The Boy from Virginia…Breathes

The only thing that woke me up this morning (besides one of my roommates dropping something on the floor) was the sound of my telephone. It was a call seeing if I would like to come in and work on my day off and for once, I said, “No. Not today.” For some, saying “no” is such an easy task that they don’t have to think about it. Today was the only day I didn’t find giving a yes/no answer too complicated. For weeks now, I have been working my ass off doing overtime (because, like many, I would love a day where my bank account doesn’t border on zero). The shifts have been great, and so have the people I’ve worked with, but on Saturday, when I made the decision to work from 9am ‘til 9pm (might I remind you-on a Saturday?!?), I needed to take a step back. How much is this hard work paying off? And why am I so pissed at the fact that I feel like I’m putting more time into my day job than into my career? More importantly, why don’t I feel like I’m taking enough steps to get to where I need to be?

A couple weeks ago, I caught word of a friend who was cast in a major show here in London. Not only am I proud of him, but I can also confirm that his skills are definitely West End, and Broadway worthy. I knew for a fact when we graduated that he would be among the first to book something quite phenomenal. But in looking at how much I believed in his ability to be great, I think I began to doubt my own abilities.

Yesterday I had a talk with someone I consider to be my brother. I told him flat out, ”I know that my skills are decent. I know can do what I need to do to make it, but I am beginning to think that I‘m not West End worthy.”

Ok…now where in the hell did this train of thought come from? And why was I contentedly sitting in the caboose? Not West End worthy? I had to sit for a minute and think of things I’ve done in the past:

  • I did a workshop called “Best Friends and Butterflies.” I played a caterpillar that had to learn how to fly. People laughed, and they definitely cried. LESSON: My acting affects people.
  • I sang “If I Can’t Love Her” from Beauty and the Beast during a master class. I sang. I made some of my classmates cry. I had what we call an acting “breakthrough.” LESSON: My singing affects people.


So…survey says: Tommy’s is talented enough to act alongside the masters (being a master himself).

But I still haven’t discerned how this blotch of negativity manifested itself. Could it be from my excessive thinking (something that I will continue to do until my time of earth ends)? Or does it stem from the following:

Last week, I had 4 auditions and a callback. One of my auditions on Wednesday was hideous. I forgot every word to one of my audition songs, but yet, I was shown some pity (some SERIOUS pity) and the casting director decided to send me some materials to learn for a callback. On Friday, however, I went into an audition for one of my favorite shows. I have never had so much fun in an audition. I sang my heart out, was quite confident and secure. And I could actually see the audition panel physically relax and listen to me. Hell, I danced during the instrumental bit. One of the women in the room was even bobbing her head to the pop tune I was singing. Then I got the news that upped the ante a bit.

The panel was only looking to cast one guy and considering there are, like, 6 roles, I hadn’t a clue which role they were looking for.

I knew for a fact that on that particular day, only about seven to eight guys were auditioning, including myself. I took a deep breath, inhaled the information, and exhaled defeat. If anything I knew that I enjoyed myself in the audition (considering it was a show I didn’t think I would be seen for), and to be honest, even if I wasn’t cast, I thought that I at least deserved a callback. A callback would show me that I was considered, at least. Or so goes my reasoning. And THAT, my dear readers is when the insecurity train decided to depart from its invisible location right into my brain.

It has been a week since my Wednesday audition and I have still not received any materials. I keep thinking that maybe the casting director changed her mind. Maybe she thought, well if he couldn’t hold it together in here, then maybe he won’t be able to hold it together onstage. But that would be ridiculous because after my audition, she assured me that she knew I was nervous and that it’s ok to be nervous. Hmm…

Then there is the show I REALLY wanted. The Friday one…from which I’ve heard absolutely nothing. Now, yes, I know that sometimes it takes a while for people to get back to you, but I’m just hoping they haven’t casted the show without doing a callback. But yet, if they have done callbacks…then that means I wasn’t called…which for me, means I wasn’t considered and therefore am not worthy of the West End stage. (This is how insecurity works people. It makes us analyze all of the stupid, miniscule things and causes us to use the law of syllogism in the most inappropriate way). Here’s the thing. I don’t know an actor who doesn’t think this way. If there is one out there who actually DOESN’T take not being called back to heart, then he/she is not all that concerned with his/her career.

Part of our careers as actors is to make sure we get a second chance (as auditions aren’t enough time to get to know someone). Most auditions are 2-5 minutes long. And the pressure is on us to “give it all we got” in the shortest amount of time possible. Not only that, we have to be RIGHT for the role. Sometimes, we discover that we might not get called back because we are too young, too thin, too fat, too old, too something or not enough of something…and this is what we have to live with everyday. Until an actor books something, he has to try to remain optimistic while others are constantly saying “you don’t fit in here.” It is very much like being in high school again, but reputation isn’t on the line as much. Emotional and financial survival, however, is.

But until I hear any news, I am left in limbo. Or I will have to accept that it doesn’t matter how much of your best foot, you put forward…it will take years to be considered properly. But I doubt there are many actors in my same predicament (i.e, the “American in Europe” situation).

Most people think I’m over here in the UK, just living it up, performing and auditioning and getting what I want. Truth is…I am on so much borrowed time, it’s not funny. I have until December of 2011 to book something huge. Otherwise, I have to go back to America and start this whole networking process over. I will have to re-establish myself at home and hope that someone wants to take a risk on me (even though there will be thousands of people who look like me and who are more talented that I am). If I think things are difficult here in London, I’m sure they are 100 times more so at home in the U.S.  So I ask my readers to forgive my anxiety and “woe is me” attitude sometimes, but my mind is on my career, like, the bulk of the time. And when you’re on limited time, things become a bit more urgent.

            But the lesson I’m learning (because for some strange reason…when things don’t work out the way we want, some unwritten rule says there’s a lesson to be learned), is that even when things are urgent…I need to take time and do what I always do anyways: REMOVE and ASSESS. I remove myself from a situation before it gets any worse, and assess what steps I need to take next. There are many things I can do to make myself better, get myself seen, blah, blah, blah. But at the end of the day…I will still see something that can be improved upon. In this way…I am either my own enemy (because I am too hard on myself), or my own best friend (because I choose to make myself better). I don’t know about any of you out there, but I will continue to be hard on me because it keeps others from feeling as if they have the power to do so. I will also look for ways to further my progress. Just because I have a time limit, doesn’t mean things won’t happen for me. I just gotta breathe.


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