Nov 232009

Editor’s Note – As part of my work with The Artist’s Way I am occasionally required to complete certain assignments that are intended to help me discover the things that have me “blocked” as an artist.  Unlike the daily exercise of completing 3 pages of long hand in a journal these stories do not, necessarily, have to be private.  As such I figured that since I was writing this anyway I’d go ahead and put some actual content in this journal for a change instead of letting it fester here unused.  Please understand, though, that what I am writing is not necessarily going to be a rational take on my experiences or any kind of plea for help.  On the contrary, these entries are actually part of a conscious effort to improve myself and my self-worth.

I have been asked to describe one of the “monsters” from my past that has held me back as an artist.  I really had to think hard about this because, frankly, I’ve had more support than not in my quest to be an artist. After thinking about it for a while I did manage to come up with my three, and here are the details on one of them…

In the early part of 2002 I made what was, at the time, an unexpected return to the stage with my performance in Maxwell : A New Rock Musical By Joe Popp.  Before I was cast in that show I had pretty much figured that I would never act again, and I certainly never dreamed that I would have the opportunity to do so professionally.  The fact that I had been able to do so really lit a fire under my ass to get involved in the theater again. The next opportunity that presented itself was an audition for Jesus Christ Superstar, which at the time was still on my list of “shows I want to do before I die.”  I auditioned specifically for the role I wanted to play (Pontius Pilate) and nailed it, if I do say so myself. I knew when I left that night that I had the role, and despite the fact that it was not a “professional” (i.e. paid) gig I felt I was ready to take the Tampa Bay theater scene on and kick some serious ass. To that end I attended a rehearsal for Yasmina Reza’s Art.

To say that I was not prepared for that experience is pretty much an understatement. I mean, I had my monologue memorized and I had worked on it quite a bit. It was the lovely little speech about death from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and I had grown quite fond of it in high school so I decided to use it for the audition. I had my resume printed out, and I had a head shot that my ex-wife had taken of me. It was a bit dated, but at least I had one. What I was not prepared for, however, was the competition. Apparently the gig in question was going to pay really well and actors had turned out in droves to vie for one of the three parts in the show. What’s worse is that at least one of the roles had already been cast and the actor playing it (Paul Potenza) was sitting there in the auditions.

So there’s this huge number of guys, some of them with agents and super professional headshots and acting degrees…and then there is me. A recently divorced single father who was a college dropout.

I was out of my league.

I wanted to haul ass out of there but I managed to convince myself to stay. I saw that everyone around me was going over their monologues in private so I did the same. I remembered the confidence that I carried into my audition for Pilate and I vowed to put the same kind of energy and effort into my audition for art.

The were holding auditions in the lobby area of Morsani Hall at the David J. Straz Center for the Performing Arts. The actors were asked to wait on the bottom floor while the auditions were held on the balcony of the second floor. As a result we could hear the monologues being performed.

I will never forget the feeling of horror that crept over me as I heard a clear, strong, and confident voice ring out over the balcony and throughout the hall.

“My name is Brian Shea.  I’ll be doing a piece from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

I froze in horror and instantly focused on what I was hearing.  Surely there was no way he had picked the exact same monologue I had, right?  I mean, it’s a long play, right?  What are the odds?

“Do you ever think of yourself as actually dead?  Lying in a box with a lid on it?”

I sank. I literally got sick to my stomach. I had to do a comedic monologue that the folks who were holding the audition had already heard. What’s worse? He nailed it. I mean he blew me away and had me laughing and I couldn’t even SEE him.

Somehow I managed to rally my spirits enough to go ahead and go through with my audition when they called me, but I sucked. Hard. I knew there was no way I could top what had come before and I didn’t have a backup piece memorized. I pretty much mumbled my audition, thanked them, and ran for the door.

Brian Shea, of course, got the part.

Had it not been for the fact that Ami Corley came to me directly and asked me to audition for Cloud 9 I would not have done so. The only reason I was in Delusion of Darkness is because the guy who was originally cast left the production. That audition took the wind out of my sails again, and had the wonderful folks at Jobsite not dragged me back on to the stage my coming out of retirement would have been very short lived. As it stands I still, to this day, have not auditioned for any company other than Jobsite.

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  8 Responses to “It’s my own worst enemy”

  1. You know, I really don’t think “the guy who was originally cast” In Delusion would have been nearly as good….

  2. Hey Mike.

    You are an amazing, unbelievable triumph of a human being in this world and you deserve to think better of yourself! I always looked up to you, and it’s hard to hear you take the back seat to some Shea character.

    I don’t care what kind of performance other people bring to an audition, if you focus on who you are, and bring your own life experience to whatever you’re doing, I’m absolutely confident that you’ll accomplish every single thing you decide to. There’s no reason in the world to even consider what other people are doing – not even for a minute.

    Just be you – that’s more than enough for the world to handle!

    Much love.

  3. @Luke Bayes
    Heh…Just because I want to make it really clear – I have no enmity against Brian over that audition. I saw him in Art and he was brilliant, and I’ve had the honor of sharing the stage with him in The Boys Next Door. Brian deserved that role, which is part of what I’ve had to accept over the years that have passed. Sometimes, no matter how much you may want a part you just aren’t what the director is looking for.

    But I do thank you very much for your compliments. 🙂

  4. Hey Mike, Wonderful and insightful piece, thanks for publishing that. You’re an inspiration to many and I’m glad that though there are a variety of ways to respond to seeming defeat and I’m glad you choose one that clearly displays your determination and perseverance! In the end, these are the values that matter most!

  5. Just picking up on one thing you said I always am careful of: Brian did not “deserve” that role. No one deserves a role. The director thinks you fit the role, or can get there, or not. Deserve’s got nothing to do with it. Sorry to harp on a word, but that word inserts a dimension of moral worth to the process that ain’t there. When you fail to get a role it’s ten times more likely that you don’t physically fit the director’s idea of the character than that the director thought you weren’t a good enough actor. Brian is a very good actor, but he’s also blessed with an intermediate sort of face and body that’s easy to see working for a range of characters. Even pared down as you are, you make a very strong physical statement — surely you know that. That’s always going to limit you somewhat, but you can turn it into a strength, and it looks to me like that’s what you’ve been doing. And as directors see you succeed in a wider variety of roles, they’ll rethink what you fit. But while that’s going on, never forget that your body makes you the BEST choice for a lot of roles. It makes you interesting. You can use that, as I think you did to great effect in Cloud 9 and in TBND. Brian would not have been as interesting in those roles, nor would I have been. Next time you audition, don’t think you have to convince the director to overlook your size — think your physical authority makes you the best choice, no matter what the role. If you believe it, the director might believe it too.

  6. And yeah, having three or four monologues always in your head and ready to go is a good idea. 🙂

  7. Last thing (I swear): I had an actor buddy who was a wonderfully big, beefy guy, and 6′ 3″. When he was at Juilliard, he had a master’s class with Kevin Kline, who doesn’t always look it but is actually really tall. He told my friend (half kidding, I think) he’d have trouble getting roles because most directors are short and jealous of big guys. But in the 15 years I’ve known him, My friend has worked non-stop, all over the world.

  8. @Ned
    I agree with what you’re saying in regards to the word “deserve,” Ned. I guess what I really meant to say was that I didn’t feel like I was cheated out of the role or that it went to someone who wasn’t as good as me or any other Diva shit like that.

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