I have always been an actor. When people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was either going to be a dolphin trainer at Sea World or an actor. In light of recent events with Sea World, I’m incredibly glad I chose the career path I did…
I went to a performing arts high school, performed in shows through community college, went to a conservatory in New York for acting, worked professionally in show business for years. It was just what I did. However, when I was asked by an old director friend if I would like to work with him and as the assistant director the first national tour of Bullets Over Broadway, Susan Stroman’s Tony Award nominated Broadway musical, I was completely dumbfounded.
Being an actor has its challenges and many actors are faced with the question of “what else is out there?” For me, I knew that I wanted to explore other realms of the theatre world and when I least expected it, this opportunity fell right into my lap and I knew I’d be crazy to not explore it.
Life on the other side of the table was very different for me. For starters, people don’t clap for you when you finish your work for the day… Yes, I know how that sounds, but I have come to realize that I have spent most of my life as a vain actor and I need to just accept that as part of who I am! But in all seriousness, life on the other side of the table is challenging in that you need to be able to keep your head down, your mouth shut, and your pen to the paper. This creative process was not as much raw creative sparks of magic here and there as much as it is hard work, organization, determination, and the relentless energy it takes to make it through sixteen hour days of tech rehearsals.
(Mikey take time out from the technical rehearsals with a few members of the cast)
(Living the Assistant Director dream by tracking all of the hot dogs...ahem...props)
One thing I loved about the process of being able to assist on this project was being able to watch the show grow from the infancy of table readings with brand new actors to the full production it is now as a completely operational touring show. It was incredible to see these actors grow into these parts and to watch the dance moves solidify into their bodies. I have always been the one on the stage and have been able to feel a show start to form around me and to sink into my own body, but I’ve never been able to watch from the other side from start to finish.
The highlight of this experience, however, was the chance to sit behind the table with the incomparable Susan Stroman. The woman is a machine. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone with the capacity to perceive so many things at the same time. She can watch a show and give technical notes about the set, notes about the inflection of a line to get the best laugh, and technical dance notes about the angle of a dancers arm, down to the millimeter. The woman knows what works and expects nothing less from the people around her. She is also someone that understands the power of positive energy.
(Susan "Stro"man hard at work in technical rehearsals)
I have always thought that positive energy within a cast trickles down from the top. Working with "Stro" was so rewarding because I was able to see that in action. Even when the going gets tough and nothing is working, you will never see Stro allowing that to affect how she talks to people. Her emotions were not anything that she would allow to color her demeanor and when it came to the show, she was always clear, calm, and professional.
She’s one of the best in the business and now I know why.
The one thing that this experience taught me is that I don’t think I am ready to do something else, honestly. Sitting back and watching a show day in and day out is an incredibly educational experience and the education I brought away from this experience is how to be a better actor and a better company member. Being back in the city now, I feel a new found energy and determination to apply what I’ve learned to performing. And as I continue down my road to wherever it is I’m going as a performer and a member of this crazy business, I will never forget the time I’ve had on the other side of the table. I also have a new perspective as I give my Broadway Up Close walking tours now with fresh insight into the business and so many fun stories to share. I’m incredibly thankful and ready for what’s next!
(The New 42nd Street rehearsal room ready for a new cast to fill its walls)