What’s it Like to be on Broadway?
This year, I had the hopefully-not-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform in a Broadway show. From January through September, I was an ensemble member and understudied two leading roles in Carousel. My friends, family, and students wanted to know what the experience was like and honestly, it’s hard to describe. It was incredible, it was hard work, it was tiring, and it was exhilarating. To give you a better idea of what a life in “the biz” is like, I’m going to give you a play-by-play of a typical week on Broadway.
Monday - day off! Yay! Monday is your day to be a human… do your laundry, cook, clean, sleep in, or take care of other appointments. For me, Monday is also MCA coaching day! I am so excited to see my students and help coach and inspire them. Honestly, it really helps me as much as it helps them.
I’m an understudy so I have to keep my phone on me at all times. I could get a call on any day of the week letting me know that either Jessie Mueller or Lindsay Mendez are sick and that I am needed to go on. Sometimes, I get a couple of days notice. Other times, I get about half an hour! You have to be ready to go at any time.
Tuesday - Back to work! Tuesday mornings are usually free - the final part of our very strange “weekend”, so I take advantage of what I can. I finish up some lessons, see a movie in the afternoon, and try to make it to the gym. On Broadway, we get physical therapy on-site, which is amazing. Our physical therapist gives us a thirty-minute Pilates session twice a week to keep us flexible, strong, and injury-free! Then, we hustle to our half-hour. Up four flights of stairs and into the ladies’ dressing room. Our room holds 14 women, so not all of us fit so easily at the same time! These ladies are amazing and I can’t imagine it working without such chill people.
6:30 - Call time. Pin curls, makeup, mics, and costumes. I have to be in full makeup and pin curls by 6:40 for my wig call time. Kaila gets me ready in the wig room and then to Julienne in costumes. After getting ready, I greet the orchestra and wish them a happy show, then head upstairs for circle!
6:55 Circle time! Joshua Henry is a great leader for our group. Before every show, we hold hands, do some deep breathing, and get some inspiration before we tread the boards!
7:00 Show time! Ours is a long show - almost three hours. In the ensemble, we get a lot of breaks, so I usually do some light workouts and stretching or try to complete a crossword puzzle.
9:45 - As quickly as humanly possible, get out of costume, take the pin curls out, get your laundry put away, get out of your mic, and go home! It’s like a race! Literally, I run out as fast as I can to get back home because it’s nearly 45 minutes away. Once home, it usually takes a couple of hours to wind down. I watch some TV, have a snack, and head to bed around 1 a.m.
Wednesday - Two show day! There’s not much time on a Wednesday morning. I usually want to sleep in as long as I can, so I roll out of bed, make coffee, pet my cat, and head out the door by noon. By 1:15, I’m at work and ready to start again. Between shows, it’s gym time. People look at me like I’m nuts, but honestly, it wakes me up between shows. I run back to the theatre by 6:30, grab some dinner, take a shower, and on to show two!
Thursday and Friday - Understudy rehearsals! Nearly every Thursday and Friday, we have understudy rehearsal. This means, you’re available four hours for those two days for any run-throughs or brush-ups required. Also, anytime a new cast member comes along, it’s up to all of the understudies and swings to help them learn the show. On top of the rehearsal, you also have a show both nights. These days can be long, but honestly, I love rehearsal days. We are called around 1-4, then we get a dinner break before we’re called for the evening show. When you’re in the ensemble, you may have minimal time on stage every night. But understudy rehearsal gives you a chance to practice the lead roles, play full scenes, and dip into different skill sets. I’m lucky enough to understudy the lead role of Julie and the supporting role of Carrie, both great characters who are pretty different! It’s fun to flip back and forth. When I finish rehearsal and do the show Thursday and Friday night, I’m filled with more joy and drive in my own ensemble track.
Saturday - Another two show day! Saturdays are pretty fun. It’s near the end of the week, so you’re tired but excited. Plus, who doesn’t love a Saturday night on Broadway?! I sleep in (typical for me), get to work by 1:15, prep, and perform at 2. Once we are done with the matinee, it’s outside to say howdy to the fans, then a quick workout. Before I get back, I grab a bite (usually a poke or acai bowl), then hit the Pilates workout. After a quick shower, it’s back to work. On Saturday evenings, I usually hang out more with the ladies in the dressing room during breaks. We chat, snack on cookies, and sometimes help each other with auditions.
Sunday - Ahh, one last show. Oftentimes, we get snacks on Sundays. Honestly, we get snacks A LOT on Broadway! It’s funny because we are supposed to be healthy and in good shape, but you wouldn’t know it by the looks of our snack tables piled with Schmakery’s cookies and homemade treats! After we finish Sunday’s show, I head out to trivia with my friends. It’s a great way to wind down at the end of the week and give my brain a rest from the show.
When you’re doing the same show eight times a week (or ten if you’re an understudy), you have to find new ways to keep things fresh. I give myself Sunday nights and all of Mondays free from any thoughts about the show. I feel that this really rejuvenates me come Tuesday. It’s a great job, but it’s still a job and jobs are hard work. You have to find what you need to balance that out so your job remains special and you never forget how important it is to be able to share your art with the world.
Acting for the Song Coach - My College Audition
Erica is a NYC based actress and an Acting for the Song Coach for My College Audition. www.ericaspyres.com
Found this helpful? Show some love and share with your friends:
The arrival of September means that the College Audition season has truly begun.
Well, hooray! Hooray for having to explain how applying to school for musical theatre works to your non-theatre friends! Hooray for pre-screens and deadlines and fees! Hooray for a gigantic amount of stress on your shoulders! If you are picking up on the sarcasm I am throwing down, this blog post is for you. Here are the top 5 things you could do without right now:
Cuts for Pre-Screens
Okay, this school wants a 1 minute contemporary monologue and a 1 minute ballad with a sustained legato line. But this schools wants a 90 second contemporary that must be comedic and a 32 Bar cut of a pre-65 piece. Oh, yes, and this schools wants 8 bars of music. By close-up do they literally mean just my face?! Why is it impossible to think of a wild card video?! Cool, my spreadsheet has 64 tabs on it.
My friend told me to audition for *this* school on campus but my other friend auditioned at Chicago Unifieds but my Dad wants me to go to NY Unifieds but that’s when my school musical is. Looks like I could do my dance call at 10AM and make an audition at 11:02 if I run up three flights of stairs. Is it possible to do an audition in Ohio on Saturday and Texas on Sunday?!
Explaining The Process to Grandma/Non-Theatre Friend/Devoted Fan
Thank you, that’s sweet that you think I’ll “get in everywhere” but actually some of these schools have a less than 5% acceptance right. Right, like, less than Harvard. Alrighty! Well, I am going to go eat my feelings and sob over my music binder.
Begging your Guidance Counselor/Recommendation Providers
Oh, no, I’m not bringing you this plate of cookies because I am about to beg you to put me at the top of your to-do list. But while I am here…I do need all of my grades, test scores, rec letters, etc. sent in within the next week. Did I mention I have fresh baked treats?
Managing Parent Stress/Love
Completely fair: you are paying for this and somehow managing to fly me all across the US to get to my auditions. But Mom, if I have to explain how Unifieds work again I am going to explode. And also, are you crying watching my pre-screens?!
It’s okay to laugh at this crazy process. You got this, guys.
Founder/Lead Consultant of My College Audition
Chelsea is a graduate from Emerson College's Acting program and is the
Founder of My College Audition.
Found this helpful? Show some love and share with your friends:
You made it through the pre-screen; you booked your flight for your on campus audition; you feel prepared and ready to show off your vocal range and dramatic talents; and then you remember…Oh no! The dance call!
For many, the dance call induces the most anxiety during the college audition process. There are so many unknowns as each school runs their dance audition a little differently. Some schools lead you through an entire class with a technical warm-up, across the floor sequences, improvisation exercises, and a combination. Others just jump right into firing the combination at you and putting you into small groups.
This can be overwhelming and daunting, especially if you haven’t had as much training and practice in dance. However, you CAN prepare yourself (just like you would with your songs and monologues) so that you nail that dance call!
Here are 5 ways you can show up to the dance call ready to take on anything they throw your way!
1. Technique Classes – Sign up for a weekly technique class. September is right around the corner and dance studio registrations will be opening for the year. A weekly technique class will support you in building your body awareness and understanding of dance vocabulary over a period of time. Though you will most likely learn dance combinations throughout the year, the focus will be on improving technical skills. Ballet is the foundation of all dance forms. Even though you are not looking to become a ballerina, enrolling in a weekly Ballet class will help you to create a strong foundation and set you up for success. Jazz and Tap classes are also beneficial, especially for learning and enhancing your musical theatre dance vocabulary.
2. Drop-in Classes – Picking up choreography quickly is not a talent, it is a skill. Like any skill we need to practice this. Taking drop-in dance classes allows us to be able to hone this skill while also continuing to develop our technique. Drop-in classes typically are comprised of a set warm-up, a short across the floor, and a combination, with the emphasis being put on the combination more than learning new technical skills. Taking drop-in classes is very similar to going to an audition in that you don’t know what to expect from the class because it is always changing. They tend to move quickly so you are practicing your ability to see things, quickly translate it into your own body, and then execute as strong as you can.
Not all studios offer drop-in classes, but if you are in the Boston area MCA offers a class on Sundays.
3. 1:1 Coaching – For some people, it may be scary to step into your first dance class; it can be very foreign territory. Hiring a private dance coach can ease this fear. With 1:1 coaching, you can go at your own speed, focus on the things that will best support you, and get individualized attention and feedback. 1:1 coaching is also beneficial for those more skilled dancers. Working with a coach can help you get to the next level of your craft. A coach can develop technique sequences, warm-ups, and combinations that are tailored to your specific goals, whether that is nailing that double pirouette, getting your split on both sides, or going deeper into the performance aspect of executing a combination.
1:1 coaching is also a great way to prepare for your pre-screens as almost all programs require a dance component now. You can check out the different dance coaching services offered at MCA.
4. YouTube – Here is a way you can utilize technology in an effective and efficient way. You can teach yourself dances from YouTube videos. This helps continue to build your skill in learning choreography quickly. By watching the videos, you are strengthening your ability to watch something, break it down, integrate into your body, and execute it. You are developing new pathways in your brain. There are so many videos out there for you to try! For example, you can learn some of the musical theatre classics like the Opening from “A Chorus Line.”
This is a great alternative for those who don’t have any access to drop-in classes.
5. Believe in Yourself - Your mindset is everything! If you keep telling yourself that you are not a dancer and you can’t do it, guess what? You won’t ever be a dancer and you won’t do it. The connection between the mind and the body has proven to be a strong one. You can practice and prepare physically for months, but if you show up with the mindset that you are not good enough, that is what will take over. Re-training your mind and getting it to work for you and not against you is a daily practice. There are many tools and techniques you can use to support you in this process including affirmations, visualization, and breath work.
Ready to mentally prepare yourself for dance calls and the entire college audition process? Then feel free to download our webinar, The Mental Art of Performing, here! Learn how to successfully mentally prepare yourself for the college audition process and make sure you aren't letting nerves get the best of you.
The dance call doesn’t have to be the black cloud hanging over your head. Make a plan, reach out for help, and above all remember to find the joy in the process. After all, it is dance and dancing is meant to be fun!
Dance Coach/Mental Training Coach at My College Audition
Stephanie is a NYC based coach, speaker, and director/choreographer/performer. She is a graduate of Emerson College, Smith College, and soon to be Columbia University. You can learn more about her journey as an artist and lover of creativity and curiosity at www.stephanie-simpson.com
Found this helpful? Show some love and share with your friends: