NYC is where theatre lives and breathes; where most actors go when they want to, first and foremost, pursue the theatre. Although auditions have unfortunately dwindled due to the economic climate, this is still where most theatres across the country come to hire professional actors. There is a mecca of opportunity for the theatre performer with auditions for cabarets, revues, national tours and, of course, Broadway. But there are also thousands of theatre actors, all at the top of their game, converging on this small island to get a job. It can be quite daunting and there is truly no one way, or right way, for that matter, to pursue a career in the theatre.
In my opinion to make it here, you have to work hard, focus on your craft, build a solid base of industry contacts/network, keep yourself seen (whether that's in showcases, cabaret, workshops etc.) and not lose sight of your ultimate goals whether it be to perform on Broadway, performing in your own show, or just work steadily wherever the next gig may lead.
Of course, making it in New York City not only requires attending auditions, it also requires time, patience, perseverance, constant classes, coaching and some honest-to- goodness dumb luck of being in the right place at the right time.
I've been in NYC for about 12 years now. I moved here not long after college and am lucky to say that I have been working steadily since I stepped foot into the Big Apple. Here is some advice I've learned along the way to help guide other fellow performers seeking to conquer the NYC theatre market:
- Have your hands in as many pots as possible. Why? I like to use a garden analogy: plant many seeds so at least one will grow. Things in this business NEVER go as planned. The more you do and are involved with, the more likely one of those seeds will grow. One of those projects will plant the seed for another more lucrative project in the future.
- Never say no to opportunities. Enough people will do that for you! Of course, with that I say stay true to your 'moral' code. Enough said.
- Auditions are crazy and very unrealistic as to what we are actually hired to do. Just look at them as "snippets" of our best work/talents on display. Thus, instead of letting them get to your nerves, try to look at them as your time to shine, perform, and do what makes you different then everyone else. You only have, at most, a few minutes (if you are lucky) so make them count to let the world know who YOU are!
- Although there are auditions all year long, there are traditionally two big audition seasons in New York: fall and winter. Those are the best times to be here for someone who is looking be seen by a lot of people in a short period of time. September and October are when regional theatres come to audition for all the big holiday shows; February and March, when theatres are casting all the summer shows (this is also known as Summer Stock season). Many national tours going on the road, audition at this time as well as they want to secure the talent who probably will also get booked for summer stock work.
- Receiving callbacks for jobs are the best sign that you are on the right path. As several of my teachers have said to me, a callback is basically the theatre saying we love you, but now we have to look at other factors, i.e. height, weight, hair, who you're working with, do we need another alto? etc. Always congratulate yourself on a callback and keep doing what you are doing. As my teachers have also said, it takes at least ten callbacks to actually get a job! Speaking from experience, that is true; so trust you are moving in the right direction.
- If you are not getting callbacks, meet with a respected coach/teacher in the business. Make sure they are being honest with you and not just telling you how great you are. You want to know what you can do to improve or make yourself more marketable, so that an audition will get you a callback or a job. Be willing to hear criticism because it is the only way you can get better. Trust your gut as you will know when that criticism is coming from a place of truth and helping to make you better, or coming from someone just putting their fears and own personal issues onto you. If that is the case, run! Far, far away!
- Know that no other's route is the same as yours. Your friend may make it in a Broadway show once he moves to New York, and you may not make it for years. That's ok!!! Everyone's journey is different. Broadway is not the end-all-be-all of a career.
- Everything works out for the best and one must make the most out of every opportunity. Disappointment and rejection are around every corner in this business. Take what comes for what it is, and know a better job is just around the corner. When that job does turn up, make the most of it. Working is the time when everything comes together. Again, make that garden grow.
- Find a "day" job within the theatre. It makes your network grow and keeps you almost doing what you love. Other opportunities you didn't even imagine can spawn from working in the theatre. For example, along with performing, I am a wardrobe dresser on Broadway. I have dressed over 12 Broadway shows and have worked with a lot of people who now know me. It has helped me a lot in my performing career, to say the least.
- Find what makes you unique and create new projects of your own. Don't be one of many; be one of a few. This is a hard one, especially in today's theatre where many of the shows require people of similar voice types and looks. You have to remember that YOU are unique and you will stand out of the chorus and become someone to remember. Find those qualities in yourself that make that person behind the table remember you amongst the other 300 faces at the audition. Sooner or later that job will come along when your skill set is needed and YOU will be the ONLY one they remember.
- Own your "type" ... it is not a curse. People tend to think they only call me in for the funny girl next door but I can play the ingénue. Firstly, if you are working a lot as the funny girl next door, keep doing it. There aren't that many jobs to go around and if you have a niche that keeps getting cast, then stick with it. Know that one day someone you've worked with as the funny girl next door will say they have a great other part they know you can do. It will be your time to branch out. The name of the game is to keep working so people will see you and start calling you for other roles.
- Know that no matter what, things don't get easier and the rat race never slows down. There is always someone out there willing to work harder then you; so you do what you can and if you really love to perform, keep on pursuing.
- Make sure you create a "life" for yourself. Don't be completely ensconced in your career. You need other things to perk you up when things get tough.
- Save your money. Trust me, you don't want to be living hand-to-mouth in New York City.
Now, get out there and make things happen!
The Associated Press declared Kimberly a "Warm, Sassy Diva!" Kimberly is the first and only actress in New York City to have played leading roles in two legit Off-Broadway Musicals at the same time: Danny and Sylvia, The Danny Kaye Musical as Sylvia Fine; and the solo show, One Night with Fanny Brice, for which she received critical acclaim as well as a Patrick Lee IBTA Best Solo Performance Award nomination amongst fellow nominees, John Leguizamo, Michael Shannon and Michael Birbiglia.
Kimberly also played Fanny Brice in the Broadway-bound musical Ghostlight as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival and, having become the "go-to" gal to play Fanny Brice, Kimberly was commissioned to write her own solo show, Fabulous Fanny: The Songs and Stories of Fanny Brice, that recently premiered and is currently being booked across the country!
A graduate of University of California, Irvine, Kimberly has performed throughout the U.S. in national tours, regional theaters, cabarets and theater for young audiences. Other recent New York City credits include Gail Friday in Who Murdered Love? (NY International Fringe Festival 2012), Doris Walker in Miracle on 34th Street (Actors Fund Benefit), Nell Henderson in Mr. President (Actors Fund Benefit), and Mother Mary in Christmas Rappings (Off-Broadway). TV/Film credits include: Charmed, Between The Lions, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Singing Biologist, and Drek. This winter Kimberly is scheduled to shoot a supporting role in the upcoming independent feature film Made From Scratch, written and directed by David-Matthew Barnes.
Kimberly is also the Executive Producer/Creator of the educational Broadway Website BroadwayBlogspot.com.
Kimberly is available for remarks and questions in the Comments Section below.
About the Author
Kimberly Faye Greenberg
Actor, Acting Teacher, Host/Presenter, Singer, Voice Actor, Wardrobe Supervisor
Kimberly Faye Greenberg is the first and only actor to play leading roles in two Off-Broadway musicals at the same time. In addition, Kimberly’s numerous portrayals of a Fanny Brice (4 shows/2 CDs) have been critically acclaimed by the New York Times, Huffington Post, and Associated Press. Kimberly'...