Tuesday, June 1, 2010

1 Door Closes... and then some

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You know that old saying, “When one door closes, other opens”? I usually gag whenever I hear that reference, because any time something unfavorable happens, people try to cram optimism down your throat. But there is something to be said for optimism coming from a place of confidence and self-worth. Optimism that says, “This setback is just *what happened* - not a comment on how good I am or my place in the industry. Let’s see what other projects I can rock now that this project has been laid to rest!“

I had a recent audition experience that was, well... odd, to say the least, but thank goodness I had it.

A director/producer saw me perform at a cabaret event, and sent me an email afterward raving about my work and inquiring about my availability to work with him on a project. This had never happened to me before, and I was thrilled! The project, he said, initially Off Broadway in the 90s and he was looking to do a revival, and felt I would be perfect for one of the female leads. He promised to keep me apprised when/if it ever came to fruition. About 4 months later, he contacted me and said a fundraiser reading of the project was moving forward in anticipation of a full run next year, and would I be interested? He had assembled a cast of his favorite choices, and asked us to send him our schedules so he could book some a date for a read through.

As fate had it, no one’s schedule matched, so he had to put the rehearsal on hold. He asked for schedules later in the month, and said he would get back to us with a firm date. Instead, a few days later I received this email:

”Sorry for the short notice, but an opportunity has come up for us to have a "casting party" this coming Sunday from 4-6pm. The Musical Director and I will bring together a couple of ideal choices for each role, pass out a few scripts and scores, do some musical sight reading, give you character/scene breakdown, do a little cold reading and make our final decisions on the cast. Different? Yes! But, an ideal way to introduce you to the show, each other and the fun of the project in a much less competitive atmosphere than your typical cattle call.“

Hmmmm..... not only was this new plan a bit different than what an Equity actor would normally expect, but it was obvious that I was no longer a shoo-in for the role. But I had already won the director’s heart, so now all I needed to do was win the musical director’s heart, and I’d be in business. I committed to attend the ”casting party.“

Well, after learning 3 songs and a monologue, I think it was safe to say that I ROCKED THAT AUDITION. I am a good sight reader, so I learned the music accurately and quickly. I was also able to infuse the character with my unique brand of charm, and I felt relaxed and in my element. But as most audition stories would have it, being good at what you do often has no bearing on the casting decision. This became evident when I was asked to stand side by side with a young man who was being considered to play my love interest. The minute I stood next to him, I knew I was done for. He as quite a bit younger than I, and no taller than me. There was no way in the world that I was going be cast opposite him. Just no way. No matter how much the director loved me. No matter how well I performed.

And I was right- I got a very nice email that evening from the director thanking me for my talent and professionalism, but alas, the part was not meant for me. And while all audition experiences can have value squeezed out of them, this one felt a little like 2 hours of my life that I could not get back... if you know what I mean.

And then I remembered something... While we were working music, the musical director mentioned that he was considering us for more projects than the one we were auditioning for. So, I pulled out his business card (which i was sure to get while at the audition) and wrote him a thank you email:

”Hi, Chris! It was so nice to meet you at the casting party for [name of show redacted] this weekend. I'm sorry that we won't be working together this time, but I hope that we get to work with each other on something in the near future. And please keep me posted on your projects in general - I would love to come out to support your work!“

I received a kind email from him saying that he was sorry they couldn’t use me for the show (in fact, I was his top choice.) And wouldn’t you know it - he had a project he had composed, and asked me if I would be interested in being a part of it. SCORE!

Which brings me to last night... Monday evening, after about 4 rehearsals, I performed in a concert version of his song cycle. I sang along side several Broadway and Off Broadway performers, and got the chance to learn some great new music (and got to know the composer in the process.) When considering this concert versus the original show I auditioned for, I’d say I traded up!

In the end, talent and professionalism always win, even if they don’t win you the part you wanted. Opportunities are always available to those who prepare for them and grab them when they fly by. I’m looking forward to the next door that slams in my face, because who knows where I’ll be headed next?

Though, if the door leads to being cast in Wicked, I’d rather walk through it. =)

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit http://www.erincronican.com.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Never Give Up

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On Sunday evenings I spend time at the fun and inspiring open mic, The Salon, hosted by Mark Janas. Each week, singers are invited to bring a song to share with the crowd, and the audience is filled with award winning cabaret and musical theater performers, as well as songwriters, directors, producers, critics, and folks who simply love music. One thing that distinguishes The Salon from other open mics is their weekly theme - last Sunday we were celebrating Sondheim and were invited to bring any Sondheim song of our choosing. The Salon also brings in special guests to sing an extended set, and perform work that is related to the theme. This week The Salon brought in the great Len Cariou, who is known for originating roles in A Little Night Music, Applause, and the title role in Sweeney Todd (among others.)

I volunteer at The Salon as one of their Etceterette’s- this week, I was the “Floor Etceterette“ who signed people up to sing and then notified them of the song order throughout the evening. And because of this work, I was invited to close Act I of the evening with my song. A few months back, my musical theater acting teacher, Craig Carnelia, asked me to learn the show-stopping anthem, “Being Alive” from Sondheim’ show, Company. I have been working on it since, and felt that Sunday’s Salon would be the right time to break it out for the public.

Folks- I am so glad I did!

When the accompaniment started, it took a few measures for people to realize what I was singing, and a hush came over the crowd. In front of me was Len Cariou, along with his wife Heather and 15 of their closest friends (including Alice Evans, David Green (Judy Kaye’s husband and fantastic singer in his own right), and Penny Fuller.) Add those to the other 40-50 Salon regulars, and you can imagine what a hush might sound like. =)

Probably the strongest thing I have to offer as a singer is song interpretation. There are other singers who have more flair or louder sound, but I pride myself on cutting through the fireworks to deliver a good story. “Being Alive” is not just an anthem, it is MY anthem... an anthem of what I have been going through and what is yet to come. Here are some of the lyrics:

Somebody, hold me too close
Somebody, hurt me too deep
Somebody, sit in my chair and ruin my sleep and make me aware
of Being Alive
Make me Alive
Make me Alive

As I sang, I took time to look each audience member and try to let my words reach their soul. Maybe there would be something in the song that would resonate with them. Maybe there would be something in the way I sang it that would teach them something new. And maybe they might just really, really like the song. No matter, I wanted the song to touch them.

But alone is alone, not alive...
Somebody, crowd me with love
Somebody, force me to care
Somebody, let me come through
I’ll always be there, as frightened as you
To help us survive, being alive
Being Alive
Being Alive

As I hit the last big, sustained note, I could feel that the audience was with me. I laid my head back and let’er rip, and the applause was loud and appreciative! As I walked off the stage and back to me seat, I turn my head to look at Len Cariou, who was beaming. He reached out to grab my hand- as held it he covered our hands with his other hand and looked me deep in the eyes. Then he drew me close and planted a warm kiss on my cheek and said, “Good job!”

Later in the evening I was speaking with his wife, and she said that when she and Len go to concerts, they have a secret “look” they give each other when they are impressed with the singer. She then looked at me and said, “You sang, and he gave me“The Look.” She then said, “Never give up. Keep working. Never give up.”

I am starting this blog again in earnest, as a commitment to never giving up. It is very important that I “Cronical” my adventures as an actor, just as much as I have been chronicling my adventures as a coach. And much like Crystal said last night on American Idol:

“The time is now.“

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit http://www.erincronican.com.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Even Nice People Can Bully

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Those of you who have been following this blog know that, on occasion, I'll post strange and/or unsettling emails I've received, in an attempt to warn actors about possible scams or unscrupulous characters out there. (You can see a bunch of these by clicking here.) This correspondence is related to a blog I posted called Really, Who Are You? (Note: The below text is copied verbatim- all spelling and grammatical errors are his):

"Dear Ms. Cronican,
In March of 2009 you wrote a piece on your webiste titled 'Who are you really?'. I believe I am the individual you noted in that piece. To spare you the lengthy details, in late March of this year I came to learn that someone had gained access to one of my email accounts and had been using it for various purposes. I am embarrassed and sadenned that it took so long for me to realize that; for you and others were impacted by this. This past month I have taken various measures to prevent this from happening ever again. I would like to offer my sincerest apologies to you and others for any inconveniences this has caused. While you certainly don't owe me any favors, I am wondering if you would be willing to modify that blog and it's responses by either removing references to my last name or by only using the initial of 'R'. As mentioned earlier I am very embarrassed and distressed by all that has transpired and again I am sorry. Thank you for your hopeful understanding of this matter.

My humblest apologies,


I don't, for one second, believe his story. Sure- he was kind and seemed reasonable, but there were too many red flags in his communications for me to take him at face value. So, this was my response to him:

"Hello- and thank you for your email. Since you have suggested that someone unscrupulous has been emailing actresses using your personal information, I think it is even more important to warn people about these emails. So I will not be removing the name "Dale Rehm" from the post, nor will I adjust the name to just a first name or initial. However, I will be posting your email, in its entirety, to the blog so that my readers can see what you have said.

As you may know, I have had multiple individuals send strange requests for headshots, and in an effort to warn others I have written blog posts about anything I found to be fishy. What you may not know is that on several occasions, I have received follow up emails from the "real" individual to say that their identity has been stolen and could I please alter or remove the post. I personally find the fact that you are now saying the same thing to be, well... odd. It seems odd to me that there are criminals out there stealing people's identities for the purposes of asking for autographs. It also seems odd to me that only since "late March of this year" you are seeking to clear your name, since it has been well over a year since I received my first autograph request from "Dale Rehm." (Strangely, I also received a second request from "Dale" in January of 2010.) Finally, another thing I find very odd- in your email, the FROM field says that your name is "William Dale" but you signed the email "DR." It makes it difficult to know who I am REALLY talking to.

I hope that what you are saying is true- and that the incessant requests to actresses by "Dale Rehm" will stop. For that reason, I'll happily post both your message and my response on my blog.

My very best, Erin"

He then writes back:

Thank you for the response. I certainly understand and respect your opinion, given what you have mentioned. I only ask that when posting your response that you remove the reference to the current email name as that was part of the process of trying to prevent further issues. Thank you again.

So, I reply:

"I'm sorry, I won't be making any changes to my post. It is very important that I report things accurately to my readers, and they need to be fully informed about this situation, especially if it involves such a serious crime as identity theft. But I will happily post your response on my blog so that my readers are aware of the situation.

I will make one offer- I will write no new blog posts mentioning Dale Rehm and William Dale if there are no further requests by Dale Rehm or William Dale-- to anyone. If a reader is contacted by one of these names and asks me to comment, I reserve the right to post a blog in response. I also reserve the right to comment on my current blog post if readers pose a question. Further, I reserve the right to post blogs about communications from any other person requesting autographs, no matter what their name is.

In return, I am requesting that you cease all communication with me. If I am contacted again, I reserve the right to re-post whatever communications have transpired. So, in the best interest of all parties, I request that this be our last communication.

Sincerely, Erin Cronican"

As I have mentioned, it is our responsibility to look out for each other, and part of that is sharing experiences that are uncomfortable or even downright scary. By putting this in print, and by being as even-handed as possible, I am striving to provide a service to other actors and I hope this inspires you to do the same.

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit http://www.erincronican.com.

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