Monday, 31 December 2012

"2012: A Year of Personal Growth and Reflection"


January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012

Ok…so once again I fell behind on the whole blog thing. One of my resolutions for 2013 is to at least blog once a month. Even if it is only a sentence or two for that month I want to make sure I stay committed to keeping family and friends updated with something other than Facebook.


So lets play catch up:

Stacey M and I on the Subway!
January: I moved to NYC with 2 suitcases and no money.
February: I found a job with NY Kid Club. I also started my first time through “audition season” and learned some of the do’s and don’ts of the process.
NYC Cast of Guess Who's Coming to Seder
March: I moved into my first sublet with my friends Jessica Howell and David Brown in Astoria and love it! I also booked my first theatre gig. I was cast in Guess Who’s Coming to Seder, a reading of a new musical that was at the York Theatre.
Moving on the Subway!
April: I subletted my sublet and went to Tulsa to put the first production of Guess Who’s Coming to Seder up on its feet with Tulsa Project Theatre.
May: Finished up with Seder and came back to NYC.
June: I had my first “final callback” for Jersey Boys.
Gatlinburg, TN

July: I joined my family for vacation in Gatlinburg, TN.
August: I had my second “final callback” for the Les Miserables tour. I was promoted at work (NY Kids Club). I made plans to move into a new place in Astoria with some of my best friends from college. I flew to Dallas, rented a Budget Truck, and drove all of our stuff to NYC.
September: I moved into my new home in Astoria!!! There was a lot of moving things around and getting settled into the apartment. With a bittersweet goodbye, my grandmother went to be with the Lord & Papa and I flew back home to attend the service and celebrate her life.
October: First Halloween in the city and I celebrated it by going out in Manhattan dressed as a Power Ranger with Natalie. A visit from Hurricane Sandy made for an interesting lock in for my roommates and I. We are so very thankful to have stayed out of Sandy’s destructive path.
November: Unfortunately my parents had to cancel their trip to the city due to the destruction of Sandy. Had my first Thanksgiving in NYC with the roommates. GOT MY FIRST NYC CHRISTMAS TREE!!! J I also used some of this month to look through my audition material to clean out and prep new material in anticipation for Audition Season (January through April). 
December: I my first Christmas season in NYC! I went to the lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree and saw all of the beautiful window displays in the city. I visit family and friends in Nashville and Memphis and enjoyed so much southern food and Christmas cheer…I will be working for the next 6 months to loose the weight I gained in 7 days… 

     2012 was a great year. It wasn’t a year full of much theatre work but it was a year full of personal growth and reflection. From the excitement of moving to my dream city to the death of my grandmother, this year was full of ups and downs. I have realized through all of this that the best way for me to handle this roller coaster of life is to just be true to myself. There were times this year that I felt so lost and alone and there were times I felt so surrounded and supported by friends. I’m not sure what 2013 will hold for me but I look to God to lead me through it one day at a time.

     “Despite being the outsider for as long as I can remember, I look back fondly at my early and involuntary declaration of independence and realize God often seems to know what he is doing…preparing us perfectly for our tailor-made journeys that lie ahead. If we can only make it through the madness, endure the hate, the hurt, the shame and sadness…if we can tolerate and survive the neglect, the rejection or abuse…we often find that even the most painful of experiences can prove to be of use. They prepare us, season us, soften us and make us more compassionate…”  -James Alexander Langteaux- 

Sunday, 25 March 2012

“Life in New York: An Awakening of my own that is a SMASH!”

January 16, 2012 to January 26, 2012

MY FIRST NYC EQUITY AUDITION:
Just two days after moving to the city, I went on my first EPA (Aka: Equity Principal Audition.) Walking into the audition, which was at Ripley Grier Studios, I felt like I was walking into a slaughterhouse. There were so many people (both Equity and the non-equity people hoping to be seen) and with this being my first Equity audition, I felt to stupid and like everyone who watched me walking in knew just how dump I was to all of this. I put my name on the list and sat down. I didn’t get to the audition super early so I was placed on the alternate list at #28. I started talking with an extremely sweet girl named Kristen and she spent some time explaining to me how everything with Equity worked. She was alternate #18… meaning she was totally going to make it into the audition during the EPA. At first they thought that they would get to me before the time was up for the EPAs but they ended up only getting to #24. Right after the EPA was the ECC (Aka: Equity Chorus Call) so I was bumped to the back of the line that was forming for the ECC… #398. For the ECC, you can sign up one week in advance at the Equity building, which basically starts placing you in line. All those on the list are at the front and all those people that just showed up the day of the audition go to the back of the line…everyone still being Equity that is. Luckily, not everyone that had signed up was there so I was bumped up to #70. I spent most of my waiting time playing games on my phone but soon became bored. I went over my music, talked to some people who also were waiting in the ECC with me, and finally back to the phone. After the phone died, I did some people watching. It is extremely funny to me how bitchy and catty the waiting room can be. I mean, aren’t we all here trying to do the same thing? Shouldn’t we want to be encouraging to each other instead of judgmental and rude? I mean…we all have to start somewhere, right? And with the theatre world being so small, why start being a little bitch now? (…anyway…done with my venting for a little while.)

Once I finally got into the room, I had already been waiting for almost seven hours. I was ready to sing, that was for certain. I walked in, sang my 32 bars, had a short conversation with the casting director about my time in Dallas with Spring Awakening, and left. I find it funny that it was a seven-hour wait for a two-minute audition. While ultimately I didn’t get the job, I was happy just to have my first audition out of the way. It was nice to be able to just audition and officially start my journey of auditioning in NYC! J

As my auditions went on…I found that the waiting rooms never seem to get any better. I find two or three people that I seem to be able to carry on a nice conversation with while others continue to bitch and act like they are more important than they really are. I have also found that I sort of enjoy auditioning. Even when I don’t get cast, I still enjoy the fact that I sort of have a performance opportunity with each audition. My nerves spike just a little, by hands start to sweat, but then I walk into that room, I start singing and just enjoy being able to belt the shit out of my song. Unlike at home or college where I could just sing wherever and whenever, I don’t really have a place here that I can belt. I don’t have my car, I have roommates and neighbors I shouldn’t disturb, and I don’t want to just belt it out right there on the street…awkward. So I’m doing my best to just enjoy audition. Lord knows that if I stay in this career I’ll be auditioning more than actually working. Lol.

SMASH:
Courtney Chilton, a friend that graduated with me from TU, has been in the city and audition for musicals, tv, and film for a few months now. Upon my arrival, we met up for drinks and starting talking about life. The audition process, if chartered by yourself, can be a very lonely one. Now that I was in the city, she started giving me some advice on TV extra work and the in’s and out’s of finding them. With a helpful lead from her, I booked my first extra work for a new show on NBC, Smash.

The morning of my first extra work was an extremely early one. While I technically didn’t have to be there until 9AM, I wanted to make sure I was early. You see there is a little rule that we go by in the theatre: “Being 15 minutes early is being on time. Showing up at the start time means you’re late.” Since I was already leaving at 7AM and I wasn’t sure of where I was going, I had to be up at 5:45 to get prepped and ready for the shoot. I arrived about thirty minutes early, checked in with appropriate people, and had a seat to wait for further instructions. The first thing they had me do was check in with wardrobe. They had asked us to bring several options so I had two different outfits for them to choose from. They said that they didn’t have a lot of the guys in much color so they placed me in a purple, polo button down and a yellow tie that Jeffrey let me borrow.

As I waited, I started up a conversation with a guy who just moved into town as well and who looked just as lost and confused as me. David went to Michigan and moved to the city for musical theatre. He moved from Vegas where he just finished a run with the hit musical Jersey Boys. We talked for a good thirty minutes or so about life and how we were both adjusting to the city.

The lady in charge came out to welcome us and give us a few “Golden Rules” about being an extra as well as some explanations of some filming lingo. Thank God she was helping us out a little! I mean, most of them are common since but you take help from wherever and whoever seems to be giving it freely.

The 5 Golden Rules of Extra Work:
1.     No talking on the set.
2.     Cell Phones must be off or on silent. No cell phone should be pulled out and/or seen on set.
3.     Do NOT fall asleep on the set.
4.     In case of an emergency, talk only to the person in charge of the extras. Do not go to anyone else!
5.     Do not ask when the wrap will be. You will be told when the wrap happens and not a minute before.

Filming Vocabulary 101:
1.     Rolling: They Start Filming
2.     Background: When the extras should start their business/action.
3.     Action: When the principals start their business/action.
4.     Cut: Filming Stops, Actors stop, you don’t say anything, and wait for the next direction.
5.     Reset: Go back to the start of the section you are filming.

After our little session on rules and vocab, we were walked to the set. Located only a few blocks from our location, we where in Vinegar Hill (in Brooklyn) at a very nice bar. While David and I were trying to stay together so we could keep talking and actually sort of know someone else during the process, we were separated during the placement process as they placed us on set. The bar had two levels and while he was on the first, I was on the second. This business can be so lonely. I felt sort of like how I felt while at the Spring Awakening audition. None of my friends are here to share this with. Nobody to sit in the waiting rooms with me and “shoot the shit with.” But I guess that is just all part of it. I knew moving here that I was one of the first from my year heading this direction and parts of this journey would be lonely. I guess I just need to find better ways of passing my time. Being on the second level also meant that more than likely I wouldn’t really been seen that much. UGH! First exciting extra work and I would either not make the shoot or be thrown on the cutting room floor.

Once on the set, they announced that today I would be on set with Katharine Mcphee and Uma Thurman! Uma Thurman? Now, I’m sure that those of you who have been keeping up with the show are a little confused. How could Uma be on here and what was her character? I guess that’s just one of the plot twists yet to come in the show! Our time on set was just a lot of hurrying up and waiting. You just find ways to pass the time…without your cell phone (Don’t forget out the 2nd golden rule!).

At lunchtime, there was a feast!! Is this for real? Is this normal? If so, I want to do more extra work! Mom and Dad don’t worry!! Smash is feeding me extremely well. Lol. From salad to steak, there were a lot of options and a lot to go around. While of course I, along with the rest of those that weren’t union with a TV or Film union like SAG or AFTRA, had to wait and go last in the line, there was still plenty of food to go around. 

After lunch we sat around for several hours waiting on the crew to get back and get ready for us to be back on set. During this time, I realized that everyone should be prepared for situations like this. In general you should have some sort of audition bag that includes a good book, gum, audition material, headshot and resume, a writing pad, a black or blue pen and a pencil, chapstick, a water bottle, a power bar, and possibly a magazine to go back and forth with between the book.

Once we got back on set, we recorded a few more shots that they missed the first time around. They moved on to another space over by the bar and pulled a few people over for specific action while the rest of us just sat by doing nothing. Once I had finally given up on actually having a chance to be seen in the episode and became satisfied enough with just getting a paycheck, they moved to the dance floor in the bar where I was chosen to help. Unless they completely cut this shot, I should totally make it into the episode. I am standing right behind Katherine Mcphee and Uma is within my arm reach. It was so weird to be that close to these people. I mean, I knew that I would see people on set but never would I have imagined that I would be this close. This ten-minute shoot was totally worth the other 9 hours of sitting around, shooting, and waiting.

In the end, it was a great day and a wonderful experience. I hope to do more in the future! While they are extremely long days, the pay isn’t too terrible.

***Please tune in with me to see if I actually make it into the episode! J It will be Episode 12 and should run sometime in May. Stay tuned and I’ll let you know exactly what date as soon as I know!

PERSON OF INTEREST:
After working for the casting company that hired me for Smash, they also hired me for extra work on Person of Interest. I have never seen this show in my life and apparently it is my father’s new favorite show of the season. I find that sort of funny that I ended up working on the set of it while not knowing it and my father loving it.

One really interesting thing about working this gig was meeting a guy there who was also from Tennessee. While we were pulling out our Drivers Licenses for paper work, he noticed that I was from Tennessee and explained that he was from Nashville. We sat talking about how he just moved here as well, life in the city, and of course the south.

Overall, it was a very chill day that was very organized. I only spent five hours on set and was paid for ten…that’s always a good thing!

My episode of Person of Interest has already run. It was Episode 16: Risk. I only found out that it ran because I had a friend’s mother from Memphis actually message me to tell me that she saw me. It is very quick and during the fight scene, but you can see me for a hot second. 

“…If I Can Make It Here…”

January 14, 2012 to February 14, 2012

WOW! I can’t believe that I have already been here for a month! It seems like just last week I arrived in the city. But looking back over this past month, I’ve already had a lot of amazing opportunities and I wanted to share a few with you now.

On my arrival to the city, I moved in with Jeffrey and his wonderful roommates Liz and Avery in Brooklyn. They live by the Parkside stop on the Q train. They have generously allowed me to stay on the couch for the past few weeks while auditioning, job hunting, and apartment searching.

Audition wise, I’ve only hit up a couple of auditions here and there. While I of course want to audition and work towards something I actually have a degree in, I also needed something at the moment that is stable and allow me to pay the rent in order for me to stay in New York. While here, I’ve auditioned for several shows for all over the country including Spring Awakening, Legally Blonde, and Book of Mormon. Also in the performance realm and as many of you know, I’ve also had the opportunities to do some extra work on Smash, Person of Interest, and a couple of audience pieces. (More to come on these experiences in my next blog)

Concerning a job, it has taken me a while to find something…really anything. I applied at over forty places, walking up and down the streets of NYC and stopping in whatever stores that were hiring…that is a retail store. I decided that since I really wanted to enjoy my time in the city, I didn’t really want to wait tables. So at first, I was looking for anything besides the food industry. Unfortunately for me, most stores weren’t hiring until late February or March since most where currently still letting go of their new holiday hires. Finally, after two weeks of searching, I finally heard back from NY Kids Club, a premier children enrichment center renowned for creative and innovative kids classes, day camps, birthday celebrations, and special events. I went through training with the company and have become a part of their Special Events Team. It means that I am only really working Fridays at 3pm to Sunday at 6am. This is a great job where I get to work with children, only work on the weekends, and allows me time to still audition during the week. The NY Kids Club also guarantees me work when I come back to the city if I get a theatre job that needs me to leave the city for a few weeks/months. It is a great job! Now I just need to work my up in the ranks so that I can become a more permanent part of the team and get more hours.

Apartment wise, my findings were similar to that of my job hunt. Looking for an apartment that met what I wanted out of a place was difficult to find. Not only was I looking for a place for myself, I was also looking for a place that I could share with Cynthia, a friend from TU that is moving here in March. In looking for a place, I just wanted something that had a good and safe location, that had enough space for the two of us, and that wouldn’t break my bank account each month. I realized very quickly into my search that I could only have two of the three!! My ideal situation would be something that I could sublet for 6 to 10 months, wouldn’t be more than $800 a month (including all utilities), and enough space for Cynthia and I not to kill each other. Lol. After about 3 weeks of searching, sending about a hundred emails to different sublets, and actually going to see 4 or 5 potential places, my friend Jessica called telling me that she had a room opening up at her place March 1st. You may remember me talking about Jessica during my Seussical blog. She went to TU but graduated before I got there. She and her fiancĂ©, David, were looking for someone to start renting one bedroom in their three bedroom apartment starting March 1st. And, to add to this already amazing opportunity, they need someone else to start renting in April since their other roommate will be leaving then. That extra room is perfect for Cythia!!! Why Cynthia’s original plan was to move here in March, the new opportunity sort of forced her to wait until April instead. That just gives her more time to allow herself time to prep for the big apple.


Job: Check. Housing: Check. Now I just have to wait for March 1st to move in and continue to audition…


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The One with the Big Move

January 11, 2012

MOVING TO NYC!!!

Is this real life? Have I finally gone crazy? Am I seriously moving to the city? Yep! I’ve lost it. Moving to the city with no money, no job, and no place to stay.

I have made arrangements for the next few weeks to couch surf with some friends. I will officially be in the city as of Saturday, January 14. My plan at the moment is to get to the city, find a day job, determine how much rent I can afford, and find a place! My goal really isn’t to go up and there and land a Broadway show. While of course that would be nice, my goal is just to make a living in the city.

Here’s the deal: I’m at a crossroad. I don’t have another theatre job on the horizon so its time to find a day job. I can’t move back to Memphis since there aren’t really many theatre jobs that I can do. I don’t want to move back to Dallas since I would just go back to my waiting job at the country club job and I can wait tables just as well in the city as I can in Dallas. So ready or not, here I go. Taking that big step. I am finally leaving the south and my sweet tea behind and trading it in for the big city.

A very close friend shared a wonderful quote with me the other day that I loved. George Bernard Shaw said “Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” I’m ready to ask that question. “Why not?”

“Oh the places you’ll go…”

The One With “The One With…”

Dec 29 to Jan 2

Finally it was time to head to Chicago!!!! For the past few weeks, my friends and I had been planning this reunion of friends in Chicago for New Years and the time had finally come! Lynden and I started our trip at 1am on the 29! We drove through the night to meet up with Emily, Alixe, and Sean in St. Louis. With the help of Red Bull and our Chicago belting mix, we made it into St. Louis all hyped up and ready to go Chicago! With a change of cars and adding a few people to our mix, we were on the way to CHICAGO for NEW YEARS!!! In Chicago we met up with Helen and Daniel at one of Emily’s favorite bars that she had found while working there over the past summer. After lunch we spent a little time shopping and then were off to Helen’s for dinner and to meet up with Natalie! Dinner was wonderful! Helen’s mom is a wonderful cook and an amazing host! After dinner and drinks, Lynden and I headed into the city by train for a good night at the clubs…

New Years Eve we spent in the city. With Helen as our host I knew we were going to get the inside scoop on the city! With sights like the Chicago Bean and seeing the view from the top of the John Hancock building, we were doing Chicago the right way!

Since we were trying to save as much money as possible, we all stayed in one hotel room. There were two double beds, one fold out couch, and my air mattress that I had brought from home. I figured this would be a good test for my mattress since it was more than likely going to be my bed in NYC for several weeks! Lol. Getting ready was actually a lot of fun. So many friends in such a small space calls for only one thing: Lots of alcohol! The club we went to that night was called Excalibur and was only a few blocks from hotel. And so the night began…

We decided that our Chicago trip was like a Vegas Trip: What happened in Chicago stays in Chicago. I will only share a couple of stories that I feel like I can share in good humor with no harm meant to anyone. More than likely they won’t be that funny except to a select few…

* “Hey, remember the time that Natalie fell asleep before New Years?” lol

* “Hey, remember the time that Katie threw up in McDonalds?” BAHAHA! Good times! J

The only other part that I will share is after some drama went down, drinks were finished, McDonald’s trip was completed, Natalie was sleeping, and Katie was asleep on the floor in the bathroom, Alixe walked into the room and told us that we had to name this trip. We had to start it with “The One with…” like all of the titles from Friends. You see, we have decided that our group of friends (like I’m sure half of the rest of the world has as well) will be like the TV show. We’ve given everyone their character type and have even started naming some of our episodes. This one would of course be a season finale with a cliffhanger. Good times! J It would also be in two parts: “The One With the RedBull” and “The One with the Domestic Abuse”.

The next morning we pack up our bags, said our goodbyes, and those in our van headed back St. Louis. That night we had some amazing St. Louis pizza and did a power hour to season one of Modern Family. We have also decided that we need more power hours in our lives but it is a bit difficult since we all live all over the place now. We now will be doing power hours with each other over SKYPE! J This is what I love about my friends. That it really doesn’t take that much to enjoy each other. We don’t have to do something big, we don’t have to go do something special, we just enjoy being with each other. While yes we fight sometimes, you fight with family. And that’s exactly what we are: family.

Lynden and I headed back to Memphis and that concluded our crazy Chicago trip!

After this trip and this blog, I’ve decided that all my blogs this year will start with “The One With…” My life hopefully will be a bit like Friends…lol

From Angsty Teen to Dr. Seuss!

Nov 11 to Dec 28

Seussical the Musical was a huge change of pace! From dead sons and people walking out of a show due to the gays kissing to Dr. Seuss and children, it was a completely different world I was now living in. It was fun to play an over the top character where I could finally put my extremely large eyebrows to good use with all the different facial expressions. Lol.

It was nice to come back to Tulsa towards the end of the school semester. I was able to spend some time with the Pikes as well as the theatre kids! I was able to do my Christmas tradition with Sean and Alixe of decorating the Christmas tree and sleeping beneath it (And of course we missed the bestie!). Overall, it was very nice to come back to Tulsa. Best of all, I got to meet some amazing new people! Jenny Guy and Jessica Lauren-Howell, two alumni from Tulsa who graduated before I got to TU, we just of few of the amazing new people I got to spend time with. Jessica, who I spend a little time with in Rocky, and I had an amazing time and spent our days searching for the best Margarita in Tulsa. We decided after several weeks of testing, El Tequila won! We celebrated this discovery by going back on night with some friends and each having a pitcher of the amazing drink! SO GOOD! SO DRUNK! Haha! We spent days painting, watching Lord of the Rings, and just had an overall good time in Tulsa.

With the show running so close to Christmas, it was sort of sad to not be at home with the family doing all the normal Christmas traditions. I realized though that this was probably a new way of life for me. With me planning to move to NYC soon, each Christmas would be different based on work or money. I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time at home for the holidays as I had in the past years. Now that my breaks weren’t scheduled around school breaks, I had to work around work. At least I had work!

December 24, 2011 12:01 AM: First day since graduation without a theatre job… Officially Unemployed. Lol.

On Christmas Eve I woke up early to drive home. Over the next few days I spent relaxing time with family. With all the time spent away from home this year, it was nice to not have anything planned and just enjoy the time at home. Plus, with a 10 month old crawling all over the floor at Christmas, there was never a dull moment! As I said earlier, while this wasn’t a traditional Christmas, it was still a great one!

Rocky is just a bit Rocky...

Oct 24 to Oct 29

Less than 24 hours after our final show of Spring Awakening, I had to head to Tulsa for my next show. Leaving Dallas was tough. Leaving Erica behind was extremely difficult. Dallas was a wonderful city that I loved living in for the past 6 months. It was safe. It was fun. I had made so many great friends and once again I had to leave a place behind a move on. I hope it gets easier with time…

My next job was a fundraiser for Tulsa Project Theatre. They were doing select songs and dance numbers from Rocky Horror Picture Show and I was playing Riff Raff. (Which is funny for a whole lot of reasons. Lol) It was nice to finally be a part of the Rocky Horror tradition in Tulsa! With Chad playing Frank, you knew the show would be amazing! I was also able to finally perform with amazing people like Claire Kifer Morris, Rebecca Ungerman, and Jessica Lauren-Howell! It was also nice be sharing the stage again with one of my best friends, Sean! J

While I enjoyed the actual performance of the fundraiser, the rehearsals were rough including the director being fired from the production. It was ugly, it was putting us all on edge, but, in the end, the show went off well.

By the time the show’s end came, I was ready to head to Memphis for a few weeks to relax.

“Whether in the summer, fall, or winter of our lives, we always remember our Spring Awakening…”

Aug 18 to Oct 23:

On the way back to Dallas I decided to swing back through Tulsa. Most of my friends had already made it back to school for Greek stuff and I figured I could drink with them as they were getting ready to start back. And drink we did! It was nice to be back with the guys again. Dustin and Tommy were starting back for their final semester while Conner and Pool were in Tulsa starting their real jobs. I didn’t really know when I would get to see everyone next so I tried to spend as much possible time chilling as I could. After a few fun days in Tulsa, it was time to go back to work in Dallas.

I first started back at the country club. I figured two weeks to get back into the groove with them would be nice. I wanted to have my schedule down by the time it came to start up with rehearsals. I also wanted to start working out a little to get prepped for the nudity scene in the show…we still weren’t sure if we were going to have to do it or not (that was she said…you are welcome for that). Erica called me when I got back in town and we started talking about life and my plan to workout. She told me she was starting a new program and that I should join her. Little did I know that for the next two months, I would be going over to Erica’s house every morning to workout with her. It was actually fun to do it together (that was she said…wow, again. I’m on a roll!!).

A few days before the first rehearsal we had a photo call: Erica (playing Wendla), Adam (playing Mortiz) and I (playing Melchior). The three of us had a “magical” moment in callbacks that we later found out is what got us cast in the roles. As we were singing through “Those You’ve Known”, we all three synced together and just found it. It was this incredible experience and we all three knew the exact moment it happened. This was the first time since callbacks that we had all been together. As Erica and I started with the first photo, the awkwardness setting in. She was on her back and I was leaning over her with our faces about 4 inches away from each other…and I couldn’t stop laughing. While our relationship had started with making out as Natalie and Henry, we had grown past that and very much into Erica and Jonathan. Now as Wendla and Melchior, I was having trouble finding the romantic/physical part of this already blurry relationship. Lol. Was this how it was going to be? Was I going to laugh every time we got close to kissing? If so, I was going to be in a lot of trouble come rehearsal time. Obviously…I got over that. J

A few weeks before rehearsals started, I received an email from the director about WaterTower giving me my equity card with this show. Holy shit! “What?! My what card? Equity? You have got to be kidding me! But I’m only 4 months out of college! This has to be way too soon! And me? Why not someone else in the show? It was too soon. I was too young. It wasn’t suppose to happen like this. I wasn’t supposed to even think about that card for at least another year…or two! Now? What was I going to do?” (I know this is a lot of rambling but this is literally how my brain felt for about two months!) I talked to a lot of people about this decision and in the end I decided to take it. I can remember the moment I made up my mind. Erica and I were in the car coming back from a show that we had seen in Arlington, and we were talking about the card. I was telling her my pros and cons and finally she looked at me and told me to take it.

She said if I really needed to, I could drop it and pick it back up later, but that for now, it was the right move. When I got to the first rehearsal a few days later my heart was pounding. I was so nervous about this. The stage manager handed me the equity contract and my mind would not stop running all over the place! “Really?! Now?! Are you sure? But what about this…or that…or” …and I signed it. Jonathan Walker Gilland. No going back now. I was officially now an equity actor. I don’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing…I’m still trying to figure that out. Lol.

Less than a week into rehearsals the summer became fall…meaning all of the Texas allergies started up. Being the only person in the cast not from Dallas, I took to them really badly. And of course my voice was one of the first things to go. I took several days on vocal rest and work through the allergies. Looking back, I’m glad it happened to me when it did. It made me learn to deal with them throughout the run and to not get behind on my allergy medicine so I could be in the best health I could be every day!

This show was so much fun to do. I mean, who doesn’t want to sing “Bitch of Living” and “Totally Fucked” on the stage? I sure as hell want to! This role was definitely a dream role of mine. To play a character that challenges the beliefs of his society and asks people to think with an open mind is truly amazing. It is eye opening to see how a society can turn on someone because he is different, because he actually uses his knowledge of life to challenge society beliefs instead of just believing them because he was told so, and because he doesn’t sit quietly in the back pew while ignorance is being spread around him. This role taught me to be me no matter what anyone else says. It taught me to be strong in who I am and believe in what I’m doing. I am to stand strong so that others may see my strength and be strengthened through me. It told me it was time to rock the boat.

I was so surprised to see so many friends from Tulsa come to this show! I mean, I sort of figured some of my friends would travel down to see it but I was truly surprised how many of my friends actually made it down! And my bestie Natalie even made it all the way down from Omaha! She was able to see Next to Normal due to a week off from her gig with the theatre tour but was so excited that she was able to come see this show as well!

I am truly honored and humbled to be able to play Melchior in this incredible cast of Spring Awaking. Erica was wonderful to work with again and I can’t image anyone else playing my Wendla. Adam is a wonderfully talented guy who I loved getting to know during the show. Kayla is such a beauty and so talented and I’m glad that I was able to really get to know her before I left Dallas. Of course Simone, Clay, Momma Lulu, Josh, Matt, and so many others were so great and talented in this show as well. I’m glad that my “spring awakening” happened with so many wonderful friends. I’m glad that I left Dallas with two wonderful shows under my belt and with having meet and enjoyed so many talented people.

Take me back to Tulsa...

July 18 to Aug 18

The next project took me back to Tulsa… (Sung: Take me back to Tulsa, I’m to young to marry…” Anyone? No? Ok…) I did Broadway Your Way with Tulsa Project Theatre, the same theatre I did Rent with. I’m not going to lie, I was extremely nervous about coming back to Tulsa especially with the way things were left. But I didn’t leave things bad with TPT or did I?

While some of the times back were a bit rocky, I think it was all part of moving past what had happened a few months ago and moving forward in order to make good theatre. It was nice to be able to see Kyle and Jenna again (seniors from when I was a freshman at TU) as well as perform with some new performers like Claire, Liz, and Christian. Overall, the show was a fun experience and made my feelings for Tulsa be a bit less bitter.

Over the following weeks, I went home to Memphis and finally got to go on vacation. We took a family trip down to Disney World and Harry Potter World! While I was a little depressed after the final Harry Potter came out, going to Harry Potter World definitely made my spirits jump way back up! It was nice to finally go on a vacation that wasn’t just sitting on some beach…I get bored. Lol.

After vacation it was time to go back to Dallas! But I needed to take a pit stop along the way…

Something Truly Next to Normal

May 10 to July 17

On my way to Texas, I let Tulsa go. I released the drama and frustration and looked into the future. For the first few days in Dallas, I was staying with Alixe Ward and her family. Alixe is one of my best friends from Tulsa and I was looking forward to spending some time with her. Her family took me in with open arms and welcomed me into their home. I even have a key to their house (Sean doesn’t even have one! LOL!). I got into town, dropped off some of my stuff, and headed down to Uptown Players for my first rehearsal for Next to Normal.

As I pulled into the Kalitia Humphrey’s theatre, I was very nervous. I wanted this to be a great experience. After Rent, I needed this to be a positive time in my life, remind me of my love for theatre, and restore my faith in theatre people. I also wanted this show to be really good. I loved this show on Broadway and I love Aaron Tveit so I wanted to make sure that the first regional theatre production in the country wasn’t a piece of crap. Maybe I was asking too much from my first show out of school. As I walked into the theatre, I met the cast, the producers, the director, and the music director. From that moment on life was magical…literally magical. Everyone and everything worked so well together. And the cast was incredible onstage and off. I was nervous about moving to a strange town and starting work with a group of people that that didn’t know. Patty, not only extremely talented, is also the most humble person you will ever meet. She has a new born son and a wonderful partner and they are just the cutest couple you’ll ever meet. Gary…is literally Henry….give or take a few years! J He is talented and such an amazing role model for young guys in theatre. Anthony is amazing. I mean the nicest, most genuine person you will ever meet. I can’t imagine a better Gabe! And I mean that. Anthony would have given Aaron a run for his money. JBraggs is great too. While I didn’t really get to know him that well during the rehearsal process, we shared a dressing room and “bro chilled” then. Lol. I also met a wonderful guy named Seth. He was the understudy for Dan and the Dr so during the understudy rehearsal, he was my Dan and I was his Gabe. He is such a cool guy and I’m glad I was able to spend a little time with him during this process.

The only person left that I haven’t mentioned is Erica Harte, the girl that played my Natalie. Walking into the first rehearsal, I remember seeing her from callbacks. We were the last two standing at callbacks. We both sort of hand this grin on our faces that we were both trying to control…but we really couldn’t help but let it shine through! As we went through our first scene together, we came upon the makeout scene. Now in the past, I have waited until dress rehearsals to actually start kissing. This usually allows for you to become a little more comfortable with the person and make any possible awkwardness go away. As we were nearing the kiss, I was casually still going through the last of my lines, looking at Erica trying to “really feel it”, and the next thing I know we are sucking face! She kissed me! First time through! What the heck was she doing…but it worked. As we came up for air I think I might have been a little red…I was not expecting that at all! But I also didn’t mind. She later told me that she likes to get the kissing out of the way so that by the time the real thing happens, you haven’t built up any tension. She was right. From that time forward our relationship was just truthful on and off the stage. Over the summer our relationship blossomed…not into anything physical, but into an amazing friendship. Onstage we were hot and heavy in the physical world and offstage we mentally connected. I think a lot of people assumed that since I didn’t really have a lot of friends in town and left a lot of people back at college, that Erica and I just sort of filled in where others had left us. But this was different. This was, is, something I’ve never truly had before in a friend. Someone who understood everything about me with absolutely no judgment. I could share anything with her and she could do the same with me. Not to mention the fact that she is truly and amazing person with a wonderful heart. I am so grateful to Michael Serrecchia for casting me, not only for the chance to be in this cast but also to be able to meet such a wonderful woman.

As the show began to come to a close, I was not ready to leave Dallas….or Erica for that matter. Erica had told me out another theatre in town that was auditioning for Spring Awakening. I told her that I was way too old to actually play Melchior (and she said the same thing about Wendla) but that I would at least go and audition to see if I could do Hanschen. The funny thing is, we both got cast as Melchior and Wendla! I didn’t have to say goodbye to Dallas yet!

I did have to say goodbye to Next to Normal though and Uptown Players. What was this? Why did this show affect me so much? How did these people mean so much to me in such a small amount of time? It’s because of the amount of respect that everyone had for each other. On one of the last nights while I was in Erica and Patty’s dressing room (a place that I found myself on a usual basis before, during, and after the shows), Erica and I were talking about Spring Awakening and how we hoped that, like Next to Normal, it would be a positive experience and that with such a young cast, we could leave negativity and problems at the door. Patty, being the amazing woman she is, looked at us and told us to only surround ourselves with people who loved us and wanted us to succeed. She wanted us to surround ourselves with encouraging people and to leave those with negative and demeaning attitudes behind. Looking back, that was some of the best advice I had gotten all year. With this being the start of my career in theatre, it was time to let go of the past, let go of the negativity, and move forward with people who loved and supported me.

I left Next to Normal with a challenge: to find another production that contained this amount of love and talent. Challenge Accepted! J