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: