family

Some of my favorite memories growing up include me standing in my grandmother’s kitchen with the rest of my extended family crowded around the kitchen table as I did improvised sketches, sang songs, and used different voices with a stuffed animal lovingly named “Mooey” as my captive audience laughed so hard tears were rolling down their faces.

Looking back as an actor, this scene makes perfect sense to me, and one might say “Oh, well you were just destined to be an actor.” At the time I would have scoffed at the idea.  As a child and all through my teenage years, I just always enjoyed making the people I loved laugh and well…I enjoyed being showered with attention.

At the time I didn’t realize I was “improvising” or “engaging an audience.” I just knew that I was doing something that I loved.

Here I am holding a frog. For attention.

I remember in high school my sophomore or junior year I was after school in drama club and instead of rehearsing we were going to try something new.  Apparently, we were going to do improv. “EW. What the HELL is improv?” I thought…sullenly, to myself. “I’m gonna sit here and avoid going up.”

Well, I watched a few fellow students go up there and basically with a set of circumstances, run a scene off the cuff, by the seat of their pants.  Our drama teacher turned, looked at me, and said, “Okay, Casey, get up there.”  I felt so stereotypically nervous and unwilling, but I begrudgingly stood up and slowly made my way to the front of the room.

I did a scene. I reacted, I said things and people were laughing.  They were laughing a lot.  I was confused.  I was just doing what I thought was natural and would make sense to keep the scene going as well as interesting.  My drama club advisor pulled me aside and looked me deeply (melodramatically would be a better word) and said, “Yes. Bring more of THAT to the stage.” WHAT? Bring more of WHAT to the stage?

It wasn’t until later on in my college years, training as a professional actor, that I realized that I was good at improvisation.  I was good at being funny?  It took me awhile to grasp the idea.  Comedy always seemed to be something one had to work at really hard. “Comedy is SO much harder than drama,” I was always told.  Oh.

Actually, I would say it’s taken me awhile to grasp still.  In January, I went to a showcase audition for 10 different agencies and 7 of the 10 feedback forms said things like “funny!” “Cute!” “great comedic timing.” I still can’t believe that within a 5 minute window of performing commercial copy, singing a parodied song, speaking in french, and using a character voice, they were able to size me up into the word FUNNY. Okay, I guess that is kind of an interesting, dare I say funny? combination of elements to bring into an audition room, but I guess it’s taken me awhile to know something about myself that has always been apparent to others who I have known me for a long time. Or…five minutes.

But where would I have been without my family?  I was only able to do improv and sing and be goofy and imaginative because I had people around me who have always supported me and laughed and made me feel like I was doing something right.  I just didn’t have a name for it.

Eric Hill, who used to be the director of our theatre program at UCONN always used to say , “You’re either an actor or you’re not.”  That might be true, and maybe I would have discovered this artistic talent in other ways, but I believe that the building blocks all began with my family.

Even my sister used to make music videos, shorts, and fake commercials with me growing up when we were bored.  Obviously, she had some sort of faith in me, or at the very least thought I was somewhat amusing growing up.  Right?  Not just because I’m the older sister, right? RIGHT?

I even made a video with her on top of the Empire State Building on Monday.  Hopefully that’s not illegal. Guess we’ll find out.

Anyway, Thanks Family.  At least YOU guys think I’m funny. Or pretend that I am.

Trusting yourself to say YES.

HELLO neglected blog-readers!

I’m back to report from the wild world of actor-land, where I have had a few unique auditions in the past couple of weeks.  Now I’m not making excuses here, but May has been a HELLA-busy month between doing shows and filming and volunteering for theatre and gala events…I think I am just now catching my breath enough to write. 

Now…I would like to touch on a very specific nuance in the audition process. 

A typical film or tv audition goes something like this.

1. Actor reads / performs material assigned to them.

2. Casting Director may or may not give feedback.

3. Actor adjusts accordingly. Or doesn’t.  Or freaks out.

Now there’s a mini-step in between 2 and 3 that for the sake of clarity I will thus label as 2a. there’s a little step where you need to say “I understand what this person wants. I am going to apply it to my performance. I trust myself enough to say YES, I can take a breath and take my time to be brilliant.”

Well, dear friends, I had an audition in New York in which step 1 and 2 went by as easy as a summer breeze in LA (but not June. It’s smoggy in June). Then evil-actor’s-nightmare-voice creeped in and whispered “YOU DON’T REALLY have all six pages of this script memorized you will NEVER be able to adjust your performance to fit the note you were given.”  I took a breath, changed my game and then suddenly got to the bottom of the page and remembered that I didn’t know what I was doing because well DUH the evil voice told me I don’t!

Afterwards, I was told, “You are a very good cold reader, aren’t you?” to which I responded “Yes.”  “You didn’t trust yourself right there, though, you looked at the script more than you did last time.  You already knew the lines.”  GAASP!  WHAT!? I am ALWAYS telling newbie actors to keep their eyes and faces up out of the page and to take their time.  I knew it couldn’t really be that!

I have a photographic memory.  I know the basics.  I can take notes.  All it took was a small moment of self-doubt to pretty much make it look like I didn’t know what I was doing.

So I say to you TRUST YOURSELF TO SAY YES.  I sound like a self-help book or something, but I cannot emphasize this enough.  I haven’t had an audition like this probably since college.  I realize we all slip up and I’m glad I did because it reminded me of THIS:

USELESS CRAP YOU DON’T NEED AS AN ACTOR (or as a person really)

  1. self deprecation
  2. worrying if you “got the part”
  3. comparing yourself to others
  4. thinking too much
  5. self doubt

Negativity really is the enemy.  Good actors get in the way of themSELVES too often.  If you look at the list above, it really demonstrates that we are in control of how we handle situations.  We may not be able to control the outcome, but we can certainly be good to ourselves so that every possible performance is a good one.

By contrast, I had two very solid auditons.

At another audition in New York City, I read for a casting director, received a note, altered my performance and she said I “nailed it.”  I took the time to listen to what she wanted, said “YES I have this, I know what I’m doing, I trust myself” and gave an adjusted performance.  THEN!  Someone didn’t show up to read, so they asked me to read again and I did, and she said that again, I had done very well and thanked me for reading again! PHEW.  Now that’s what I’m talking about.

And my last audition for an equity production in Rhode Island also went swimmingly.  It also proved something that my very first acting mentor ever taught me which was to “be prepared with as much material as you can.” AKA know your monologues, know them well, because you NEVER know…

In this case the audition started off very friendly, in which the director asked me about being vegan and cooking vegan cupcakes, as well as working at Connecticut Repertory Theatre.  Then, I performed my first Shakespearean monologue which he described as very nice, and said, “Do you have anything else?” I said “Sure!” and he said, “No, I am not putting you on the spot, but if you have something else I’d like to see it.” BAM I pulled out another Shakespearean monologue I had performed many times and that was it!  My audition was complete and I left all smiles.

me on set "Last Day in Paradise" as my character Aimee, getting all sorts of zenned out.

In the last two cases, I was prepared when an opportunity arose.  I also like to call this being lucky.  In the first example, I had convinced myself that I was NOT prepared and psyched myself out of what have could have been a really great audition.

So anytime you actors out there are on your journey to the next big audition, remember that you already have all the success and skill inside of you.  You just need to trust yourself to let it out and let it show. Say YES to yourself and ignore the negativity. 

See ya later!  And remember..be good to yourself.