t remember), my pink group halting near Door #3. The girl manning that particular studio called out each of our names whereupon we were to hand her our resumé and headshot so she could staple our slip to the goods. We then lined up in that order, waiting for the girl ahead of us to be finished with the audition, the last note of the cut clearly heard in 30 second intervals from behind the two doors reserved for the Wicked auditions. We shuffled forward until the girl ahead of me stepped into the fateful room and I was next.
This was it. The moment when either everything or nothing would change. I tried to breathe, but it was difficult, and to my horror I found myself choking up again as I thought of everyone who had backed me in the past and especially today. It almost felt like all the prayers that were promised me that day were suddenly washing over me in that moment, this “gift of tears” welcomed and despised all at once.
The door opened and the girl ahead of me vacated the room. I followed the audition helper into the studio and watched as she deposited more bundles of hopefuls’ information on the table. As soon as she left the producer motioned to the accompanist to give me my starting notes whereupon I was supposed to begin. I listened, afraid for a moment that I forgot what my starting line needed to be, and then I opened my mouth and sang.
To be honest, it was not my best audition of life. I was obviously running on adrenaline, as I could hear myself go sharp, and my breathing was shallower than it should have been. But as I stood there belting out my final note, I could then say that I had just done a Broadway audition, and that was pretty neat.
Mouth now closed, I waited as the producer said thank you, expecting me to vacate the room as quickly as everyone else had. What I did instead no doubt surprised the producer and his accompanist: I said thank you and walked forward, extending my hand for a handshake. Obviously nonplussed, after a short pause he took my hand and gave it a tiny shake, his eyes on my back as I repeated the gesture to the accompanist. Satisfied, I turned on my heel and strode out of the room, my head held high.
Gathering my things, I wished Callie well and left the offices, reflecting on one of the shortest (and most expensive) auditions I’d ever had: a mere 30 seconds.
I didn’t get a callback. I wasn’t surprised, since I knew this audition was not my best, but I was surprised by how relieved I felt. Many have gawked in protest when I’ve told them this realization, but it’s true. I don’t think this experience was meant to be “successful,” with me landing the part and be currently writing this from some tiny one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn (okay, let’s face it… a bachelor apartment with 5 people living in it because we would not be able to afford to live in New York any other way). What this experience has taught me, however, is that I’m doing fine where I am and that I’ve got a lot of people on my side. Not only did my Facebook keep lighting up all day long, a friend of mine relayed that all the campers at my childhood church camp were praying for me (my brother was the Assistant Director). Perhaps that’s why I felt such a whoosh of the Holy Spirit sweep me off my feet leaving me breathless and in tears right before I walked into that studio. I tell you, that moment above everything else was truly priceless.