the journey to paid professional performing artist

role repeaters

Cathy Rigby is still Peter Pan!

Let me preface this by saying that I am not whining.  I’m just making an observation.

This is something that I want to make performers aware of.  Especially if you are just starting out in the performing artist world and are out of high school.

In almost every show I have been in, at least one of the leads has done the role before.

From a performers perspective, this is unfair.  Especially in the world of community theater, one might think that opportunities would be given to those who haven’t had the chance to perform a certain role.  But this is a one-sided view (you know how I love my community theaters and all the opportunities they have given me!!!).

I think if I were a director, I might cast at least one veteran as well.  That is one person that you really don’t have to worry about.  And in community theater where you may have a number of novices, that would be one less thing to worry about.  Community theaters need to sell tickets too to keep afloat, so they need to put on good shows.

As a performer, I don’t know if I would ever want to repeat a role.  There are pros and cons.  If it’s a role you really loved, I can see wanting to do it again.  It gives you the chance to be the star again.  But it’s a different cast and director, and may not be the way you remembered it or you may not like the interpretation.  I guess if nothing else, it would be an interesting experience.

i am everywhere!

I’m feeling grateful lately.  But I need to also admit it’s because of my hard work and getting myself out there.

I'm the bottom right picture, for "Sylvia."

In the last couple of weeks I have received promotional materials from two different local community theaters with my picture in them.  The one is a group picture, but the other is just me!!  As Sylvia in Sylvia of course.

It’s not that I’ve never been pictured before.  For years the City of Harrisburg has been using my picture for their Harrisburg Holiday Parade.  I was in the parade once for the dance company I was with, dressed as Russian from the Nutcracker.  Someone got a great picture of me, and used it for a long time.  (There’s a new mayor now, so who knows if it will ever be seen again.  I hope I kept a copy…)

But to have them both out at the same time is pretty fun.  I feel lucky that I was in pictures good enough to publish and send out everywhere!  And in a strange way it inspires me to keep going, keep being seen, and hopefully wonderful things are still ahead for me!

I'm the second girl on the left in the silver dresses, for "Crazy for You."

Me as Sylvia in "Sylvia"

When you live in a place that offers you many opportunities, how do you pick?

My strategy so far is to audition for all the shows I’m interested in when I’m free.  I do the shows I’m cast in, while not worrying about what’s next until that show is over.  So far this has worked.  Even when I audition for more than one thing in a short period of time, I’ve only been cast in one thing at a time.

This is changing for me.  Community theater is still my life, as the professional work isn’t auditioning their seasons until the new year.  And since community theater is constantly auditioning, there is always something to look forward to.

I am currently rehearsing for Zombie Prom at Little Theater of Mechanicsburg, which will be performing the first three weekends in September.  LTM happens to be presenting a play, The Uninvited, in October.  It sounds fun, the director is a friend of mine, and it is a drama.  Up until now all I’ve done are comedies, so this will look really good on my resume.  So I auditioned and got in, and the part I wanted that will let me grow as an actress to boot!

I don’t know if I’ve even done two different shows in subsequent months.  And I will be rehearsing one show while performing in another.  This will be very interesting…

It has also forced me to look at my strategy.  Since these shows were at the same theater, it was very easy for me to know about it and audition for it.  I’m going to have to see how this overlap works, to see if it will work in the future. 

The only other time I auditioned while rehearsing was early this year when the professional companies were auditioning.  I had been keeping an eye on those opportunities for a long time and didn’t want to give them up.  Usually I’m a supporter of doing every audition you can, but I think I’m going to miss the Cats audition.  It makes me sad because I love that show.  But I’ve found out it’s not paying, and it runs until December 23.  With shows in September and October, and then the run cutting into possible holiday time, without it being paid I don’t think it’s worth it to even try.  It’s also an hour away from me, so it just doesn’t make sense.  I don’t think I’ve ever had to think so much about whether to do an audition or not.  This is a good thing?!?

However, I think after The Uninvited I will take a break.  Early new year is when the professional groups audition, so it will be nice to have time open for that.  Last year I was rehearsing a show over Christmas and that new year time, so it was hard to juggle.  Then there is a Theatre Harrisburg show I will audition for in February I think.  It’s again not a comedy, and I worked with the choreographer in Crazy for You.  That will keep me working through June.

Wow, that’s planning ahead.  But it feels nice to have a plan and know what I’m doing in the future.  Of course, you never know when new auditions will be called, so I still have to keep my ear to the ground!

Me singing in Crazy for You

Although I am not a confident singer, I have the experience to be more confident than I am.  I sang all through school, always being in the select choirs.  And I took vocal lessons in high school.  Then in college I focused on dance and didn’t sing at all.

Now I’m back to singing in shows.  It makes me wish I had never stopped.  Thankfully, singing is something you can always go back to.  It’s dancing that’s the tricky one.

For the show I’m in now, the music director has me singing the harmony most of the time.  I said that was fine.  Theoretically I can read music (having played piano from age 7 to 18), and in previous shows I’ve been singing second soprano anyway.  I thought harmony all the time wouldn’t be a big jump. 

All those years in school, I always sang soprano.  If there was a super high note that only a couple would sing, I wouldn’t sing that, but I have a solid high A when singing in a group.  In high school we would sing mixed up too, not standing grouped in SATB.  I used to stand next to a tenor and an alto, and had no problem holding my notes.  I don’t know if it’s so much that I’m used to singing different notes than those around me, but I have found I’m used to picking out the high note in a chord.

When we started learning the music for Zombie Prom, I was having the hardest time.  I thought I had lost my musical capabilities.  The previous two musicals I’ve done were in big groups (Bye Bye Birdie and Crazy for You) so either I was listening to everyone else or able to hide well.  I also was singing the soprano part most of the time.  Here, there are only three or four of us singing at a time, and sometimes I’m the only one on a part.

But then I was put on the high part for one song, and poof, I got it right away!  Easy as pie.  Thank goodness, I was starting to feel even less confident in my abilities.

Practice makes perfect, and I am starting to feel like I’m getting the harmony parts as well.  Or maybe it’s that I’m more familiar with the music.  I really didn’t know this show at all when I auditioned.

I don’t know exactly what the take-away from this is.  If you are normally a soprano, there aren’t many chances to practice learning the lower parts.  And this may just be my handicap, stronger singers who have been singing for longer may not have this problem.  But if you are a soprano and are ever asked if it’s ok to learn the alto part, be prepared that you might need to work a little harder than normal.

I’ve had some time to think about it, and I don’t think Sylvia was a character role. Not only was it the title character, but she did have an evolution that wouldn’t have been possible had the role been played flatly.

Being Candy in Zombie Prom is a character role. The character is spacey, and we don’t know why, and it doesn’t matter. she is what she is.
so perhaps what I was thinking was that all I’ve done so far have been comedies: Bye Bye Birdie, Crazy for You, Sylvia. Hopefully I get into the drama/thriller play I just auditioned for…

You’d think that after a while there would be nothing new to discover.  But even as I keep auditioning, each experience is new.

I just auditioned for Zombie Prom at the Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg.  If you’ve ever heard of this show, you will know that it’s like Grease: basically teenage roles and late-thirties and above roles.  This director has listed as specially wanting the teenagers to play as 18, and the two adults to play as 36.  I look young for my age, but I don’t know if I can play that young.  And I’m not even 36 in reality yet.  Being that I look younger than I am anyway, I don’t know how well getting an adult part would work.

But it all depends on who else shows up at the audition as well.

There were two nights of auditions.  The night I went there were only three other people there.  And they were all under 18.  So from that group I would guess I’d be pegged for the adult role.  However, I went there to get the romantic lead.  (My resume is getting too many character roles on it, like Gloria in Bye Bye Birdie and Sylvia in Sylvia, so I want to get it more rounded out.)  I put on a 1950s-esque skirt and blouse and put my hair up in a bouncy, curly pony tail with a big ribbon in it.  I was the only one who tried to look the part.  I put in the audition form that Toffee was the part I wanted, but that I would take anything.

Hopefully my effort will work out for me.  Though, I also realize that an appropriate boy would have to audition.  This is where my anxiety really comes from.

I’m getting better at my nerves for auditioning.  Reading isn’t so bad anymore.  I think the singing is still the worst.  Though it’s better after having had to sing for Sylvia.  I’m hoping if I get a role it will make me even more confident singing.

What I’m really nervous for now is being put with someone who is way too young for me.  The one boy that was there the night I auditioned was very outgoing, but almost half my age.  I think that would be way too weird.  It’s going to be bad enough doing a romantic lead for the first time, but if they paired me with someone like that, it would really be an experience.

But that is what I’m in it for!!!  I auditioned because I like the accomplishment of something new, even if it preceded by fear of the unknown.

And if I get the adult role, it’s not the end of the world.  It may not diversify my resume, but it’s probably a more fun role.  And it’s a good role.  I would have to sing by myself, which hopefully would up my confidence in singing like I said before.

I have to trust that the directors would not cast me at all over casting me in a role that wouldn’t fit.  If I’m too old for a teenager and too young for an adult, I’m fine with that.  It’s their name on the show, and I wouldn’t think that would look good, so I have to trust.

always learning

I’ve been thinking about the many auditions I’ve done now, and I think I’m finally learning something that I never thought of before. 

When you are taught about interviewing for a job, they tell you that the interview is about you finding out  if the company is right for you, as well as the company finding out if you are right for them.  It’s the same as auditions!

An audition is the interview of the performing artist.  The casting director is looking to see if you are a fit for their show.  And if they’re good they are looking to see if you’d fit with their organization as well.  But you can tell if you would like to be part of the show as well.

With a dance audition, you can feel if the movement being given feel right in your body.  You might look good and get through the audition, but if it feels like it will ruin your body you can turn down the job anyway.

With theater you can see if you like the show or not.  If you are unfamiliar with a show, Wikipedia and previous reviews only go so far.  Once you get to the audition and start reading or singing from the show, that when you’ll get the best idea of if you like the show or not.  If it ends up you find the writing or style annoying, it might not be the show for you.  Also, you might be able to tell where the director is going with how the characters are going to be portrayed, and if his ideas really bother you, this might not be the production for you.  (However, it this regard remember, he is seeing the whole where as you might be looking at a narrower vision.  The whole might end up fabulous, see this post.)

You can also test out the other people who are auditioning.  If you are in a room where you do not appreciate many of the other people’s talents, then you might not want to be part of the show.

So don’t be in a bubble.  Learn everything you can from the audition.  And you just might be able to make a few friends along the way as well!