Patience and faith. Something that all of us had to find while navigating through a global pandemic. As every industry crumbled, creatives were forced to come to terms with another level of instability. For those of us who have finally broken back into the business, we juggle layers of fear, faith, and fulfillment, proving to ourselves we can still perform. I believe there is one thing we all posses that makes returning to our roots a bit smoother.
Work ethic. The hunger in the never-ending audition grind. I spent a year auditioning through the pandemic, and ankle surgery, repeatedly grinding through the chaos. I wanted to share a little bit of my journey, specifically this past year, in hopes of inspiring people to stick with it. I hope to help you work through those moments of doubt. Reading books and articles on artist’s journeys has kept me going in my lowest moments. So, if you need a boost, this is the blog.
August 6, 2021, I finally received the ankle surgery I needed after a failed workers comp lawsuit (the workers comp injury was pre pandemic). When the pandemic hit, I took a job at Starbucks to earn the health insurance I needed to cover the surgery. Unfortunately, I was not awarded the surgery in the lawsuit. Maybe one day I’ll bring myself to write about that experience, but I digress. I worked multiple jobs to make a living, receive health benefits, and continue to audition via self tape for projects I hoped would not be canceled due to covid. As I settled post op, all work came to an abrupt halt.
Depression deepened now that I wasn’t distracted by my daily duties. All I could do was reflect on everything that lead me to this downtime. I decided to get myself back into therapy, and back to a schedule that gave me time to take care of me, not just my day jobs. The balancing act brought opportunities I had waited two years for.
Six days post surgery, a self tape slid into my emails. A request for a role in the upcoming NYC workshop for Americano a New Musical. The dance portion was a no go, but I strapped my surgical boot tight, angled the camera from the waist up, and filmed my scenes and songs. Not knowing much about the show, I did my best takes with little to no movement, praying you couldn’t hear my boot clacking against the hardwood floor.
My work ethic helped me edit my self tape, hit send, and, “Let go. Let God.” I had never landed a Latine role, even though I am Latina. People see, “Fulmer”, a woman with bright red hair, and make assumptions. They don’t stop to think about my mother’s ethnicity, or the fact that being Latina is an ETHNICITY, not a race. Latine/hispanic people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, but I digress. I didn’t want to let those thoughts get in the way of possible work, and I didn’t want to drive myself through the vicious, “what if” cycle. I turned off the actor brain, and took care of ME.
After genuinely forgetting about the Americano audition, I received a request for an Eco Live callback for the workshop. I had never met the casting director, director, music director, or choreographer in person. Auditioning, in general, had changed for me. After a pandemic, and a surgery, I questioned my ability to dance, or perform the way I used to, but I blocked those thoughts because in this new reality, I had nothing to lose. That was a positive lesson from the pandemic. I was just happy to have prospects in performance work. In that virtual audition, I was myself, I did my personal best, and I, “Let go. Let God.”
Just a few weeks later, I was already out of the boot, and active in physical therapy. I was moving quickly through recovery, and had just enough strength to finally film the dance portion
of the Americano audition. After my virtual callback, the creative team wanted to assure I’d fit the style of choreography they needed for the workshop. So, I moved my furniture, filmed the choreography in my living room, edited, hit send, and, “Let go. Let God.”
Well, I booked it. After countless auditions, and what felt like a never ending lawsuit, I was back in theater. My Last theater job, pre pandemic, was the First National Tour of The Bodyguard the Musical. Bodyguard began it’s process at New 42 Rehearsal studios in October 2016. We closed the tour on April 15, 2018. On November 12, 2021, I was back New 42 Rehearsal Studios starting my first job, “post” pandemic. I was beyond ecstatic to be back in my element, but the reality was, it was a two week workshop. There was no guarantee I’d be moving forward with the show if it went anywhere, and I still had seven other jobs I was responsible for. I was able to move certain shifts around for the two weeks, but I was locked into an industrial performance in Atlantic City, and I was scheduled to sing at a bar in Hoboken during that time.
The two weeks flew, and before we knew it, it was Friday morning, aka the morning of presentation 1/3. The producer’s introduction of the presentation included an announcement of an Off-Broadway run of Americano at New World Stages. This was news to everyone, including us performers, but there was no time to dwell on it. I muscled through the first two presentations, took the train to Secaucus, picked up my car, drove straight to Atlantic City, performed the midnight Industrial at Ocean’s Casino, drove to my home in Lawrence Township, NJ, and woke up in time to get back to NYC for the final, Saturday afternoon presentation. I had just enough time to have a quick celebratory meal with new friends, and rush to Hoboken to perform my three hour set at the Stewed Cow. The greatest 48 hour whirlwind I had experienced in years.
Work ethic got me through the workshop and beyond. It shined bright enough for the director to mention his hopes of me continuing on the Americano journey. The show was so important to me that all I could say was, “I would absolutely love to be a part of this moving forward. I also understand that things can change, and if moving forward, I don’t fit the puzzle, yes I would give myself a day to be upset, but I would respect it. Whatever you need to do to get this story told, do it.” In the meantime, I planned to do whatever I needed to do in order to survive, and chase the next contract.
Mornings at Starbucks as your third place shift supervisor. Self tape. Afternoons as your public school choreographer, or musical theater teacher, OR as your Princeton Tesla Advisor. Self tape. Evenings as your Hoboken bar singer, or tristate area wedding singer. Self tape. In person audition. Virtual callback. In person callback. Self tape. The cycle continued.
Work ethic got me through the holiday season, into the new year. By the end of January/ beginning of February, Americano did in fact come through. I was set to start pre production rehearsals for my Off Broadway debut the last week of February. That didn’t stop the auditions from coming. I had, “guaranteed” work from the last week of February through June 19th. That was of course, as long as covid didn’t strike us down. There were plenty of new musicals trying to break through it’s infectious curse, but some just couldn’t beat covid. As nice of a contract as Americano was, the goal was to continue working in theater, and/or TV/film beyond it’s scheduled end date.
I had final callbacks for In the Heights at Stages St.Louis, February 23, 2022. It was thrilling. I looked up to Luis Salgado (the director/choreographer) ever since I met him after one of his performances in Rocky the Musical on Broadway. The initial dance audition was the first time I ever danced for Luis. Luckily, I was partnered with a college friend, hoping we would both book the job. If all worked in my favor, this show had perfect timing. The contract would start July 5th, and give me summer work with a director/choreographer I’d been dying to work with for the past eight years. I danced, I sang, and I acted my best in that room. The second I stepped out of the studio I, “Let go. Let God.” I had no time to dwell. I was already late to the first day of pre pro rehearsals for Americano…..
©Megan Elyse Fulmer 2014