It starts the same way every time. I get a phone call from my agent, who informs me that a casting agent would like to see me for (insert show here). I say, “Great! I think I’m up for it. Just another chance for me to be seen.” She says, “Yes it is.” And then she commences to give me a time and place (and sometimes directions) to the location of what could potentially be my next job.
When I was called into audition for FAME the Musical, I was definitely pleased, as the agency actually wanted to see me. Not all the time do you meet people who genuinely want to meet you in this business. However, I also understood that if I was auditioning for the role I thought I was auditioning for (and I was…), it meant I would get the ultimate chance to dance, get in shape, and use the skills I’d been taught in Scotland and Philadelphia. More importantly, I’d get a chance to tour Italy and be paid to do what I love. This sounded perfect. And funny enough, though I was nervous as (insert your own simile…), I felt in my spirit that this role belonged to me and that I could use it as a platform to carry out my mission statement in life.
When a man has a mission statement, he can always refer to it in order to keep things in perspective. I once suggested to some close friends of mine to do the same thing…but I’m not sure whether or not they have embraced the idea. I have had the same mission statement since I was in high school and it’s been tweaked just a tiny bit…but because I have it, I don’t tend to get too lost. I revisit it when I can…and that’s what I did when seeing if this potential role fit the bill.
If I could dance with purpose, and get across Tyrone’s (the character) vulnerability, yet zest for life, I would add his role to the many that had changed my life prior to this. And maybe I could inspire just one person to follow his or her dreams.
The audition was on a Tuesday morning. I awoke very early in order to catch my first train from London out into a small town out of the city. I was met by the Director and company manager, (I believe) and we went to a hotel, where I auditioned in a small board room. I danced a simple routine and read many scenes from the script. I stayed positive and smiled a lot (because I was genuinely excited) and I was driven back to the train station where I rode back to London really pleased with the job I did. Then I got a voicemail.
Unfortunately, my signal must’ve faded while I was on the train, but when I checked my messages, I heard “I just got off the phone with Fame and you have been successful.” If a smile could spread from here to Japan, mine did that day. I called my mother, told my friends, updated my facebook status…I had to scream the news to everyone. But the problem with screaming is that it may not be the appropriate way to convey news.
I have always been under the impression that good news is good news, regardless of anything that is to follow. I was so proud of myself that I treated myself to seeing cat on a hot Tin Roof here in London. I waited backstage to meet Sanaa Lathan (who is stellar), Phylicia Rashad (who is theatre royalty, if you ask me), and James Earl Jones (a man who is STILL down to earth as ever).
As Phylicia signed her autograph on my playbill, I told her, “I am an actor and I just wanted to share the news with you that I got a tour of Fame and I get to travel to Italy!”
Her face lit up, she grabbed both my shoulders and said with a bright smile on her face, “Have fun! Have lots of fun and enjoy it!”
I thanked her and went to wait by James Earl Jones’ taxi. He was not taking pictures, but he was signing autograph and chatting with theatergoers. I got up to his window. The conversation went as follows:
James: how are you?
Me: I am doing fine. I loved the show. I saw it in New York and I loved it even more tonight!
James: Where are you from?
Me: I’m from Virginia.
James: What brings you over here?
Me: I was studying Musical theatre in Scotland, but my love is for what you do. And meeting you tonight is just…like…historical for me, right now.
James: (pauses and smiles. Then signs his autograph) So what are you working on now?
Me: (gushing) Well, actually, I kinda came here to tell you the good news that I just booked a tour.
James: Really? (he smiles again) Then that means your talented.
There was no upward inflection in the tone of his voice when he said that statement meaning he wasn’t questioning it. He was confirming it. James earl Jones was saying he believed in me without even knowing me. And Phylicia Rashad gave me her blessing, practically. Two powerhouse of theatre showed me love and faith without even knowing me and I treasured it. It was good news and I needed to share it with people who would understand. I learned that day that good news is great, only if it can be followed by even more good news. And the next day, I was still waiting for good news to come.
Once an actor had a successful audition (and if he has an agent), it means a contract must be negotiated and then agreed upon. This is what I was waiting for; a chance to discuss money and travel and all the goodness that involves touring Italy! But not all dreams come true. And without going into too much detail (as that would be a little tacky), I unfortunately had to say no to what I considered then as the opportunity of a lifetime. I felt bad because I had such good news and it would mean a lot to my friend and family if I would’ve just made it. It would mean that all my hard work hadn’t been in vain. It would mean that things were starting to look up for me! Alas…life is not triumph after triumph….especially not for me. But oddly enough…I was ok with saying no.
You see, secretly (I am am to be completely honest with myself), I hadn’t wanted to leave the opera I’m in (La Boheme), to tour so soon. I mean, I am a principal in an opera, a genre in which I would never be able to be a part of in any other circumstance. And I get paid to do it, which equal professional actor to me. Also, I didn’t want to uproot my life and have to establish myself among people I didn’t know and feel insecure about a language I wasn’t familiar with. More importantly, I just didn’t want to have to rearrange my finances just yet, especially when I was just getting used to managing them in London. Truth is, though I wanted to tour, my heart was not saying “This is it for sure.” There was a tinge of doubt, which may be responsible for me not being able to take advantage of the opportunity.
In the book The Alchemist there is a phrase that always resurfaces which is, “if you really want something…the whole universe conspires to help you achieve it.” Maybe I didn’t really want it… Or maybe the universe was saying “not yet.” So until then, I am under the belief that when things happen…they will. But not yet…
For those of you who wanted to know what was going on during the time of “great news,” you now have it….but trust me…things tend to go downhill from here. To be continued…)