Steven Sabel's Twist On The Trade: Get Ready For Your New World

The world has forever changed. There is no doubt about that. The world changes all the time. The world of entertainment changes all the time. The most successful artists have been the ones who have been able to consistently adapt to those changes, adjust their approach, redirect their strategy, and provide the new required content.

So much has been written about the necessity of approaching your career as the business it must be in order to succeed. Look around you right now. Take notice of the businesses that are successfully adapting to change, adjusting their approach, redirecting their strategies, and providing the new required content. Learn from them so that you will be ready to hit the ground running when auditions open up again.

Auditions will open again. If you don’t believe that, then you should turn your focus right now to locating work in the least expensive, most attractive suburban community you can find.

If you do believe auditions will open up again, then you better get ready for your new world.

None of us can know exactly yet what the new world is going to look like. History tells us that entertainment will still be a commodity, no matter what the planet throws at us.

Auditions will open again and once they do, it will mean work for every artist in every field of this craft - unless they’re not ready. You are your commodity.

Get Ready.

Here are some things you should be doing right now to get ready.

First, get healthy.

That’s actually the easiest one. We all know the hours can get crazy when we’re working on a project, especially if we are also working another job. That schedule presents far too many excuses for eating random crap at random times and washing it down with cocktails at whatever is open and still serving both.

Not now.

Get healthy. Learn to prepare healthy food for yourself. It is a life skill that will serve you throughout your life and future career in anything. Make a commitment to yourself to treat your commodity better. Prepare your product for the showroom floor.

After you get healthy, get in shape.

If you’re in front of the audience, you need to realize it’s an aesthetic art. Look the part. If your roles are the “I’ve been sitting on my sofa eating my own homemade baked goods during quarantine” look, then rage on! Undoubtedly, the way that art mimics life, there will someday soon be auditions for those roles. Go for it.

If the audition you want is a “dashing leading role,” you had better get ready for your new world. The most beautiful aspect of this truth is in the also strong truth that most people will not take this simple advice, thus only enhancing the advantage of those who will.

Those who use this time to perfect their look for the roles they wish to have, will have far greater success than ever before in obtaining auditions for those roles when auditions open again. It just stands to reason. A lot of the business is about beating the odds.

Next, get educated.

The internet is an incredible thing. You can pretty much learn at least something about just about anything. Learn how to stitch a tear in a costume. It’s a very valuable skill that may save your own bum from being exposed some day. Learn how a camera operates so that you know better how to operate in front of a camera. Wow. Learn more about the details of how certain microphones work so you will know how to use them better. Learn how to use power tools so you can help build a set some day. Or maybe not.

There are so many things about our craft you don’t know that you could use this time to at least dabble into right now. Learn to edit your own reel. Woah, what?
Read scripts. Stop scrolling through everyone’s clever memes and photos of their homemade baked goods, and read some scripts. Read all types of scripts: plays, teleplays, radio plays, screenplays. Find a better understanding of the use of direction in the script. Discover roles or types of roles you want to play. Read them out loud to keep your face, tongue, lips, voice, and diaphragm from atrophy. Use your tools, or you will be rusty when your opportunity comes. Get on your feet and read some scripts!

Learn an entire new set of monologues to use for the new world of new auditions you are preparing for. Throw out that old piece your college theatre professor helped you perfect in your old world and learn a new piece. You’re a new artist preparing for your new world. This is a perfect time to refresh and renew your vigor for pursuing your craft by exploring new monologues to perfect.

Sharpen your skills and hone your edge. Remember what it was that made you want to pursue this craft as a career. Remember what inspired you to throw yourself into it. This is a time that has been thrust upon you. You get to decide how to use it. Or not.

Auditions will open up.

Get ready. Get healthy. Get in shape. Get educated. Read scripts. Learn new monologues. Remember why you’re here, and throw yourself into it.

Get ready for your new world.

Steven Sabel's Twist on the Trade: The Connections We Make

When not practicing government-mandated social distancing, actors tend to be some of the most social people you can find, both on and off the job. From standing in line to audition at a cattle-call, to table reads, to rehearsal processes, the entire world of creating theater or cinematic art requires actors to be “social.” Add to the mix the after-rehearsal bar gatherings, wrap parties, opening night or premiere galas, and closing cast parties, and you find that social distancing is impossible for working actors.

Sometimes black box theater and indie film projects call on actors to quite literally be on top of each other in confined spaces that have been converted into makeshift dressing rooms, green rooms, and performance locations. Factor in love scenes and the social connectivity goes through the roof!

There is still no telling how the COVID-19 lockdown will forever change the dynamic of artists creating their art in limited spaces with limited resources. Perhaps when the threat has ended, it will be business as usual for small storefront theaters and backroom indie film projects. Perhaps new mandates will require an end to the type of close-quarters we have all worked in from time to time. Only time will tell.

In practicing our craft, we find ourselves connected to so many other artists in so many ways: physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually at times. It will be interesting to see how much more cognizant we will be of the physical connections we have with each other in the Post Covid Age.

When actor life resumes, perhaps stage managers will have to be more tolerant of actors missing rehearsal due to illness. They will certainly be adding massive amounts of hand sanitizer to their first aid kits and more hygiene talk in their backstage etiquette speeches. Dressing room divas may find new justification for demanding their own mirror space now. Love scenes may have to forever be cut from all scripts, and shared props eliminated during virus season. Let’s not even talk about rented and borrowed costume items. Wigs? Yuck!

If you’re smirking about the wigs line, that proves our artistic connections will not change. Our mutual love, appreciation, frustration, and anxieties about our art will remain the same. Our ability to create new and lasting bonds with our fellow artists will remain with us. I have connected with most of my closest friends in life through my craft. Some of those people I may never work with again, but they will always be treasured colleagues and lifelong friends.

The personal connections we make as artists sharing our art run the gamut of human relations. Mentors, friendships, family-like bonds, lovers, soulmates, and even sometimes enemies can be developed through working on a project together. In my lifetime, I have witnessed no fewer than 10 marriages result from relationships developed during the artistic process, and a few divorces as well. On at least one occasion, a divorce of two people led to a second marriage for one of them.

Then there are those awkward connections; the ones we sometimes don’t know how to break. Thanks to social media groups, we all have a string of project groups we are connected to down the sideline of our pages. If your list is anything like mine, some of those groups date back years. Forming a group page can be very helpful during the project to share information, contacts, schedules, etc. Yet, once the projects are over, there the groups awkwardly accumulate down the side of your page.

Sometimes a project is so fun or so successful, or so full of great people, the members of the group talk about the group continuing forever, reviving the show, working together again, or having regular get-togethers that almost never happen. Instead, every once in a while, someone from a past group will post something about the new project they are currently working on as a promotional effort which leads to additional awkward moments for everyone still connected to group. Do you ignore them? Do you respond and reopen that can of worms? Are you suddenly reminded to leave the group, but then hesitate because you don’t want the person to know you left the group right after they posted out of the blue after three years?

Nearly 150 productions into my career, I’ve found it’s best to cut ties where there are no true ties, and not be false about being further connected where you truly are not. There will be other “best cast ever” experiences in your life. There will be plenty of groups to add to the sideline of your page. The true lifelong relationships will continue to exist without the aid of the group, the stage manager on the project, or the director who brought you all together. You will still have your fondest memories of the project and the best people involved.

While you’re shut up inside during this historically unprecedented time of isolation, practice a little social media distancing and clean up your groups list. Reach out to any artists you worked with before whom you truly miss, and then archive that group or drop yourself out of it to make room for new groups, new experiences, and new connections to come in the Post Covid-19 Age.

Beware the Audition Gremlins!

Many an actor has been derailed from doing his or her best at an audition by what I call "audition gremlins."

These little monsters are treacherous, relentless, and merciless. Producers and casting directors are most keenly aware of the nasty habit that audition gremlins have of rearing their ugly heads on audition days. We see countless examples with every open call. Through audition calls for well more than 100 productions, representing more than 20,000 submissions, I have seen gremlins strike nearly 2,000 times over the years. In reflection, I should have maintained a file of the documentary evidence of these gremlin strikes – many of which I learned about through email communication.

Gremlins. They love to strike on audition days, and they come in a variety of forms. The most common gremlin is the wicked flat tire. Through each and every audition call, producers and casting directors can practically set their watches to the regularity of the flat tire gremlin. I cannot recall an audition process that did not see at least one strike from that little demon. Sometimes he brings down several actors in the same day!

Though not as frequently seen, the car-broke-down gremlin is a close cousin to the flat-tire gremlin, and far more crafty in his mischief; as he almost always strikes right at audition appointment times. A merciless gremlin for sure, but not as treacherous as the sudden illness gremlin who never sneaks up on his victims throughout the day before, but rather strikes with full shock-and-awe symptoms only on the morning of auditions.

Other gremlins we see strike at a common rate are the family-emergency gremlin, sudden-work-obligation gremlin, and the particularly relentless gremlins of the unforeseen-circumstances variety. They can be the worst of them all.

Producers and casting directors occasionally come across extremely rare gremlins, but we have been dealing with gremlins for so long, that there is rarely a gremlin we haven't seen before. Trust me, you'd be surprised. When one of us does come across a new and unique gremlin, we can sometimes be found enjoying the opportunity to share the tale with our colleagues over a cocktail or two.

The worst thing about gremlins is their apparent ability to strike actors with such ferociousness that nearly nine out of ten times it renders the actor so shaken and stunned they can't even imagine the thought of asking to reschedule their audition. Perhaps the gremlins' most vile trait is their ability to neutralize actors so efficiently, the actors cannot even offer to send a video submission in lieu of attending the audition. Vile beasts.

There is one very common gremlin that we all know exists, but attacks by these gremlins are rarely reported: the unprepared-actor gremlin. Some analysts believe that the unprepared-actor gremlin is actually the most common gremlin, but that his strikes are regularly blamed on other gremlins. He is definitely the gremlin that producers and casting directors actually witness striking in the audition room, where encounters with it can be absolutely brutal.

We all understand that some gremlins just cannot be avoided no matter how prepared an actor may be for an audition. However when a gremlin actually does strike, an actor can avoid looking insincere about it by including with their explanation a request to reschedule or an offer to submit video. There is no other viable reason to send a description of your gremlin attack to a producer or casting director. Certainly if you submitted for the call, received an audition invitation, confirmed the appointment, prepared for the audition, and then were suddenly derailed by a vicious gremlin, you would want nothing more than to avenge yourself by actually fulfilling the audition.

Some actors have actually shown superhero powers in overcoming the attack of gremlins by changing a tire, calling an Uber, jumping on the Metro, or even riding a bus to make it to their audition. Most of them have been pleased to find themselves greeted with pardons upon their explanation of a sent email, or earlier phone call to alert of their tardy arrival ahead of time. On occasion an actor has been met with a greater level of interest through their demonstrating an ability to overcome gremlins by making it in. Some producers and casting directors think that such ability can translate into a hire who will demonstrate the same perseverance when it comes to making it to rehearsals, shoot dates, performances, etc.

The best way to prevent gremlins from derailing your audition appearances is to pay attention to details and properly prepare. First you should fully read casting notices before submitting. That includes rehearsal dates, shoot dates, performance dates, details about the production, etc. Don't shotgun-submit to everything. That's a terrible idea. If you are shotgun-submitting, you place yourself in the position of having to be the person who later withdraws their submission or fails to respond. Enough of those and you get that reputation.

Reread the audition posting before accepting the invitation or confirming the audition appointment. Make sure there isn't anything you failed to overlook, especially scheduling. Do your research on the project – the company, the director, the script, the characters – before you commit to attending. Then truly assess whether or not you are going to be able to spend the necessary time to be fully prepared for the audition. Don't do that to yourself. If you can't learn the monologue in time, if you can't memorize the song, if you can't spend time with the sides – don't confirm the appointment. Gremlins will strike.

Be honest with yourself first. If you're not willing to do the work to prepare for the audition, then you probably aren't capable of doing the work required by the project. Don't be the person sending descriptions of gremlin attacks.

The truth is that once producers and casting directors are in the audition room, they are not paying attention to their emails. They aren't even going to see your account of your victimization-by-gremlin until the auditions are over. If your email doesn't include a request to reschedule, or an offer to submit video, then it only serves as a connection of your name to gremlins.

Here's a secret: if the auditions went well, and you didn't show up – you weren't missed, you're most likely forgotten, and if you submit again in the future, your absence probably won't be remembered. If you sent an email describing a gremlin attack, and then submit again later, you just might be remembered as the actor who is easily derailed by gremlins.