New to New York: 9 Ways to Find a Healthy Heartbeat as a Star-to-Be
Ah, New York City: a city for the most hungry of dreamers, the most poetic of songwriters, and the ultimate playground for performers. The celebrated home of Broadway and all those neon lights. Ever since I saw Home Alone 2: Lost in Manhattan, I was head over heels…and wishing I lived at the Plaza Hotel with Tim Curry. Then after I saw Peter Pan (starring who else but Cathy Rigby), that was it; I knew this is where I had to be. NY became my Never Never Land. No city has a more fascinating rhythm.
But now, finally a brand new resident after many detours in arriving, I’ve found that rhythm can speed up and feel a bit chaotic, confusing, and sometimes even clashing. It can be a beast to orchestrate and conduct with ease like Lenny Bernstein.
New York rocks a manic beat, so it is instrumental that we all find our pulses and pauses.
This NMT song nails it on the head.
In the fall fashion of back-to-the-grind hustling with many new actors settling into their first NY audition season, here’s a guide for all of us who are new to New York to discover a healthy heartbeat, steer clear of breakdowns, keep our eyes on the prize, and tackle this town.
1. Surrender to What’s Out of Your Control
I know I’ve been guilty of trying to be a mind reader, so caught up in the illusive “they” – the people behind the table, from casting to creatives, who call the shots and got the golden tickets. But as soon as it becomes about what “they” want and pleasing what I’m guessing are “their needs,” I tend to lose all sight of why I perform and love this career in the first place. My creativity crashes and I become a worry-wart.
So instead of being obsessed with predicting the mystery or “the numbers game,” as some call it, I say surrender to it and stay in your power and passion. Stop stalking sites like Audition Update and your friends’ facebook statuses after callbacks because then it only becomes about the physical proof of the pudding: booking a gig. That makes the growth, the sensations, and the storytelling become second fiddle when they should really be the stars of the show.
So keep rekindling the love affair you have with your craft, how you can playfully push its buttons, rev up your repertoire, and celebrate all you can be when given a character. This is the real golden ticket to a healthy, happy, and long-running career.
2. Declare What You Want
Actors can excel in many arenas from musical theatre to legit theatre to film to TV to commercials to voiceovers to improv to dance to mastering an instrument to even mastering a backflip. NY is one big circus – even just writing that made me exhausted! Though the heat is on for triple threats and multi-faceted performers, it’s actually impossible to do all of that at once. To simplify and avoid overwhelm, declare a S.M.A.R.T goal:
S-SPECIFIC What exactly do I want to accomplish? (Get cozy with only 1 or 2 of the acting arenas above.)
M-MEASURABLE What smaller steps can I take to accomplish this and when will I know when the goal is reached?
A-ATTAINABLE Is this within my capabilities and skill set?
R- RELEVANT How important is it for this goal to happen and what can I let go of to make room for its accomplishment?
T- TIMELY By when will I start my journey towards this goal and by when will I accomplish it?
Goals are super necessary; they are bite-sized chewable chunks of your dreams and “big picture,” making your vision come to life in the present. Putting one little nugget in place will most importantly help you use your time more wisely, i.e. going to specific casting calls instead of everything and anything. You will suddenly have the free time to focus on what you really want to focus on, not just the “shoulds” of the business. Go for what is aligned and lights you up! For additional dreamy recourses, check out The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte.
3. Lead with Gratitude
Generosity and consideration can get lost in the shuffle of auditions, making us feel more like machinery going about the motions at times. We can rush into audition rooms, rush out out of them, and have no idea what happened in the in-between. I call this “zombie brain.” To avoid “zombie brain,” nurture your contagious spark of play and connection, making this a giving and receiving art form at its finest. Get excited to share your gifts and remember that you are auditioning for your career, not the job. It’s all about the relationships, so don’t forget your kindness at home. That might be what gets you the job!
4. “Surthrival” over Survival Job
I’ll just say it: survival jobs can be soul sucking sons of bitches if you let them. They can hijack your life, steal you away from auditions, drain your energy, and make you forget the very reason why you even came to NY. I’ve seen it happen way too many times, so it’s important to have a plan in your back pocket.
First things first, don’t just settle for anything that pays well and quickly fills the void. Think “surthrival” instead, envisioning an extended branch of your creativity and skills where you feel valued, connected, and enlivened. These jobs exist – they just require thinking outside of the box, and they give you the flexibility to support your acting career!
Next, highlight your strengths and your favorite atmospheres and note which ones make you feel naturally alive. Maybe it’s caring for kids or being in a museum…see what comes up and what can possibly pave a path to a side gig.
Give it a little time to cook and you can turn the dreaded survival job into a surthriving backbone!
5. Find Your People
It takes a village to support an actor, but here’s the beauty of it: you get to choose who those magical people are. From vocal coaches to acting gurus to studios to study at and communities to collaborate with, find the people who believe in you but challenge you. Find the people who speak your creative tongue and ignite thousands of fires inside over and over again. The people who you run to hug before shaking their hand. If one thing is for certain, it’s that certainty by means of financial stability and job consistency is rarely ever certain in a theatre career. But what is certain is your fellow artists and your team who become your family. That’s the framework. Keep it strong and keep building.
6. Move Your Body
The best solution to post-show or audition blues as well as adrenaline highs is to pull a T-Swift and “shake it off.” Moving your body, either through hitting the gym or taking a class, can be the most successful way to abandon inner blocks, revitalize your energy, stay in shape, and even make likeminded friends. Snatch a Class Pass to hop between some of NY’s finest studios, SoulCycle your heart out, take a jog around Central Park, or start a work study with you favorite yoga studio or dance center. The options are pretty limitless! Find your gym, studio, online program, run route, and/or wellness homes that give your muscles the workouts you crave!
7. Master the Rehearsal Studio Map
From Nola to Shetler to AEA to Chelsea to the Ripley Griers and to the Pearls with all the others in between and beyond, have your subway routes on the ready with alternative plans that allow you to bounce from audition to audition without getting lost. For my fellow new folk, give yourself ample time coming from your borough or neighborhood (or shout out to Jersey!) to learn these commonly used studios for auditions like the back of your hand. Bonus points to finding a buddy to master the mayhem together! Also, having a mental audition checklist before you depart can save the day or a forgotten tap shoe. Make your travels to and fro as easy as possible, so you’re not cursing subway doors closing in your face
8. Be a Tourist
Well, maybe avoid Times Square on your day off, but staycations can be the best medicine to maintain a healthy heartbeat in NY! Make a bucket list of all the things you want to do in your new home city, from restaurants to dine at, parks to play at, shops to play dress up in, museums to visit, shows to go see, new subways to ride, and any other event that strikes your fancy. I actually have to remind myself to GO SEE A BROADWAY SHOW. So press that pause button and go explore the great bustling city that never sleeps at your fingertips!
9. Remember to Breathe
Continuing that pause button notion, I lastly encourage you to remember to build in breathing room. Whether that means rest, mediating, doing a yoga flow, or finding spaces to expand in, find the joy in the still moments and your off-button from performing. And remember to breathe when you actually are performing, really sipping in the experience and awakening your presence. Your breath can be the best friend you ever make in New York.
New York, New York is a helluva town, but it’s our town and it’s tingling in possibility from the Bronx to the Battery. If you can rock a healthy heartbeat here, you’ll for sure make it anywhere. Welcome to New York!
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