Here’s an article I wrote for B-Side Productions about what “family” is to me… I hope you enjoy! B-Sides is an NYC based production company (and community for that matter) that I’m proud to be a part of – www.b-sideproductions.org
BROTHERHOOD MENTALITY – by Kyle Robert Carter
I had an audition a couple weeks ago that really stuck with me. As we all know, there’s tons of factors that can deter your mind from being 100% committed to every single audition – maybe you have five auditions this week so you’ve decided to focus on three and let the others “be whatever they’re gonna be”, or maybe you’ve got five shifts at work this week, you’re exhausted and just can’t give all of yourself to your audition that day; it can literally be anything. That’s why when I have an audition that sticks out in my mind I really try to dissect it and figure out what it was about that experience that still has me thinking about it weeks later.
This particular audition was for a regional version of Godspell, not even close to my favorite musical. So in my mind I thought this was definitely going to be a one and done audition – Go in, knock it out, leave it in the room, and on to the next. I was called in for Jesus/Barker, so I prepared the material and felt confident. I didn’t even end up reading the Jesus sides. I think they fancied me more for the Barker once they heard me sing, so they focused on the Barker sides. The audition went very well… but just as I had suspected, on to the next.
Thought this story was going to be about the audition itself? Nope, not in the least bit.
It was a pretty standard audition. But, about a week later I went to clean out my audition binder and stumbled upon those Godspell sides. I don’t know what it was but I decided to re-read them again, just to see if I still felt the same shifts and choices I had thought about the week prior when preparing for the audition.
This time a statement triggered my brain more viscerally than it had before. Jesus says,
“You have my Father’s blessing. Come and enter the kingdom that has been ready since the world was made. For when I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me drink, when I was naked and without a home you took me to your house, and when I was ill and in prison, you came to my aid.”
The followers say that they are confused because they don’t remember doing any of these things for Jesus, and he responds,
“Anything you did for one of your brothers here, however humble, you did for me.”
I grew up Catholic and I went to the University of Notre Dame, maybe the second or third most Catholic university in the country, but I have always been much more individually spiritual than actually a part of the organized religion. Despite that, this particular Biblical parable is one I remember reading as a teenager and actually connecting to. The one used in Godspell – Matthew 25:34-40 – as well as Luke 6:27-36 both relate to how we treat each other as human beings – The Golden Rule, if you will.
I didn’t grow up with excess. As my mom and I said to each other on the phone one day just reflecting on some childhood memories, “We always had what we needed, but anything we wanted was the part of life we had to fight tooth and nail for.” Problem for me is, ever since I was a very little kid, I’ve had extremely high aspirations. I knew what university I wanted to go to when I was 6 years old and when senior year of high school came around I only applied to that school, and got accepted. While the singular personal pronoun “I” was used 4 times in that sentence, it does not even come close to encapsulating the entire community of human beings that it took for me to accomplish that feat; in my case, “I” defies the laws of its grammatical definition.
I’m an only child and since both of my parents worked long and odd hour jobs, I was pretty much always at a babysitter’s house, at a daycare center, or, once 4th grade came, I started staying with my best friend’s family after school and in the summer time up until 8th grade, when I was finally old enough to start staying home by myself. I figured out very young what respecting other people’s homes and property meant, and that the more respect you showed other people, the more likely they were to want to help you. I applied it to every aspect of my life. As a result, I always found myself in situations where people would hear me talk about my goals and dreams and tell me that they wanted to help me succeed at them. I’ve never lived near any of my extended family and so while my immediate family only consisted of my mom, dad, and I, I started to look at everyone as my family member.
These people kept helping me accomplish things, so I started asking myself, what could I do for them? My test scores were NOT how I got into Notre Dame; I think the average SAT score at ND in ’05 was in the 1400s. I fell asleep during my SAT, got a 1090, and didn’t want to waste money taking it again. I got into Notre Dame because of my “family”. My extracurricular activity list was two and a half pages long because if anyone needed anything, I tried to help them with it. Need someone for your study group? I’m in. A friend needs a singer for a beginner guitar class concert to wear a blonde wig and sing Kelly Clarkson? Let’s do it. Engineering teacher asked if I wanted to be a Virginia regional Technology Student Association President because no one had volunteered that year. I said yes. I think she had just as much fun as I did going to and leading all of those meetings across the state. Librarian needed someone crazy enough to walk around the mall dressed like the Cat in The Hat to promote Read Across America Day for local elementary school kids, hell yea!
The more I cared about other people’s goals as much as I cared about my own, the more reciprocal the rewards were.
What we do as actors is hard. We spend what will end up being like 90% of our actual time trying to get a job, not actually having one. Hours and hours of unpaid work preparing for a role that you’re not tall enough for. Thousands of dollars on classes and lessons that won’t pay for themselves until that 100th commercial audition that you get a national spot for. As a result, there are dark times. There are just as many ebbs as there are flows. In those times, we’re only human and we will find ways to blame ourselves for whatever it is we’re lacking. I know it’s hard to re-ignite motivation when you’re in a deep rut as an actor, but I’m telling you, take that singular personal pronoun of “I” and expand it outward. Go find a friend or a family member you care about and ask them about a goal they have. Not necessarily an acting goal, just whatever they are interested in. Spend the next portion of your time helping them accomplish that goal. I promise along the way you will meet people you didn’t think you’d meet, you’ll get inspiration you didn’t have before, and if you can separate your own ego out of wanting a return of investment for yourself, you will learn to care about something you hadn’t thought you cared about before. Hey… at minimum, you won’t be lamenting in your own bubble of self-doubt and fear, and that’s what is ultimately preventing the mind from progressing to the next task. Be the best version of yourself, not only for yourself, but for everyone around you.
I’m not preaching any of this to say this is some mind-blowingly correct way to live life. I’m just saying that if you find yourself in a dark place, having a really hard time achieving a goal you’ve set, maybe you’re thinking too singularly – try allowing your branches to get nourishment from the goals of the people around you.