How did you start dancing?
I started when I was in 8th grade. I took voice lessons from this lady, and she suggested that I should do this musical revue. I wasn’t a big fan, but I tried out. I went and was classified as a “lead dancer.” I did that musical revue, and ever since then, I started taking tap lessons. I didn’t really start training as a dancer until I went to college. I was heavily involved taking 2-3 classes per semester. But yeah, I started tap dancing, and I thought it was the only interest I had until I took ballet and musical theatre dance in college.
So you started singing at a young age.
I started with piano lessons, really. It just so happened that my piano teacher was also a voice teacher. And she was like, “Do you want to take voice lessons as well?” So I was like, “Why not?” I stayed for a whole hour on Tuesdays and did 30 minutes of piano and 30 minutes of singing. I did a lot of my training through community theatre stuff and doing shows. I guess it was young age. I didn’t really think about it.
How did you know that you wanted to perform as a career?
I really didn’t know that you could get musical theatre degree. I feel like many people don’t. Especially where I am from, not a lot of people did that. A lot of people went to colleges in-state. Not a lot of people traveled far. But I think I was a sophomore in high school, and someone that I knew was applying to get a musical theatre degree. I didn’t know you could do that. I didn’t know that you could make a career out of that. Beginning of my junior year of high school, I seriously contemplated whether I can do this or not. All my parents said was, “You could get any degree you want as long as you get a master’s in it.” I guess it was the beginning of my junior year I was seriously thinking about colleges and thought that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.
Did you end up getting a master’s?
No [laughs]. My parents are going to read this. My parents ask me all the time when I am going back to school to get my master’s, but I don’t think they really understand that it’s better to wait a few years after —until I am a little older. One day, I will. One day, they’ll be happy with me [laughs].
Where did you go to college?
I went to school on Staten Island. A small liberal arts college called Wagner College. I got a BA in Theatre Performance.
What are you up to now?
I am, like many people, working at a restaurant, which is totally fine with me. It’s a great survival job. I am trying to take as much class as possible and reading lots of books about positivity and books about what this career we’re in, trying to go to the gym on occasion, mostly trying to stay in shape and take as much class so that when auditions start to pick up again, I am not just like, “Ah, what’s happening?”
What do you want to do as a performer?
Honestly, just be happy. I realized that from children’s theatre, teaching, and being in musicals--honestly it doesn’t matter where I am doing it or how much I am being paid at this moment. It’s really just about being happy and enjoying every single moment that I have when I am performing. You can go 8 months to a year not performing. A lot of people complain about how you have so many hours here or how the rehearsal process is so hard. Well, at least you’re in a rehearsal and are doing great. So I just want to be happy performing, whether it be teaching, be in children’s theatre, or whether it be taking class. I don’t need to be on Broadway tomorrow. I don’t need to be a star or anything. I just want to perform and be happy.
What’s the toughest time you’ve had as a dancer?
Oh, god. Well, it would be right now. So the last time I was in a show was last December. It’s been about seven months, going on eight. More than likely, nine. It’s the longest amount of time that I had without performing. This audition season, like many people go through, it was the best / worst audition season. I would get all these great callbacks with really wonderful companies, getting really far in these national tours. And then just nothing. Every single time. Not even, “We’re putting you on hold.” Just nothing. It’s funny. I realized how important it is to be positive because there was a solid forty hours in my life—and my roommate Chelsea will attest to this—where I hated everything. I was like, “Life is horrible right now. This sucks.” I thought I was going to book this job; I thought I was so perfect for this, so perfect for that.
I realized the hardest thing is to have shift triggers—finding the positive in the negative. Things that you can think about or do that can change your mood instantly. I feel like that’s really important. The past eight months it’s been probably the most dreadful my life has ever been, even though that sounds really dramatic. But, it’s just hard when you love something so much and you’re not able to do it. You’re stuck serving tables and being this walking cliche at restaurants. So definitely since past January.
And that’s the longest you’ve gone without performing?
Yeah, usually—thankfully—it’s been like every 4-5 months, I’ve gone away for a month and a half and come back. It was partly my fault. I was a little choosier than I should’ve been. I was saying no to wonderful companies that I had worked at before in hopes of something new would happen. So it’s partly my fault and partly just the life of a musical theatre actor. So it’s not that I didn’t get anything. I did get offers for really great companies that I’ve worked for before, but I was just trying so hard to branch out and do something new and something that would challenge me even more than going back on the same places that I’ve worked.
And I am sure that is a very tough decision to make. You’re putting yourself out there, and you don’t know what’s going to happen.
There’s this one company that I’ve worked for a lot. I have so many friends there that live there. I want to go there, and I want to go back every single day, and kinda want to live there. But if I did that, they would be like, “You’re settling. You’re doing the easy route. Work harder and push yourself.”
What do you do to pick yourself back up from tough moments?
I do a lot of reading about how to live a positive lifestyle. You can ask any one of my friends and they would be like, “Okay, we get it.”
When things are bad, it’s not your fault. You don’t have to be in a bad mood everyday. You can do things. You can read inspirational articles. You can go on YouTube, which has a plethora of videos that can inspire you. What I do is: During an audition season, every Tuesday there was an audition, and I would go to Chipotle. That always makes me happy. Even if the audition went really well, I would get Chipotle. Or if the audition went really, really bad, I would still get Chipotle. I just think treating yourself to something nice once a week—it doesn’t have to be expensive—like going to a movie or eating out or getting your favorite beer at the local liquor store—something that’s going to make you happy. Watching your favorite TV show. That’s what I would do during audition season. Going to two to three auditions a day and being like, “Okay, got absolutely nothing.” But I am looking forward going home and watching my favorite Netflix show that would get me through this day.
How do you tell the difference between a good audition and a bad audition?
I think everyone has much different opinion on this. Most of the time I do get a job, I say to myself, “That was a really bad audition.” I didn’t nail that turn or I was really, really bad with my singing. But you get the callback, and it’s so weird. And then most of the times I think, “That audition was so good. Went in there and nailed the dance. Showed my personality, Sang my song.” And then you don’t get it.
So to me, you can’t tell. You could have the best audition and never get it; you could have the worst audition and get it. But to me, I go in there, and what I think is a good audition is when I say, “I did my absolute best, and I would change literally nothing about what I did.” It doesn’t even matter if I get the job. They would be lucky enough to have me, and I’d be fortunate enough to work there. But I did everything I could. And then I just wash my hands of it.
Bad auditions, they just suck. I think, “I wish I could go in there one more time and be like, “please let me try one more time. I know I am so much better than what I just did.” That’s the hardest when I am so much better than what I just put out there, but they’re never going to see it because I wasn’t the one who wasn’t concentrating hard enough or couldn’t pick up the combination quickly. Those are the days I really treat myself. I am going to get ice cream and Chipotle. You never know what they’re looking for. You could be the best person in the whole entire group but you might be two inches too tall.
What do you think is a factor in eliminating that inconsistency at auditions?
Honestly, I think it’s just about perseverance. Even when you have a bad audition, just be like, “Okay. This is a bad audition, so I am going to take class tomorrow, and the next time I go to that audition, that event won’t happen again.” Or I wake up an hour earlier and stretch so that my legs are warm and my body is warm. And I am going to be able to do what they want.
When a bad audition happens, pick yourself back up and don’t worry about it again. Last audition I went on, I messed up, but it’s about taking as much class as you can so that you’re prepared for absolutely anything and everything at an audition. As I get older, I’ve auditioned a lot more and am able to understand better how auditions work. When I was younger, I was like, “I am just going to go in there and dance.” But now, this is my job. I want to do this as if I am interviewing for a CEO of a company or something along those lines.
What is your happiest moment as a performer?
I don’t think of them as moments. I am always happy when I am working the most. From 2013 to 2014, I could honestly say that all of my income was coming from being a performer. That was the happiest I’ve ever been. Working for different companies. It’s always the best thing in the world when a contract ends and then a contract starts the very next day. You’re like, “How did this plan out?” 2014 in general, has been the happiest I’ve ever been in life and as a performer.
What advice would you give to dancers?
I know I’ve said this like nine times in this interview, but you just have to be positive. There’s no way around it. Everything is better when you’re positive. You can have a horrible audition, but think of the good things. Be smart and criticize yourself well. “I didn’t do this well but next time I’m going to focus this in the audition.” Just keep going. Keep going to auditions. Keep going to class. Keep surrounding yourself with people who make you happy. Your friends are such a huge part of your life that you don’t really know how wonderful they are until they are gone. Wake up each day and thank that you’re alive and able to do what you love.
I read these books about being positive, and a lot of them say that you should take to yourself as though you’re a five-year-old child. So you’d never be like, “You suck. You were horrible at that audition. You’ll never make it.” It’s more like, “Okay, you definitely could have done better. Wasn’t your best work, but next time, go in there and smile even more. Extend your arm even further.” That’s what I always think. I try to talk to myself as if I am a child, so that I am not saying such harsh things to me that are going to upset me. We’re always our worst critics.
What’s the craziest thing that happened in the city?
I feel like a lot of weird things happen to me. I feel like I am always in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was on the subway other day sitting between these two girls. This one lady asked the other lady to move her bag from the seat so that someone could sit down, and the lady removed it so casually, and then the other lady was like, “I know that you think you’re special, but you’re not special.” I was in between these arguing women and trying to read Harry Potter. Of course, I interrupted them and was like, “Guys, there’s no reason to be arguing. You just owe her an apology.” And this lady starts yelling at me. I was stuck between 125th and 59th so I couldn’t get off the train.
Any last thing you want to share with the world?
I can tell you my favorite quote ever created on this planet. The car’s headlights can only see 200 feet in front of them, but it can still make a journey from California to New York. When people are having trouble, I say, “Why are you stressing about what’s happening 2 months from now?” We should worry about 200 feet in front of us. Pretty much just tomorrow. When tomorrow is over, you can worry about the next day. Don’t stress about things in the future that you can’t change or have no idea how they’re going to plan out.