Monday, November 5, 2012

My New York Branch: Year One, Assembly Required

My Garden-In-A-Glass martini takes on added flourish in NY
With the massively destructive Sandy roaring through the New York region last week, Halloween was a bit overlooked, which is fine by me, since I am not a fan of dressing up in costumes for free.  What was also overlooked, though, was the fact that Halloween marked my one year anniversary in New York City.
The corridor outside my apartment has a large picture window facing the river, where the big cruise ships dock. I enjoy looking out this window as I wait for the elevator.
That anniversary is only technical, as far as I'm concerned.  I do not consider that I have been in NY one solid year.  Yes, it's true that, one year ago on Halloween, I had my final walkthrough of the apartment awarded to me in Manhattan Plaza, and I accepted the keys. 
The lobby of Manhattan Plaza is always decorated.  I failed to snap a shot of the spectacular Christmas decor, but here's the lobby during Easter.
I have been paying rent here for a year, but I still don't believe I've actually lived here a year. 
I am incompetent with my hands, but I assembled each
piece of furniture, like this desk, as it arrived.
It was agonizing work for me.

That first night, I had dashed up from DC to take possession of the apartment, which would have been passed on to the next person on the waiting list if I had not done so, but as I was finishing up a show in DC, I only stayed overnight. 
It took many months before my apt. had enough furniture
to be considered a home. This is a picture of my
newly delivered couch. It stayed in that box two weeks.

Then the holidays arrived, which included lots of traveling for me, then business in DC kept me there well into the New Year.  I really don't feel like I landed in NY until around March.

But on paper at least, I have been in NY a full year.  That first night, Halloween last year, I had only a blowup mattress, a high director's chair, and a martini glass to prove that I was "home." 
Here's that couch, out of the box.

A trick-or-treater unexpectedly knocked on my door; I invited her in, to prove that I had, indeed, just moved in, and had nothing to contribute to her bag of candy. 
An inflatable mattress is great for guests, but when you sleep on it night after night, you start to feel like you're perpetually camping. As soon as the holidays were over, I bought a bed.
It took a long while for the anxiety of being in New York to subside.  I never had the strong desire to live in Manhattan (and I think you really need that to be successful here), but when the apt dropped into my lap, it could not be refused.

But there was only one reason to give the city a try: my career.  So once I settled in to the New York branch for more than a night or two at a time, I began attending general auditions (more on that in a mo'). 
My first piece of furniture was
waiting for me when I arrived.
Though I had to assemble it.
Which was the theme of my NY
life this year.

It must have been around February or March when I snagged my first New York gig, The Taming of the Shrew.  I wrote about that experience here, but in a nutshell, I had a great part and an artistically satisfying time. 
Gremio in Taming of the Shrew, my NYC debut.
I alerted the media. They didn't really care.

The show was performed in Queens, which I was assured would qualify as my New York City Debut (though one witty friend advised that it would be my NY Debut until I snagged a show in Manhattan, at which time that would become my NY Debut).

It wasn't too long after winning the role of Gremio in Shrew that I did, in fact, snag my first Manhattan gig, playing the Mayor in Richard III.  I was very pleased to be asked to play the Duke of Clarence as well, when the original actor bowed out or was fired or something.  The production, about which I wrote here, was performed outside.  In August. 
The murder of Clarence in Richard III is, so far, my
favorite New York Moment.

Again, the experience was a great one for me, artistically.  Playing two very different roles in the same production is always a challenge, and I hope I accomplished it.  I would have to say, though, that with rehearsals happening in the dead of summer, outside, the process was the clammiest of any I've had.

As I write these words, I am in the midst of rehearsal for the third of the shows I've done this year. 
Next up.

A Midsummer Night's Dream will be another first for me:  it will be my Manhattan Debut INDOORS.  We'll be performing on the fourth floor of a building in downtown Manhattan, assuming that the chaos from Hurricane Sandy has subsided by then.

I'm not sure how to gauge my past year in New York professionally.  Everyone is told that actors are likely to snag only one job out of every 100 auditions.  Since February, when I started attending general cattle call auditions in earnest, I've had a whopping 64 New York auditions.  I have booked three of those jobs, and artistically speaking, those three were all gems.  But all three paid only subway fare.  So I've worked a lot in New York in the past year, and earned nothing.  Conversely, I've had only three stage auditions in DC since January, and all were general calls which I attended on my own (that is, without invitation).  I actually snagged one of those gigs, but had to turn it down when the producer refused to provide health insurance.  Other than a couple of film auditions which also came my way, that was the extent of my DC career this year.  I think word may be spreading that I am in New York these days, so my name does not spring to the minds of DC's theatrical casters.  I really need to address that problem, as I remain a bi-urban actor, able to work "locally" in both NY and DC.

As for my personal life, again, I'm not sure how to gauge the year.  I was pleased to reconnect with several old friends from various eras of my life, who have settled in New York (though I have not spent as much time with them as I would like).  And I've largely lost touch with my DC buddies, who are always unsure when I will be in the District. It is another aspect of living in two cities which I need to address and correct. 


The past year has been spent in assembly mode. It wasn't just that desk, I assembled every single item in the apartment except the mattress and the rug.  A rolling desk chair, the couch, the floor lamp, a coffee table, two end tables, a shelving unit, and even an electric fireplace were put together by my highly uncoordinated hands.  But assembling a New York life required more than hours and hours of fumbling around with tools in my hands.  I'm comfortable but still a bit isolated in this second branch of my life; I need to expand a social network here, and of course, get my professional life improving at a nicer pace.

Manhattan Plaza

Through a fluke in the system at Manhattan Plaza, my lease will be running to July of 2013.  So, in June, I'll need to evaluate all these aspects of my life, and decide if maintaining this dual city life is worth the energy.  For now, though, I am glad I took the plunge to open a second branch, and look forward to what happens next.  Stay tuned, and so will I.