It’s Time for Authentic Representation for Actors with Disabilities– Guest Blog by Alie B. Gorrie

“You should be seen for this play/musical/movie…they are seeking actors with disabilities, and that is SO IN RIGHT NOW.”  I have heard this phrase multiple times in the past year, and met it with a mixture of excitement and distaste. Excitement that casting directors are seeking artists with disabilities, yet distaste that disability representation is phrased like a trend or phase.  What about being the best person for the job, regardless?

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that disability representation is slowly on the rise.  After all, throughout my training, I heard multiple teachers say: “You should avoid film and TV auditions all together” (because of my vision impairment), and I have gone into rooms with casting directors who say, “You sounded great, but your eyes were all over the place…you need to fix that.”  As I get older, I have been hearing less of these limiting comments, and more encouraging ones. However, the work of disability inclusion in the arts is just beginning, and I am ready to see disability integrated into entertainment in an honest, raw way that this industry has been hesitant to embrace.


Last November, my friend Kallen and I went to a new musical: SAM’S ROOM at the cell here in NYC.  Sam’s Room told the story of a nonverbal teen. Through dynamic storytelling, we got to experience all of Sam’s struggles as a teen who felt trapped in his own body, without a way to communicate.  We got to see Sam as an everyday teen, not as a tragic figure, super-hero, or charity case. We saw how disability affects relationships. We laughed, we cried, and our hearts opened up to Sam’s story.  The authors of this piece crafted a narrative that was inclusive and truthful. For the first time ever, Kallen (my co-producer for Able) saw her own brother who happens to be nonverbal, represented on stage. From that moment, Kallen and I both knew that it was time to work towards dynamic inclusion in this industry.  In the case of SAM’S ROOM, this inclusion came through the writing…but we are ready to see it in the casting, producing, and directing side of the industry as well.  

 

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Evan Ruggiero, Alie B. Gorrie, and Crystal Lucas-Perry in “Bastard Jones “

This summer, Kallen approached me about working together on a docu-series of sorts featuring artists, writers, comedians, directors with disabilities…as well as the folks advocating for them.  In a matter of a month, ABLE was born. Our new web series will consist of 15-20 minute quirky interviews with artists living with disabilities, as well as their advocates. Disability is often tip-toed around because people are afraid to say the “wrong thing.”  We want to educate. We hope ABLE will allow people to normalize the diversity of the human condition. By starting these conversations, we also want to educate writers to craft more inclusive narratives. We hope that industry professionals will continue to open their minds to more inclusive casting.  How incredible would it be to see more actors with disabilities leading a company in a Broadway musical, in the starring role on a TV show, .or solving the conflict in a feature film? We are ready to see more art that mirrors ALL the people who love and support it. After all, people with disabilities make up 20% of the U.S. population. 


If you are reading this post and are feeling just as enthusiastic as we are, please head to our crowd-funding page and watch our video.

Then, donate if you can, and share our link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/able-a-series#/

 

We are ready to spread the word, and we are ready to see lasting change in our industry.

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Alie B. Gorrie is an AEA actor, currently residing in NYC.  She has performed off-Broadway in Bastard Jones and on the national tour of Seussical as Gertrude McFuzz. Favorite regional: Penny in Hairspray and Carrie White in Carrie! She is currently originating the title role in Alice in Alice’s with Out of the Box Theatrics, and she has played almost any animal, cupcake, or whimsical creature in TYA shows across NYC.   Favorite concert credits include singing BGVs with with Kristin Chenoweth, Andrew Lippa, and Vince Gill. She is the founder of Songs for Sight, an organization that has raised over one million dollars for young people living with low vision. www.aliebgorrie.com

 

Headshot: Matthew Murphy, Bastard Jones Photo credit: Carol Rosegg

 

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5 things I learned as an audition reader that I reeeeeeally should have known before…

Guys…I gotta tell you about last week. I had my first stint as an audition reader, and honestly, it kind of blew my mind. I highly encourage you to find a way to do it sometime because it is an EDUCATION. I could probably write about 5 separate blog posts about what I experienced, but I’m short on time so I’m going to distill it into the the 5 lessons that hit me the hardest.

1. Answer the question you’re asked.  Not the question you think they meant to ask.

I know—when you’ve got that adrenaline pumping it can be really hard to take a breath and listen. But fight the urge to game out why the creative team is asking you a question and just answer the question.  Almost every person who got asked, “What else is in your book?” provided one option.  They answered, “I have song A? That’s contemporary. Does that work?” The CD would cheerfully repeat, “What else is in your book? I want to know my options.” 9 times out of 10 they were given another single song option.

It was like pulling teeth. The actors were working waaaaay too hard.  The casting director simply wanted to know what else was in their book.  Sometimes because they needed to hear something else for the specific show “Actor A” had been called in for, sometimes because they realized “Actor A” might be good for a totally separate project, sometimes just because they were curious about “Actor A” and figured that question was a good conversation starter.

Watching this happen over and over and over again was painful.  (And it was particularly painful because I know I’ve done it myself.)

Trust that the casting director knows what they’re doing.

If they ask what’s in your book, just tell them what’s in your book.

Which leads me to the next tip…

2. Your audition book needs a table of contents.

Even better than listing off what’s in your book, show them a copy of your table of contents. Your time in the room is so precious, don’t spend it behind the piano frantically flipping though your book and explaining what everything is.

Hand them your table of contents, get out of your own way, and let them decide.

**IMPORTANT CAVEAT**

If it’s in your book, it’s fair game at an audition.  If it’s a “work-in-progress” it belongs in a different binder. If you only have 3 songs you truly feel comfortable delivering in an audition room, it might be time to overhaul your audition book.

(Psssst! You can do that by booking a rep coaching here!)  

3. It’s totally cool to ask a question about the sides! But make it specific.

When you ask an intelligent question about the sides, you look like a smart actor who knows how to set themselves up for success! Casting directors will never mind you asking a specific question like: “This scene feels like it’s written in a heightened melodramatic style. Is that right, or are you looking for a naturalistic take?”

But don’t ask a question just for the sake of asking a question.  Asking, “Anything I need to know about this scene?” isn’t particularly helpful.  And from a casting perspective, if there was anything they thought you needed to know, they would have already told you.

Ask your questions, but keep it specific.

4. Fight the urge to talk about the weather.

If it’s super hot out, or it’s raining cats and dogs, they’ve heard about it.

This isn’t a big deal, but it was definitely noticeable by the end of the day. Don’t panic.  No one’s going to dock you points for mentioning the weather—just be aware that the thirty people before you probably did as well.  As far as small talk goes, you can probably do better. 😉

5. Apply the adjustment roughly 30% more than you think you need to.

Getting an adjustment in the room is always a good thing! You would not be getting a redirect if the person behind the table didn’t see potential.  But it’s such a disappointment when an actor is given an adjustment and then they don’t take it. Or when it takes 3 adjustments for them to implement the note all the way.

And the thing that really kills me—I can tell, most the time, the actors think they are taking the note!

Make a bigger adjustment. I promise you can go at least 30% further with it. I didn’t ONCE see an actor take an adjustment too much.

And, consider this: half the time you’re asked to do a scene differently, it’s not because you did it wrong the first time, it’s just because casting wants to see if you can take direction.

They want to hand you over to the director knowing that you can take a note!

So go ahead, and TAKE THE DARN NOTE.

Too harsh?

Look, I get it. I know this is all waaaaaaaay easier said than done.  I’m sure I have personally made all five of these mistakes. (Some multiple times.) All we can do is try to up our awareness and do better next time.

Wishing you many broken legs as always!

Much love,

Sara

5 FREE Ways to recharge your artistic batteries this summer

Here are three things that happened to me last Thursday:

  1.  My phone died.  (Very common)
  2.  I went to to an EPA (pretty common)
  3. The EPA was completely empty and I got seen immediately. (NOT common)

Why am I telling you these three mundane details about my Thursday?  Because today we are talking about:

Burnout.

I think we can all agree that we hit this past audition season HARD.  We got up early. We went to multiple auditions a day. There was constantly an Audition Update tab open on our computer.

Some of us got burned out.

And once you get burned out, it can be really hard to recharge.  This is why I always carry a phone charger in my purse.  I’ve learned that once my phone battery gets below ten percent, it takes a LONG time to recharge.  But if I’m good about charging it throughout the day, it never ventures into the red zone.

As actors, we’re no different.  Once we get artistically depleted, it’s nearly impossible to get the shit done we KNOW we need to be doing.  So without any further ado, here are 5 FREE things you can do this summer to recharge your artistic batteries.

1. See a show at Lincoln Center Library!

Did you know that the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts has a floor where you can watch archival videos of Broadway and Off-Broadway shows? Well, now you do! GO! It is a magical experience and it is COMPLETELY FREE.  Check out the details here!

*Not in NYC? Treat yourself to a free trial of BroadwayHD and choose a title! (I personally think “Indecent” is a must-see!)

 

 2. Do a play reading in your living room!

Seriously.  Don’t overthink it.

Pick some friends.  Pick a play. Pick a night.  Pick some wine.

Charge those batteries.

 

3. Create a bitchin’ summer playlist!

Spotify is a magical thing, people.  Collaborate with some friends on a playlist.  Is there a show you recently discovered that you want to share with your friends?  They probably have one of those too! Discover those gems!

If any of your friends have not fallen in love with “I’d Rather Be Me” come September, you are not doing your job.

 

4. Revisit whatever show made you fall in love with theatre

Was it an old VHS of Wizard of Oz?  Rent it on Amazon. Have a movie night that reminds you of the pure uncomplicated joy theatre used to bring you.

Was it the original cast recording of “Jesus Christ Superstar”?  When was the last time you listened to that?! Go ahead, get some #HeavenOnTheirMinds

 

5. Go enjoy some beauty that has NOTHING to do with theatre

Go to a museum.  Commune with nature.  Fall into a good book.  Write a poem. Remind yourself that there is beauty to be found everywhere, and you don’t have to be in a show to enjoy it.

Sound good?

Great! Let’s meet back in a week when we’re all well above 10% battery life.

Dealing with the Post-Closing Blues

Hey friend,

I’m going to level with you. I’ve been having a weird week.  I’ve been having trouble sleeping, my focus has been scattered, and I’ve been interpreting interpersonal interactions less than generously.

(What does that text mean?! DOES SHE HATE ME NOW?!?!)

…You get it.

Nooooooot my best self.

And until this morning I couldn’t figure out what was going on.

Then it hit me…

The Post-Closing Blues. 

I closed “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” on Friday and like clockwork come Saturday morning I had that creeping “you’re-never-going-to-work-again” anxiety.

So what do we do to combat the post-closing blues?

Here’s my checklist:

STEP 1. Do the things that make ANY human feel better.

I know these may seem painfully obvious, but when we’re spinning out sometimes we needed to be reminded about the very basic things that make all human beings feel marginally better. This is my step-one when I feel the creeping tide of the post-closing blues:

  • Drink some water
  • Get some sleep (If you struggle with sleep this may mean turning off all screens at 9pm)
  • Call a friend
  • Go for a walk
  • Get some sunshine
  • Exercise (if that makes you feel good)
  • Meditate for 10min

STEP 2. Do things to sooth the actor in you.

You are going to work again. Really, you are. But if you’re still having anxiety after all the activities above sometimes a little project can help. These can include:

  • Reading a play
  • Taking a dance class
  • Scheduling a voice lesson
  • Seeing a live performance
  • Participating in a reading
  • Going to some auditions
  • Redoing your website

*NOTE: Please don’t do ALL of these activities. Launching into 18 different projects directly after closing a show is not generally suuuper helpful for easing anxiety.  Not that I’ve tried it or anything…

STEP 3. Give it time.

I know. I hate me for writing that too. The last thing I feel like doing right now is sitting with my anxiety.  But at the end of the day, it’s a feeling I know I’m going to have to get comfy with if I want to continue to be an actor.

There WILL be more contracts. 

But that also mean there will be more closings. 

If you allow yourself to wrap your self-esteem around whether-or-not you’re currently in a show, burnout will come for you FAST.

And I want us all to have long lovely careers that we are able to ACTUALLY ENJOY because we aren’t too anxious to take notice.

That’s why I chose to share this with you today.

I’m with you 100%.

Now go drink some water.

Much love,

Sara

P.S. These are just my own strategies for dealing with minor anxiety.  If you are dealing with depression or debilitating anxiety please know that my heart goes out to you and I am aware that “Go for a walk” is not a realistic solution. ❤

Let’s talk about audition fatigue…

I gotta be honest with you, I am TIRED.

Audition Season seems to get longer every year and I’m seeing burnout in every holding room I walk into these days.

I’m seeing dancers reach into their bags at ECCs and pull out one character shoe and one tap shoe.

It’s not a good look. (Or sound.)

But here’s the thing…

Have you ever decided to take a little brain break in May only to wake up in September realizing you’ve achieved none of your artistic goals? 

It’s like deciding you’re going to take a midday nap and sleeping through the night and into the the next day…For four months straight.

Instead of sleeping away your summer, follow these basic guidelines to make sure you’re resting and not slacking.

1. Set a Time Limit

Don’t want to oversleep? Set an alarm!

I know it seems simple, but as actor/entrepreneurs we don’t always have the luxury of a set schedule.

If you worked a basic 9-5 job, you might know that your times to rest are:

  • after 5 on weekdays
  • weekends
  • 15 vacation days

As a freelancer, your potential times to rest are:

  • whenever

And of course, the flip-side of this is you can also work whenever.  This is one of the reasons we get so burnt out!

So, if you’ve decided you need some time to recharge, take it!

But set a time frame.

Cash in those imaginary vacation days and say, “I’m taking off the week of May 6th.”

Hold that time sacred and DO NO WORK.  Then clock back in May 13th, and get back to it.

Or, if you can’t realistically take a week off, schedule restorative time each week and say, “I’m clocking out at 5pm Monday-Friday.”

Hold that time sacred and DO NO WORK.  But remember, that means no watching Orange is the New Black before 5pm.

Which brings me to our next guideline…

2. Identify what’s “restorative” and what’s “procrastination”

So, now that you’ve established the time that you’re going to hold sacred for rest, let’s figure out what you’re going to actually DO with that time.

This means differentiating between activities that are restorative and procrastination activities that are depleting.

Restorative activities leave you feeling satisfied and often energized.  A short list of activities that are restorative for me are:

  • Board game nights with friends
  • Walking outside
  • Yoga/Lyra/Rock Climbing/weird and novel workout classes
  • Playing guitar
  • Watching Netflix

Some activities that leave me feeling super depleted are:

  • Scrolling through Facebook
  • Scrolling through Instagram
  • Scrolling in general
  • Watching Netflix

Notice how Netflix is on their twice?  That’s because depending on HOW I consume Netflix it can be either restorative or depleting.

Which brings me to my final tip…

3. Relax as mindfully as you work

Know that zone you get into when you’re doing your best acting work? That zone where you’re all in, completely and totally invested but not muscling anything.

THAT’S the zone you gotta be in to relax.

There’s a major difference between binge watching Netflix while updating your Instagram, and sitting down with a friend for a movie night with your phones in the next room.

Commit to your restorative time.  A shorter period of mindful rest will leave you ready to spring back into those career goals much much sooner.

So, what do you say?

Ready for that power nap?

Set that alarm and I’ll see you next week!

Best,

Sara

P.S.  That coupon code for 10% off all rep services is still good through next week! (COUPON CODE: SPRINGCLEANING) You can schedule up to 12 weeks out, so go ahead and pick a time after you’ve clocked back in 😉


Book Now!

Stop hitting “snooze”.

Did you hit the snooze button this morning?

Be honest.  It’s okay–I’m not judging you.

I know you have big productivity dreams that start with you leaping out of bed in the morning, putting on a pot of coffee, and living the life Lin-Manuel would want you to lead.

But…it’s so cozy in your bed.  What’s five minutes in the grand scheme of things?

Well, the problem is:

You’re only 5 minutes into your day, and you’ve already broken a promise to yourself.

Yikes.

Not a great way to start your day.

But it’s also incredibly hard to force yourself to keep this promise when the stakes feel so low and your comfort level is so high.

Now, if your smoke detector went off instead of your alarm, you can bet your ass you’d be out of bed right at 7:30!

So, the solution?

Instruct your roommate to set the drapes on fire each morning at 7:29.

Problem solved!

Or, if you have a more modest drapery budget:

Use a tweet scheduler like Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule a super embarrassing tweet at 7:35 each morning. 

You’ll have a 5 min window to disable the Twitter fire.

Suddenly that snooze button isn’t looking so appealing…

For the life of me, I can’t remember where I first came across this strategy.  It may have been a Freakonomics podcast, it may have been a TEDtalk, but I heard it somewhere and thought it was absolutely BRILLIANT.

Think about it.

What could you achieve in a week, if you knew there were serious consequences for  not achieving it?

  • If you got an appointment for Once next Monday, you would practice your instrument every day.
  • If you got a dance callback for 42nd Street next Tuesday, you sure as hell wouldn’t skip that Thursday night tap class.
  • If you got a final callback for Eliza Doolittle next Wednesday, I guarantee you would be listening to your dialect MP3s every time you stepped on the train.

Now, imagine how prepared you would be if you were doing those activities EVERY week.

Crazy, right?

So, how can we manufacture that same urgency?

You’re a smart actor—go ahead and raise those stakes!

Here’s a example from my own life:

One of my goals that CONSTANTLY gets put on the back-burner is to have more samples of my work online.

It’s very easy for more “urgent” concerns to take precedent over this goal–that is, until I’m asked to submit for a project that I don’t have any appropriate footage for…

So what did I do this weekend?

I reached out to a videographer and booked them for 3 hours in April.  I put a date on my calendar and paid a deposit out of my bank account.

I now have a deadline and financial skin in the game.

Then I wrote you this email. So now I have public accountability.  (Thanks for that!)

I have about 3 weeks to get 4 songs camera-ready…

As of this writing, I am more than a little nervous and EXTREMELY motivated.

I think that’s a good thing.

In the same way it’s cozy and comfortable to stay in bed when the alarm goes off, it’s cozy and comfortable to keep your dreams small.  

It’s cozy and comfortable to practice guitar once a week in your room, knowing that no one’s going to listen until you are 100% ready.

That is—it’s cozy and comfortable until you have to pass up an audition because you aren’t ready.

Or, to put it more eloquently, in the words of Anaïs Nin,

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

I’ll leave you with that.

I’d say more, but I’ve got a date with my audition book that I’m not wiling to break.

My challenge for you this week is find a way to raise the stakes on your own goals.  Have a strategy you love? Please post about it on this thread on the Audition Rep Matchmaker Facebook page!

Happy blossoming!

Best,

Sara

P.S.  I know some of you have been putting off revamping your audition book.  But if you’ve been skipping auditions because your material isn’t up to snuff it is time to put some skin in the game.  Book your coaching today.  I promise, one it’s on your calendar you will FEEL those stakes 😉 

 

On Daring to Take up Space

CW: Eating Disorders

Alright folks, here it is.  In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I’d like to share my story about taking up space.

Before we get started, some things to know…

  1. Things that will not be in this story: numbers, pictures, or neat and tidy bows. The first two elements are unhelpful and the last is just not possible.
  2. Things that will be in this story: snark, empathy, and my very best attempts at honesty.

Sound groovy?

Awesome.

Here we go…

I struggled with disordered eating from around age 16 to age 22.

This isn’t meant to be a grand reveal. My guess is many of you super sleuth-y sleuthers were able to guess that’s where this blog was going from the content warning at the top. Y’all get five gold stars.

It isn’t a secret–and it’s not something I’m ashamed of. In fact, I think it’s important that people speak out about mental health struggles they’ve had in order to lessen the stigmas surrounding them. That said, it’s something I’ve never written about publicly because, frankly, it’s pretty boring to me.

Much as I wish I could write a story with all the drama of a Degrassi very special episode, the years I spent not eating were incredibly boring.

Many elements of the story are incredibly cliched and familiar: straight-A student goes to school for musical theatre and restricts eating to conform to industry standards.

If you’ve ever watched a TV series set in a high school, you know where this goes.

She wastes away, there’s a dramatic intervention with lots of crying and shouting, she wakes up in a hospital bed, someone holds her hand, she swears she’s going to fight this, we roll credits, there’s a quick PSA with the actor after the episode with a hot-line your can call, and she’s recovered by the next episode.

Tidy, right? Nice dramatic structure.  Pretty engaging.

Not how it happened for me.

For me is was more like:

Girl stops eating.  Girl loses some weight, but not enough to look concerning. People close to Girl keep telling her how good she looks. Girl loses her period and is cold all the time.  Girl decides to talk to male endocrinologist, who tells Girl he doubts her lack of periods and vitamin deficiency have anything to do with her diet because she “looks fine to me.” (The doctor does not ask Girl what her diet consists of.)  Girl continues not really eating for another couple years.  Girl never cries or shouts because she doesn’t really feel emotions–not eating takes the edge off that kind of thing. Girl wonders why she’s not auditioning very well despite looking the most “castable” she’s ever looked. Girl wonders if it has anything to do with the fact that she doesn’t “feel emotions” which is apparently something directors are looking for.  Girl has a bad breakup and feels things for the first time in a while. Girl goes to therapy and has it explained to her that it’s possible to have an eating disorder without being emaciated.  Girl spends a couple years in outpatient treatment while continuing to do things like pay taxes, and go to auditions, and do laundry. Girl reminds herself to stop referring to herself as a “girl” since attempting to achieve a pre-pubescent physique is kiiiiiinda part of the problem.

To ease the new-found anxiety that comes with having feelings again, Woman decided to read a new play or listen to a next musical every day for a year.  Woman continues to work on food and exercise issues.  Woman starts a business. Woman makes progress and backslides. Woman books some roles and does not book some roles. Woman makes progress and backslides. Woman is back to a healthy weight for her body type. Woman doesn’t get comments about her body anymore which she both loves and hates. Woman makes progress and backslides.  Woman starts to feel more comfortable taking up space both literally and metaphorically and hesitantly begins to accept she’s more “castable” at this size if it means she’s not completely numbed out to the world.  Sometimes the Woman doesn’t believe this, but most the time she does.

Roll credits, I guess?

You still reading?

BLESS YOU.

Like I said, not the cleanest narrative…

So why share it at all?

(Don’t worry, I’m also asking myself that question right now.)

Here’ s what I think I’ve come up with…

I put off getting treatment for a really long time because I didn’t think I was sick enough to merit getting help.

I was worried that, unless I had a Lifetime Original Movie moment, I was being over-dramatic.  I was worried I would be dismissed as not underweight enough.

Which brings me to why I’m writing this.

My story kind of bores me.  And it probably will bore many actors reading this because it is SO. FREAKING. COMMON.

I’d say at least half the actors I meet have a disordered relationship with food.  I won’t say they have eating disorders because (SPOILER ALERT) I am not a doctor, but our cultural baseline for how we deal with food and bodies is deeply, deeply skewed.

You hear it in the many discussions of diets and cleanses in audition holding rooms. You see it in the wording of casting breakdowns. You feel it in your gut when you see an advertisement for a “Broadway Body” class.

So that’s why I’m choosing to share my story this year– as a tiny homing beacon to all the folks out there trying to be brave and take up space in a world that keeps telling them to shrink.

To those of you trying to swim against that current, making progress and backsliding time and time again: I see you. I love you. I support you. Keep swimming.

We’re getting mixed signals.  You can’t expect to spend 23.5 hours a day attempting to make yourself smaller, and then walk into an audition room and be brave, vulnerable, and expansive.

Believe me–I’ve tried.

So, if you can only be one or the other, which one are you going to pick?

My heart goes out to any of you grappling with these contradictions right now.

And if at any point my tone came off as glib or dismissive during this article, know that that’s about ME and not you.  I am bored by my own story, but that’s because it’s my own story. If you are going through something similar right now, I urge you to reach out to a professional, whether or not you feel your struggle is dramatic enough to be featured on Degrassi. If it is causing you suffering, seek help.

If you had strep throat, you would go get antibiotics–you wouldn’t compare yourself to the meningitis patients and go, “Well, it’s not THAT bad…”

You get my point.

Anyway, I promised there would be no tidy bows with this article, so I’ll just go the after school special route and leave you this link to the NationalEatingDisorders.org help page.

As always, wishing you an expansive audition season!

Much love,

Sara