I texted a dear friend recently to say hello, and her response was, “where in the world are you?!” That was the moment I realized that maybe I’ve ‘gone of the radar’ a bit too far, and inadvertently left a significant number of significant people without even a paper trail. It’s time for a little blog promo, and hence I’ve ‘shared’ this with many of you for the first time. Welcome! Sorry about the delay.
For the next 20-odd weeks I am the casting intern at the Goodman Theatre, located in the heart of downtown Chicago. I’m living in a lovely, quiet neighborhood with one of my lovely friends I met this summer @ Red Barn. Our abode–now featuring newly painted walls!–awaits your visit.
Oh, Chicago! Here I am! It’s funny how one moment I feel like, ‘hey! I can do this!’ I successfully navigate to work, I have a great conversation with a stranger, or find a classy new (cheap) restaurant or a beautiful route to go running on (for free). And then, the next moment, my roommate’s purse is stolen, or I’m scrambling to find my stupid pass amidst the 5:30 shoulder-to-sweaty-shoulder cattle line on the train, or there’s a power outage on my block and I’m stuck in the dark–and I’m tired and overwhelmed, and lazily think, ‘there are so many other places I could be that would be so much easier than this.’ And yet, I know that, with a little bit of time, I’ll settle into a rhythm and feel a little less jerked around.
Or, another strategy: remind myself that at least here, I can speak English.
My cousin Kelsey recently posted a blog about her first days in Chad, Africa. Her experiences sound amazing–but extremely challenging. I was reminded of this earlier today when I had a mini heart attack thanks to one overly-friendly bug traversing across the shower curtain. (Once I started breathing again) I was reminded of one of Kelsey’s story of over a dozen dead cockroaches fumed to death in her bathroom after her first night in Chad.
And also, blogs are kind of cool, aren’t they though? Bug stories being webbed together by people thousands of miles away, doing very different things in very different places…
And speaking of places, now that I’m here and working, I can’t quite imagine doing my internship any place else. As many of you know, that’s a rather remarkable statement, considering only a few weeks ago I was still applying in an array of places scattered across the U.S., in all sorts of areas of theatre, unsure of what the next step would be. I’m sure that feeling has a lot to do with my day-to-day work.
Which leads me to the practical bit of this post. What am I actually doing? At this point, I’d narrow it down over-simply to…
1.) Dealing with people, people, people.
I spend pretty much every minute of my day interacting with people–whether via email, phone, or in person. I’m constantly communicating. Constantly! I’m learning how to set up auditions, how to contact agents and actors, how to keep a session rolling or book readers or help actors feel comfortable or confirm roles or send rejection letters. I’m learning the feeling of an inbox that is always full and too many names to ever keep straight. I’m learning that small talk is truly an art.
2.) Finding art in administration.
This is definitely a blog-post-in-the-making, but I’m starting to think that casting is this precarious blend of administrative work (databases, phone calls, schedules, meetings) and art (crafting a cast, creating an environment, being a part of the artistic process of a production). When I’m given a task at work, it tends to fall in one category or the other–or a unique blend of the two. Right now, I spend a lot of time trying to decipher what’s what and how it fits in those divisions. What is office work that just needs to get done and where–even within that–is there room for artistry? How obscure or direct can that artistry be without becoming unprofessional or intrusive? Where and how do business and art collide, and how can that collision be softened (or should it be?)?
3.) Staying close to the stage.
Being a casting intern means attending a lot of auditions and the meetings afterward. As someone who was involved extensively in acting throughout undergrad, the change in perspective feels like the ultimate learning opportunity. You learn a lot from watching people. You learn even more from watching people, and then hearing other people’s reactions from watching people. Sometimes the lessons learned are new and exciting, but usually it’s the stuff you sorta-kinda knew (and should remember!). Like how scary casting people aren’t really that scary, how more than anything, they want to see you succeed. Or–sometimes, you can do everything right, and you won’t get the role. Just because. For whatever reason–a reason that maybe can’t be clearly articulated. You did great, and the director knows you did great (and says it when you’re not in the room), but for this part, right now, it just wasn’t quite ‘right’.
I have a lot of questions about this industry that I’m in. But as an intern, what a wonderful thing to have! Throughout training these past two weeks, I’ve constantly been reminded to ask. And so, as August concludes and I begin a new season in very new post-college territory, I’m doing my best to absorb, to take in as much as I can, gather my thoughts, and keep in mind that, here, I can at least ask my questions in English.