New York. A more unique visit than previous ones.
What prompted this visit was an invitation from Blue Man Group to audition. It was very unexpected. With so many friends and colleagues urging me to take advantage of this opportunity, I made arrangements. Contacted everyone I knew to see who would be in the City while I was visiting, arranged to stay at my friend Nick and Barb’s place for the week, and did as many things as I could that were free to do.
The best and cheapest flight out I could get got me to JFK after 11p. However, we sat on the runway for 45 minutes due to the gate being unavailable. This prompted my waiting driver to bail, caused me to get other transportation arranged, and after 1a, I managed to open the door to my waiting hotel room and promptly fall into the bed. I had decided that a hotel room was necessary, since my audition would be the following morning – trying to go out to my friends’ apartment in Jersey City would’ve been impossibly draining.
Monday morning came all to quickly, and I was up at 8a. For all I knew, I was in Manhattan, but once I was out the door, and into the falling rain on E. 17th Street, the smell of the City, the architecture, the noise, and the bustling energy was already hitting me. I walked to Union Square, looking for a good place to start with breakfast. Just down Broadway, I ducked into a coffee shop, settled into a deep chair, and, with coffee in hand, and croissants at the ready, read a copy of TimeOut New York front to back. This settled me considerably, as my heart-rate and breath were already increased. I was nervous about the audition at 11:30a.
With MetroCard in hand, I was quickly entering the subway and made my way down to Canal and Broadway, where the audition was to be held. Across the street from the location stood a reliable Starbucks, so I was able to settle in there for several minutes, read a chapter of my book, make my final adjustments mentally, and head across the street and upstairs to the offices.
The BMG offices contain the rehearsal spaces, and I guess that this is where all the work happens until a Blue Man starts performing uptown near the Public Theatre. I was greeted with a warm hello from the casting assistant who had invited me to the audition; filled out paperwork, and waited. Other men began to arrive and sign in, however, they all had hair, I quickly noticed.
Soon, a woman came in and introduced herself. She would be working with us in the audition. She gathered us five men and took us back to a large rehearsal studio. I saw props from the show; percussion instruments; and a room full of makeup supplies, obviously to turn someone blue. The room was not brightly lit as we entered, and I don’t know if this was on purpose, but we were asked to take a seat along one wall, and we were then given an explanation about what to expect, and what we would be doing.
I won’t go into great details about what the audition entailed, however, I will say that at the outset, it’s not about drumming. It’s an acting exercise. Or, it could even be considered a clown exercise. The point is to have a non-verbal dialogue with other people in the room. I was only kept for a half-hour. I was the only guy in the room with no hair. And, I made a point to thank the casting assistants. We were told that they’d let us know the outcome that night, with callbacks set to begin the next day and Friday.
I directly got onto the subway and went up to Times Square. For no other reason than to go to the Actors Equity building on W. 46th and check out the audition postings, as well as to properly give myself a pat on the back for joining Equity. How often do you get to proudly present your union ID when you arrive at it’s entrance? That was me.
I’d done some research ahead of time about what shows would be auditioning while I was in town. And while reading the boards, there was nothing new that I could see that I could go out for, except for The Lion King on Broadway. The amount of listings posted along the length of the wall, to me, was absolutely thrilling to see. There’s something about being in the center of all this excitement, looking at the possibilities, knowing that I could pursue opportunities here, and dream of what I could do. Just outside this door, outside this building, in the street and in the historic theaters in this district, dreams were being made every day. I also met an actor who was there, practicing his monologue for an upcoming audition, and got to learn a little bit about what he did, and how the opportunities in NYC had been working out for him.
While prepping for this visit, I promised myself that I would try the ticket lottery to see Hamilton. It’s the show to see on Broadway right now. If you haven’t heard the cast recording, you need to get it now. It’s the most original and exciting concept I’ve heard, not since Rent or Hedwig and the Angry Inch or In The Heights. For the Wednesday matinee, Thursday, and Friday night performances, I tried to get a ticket – $10 cash – by throwing my name into a bucket, and braving crowds who were there for the same reason. Needless to say, I didn’t score a ticket, but I did get to see and hear the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda make a short speech to the waiting crowd.
The rest of the week was spent catching up with friends and colleagues. Over my last few visits to NYC, I’ve stayed with one of my best friends, Nick and Barb. Once again, for this visit, I was graciously accommodated, and I really enjoyed getting to explore their new neighborhood in Jersey City, just across the river. Nick has been my friend for 25 years, ever since we were roommates together on a semester abroad in Paris. He’s had an incredibly successful career in IT and the software industry, and him and Barb have travelled the world. Whenever I visit Nick, he always proudly shows off the things he’s brought home from other countries. He has two friendly cats – who LOVE me – and I never get tired of his stories and love for New York City.
So while I shuffled back and forth between the City and JC, I realized that once again, as had been the case when I lived in NYC from ’99-’02, the World Trade Center was always my compass. I’d always look for it no matter where I looked. I guess it’s because now, after 9/11 and the years since, the comfort of knowing the strength and personality of the towers somehow brought a comfort to me. Three years ago, when I visited Lower Manhattan, I was truly surprised at the progress of construction on the new World Trade Center. This time, as my flight was making its way directly over Manhattan, I could see the tower clearly, bright and shining. I honestly can’t believe that the Tower is done, and it’s there, and the Memorial Plaza and reflecting pools now housed in the original towers’ footprints, and the Memorial Museum are open.
Bright and early Thursday morning, I took the ferry from Jersey City across to Lower Manhattan with Nick and Barb. The ferry drops off at Battery Park City, just next to the World Financial Center. When I lived here, I had a temp job in the Center, and I’d commute the entire length of the island, just to get to this job. I lived on 173rd, and when I emerged from the A-Train at Cortland Street, and come up onto the Plaza between the original towers, and walk across the West Side Highway bridge to the Center. Now, upon disembarking the ferry, I was back on familiar ground, making my way toward the Memorial. I was surprised to see that all of the security fencing was gone, and that you can now freely walk into the plaza. My heart leapt when I once again approached the South tower footprint, and beheld the enormous size of the reflecting pool.
Today I’d finally give myself time to go to the buy a ticket, and visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum. And it is absolutely stunning. I wasn’t prepared for the emotional punch I felt as soon as I was descending the escalator: two gigantic steel tridents from the original towers stand, and you have the new tower behind those, presenting an incredible contrast. I checked my items, and slowly entered, and I was crying before I knew what hit me.
The experience of seeing so much, while you are actually inside the foundations of the original buildings, and seeing the artifacts, and exhibition, is overwhelming. There is so much in there, that after two hours of looking at everything, that I still hadn’t given enough time to everything the museum wanted to teach me. It became too much to handle. Because around every corner, there is something to give you pause, and reflect; I got numb. I will say that, for me, it was cathartic. I was able to relate my own experience of 9/11 to what was presented to me here. And the personal connection of being back in this place, left me with sense of loss and sadness, but incredible resilience and strength. If I had any complaint about the experience, it’s that too many people feel it necessary to take pictures. Some people who weren’t even born yet, seemed to treat the experience differently, or seemed bored. I don’t know. It’d different things to everyone. But, I think that if people wanted to have a true connection to this site, to this history, to this event, they wouldn’t have their phones out to have a visceral and emotional experience. But that’s just me.
My actor and playwright friends living here are making incredible strides to continually work and develop their passion for their craft. I managed to make it out to a staged reading of a play written by Laura Rohrman. Like my friend Nick, we’ve known each other for 25 years. I’ve seen Laura’s playwriting development take off, and she’s written some really great plays that deserve attention. I was really impressed with this play I heard, “Hoboken.” Hopefully this play will see further development and a production at some point.
Actor Watch: Mary Marxen, a new arrival from the Bay Area, is here, and she’s an incredible actress. We worked together on a few projects through Berkeley’s Waterfront Playhouse & Conservatory. We made it out to a performance of a new play that featured my friend Galen Murphy-Hoffman. “The Dishonorable Discharge of Private Pitts” was a play I knew nothing about when going in, and the ensemble cast made for a remarkable night of end-the-round theatre. Well written, expertly acted. Sometimes going off the beaten path lands you in a goldmine. Galen was spectacular in his role, demonstrating a new depth I was proud to see.
My final night in New York, I made it up to Columbia University to see my friend, actor Stephan Wolfert perform is one-man tour-de-force “Cry Havoc.” My third time seeing the show. I’m very lucky to know this man and his work, and I think that it needs to be seen – any way you can. We met at Shakespeare & Company – well, in the snowy parking lot of a Hertz rental facility. I had driven from New York to Lenox, MA with a rental car, and when I pulled into the parking lot to drop the car off, the car got stuck in a snow pile. This man, came over to help push to car, whom I learned, was Stephan. Now, seeing him perform his work for veterans, and his passion to bring attention to the stories of veterans, is astounding. He is a member of Bedlam, and has established an outreach group called De-Cruit. Please go see Stephan perform “Cry Havoc.” Absolutely necessary.
Late Friday afternoon, I learned that Paris was attacked. Landmarks in Manhattan were turned the color of the French flag. As I prepared to return to New Jersey for the night, I emerged from the Cortland St. subway station and looked up. One World Trade Center had it’s spire lit up in blue, white and red. I initially felt nervous about leaving out of JFK the following morning. But I did get home to SF rather quickly.
So what’s left to say? Did I get called back for Blue Man Group? No. I only wish I’d been able to move forward into their callbacks to further demonstrate my skills. Being asked to audition for them was a gift itself. Now, they know who I am. I would love to be considered again down the road.
What this trip meant to me is that I’m at a crossroads – or have been – for sometime. My career in acting is now at a place where I need to be working consistently and constantly. I think 2016 will be a great year and hopefully it will see growth new, exciting opportunities I haven’t yet had. I have so many friends and colleagues that I’m thankful to for encouraging me to get out to NYC for this audition, and I couldn’t have done this without everyone’s support. Even more encouraging, is that I know the community here in SF has my back.
Stay tuned for more…