The first official rehearsal day for Americano was March 1st. The whole process was cyclonic. Daily doses of new direction, music, scripts, lyrics. Rehearsal lead to, press performances, previews, canceled performances due to covid, more press, standing ovations, and ultimately, a fruitful finale June 19th, 2022. As glorious as it was, we can’t forget we’re always chasing the next contract. So yes, work ethic got me through an entire run without ever calling out of the show, and a slew of self tapes and in person callbacks, while doing eight, athletic shows a week.
There was no time to really celebrate the closing of this impactful show, because at 10am Monday, June 20th, we were back in a studio for Americano. The reason why will be revealed in time. The following day, a castmate decided to host a party that allowed us to let loose and enjoy the early phases of, “fUNemployment.” Some people had light summer work lined up, but most of us were into the unknown. We exchanged ideas of how we would spend the New York City Summer together, but we also knew the hustle and grind never stops. As much as I wanted to have summer fun, I had to chase the next contract.
Wednesday June 22, I searched for my bus in Port Authority. I had two hours to get to my prima’s high school in Englewood, NJ, and witness her graduation. As I purchased my ticket, I received a phone call from one of my agents. Almost four months to the day, Stages St. Louis called to see if I was available to replace a cast member that dropped out of In the Heights. I was offered swing, dance captain, and understudy Vanessa. I couldn’t believe I’d be flying to St. Louis to do a show I’ve been in love with since it opened on Broadway, with a director/choreographer I’d been eager to work with, in roles that were vital in these covid times.
Work ethic got me to the gate in Laguardia on July 4th, and then to the first day of rehearsal, July 5th. We were already down five company members due to covid before rehearsals began. With my official duties including being the only female swing, dance captain, fight captain, first cover Vanessa and Graffiti Pete, and second cover Camila, I knew I had my work cut out for me (especially being undercast in rehearsals). While trying to breathe through anxiety, another call gave me a breath of fresh air.
July 6th, I received an offer to play Diana Morales in A Chorus Line, at a theater I can announce in due time. A role I always wanted, but always lost out to due to people thinking I didn’t look Puerto Rican enough. The funny part is, I was called in for Cassie initially. I never read any of Diana’s lines, and I never sang her songs. They still took a chance on me. Anyway, I GOT IT, and rehearsals would start September 27th. The stars were aligning. My work ethic was gonna keep me going in theater.
As excited as I was, I needed to stay present. I needed to stay focused on the work in front of me. The slew of work distracted me enough from the email I received six days after my Chorus Line call. On July 12th, I received word that the production of A Chorus Line was being postponed until March 2023. As cool as it is to know you have work lined up in the new year, it wasn’t going to help me get through the remainder of 2022. I gave myself a moment to be upset, but I had to have paciencia y fe. Things had been working out thus far. They had to work out again, right? “Let go. Let God.” Wake up, rehearse, study, self tape. Study rehearse, self tape. Study, study, tech… in person audition?
Sunday afternoon July 17th, I left rehearsal early, and missed out on the In the Heights sitzprobe. I had to fly to New York for a Broadway callback the next day. Monday July 18th, I danced early in the morning. I was asked to stay to sing and act in the afternoon. While waiting to sing, I received a phone call from my agent. Stages St. Louis was scheduled to do A Chorus Line immediately following In the Heights. Funny enough, their Diana dropped out of the show. They were auditioning people to fill her spot. My agent asked me to forward my audition tapes as soon as possible, but again, I never read or sang for that role. The director of A Chorus Line at Stages, Gayle Seay, is also the artistic director of the theater. As much as Gayle believed in me, she needed me to put the entire audition packet together via self tape for the music director and choreographer to see.
Monday evening’s flight was delayed, so Tuesday July 19th, I hopped on the plane at LGA, and flew right into a ten out of twelve tech day for In the Heights. I took my lunch break to study the Diana material, so that I was ready to film the audition during my dinner break on the 20th, and I did. I filmed the dance, side, and song, and was still able to focus on my current job through most of that last day of tech. Only one hour left of the tech day. I was so close to having a moment to decompress.
Well, covid may have made it’s way through the In the Heights cast early on, but injuries made me step into that last hour of tech. Of course it was a track that wasn’t at the top of my list, but I was prepared enough to get through the rest of the second act safely and sufficiently. I was in the process of making mini notebooks for every track I covered, so I went home and continued to work on the track that needed immediate attention until 2:30am.
July 21st, we had one last afternoon to revisit the first act, and work through some technical aspects that needed a little extra TLC. This allowed me one time to do the first act before the final dress rehearsal. The final dress was filmed and photographed for B roll and archives. Yes, the filmed, final dress rehearsal was my first time doing the entire show. I stayed in that track for all of the previews and opening night. As INCREDIBLE as it was to perform a show so dear to my heart, It never feels good knowing the only reason you are currently in it, is because someone is hurting. Being thrown in also took away opportunities to watch, learn, and note the show with Luis before he left.
As the stress of taking charge crept in, another trickle of fate landed in my inbox. I booked the role of Diana Morales at Stages, allowing me to stay in St. Louis for the remainder of the summer, into the fall. I would have one day off after the closing of In the Heights before rehearsals for A Chorus Line the following day. Work ethic kept me continuously working in my craft. It aided me through my responsibilities in In the Heights, and landed me my first principle role in A Chorus Line. It gifted me the confidence to revisit a show I wasn’t sure I could dance again post op. It brought even more brilliant performers into my life, allowing my stages family to expand beyond what I had imagined. Covid caught me at the end, and unfortunately I missed the last five shows as Diana, but that time was everything I needed and more. The cherry on top was my mom surprising me. She happened to make it just in time to see the last two shows I performed before testing positive.
If I’m being completely honest, I think my body needed that premature break. Work ethic plowed me through two years of nonstop work, in and out of my craft. The longest break I ever took was a four day vacation. Yes, I had downtime post op, but that was a challenge in itself. I sit here, two weeks post performance, back in the unknown. I’ll have two weeks away, I have two singing gigs lined up, and about five months until my next theater contract, but as you’ve read, my current situation could change at any second. I’m scared, I’m thankful, I’m exhausted, I’m driven, and I’m finding my pockets of peace. I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as I dream of, but my work ethic will keep me going. Let go. Let God, or whatever you believe in.
To whoever reads this, please keep going in whatever you choose for yourself. In this transitional phase of life, know that you are stronger than your current situation. When you continue to put your energy and efforts into what is important to you, the rewards begin to surface. It could take two weeks, it can take two years, but it will come. You can call this cliche, but it’s true. Most importantly, remember I am writing this to encourage you. Don’t compare your journey to mine, or anyone else’s. Our pockets of success, or continued success, will come at different times. What is for us will not pass us. Follow those that you look up to. Follow friends that shine when you shine, and vice versa. Let us root for each other, knowing our time is coming. We’ve survived things we never thought we’d experience in our lifetime. Let that be a reminder that we can continue on, and accomplish all the we want in this world. Paciencia y fe.
©Megan Elyse Fulmer 2014