Advice from a Real Live Chicago Actor
An interview with Bernie Yvon.
Bernie Yvon (used with permission of Bernie Yvon)
Last week, notable Chicago actor Bernie Yvon spared some time to share some thoughts with me. Here's a look into the life of an actor who has paid the bills solely through performing throughout his career!
DARCY ROSE COUSSENS: How long have you lived in Chicago?
BERNIE YVON: This has been home base since graduating from Northwestern. I quickly realized you can live more affordably here; I didn't want to become a waiter and then hope to have time to audition for things. My thought process was, this is what I trained for so I'll give it a shot first. It made sense to do that here. I've worked in New York a lot, and I've worked out of town and been on tour a lot, but I love having this be my home.
DRC: What are your thoughts on becoming an equity actor?
BY: I got my equity card pretty quickly, about six months out of college. That was sooner than I thought it would be, but I'd sort of decided I'd take it when it came along. I was scared to do it, but that was the way to earn a decent living at what I was doing. I don't think it's the right choice for everybody, necessarily, but for me it was a good move.
DRC: Is there anything specific that you feel has helped you succeed in Chicago?
BY: It helps to be as versatile as you can. I wasn't much of a dancer in college and I really tried to enhance those skills when I got out. Also, since Chicago is a smaller community than New York, you have to be hired again at the places you work. You can't burn bridges. I figured out quickly that it's not just who's the most talented but who has a good work ethic and who can be relied on. Those are the people who will get hired again and again.
DRC: I have to ask-- how do you mentally prepare yourself for a big audition?
BY: First of all, I'm not a big proponent for auditioning for everything. I don't think it helps you or the people you're auditioning for if you randomly go to as many auditions as you can. Because of that, I feel like I'm pretty right for the auditions I go to, so right off the bat I feel a bit more confident. If I'm nervous, I work to channel that into positive energy and adrenaline. I think that's kind of the key. It helps to keep in mind that the people you're auditioning for want you to be good! It's all about doing the work ahead of time and being prepared so when you walk through that door it can be a positive experience. Of course, that won't always be the case. But once you've done your work and done the best you can, you have to let it go and know that it's not personal.
DRC: What are you working on right now?
BY: Right now I'm in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and in rehearsals for Pirates of Penzance, both at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. This summer I'll be Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. I played the role seven or eight years ago, and loved it so much, so I'm excited. It's interesting -- at this point in my life I'm starting to do roles over again, or shows over again, but doing an older role.
DRC: Is that weird for you?
BY: I'll think, should I feel bad about this? And then I think, no! You don't always get it right the first time. You learn more, you mature, and sometimes it's great to return to a role or show and feel like you're wiser.
DRC: Lastly, what do you love the most about the life of an actor?
BY: There are so many things! The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. The people you work with tend to become your really close friends, and here in Chicago we get to work with our friends over and over again. I guess I love most that I'm paid to do what I love doing. That's the best feeling ever, and I often wish that everybody in this world was doing something they love, though I know that's not the case. So I constantly remind myself to appreciate what I'm doing. If everyone got applause at the end of their workday they'd be much happier!
DRC: Talk about living the dream. Thanks, Bernie!