#Starstruck: Brief Encounters and #Encouragement from #DebraWinger

A customer came up to me at my survival job, she was buying Entertainment Weekly with Michael Keaton on the cover. His new movie Birdman is coming out and getting a lot of buzz for him. Sometimes, when a cover intrigues me, I might blurt out a comment. I did.

“Oh wow, Michael Keaton. What’s he been up to? Haven’t heard that name in a while.”

“He has a new movie coming out. How do you know about Michael Keaton? You seem really young to know that name.”

“Haha. I guess. I’m an actor, I do my research. Plus, he scared the crap outta me in Beetlejuice when I was 4.”

“You do comedy, right? Stand-up and acting? I think we talked about this before. How’s that going?”

“Um, good. Thank You.”

“I think it’s really great that you’re pursuing it. You’re funny.”

“Thank you so much.”

And with that, the woman took off her sunglasses, and asked me, “What’s your name?”

“I’m Stephanie Gould. Nice to meet you.”

She extended her hand, and said, “So nice to meet you. I’m Debra Winger.”

“Um, THE Debra Winger?” I asked.

“Well, there’s no ‘THE’ on my driver’s license, but yes,” she said with a laugh.

“Oh my goodness”

Now, at this point, I was blushing, but I kept my cool I think. I mean, it’s DEBRA WINGER…from Terms of Endearment for cryin’ out loud. But, as we continued talking, she asked me how things were really going with my career, and what I was up to next. I told her I’m studying improv, and auditioning a lot. She  told me that she’d be on the lookout for me and that she’d make sure to come by and say, “Hello” to me at my day job. She told me to keep going, and not give up. She told me that the butterflies in your stomach at an audition or performance never really go away. She was a bright spot in my day, encouraging and kind, and I am grateful that I had yet another meeting with a truly talented individual whom I have admired as a performer for years. So Debra Winger, if you are reading this, Thank You. I think our meeting was the universe’s way of saying that things will work out.

As a side note: A friend of mine were at an event a while back, she had a great piece of advise for me. She said, “Don’t get starstruck, they [celebrities] are artists and we’re artists. We do what they do. and they do what we do. Act.”

The Director’s In the Room: EPAs and Why They Need to Be Taken More Seriously.

It’s a rare moment when the director, composer, and actual casting director are in the room during auditions. It’s even more rare that those three people would show up to an open call. The other day, friends of mine auditioned for the Broadway bound musical, It Shoulda Been You. At the EPA (Equity Principal Auditions), an open call for members of the Actors’ Equity Association, it is unusual for there to be anyone else in the room but an assistant of the casting director, or their associate. There’s something to be said for the fact that Tara Rubin herself attended the EPA, along with director and well-respected actor, David Hyde Pierce. 

At EPAs, I’ve  found myself auditioning more times than not for an associate or assistant of the casting director listed in the details for the call. Sometimes, it’s an intern. Every once in a while, it’s the actual casting director.The shift that took place last week was a great one. Having David Hyde Pierce and Tara Rubin in the room gave more validation to the process of open calls.

As actors, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. There seems to be a laid back and lax attitude towards open calls by casting and theater professionals. I’ve walked into rooms where the person behind the table seems to be completely checked out. I’ve had someone talking on the phone as I was auditioning, texting, or frankly, not paying attention. Whether it’s my fault or not, I don’t know. All I know is that I’m nervous, and I want to do a good job and make an impression. I want to get a callback. I want to show off what I can do, because I love to act. I want a moment to show what I have to offer. But they forget that we are professionals too.  Because EPAs are open calls, anyone who is a member of the union can show up for an appointment. It doesn’t mean that we are any less talented than those who have appointments through agents or are called in by casting people themselves. 

The process of EPAs is something that needs to have more weight. They need to be just as important as being called into the casting office. We need to be able to have respect for each other as actors. Casting professionals, directors and theaters need to have respect for actors and for our audition process too. We respect you when you respect us. It goes hand in hand. We are all nervous: Casting director, actor, accompanist. As actors, we put ourselves on the line everyday. We hear “No” everyday. We just want a chance to get in the room. EPAs are our chance to open doors. Thank You David Hyde Pierce and Tara Rubin for showing up and respecting actors. We are grateful for your support. Thank You for letting us know that open calls matter–that you were in the room too.