“Keep that in the prayer closet.” Mama Lindsay playfully chimes in as a seasoned student begins to harp on an ex during their coaching. But what did she mean by that?
Until recently, I was solely the kid with shaky hands and nonexistent fingernails sitting next to you in one of those coveted Actor Therapy chairs— yes, I said coveted. When I started class, I would wrap my mind in dialogue about what could go wrong, what my voice might sound like, if they were going to “believe” I did “the homework”, etc. It became my safety blanket, and it was blocking a breakthrough.
Industry professionals tell actors they could learn a great deal from sitting behind an audition table, and it wasn’t until I was cast as the stenographer in your AT version of a courtroom drama that the advice really sank in. I am learning so many things from you guys. Thank you.
No matter the age or experience, actors feel the same insecurities across the board. We got into a profession where sometimes it feels too intense to bare our beating hearts on the stage-- let alone a more intimate audition setting. We wear our insecurities, and people judge them. On top of that, we analyze our feelings far more intensely than other career paths while still storing them in the bank for use at a later date. We’re supposed to ace this adulting thing, while maintaining our composure, so the people behind the casting table don’t think we’re cray...
So how do we get ourselves through the hurdles of breakups, unemployment, and destitution (to name a few) and not go cray? Put it in the homework!
It became a game for me, and I found some kick ass material in the process. I use Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire” at auditions when I’m feeling broke as hell in real life— a story any creative type knows well. I know just the song to go to when I’m feeling butterflies for a new boy or the torch song to mend a broken heart. (Monologues also work wonders.)
The best part about this Actor Therapy thing is we can literally apply our trauma to the storytelling and it inadvertently gets us through the rough patches of unresolved emotion. You’re book then becomes your personal mixtape-- I think we call it a playlist these days. What better way to get connected to the material? My favorite thing to hear in class is “I’m going through something in my personal life, but I’m going to use it for the material.”
So like Little Red brilliantly reflects in Sondheim’s masterpiece, I implore you to use those moments “down a dark, slimy path” to unlock more secrets that you never wanted to know. It informs your choices, it adds color to your book, and (trust me) Mom and Dad will notice— maybe even the Casting Directors of NYC.
And the next time you feel vulnerable about exposing that heart chakra, seek comfort in the fact that even the greats have insecurities.
Gerry Vega has most recently performed and produced his two solo-cabarets: Growing Up? and Pennies from Heaven — at The Duplex and Don’t Tell Mama. A proud member of Actors’ Equity Association, he has performed at Santa’s Village (Berry the Elf) and as Brother Bear in the National Tour of Berenstain Bears Live: in Family Matters! The Musical. IG: @vegager