Bridget Coyne Gabbe, working actress and TMU contributor
Let's get this started…
Hello fine people and welcome to my first blog post for TheaterMania, where I will lift the curtain for a peek into the post-BFA theater grad world. I'll share some trials, tribulations, and triumphs of trying to make it in the Big City; viewpoints on the vagaries of the business; tips I wished I'd known; plus insights from artists who are a few steps (more like eons) ahead of me. And so I start at the beginning- at that defining moment when I realized, "Hey, I kind of want to pursue this arts thing." Many of us have that ah-ha moment. For me, it was when I put on cabaret-style shows in my living room for my very dear and very patient babysitter, who clenched her teeth while clapping with sincerest support. Support: that's a topic I'll touch upon greatly in upcoming posts. With the blessing of my parents - who, to their credit, never questioned my desire to become an actor -- I moved from amateur hour to summers at French Woods Festival, a performing arts camp. To be honest - and honesty will be at the heart of this blog - going out for parts at French Woods was way scarier than auditioning in the real world. For real! Talk about pressure. As young as six, we auditioned before upwards of twenty people and scores of other campers waiting their turn; yes, that included my best girl friend who slept on the top bunk and the boy who happened to be my summer love. Those intimidating first auditions proved to be the start of a long boot camp preparing me for what was to come. I won some roles; I lost many others. Those of you who went to performing arts camps can surely relate. Summers devoted to acting whet my appetite for more, which inevitably led to auditioning for a spot in the Drama Studio of New York City's prestigious LaGuardia High School for Music & Art and Performing arts - better known as the FAME school. There, I met the most incredible teachers and nurturers - truly the best in the business - who pushed me to cast aside the doubts (you never really lose them, do you?), reach for the stars (forgive my cheesiness), and enjoy the ups and downs of the journey. Their support helped me understand that bringing who I am to the table was enough. "Be you and own your space," was just one bit of advice that stuck. While starting my acting career as soon as I threw off my La Guardia graduation cap was a tempting idea, I knew I wanted a real college experience, one that took me into worlds different from my beloved New York, one that involved college football and day drinking, er, I mean superb academic classes! Seriously, though, I wanted a well-rounded education along with a BFA degree. Most of the 12th grade was spent auditioning for BFA programs at various universities across the country, a "growth experience" to say the least. The lowest moment was when the girl just ahead of me came bouncing out of the auditioning room yelling to her mom, "THEY TOLD ME I'M IN!" Yeah…they didn't tell me that. The highest moment came at my audition for the University of Michigan. The auditor, picking up on the roots of my name, greeted me in a loud and hearty Irish brogue that instantly calmed my fluttering stomach. Spoiler alert: He totally became one of my favorite professors and an important mentor. The audition was relaxed, absolutely no pretensions; when I got in, it seemed only natural to accept. My college days taught me a crucial lesson: some people will tear you down and rip you to pieces. This industry, as all will attest, is tough as hell. But it's also full of people who will do just the opposite. Find those cheerleaders and hang onto them! They are the ones who count. I am forever grateful to those professors who believed in me and worked with me as an actor and as a human being. At about 18 months out of college, I've already had many memorable moments - and some I wish I could forget - but along the way, I have met many new folks I'm honored to call friends and boosters. Back on my New York City turf, I'm no longer preparing to pursue my dream. I'm actually doing it! Thanks for coming along with me. I'll close my first blog with an insight from award-winning playwright Nicky Silver, whose hit show, The Lyons, just ended a hugely successful run at the Vineyard Theatre: "When casting, one of the things I am looking for is someone who can fight tooth and nail, fight ruthlessly and without regard for appearances-- yet somehow remain charming, amusing, or droll."
Check back on Thursday, December 22nd for Bridget's next blog!