the journey to paid professional performing artist

Posts tagged ‘performing artist’


So, the past few months have not been stellar for me.

I have been dogged by a couple of not-so-fun productions and a series of unsuccessful auditions.  This would get any performer a little down.  There is also now the probability that I will be moving, which means learning a new area and building my theater self again.

But thanks to one Ballet Hispanico master class that I (thankfully!!!) decided to go to at the last minute, I think I’m back!

To be a performer, you have to be stubborn.

You have to go to every class, every audition, practice every day, even if you don’t want to.

The past few months have been a total failure.  And I have learned some things from the stress of the not-so-good times.

I am getting paid to act in a murder mystery dinner theater now.  I guess that means I’ve reached my goal of being a paid performing artist.  Though I’d like to be paid to dance, but this is a start.  It’s very interesting and very different, and I can’t say I’m used to it yet.  Interacting with an audience can be nerve-wracking, and acting improvisation is something I’ve never done.  Dance improvising I could do all day, but make me open my mouth and it’s not so good.  But I think I’m learning.  It’s just not consistent performances so it’s difficult to get into a rhythm like I do with stage shows.

I have learned that I like a more hands-on director.  After experiencing both, I definitely like one that has a clear picture of what they want and doesn’t compromise.  Now I have to learn how to work with the other kind and not be miserable.

Most importantly, I have learned in the past few years what I have to do to get established in an arts community.

1)  Audition for community and professional theaters.

2) Keep taking classes wherever and at as many places as I need to get what I need.

3) Send my materials to all the production companies in the area.  (I know I haven’t done this so far, but I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I think it would be helpful.  They are always looking for new faces.)

I think it’s imperative to do this as quickly as possible.  The more you get out there, the more you’ll be informed about what’s going on in your new arts world and be able to take advantage of it.

The other thing I’m going to do is find a voice teacher ASAP.  I have a new place full of people who don’t know I’m not a confident singer, so if I can brush up on that aspect of my performance, I should be golden.


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."

can’t do everything

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!

trusting the casting team

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!

yay community theater!

Follies Girls with our choreographer, Judy Williams Henry

This is in praise of all the community theaters out there.  Here in Harrisburg we are blessed with having a lot of them.

There are many reasons why I love community theater, and why I think anyone who wants to get into show business needs to pay attention to them.

They are great experience.  Community theaters are often willing to give people a chance to participate in a new performance art.  For example, I always considered myself a dancer.  If it hadn’t been for Theatre Harrisburg, I would never have known that I loved musical theater, too.  Or that trying new things was so exciting.

They give new performers a chance to perform.  Or directors a chance to direct for that matter.  This provides valuable experience that you can put on your resume.  My resume looks like that of a bunhead, not very Rockette worthy.  But with the help of my local community theaters, it’s starting to look more like a theater resume.  It has also shown me that if I don’t ever make the Rockettes, it’s not the end of the world.  I do love musical theater, which you can continue to participate in your whole life.  A dancer career is very short in comparison.  That has taken the pressure off of me and made my Rockette journey more fun.  And it has pushed me to audition for professional theater too, not just the Rockettes.   But in any event, I always have community theater, so I will always be able to perform if I want to.

They audition through the year.  This may not seem important on the surface.  But many companies, at least in my area, have one audition to cast their entire season.  So if you don’t get in, your off for that year.  Community theater auditions right before the show.  So you can audition as you go.  If you find yourself with some time, look into your local community theaters so you can be doing something.

They may give you the opportunity to perform a variety of shows.  Each one seems to have the genre they like to produce, so there is lots of choice.  Some like to do the classics.  They will give you an opportunity to do some of the standards that maybe aren’t done professionally much.  Some like avant-garde works, new things that are shocking.  Keep your eye out, because you never know when the show you always wanted to do will come up.

They give people with busy personal lives a chance to perform.  For whatever reason, there are very talented people out there who never worked professionally in the performing arts. They discovered their love for the stage later in life.  They didn’t want to be a part of the craziness that is the professional performing world.  They found other interests in college.  An injury kept them out of the professional spotlight.  Whatever the reason, they can still enjoy their passion on the community theater stage.  Rehearsals are in the evening so work schedules can be accommodated.  They take into account your conflicts when casting and creating a rehearsal schedule.  It’s a great way to keep performing!

They provide networking opportunities.  Often directors, music directors and choreographers are local people who work for other local theaters.  Community theater gives you a chance to meet these people and work with them.  They can see how great a performer you are and how great you are to work with.  So when you get in front of them at an audition for a paying role, they already know you, and hopefully like you.  Haven’t you ever heard; it’s all about who you know.

It’s not just about getting paid in money.  Experiences are far more valuable in the long run.