Hey everyone!!!… So my buddy Andrew and I have been collaborating diligently and are happily launching numero dos of the Kyle Robert Carter website. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time as I just got back to Los Angeles from an awesome trip up to New York City that yielded my biggest booking to date – the role of Benny in the Non-Equity National Tour of “In The Heights”!!! :-)… As I travel throughout the year, I want to keep everyone updated with the show dates, progress of the trip, and obviously any funny or interesting things that happen!!
It was a crazy journey to this point!!! About two months ago, I saw a post on Backstage.com that showed the there were going to be non-equity (non-union for those wondering what that means) auditions for In The Heights. I was really reluctant at first because I knew it was going to be one of those auditions where there were a ton of people and they all would be really talented and the odds would be stacked against me since I hadn’t done any musical theatre out here yet and the theatre community out here in LA is really small and really tight. Negativity and anxiety are the nemesis of all actors, so I said to myself, screw it. I have nothing to lose and as usual the more you audition the better and better you get at it.
I arrived to the audition in late July on an hour of sleep (NOT RECOMMENDED)… This would be due to the fact that I went on a 72 hour trip to Vegas and by the time I got home to finally get some sleep for my audition the next morning, my body was so exhausted from the Vegas trip that I had a panic attack – which I get often and have just learned how to deal with. As usual I arrived on time and was number 98 in line… ugh, lol. After waiting for two hours, it was finally go time. I have been learning more and more since I’ve been out in this industry that nervousness is a normal bodily function and that is not to be feared, just channelled. So, I’ve been training myself to channel my nervousness and anxieties into confidence of my performance ability. I said my quick prayer before walking in, and chest high and mind clear, went in – you CANNOT show weakness, it is literally like you are a lion in the safari. The casting director glanced at me and immediately looked down at my headshot and stopped all eye contact. I said to her I would be singing “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” by The Temptations, and her response was a generally apathetic grunt, lol. Then I sang that damn song like it was the last thing I would ever do, haha; I knew my voice was weak because of the lack of sleep, so if I let off the gas pedal at all, I knew i would either go flat or my voice would crack out of dryness. She finally looked up at me and said, we’ll see you at 5 on wednesday, go on the site to get the song and sides.
Two days to learn the song and look over the sides, no problem. I rolled up to the studio that wednesday and sat amongst the other actors waiting for their callbacks. Whenever you’re at peace or at your highest, there will be negative energy foaming at the mouth waiting to devour you like a rabid Hyena – and that’s what was around me with these other actors. I sat with them for about twenty minutes and in that twenty minutes all they did was bitch and moan, including one of the other “Benny”s talking about how annoying it is when you get callbacks for these bigger gigs and you never get it. All of these people knew eachother and seemed to have performed with eachother before, so I fell into the trap of thinking, “man, if these people aren’t getting the gig, how am I (pretty much the new kid on the block) gonna land this.”… Yea, I thought like that for all of about 3 minutes, and told that thought that it served no purpose in my brain; I walked into my callback with the same channelled energy I had the last time. The complaining Benny’s callback took the full allotted 15 minute slot and as he said they made him read all four sides and sing the song three times – mine, took 5. I sang the song once, read one side, and the casting director said we want to see you again…. aaaaaand then my heart sank to the floor because as a new actor you are pretty much NEVER supposed to take a vacation. You want to get the audition of a lifetime, take a vacation, and someone else will get that audition while you’re gone; that’s the general train of thought out here. The next callback was going to be while I was back home on the east coast. I pleaded with the casting director asking if I needed to cancel my trip, or if there was any other way I could make myself available for another callback date. To my surprise, she was absolutely alright with it, and told me she would give me a date to go to New York to audition for the musical director… SUCCESS!
Fast forward three paaaaainfully anxious weeks of constantly practicing the song and sides in my head, channeling negative energy, and using every self-motivation tactic I know and I am soaking wet (thanks to a rainy New York day, and I’m a spoiled Cali kid now, what the hell is an umbrella???) awaiting my New York callback. I walk in the room to see who I assume is the director, one of the producers, the casting director, who I assume is the costume designer, two audition readers, and the pianist. The usual “size the kid up” chit chat ensues, and the director instructs me to sing the prepared song “When You’re Home” – and let me tell you, after three weeks of singing it in my head, I unleashed that song like Sheldon Brown unleashed on Reggie Bush a few years ago (if you don’t know what I’m talking about hit up the Tube and search Reggie Bush Hit)… The director said to me after, “That was great, Kyle… but remember this song is more of a conversation between the characters, you’re simply telling her how awesome ‘Home’ is… so you don’t have to ‘Saaang it’ so much”… Got it, just had to unleash the beast a little bit, haha… second time around, I was much more controlled and they loved it. Then we get to the sides, I read all four at least twice and the director gave me notes throughout the process – gauging how I interpreted the material on my own, and then molding it towards what he wanted. Easy as pie… And then my heart sank yet again… “Alright Kyle, now we’d like to hear the second prepared song ‘When The Sun Goes Down’.”…… oops, I’m an IDIOT. When I originally downloaded the music and sides, I noticed that that song was on there, but according to the site it said I only needed the first song. As an actor you have to aaaalways be thinking ahead, and I should’ve known the song was in the download package for a reason. So, I had to borrow their copy of the music ( a huuuuge No-No) because I was ill-prepared, and then I attempted to essentially sing the song from my memory of it being on my phone music playlist and sight reading it (which is insane because the music is not written nicely for singers, with every ad-lib written in for you to have to follow)… Out to the hallway I was sent for them to deliberate. But light shined down, the director gave me one hour to go learn the song and come back again.
Ten bucks to rent a room with a piano at the studio and I was off to the races. Listening to the song on my phone and plucking it out on the piano to make sure I had the right notes in my head. Luckily, I can actually read music; I can’t play an instrument, but I can read the music. Tic-toc, hour over. Back into the audition room. A new director is now sitting next to the other one. The previous one apologizes, but he wants to hear me sing “When You’re Home” again and he’s going to let the new one take over from there because he has to leave. I think, and this may just be wishful thinking, when I ran out to grab a tissue from my bookbag before I sang, I heard him say to the new director “This guy is pretty great.” Whether that is factual or not, it gave me uber confidence and I did my thing with the only note this time that they wanted me to do the end again because I went a little flat and they wanted to hear how long I could hold the last note in pitch – no prob the second time around. Re-read the sides again for the new director, he was satisfied. Now for “When The Sun Goes Down”. The man looks and says, “I heard you hadn’t learned the song yet, and that’s fine we might not..” I cut him off and said the hour I had with it was great and I was confident to just knock it out. He was definitely a bit hesitant, so he offered to run through it with me once before going full speed. The run through was basically just a practice run because I had learn the song quickly, and he looked at me a bit impressed and said that I was right, we could hop right into the performance. He gave me a few notes, we did it a few times and each time I felt it get better and better, especially when he got me to stop cutting off my vowels on the longer notes (which I aaalways do, it’s a bad habit), and to hold for the full value. Lastly, I had to learn Benny’s rap on the fly from “96,000”. It took me about 4 or 5 times, but after that everyone was satisfied and my month long saga of stress and anticipation was FINALLY over!!! I had done the best I possibly could have; left it all on the floor, as the well known saying goes.
The next day, I received a call from them saying that I should expect to hear if I was going to get an offer in a few days, and that I was “tops on their list”, which I was both happy and skeptical about. You never know, people say you’re tops, just to make sure you don’t go out and book something else, which was never my intention and as I told her over the phone,even though I have other gigs lined up (which I did), “In The Heights” is my priority. Then later that day my agent called me and said that they were making me an offer. Stress relieved, hyper-sensitivity subsided, anxiety free… this post is me finally venting just how awesome the whole experience was, and for anyone who even read this far (cuz Lord knows the internet’s attention span is a paragraph at best) thank you thank you thank you for your support. Anytime I get discouraged or nervous I remember the promises I’ve made along the way to my friends and family that I will not quit this challenge… and I can continue to assure you that this is just the tip of the iceberg!!!
Kyle Robert Carter