14 April, 2014

“I am that I am”

A special excerpt for Passover. I adore the symbolism of the Jewish holiday that celebrates the liberation of the ancient Jews from their bondage in Egypt because to me, it is speaks to oppressed people everywhere. Exodus represents an honest bid for a human being's most essential right--freedom.


After the class had been dismissed for the day, the Rabbi beckoned to Mikhail who nodded, gathered his books, and made his way to the Rabbi’s great wooden desk. Rabbi Syme grasped hold of the tzitzit on his prayer shawl thoughtfully before setting his gaze upon him.

     “Mikhail, my boy, your thoughts are extraordinarily advanced for a boy of your age…” Mikhail’s stillness neither refuted or confirmed this fact. “Indeed, your grasp of the trials of Exodus is so exquisite and all comprehending…” But he could not continue—his heart had been flooded with every possible emotion. When he had gathered himself again, he locked eyes with the Mikhail. “Tell me, my son, does your Uncle have any idea—” he looked away, pausing slightly“—of what you are capable of?”

Mikhail stared at the Rabbi in shock.
No one had ever named his condition.
It was something no cleverness, not even his, could ever understand.

     “No, Sir” he replied, his voice so small he was unsure he had spoken at all.

The Rabbi’s eyes glinted.

     “Mikhail, I wanted to share something that you yourself reminded me of: freedom is dynamic. It is an active thing.”

Mikhail tilted his head, intrigued.

     “—On Shabbat, when we are commanded to rest instead of work, we are experiencing what, on the surface, seems to be the opposite of something else. But just as Shabbat is much more than the absence of toil, so, too, is the freedom of Exodus more than the absence of bondage.”

The boy understood.

     “Free a man of the constraints that limit and inhibit his development, and you have a free human being. Freedom is the natural state of man.”

He looked away from the boy for a moment and recalled the youth of his own searching self.

     “My boy,” he imparted with a ferocious passion that shook them both by the throat, “There is nothing negative about our human potential—do you understand me? God Himself created you the way you are. Do not let anyone in this world convince you otherwise. And you are capable of anything, my boy. There is and shall always be a disparity among the gifts God has granted men, but we all deserve equal consideration. All men, no matter how low, how basic or how tormented, deserve compassion, dignified brotherhood, and respect.
     “But part of respecting all men is respecting ourselves. Recognizing that God has blessed you. By embracing these gifts, we live as God lives, with love for all He has created—with an open heart.
“Thus our sages have said: ‘In every generation a person must see him-self as if he has himself come out from Mitzrayim.’ You, of course, know what Mitzrayim, this Hebrew word used for ‘Egypt’ means, do you not?”
     “…Boundaries…” the boy whispered.
     “It does indeed—and the effort to free ourselves is a perpetual one.”

The Rabbi removed his spectacles and looked deeply into the eyes of the boy,

     “I promise you, Mikhail, you truly blessed child of our Lord, I promise you will find the strength to overcome the oppression of your circumstances. This fight is your purpose—the strength for it inherent within you. Like rocks of salt shaken in water, the turbulence soon it asserts itself in perfect order. My boy, you are supported by the Greatest Parent of them all, and He has endowed you with your gifts, and therefore believes in their power. And, for the record my boy: so do I.”

The boy grew very still.
The tears collecting in the corners of his eyes stung with the foreignness of care.
He was filled with a gratitude he had never known.

     “Do you recall the Father’s response to another one of his most gifted sons?”

He did.

The boy wept silently into the blackness of his coat and whispered,

     “I am that I am…”

04 April, 2014

Big Trash Day

(4-and-a-half weeks on)

It was the night before big trash day—you know: the day you put out your “big trash” on the curb for it to be carted away to the “undiscovered country.” Last month’s big trash day almost shamanistic-ally removed the deathbed mattress and our death-beige carpets. That initial purge was like grief Viagra—we were on a roll. Re-doing the house, beginning with the upstairs, became the largest chunk of our daily activities.

Some of it was marvelous— Grey and Kent moving through the house as ‘Tessa,’ redecorating wildly, all of us in stitches. The strong scent of paint filled the house, its acidic odor burning off the smells of disease, and the windows flew open, somehow washing the place clean with the freshness and oncoming frosts of November in the air.
But other parts were not marvelous at all.

Tonight I sat at the curb, my body unfathomably fatigued; it was all I could do to remain awake. My back and every muscle sore, my head dense with dulling fog. The steady rain upon the street, rooftops and curb fell upon me too as I sat in a tormented ball within the seat of my father’s black leather swivel chair—the noisy, worn out chair that lived-on in his office. The one my mother had always hated. The one I associated with the sound of his IBM typewriter, that still smelled of him and held the unmistakable imprint of his body. I sat, feeling that imprint left upon the worn leather, soaked to the bone in the freezing rain. I would stay there all night.


I am…

I am thirteen and sitting on the bed with Dad, frustrated beyond all reason by my homework for 8th Grade Money Management. I do not understand money, or how to manage it, and despite my horrific attitude, he is very slowly explaining everything with great patience until I absolutely do. Only a few years back, we sat in the very same positions reading The Chronicles of Narnia, and now I am being asked to manage money like an adult and I do not want to grow up. Most of all I do not want to disappoint him.


It is Thanksgiving 1998 and it feels as though everyone in (and several friends from out-of) town, are at 1367 gathered around our Chickering piano singing show tunes. Duets, solos, and finally, we all erupt in an emotional chorus of the Act 1 finale of Ragtime— my father’s eyes closed, his voice the strongest and most impassioned of us all.


I am fourteen and driving to my relatively new Groves High School with Dad, just as we have done every single morning since time began. He pulls up right in front of the back entrance on Evergreen Road. We hug, I kiss him on the cheek, and we exchange “I love yous” before I grab my purple backpack and run inside.

Before heading inside I catch the eye of Sarah Randall, a girl two classes ahead of me whom I’ve known since the summer before we moved to Michigan. She’s getting out of the car driven by her father, whom I wave to. Mr. Randall’s face looks thoughtful as I make my way inside.
I will learn a few years later, how much watching the Silbers say goodbye at the school entrance means to him. I’ll learn that when he’s having particular trouble with Sarah, that he will say, “you know how Al and Michael Silber say goodbye to one another every morning? If you could ever do that for me—just once—it would mean the world to me.”

I will learn, years later (when Mr. Randall also dies prematurely, in his case, from pancreatic cancer), that Sarah will listen. It will, in its own small way, change a little piece of their relationship.


It is the third Saturday of August 1995—the weekend of The Woodward Dream Cruise; a classic car event held annually in Detroit to celebrate the essence of Motor City.

After World War II, people began to “cruise” in their cars along Woodward, from drive-in to drive-in, often looking for friends who were also out for a drive, celebrating a new sense of freedom. Now the Woodward Dream Cruise is the world’s largest one-day automotive event, drawing 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars each year from around the entire world.

We’ve lived here a year, and we decide to pull up to Woodward and take a peak at the event that spans all the way from Pontiac to the State Fair Grounds inside the Detroit City limits, just south of 8 Mile Road. It is absolutely majestic. Most of the cars on display are vintage models from the 1950s to the early 70s—muscle cars, street rods, T-birds and corvettes, but there are some turn-of-the-century gems, some custom, collector and special interest vehicles all dating across the last century and change.

The initial sight renders all three of us momentarily speechless.


I am in the kitchen and it’s one of the rare nights when Dad has taken it upon himself to “cook” dinner. Mom and I stare down at our plates—a mass of crunchy, practically raw vegetables slopped in butter lay before us in meager piles. The only indicator that they have been “cooked” at all is that their once-colorful skins are charred so black the food is indistinguishable, so close to barbeque coal one might as well be eating it straight from the bag.

     “Dad?” I ask, careful not to pierce his pride, “What… is it?”
     “It’s stir-fried vegetables!” he replies, with the enthusiasm of a college kid who has recently made their first batch of Kraft Mac N’ Cheese without calling the fire department.
     “I see…” says my mother, pushing a few of the blackened vegetable turds around on her plate.
     “Don’t panic—“ Dad urges, “It’s not burnt.”
     “Eh…well then what is it?” I ask.
     “IT’S CAJUN…”

…Uh huh.


I am playing Miss Hannigan in the 3rd Grade production of Annie at El Rodeo School in Beverly Hills, California. It is my first theatrical experience and even though I am merely eight, I know that I am a hoot as I copy Carol Burnett’s performance from the film, down to every intonation and (inappropriately, for an eight-year-old) drunken idiosyncrasy. It is the morning of, the day of the performance and I am not the least bit nervous. At breakfast Dad says “you should eat.”
But I do not.
Despite never forgetting a movement, line or note prior to this day, I forget the words to my song for the first time ever whilst singing my big number. (Forevermore I have always eaten something before a performance).


I am on the banks of Quarton Lake getting ready for my very first ice skating sojourn outdoors, on a natural body of water. We have lived in Birmingham, Michigan for a few fledgeling weeks and Quarton Elementary School (where I have recently been enrolled in the 4th Grade) has an annual Quarton Lake Skate that features skating for parents and kids alike, as well as a vat of hot cocoa. I held my Dad’s hand as I took my first-ever steps onto a frozen lake, skating until my nose was red and dripping from the excitement of the cold.


I am at Dairy Deluxe on Woodward and 14 Mile; the classic Birmingham summer hangout that goes by many unofficial titles (among them, the "Twirly Dip," "Double D," "DD," to name but a few).
A Snickers flurry was a summer classic (that is most likely what I am enjoying), or some make it extra Detroit-y by adding Sander’s Hot Fudge on top (un-be-liev-ab-le.) The joy of a visit to Dairy Deluxe is indeed in the quality of the ice cream and various confections, as well as the little quirks that make it (and have kept it) so small-town-charming over the years. In reality Dairy Deluxe is really nothing more than a hut with a giant, neon ice cream cone sign atop it.

But it is much, much more. The same people have been running Dairy Deluxe for well over twenty years and they still write down your order by hand on bits of paper, count your change out with their minds and make your order themselves, handing it to you through a teeny tiny window box on the corner of Woodward and 14 Mile Road.


I am driving along Maple Road, rounding the strange curve any non-native Birminghamer would find confusing— right at the twisty point where suddenly you are confronted with what I always blasphemously referred to as ‘Christian Corner’— where the “First” Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches all appear in a clump, sprung up like eager flowers drenched in holy water.
On the same strip of Maple (between the churches) sits the beloved Mills Pharmacy; where as a kid Dad used to take me in to buy as much candy as possible for a single dollar (it was his way of teaching me about counting out and budgeting money). Individually wrapped Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids were only 10¢. Candy bars 50¢. Laffy Taffy, Pixie Sticks, Runts, Nerds, Necco Wafers, the list was endless. A charming bearded man behind the old-fashioned candy counter used to greet us, and he was so like the one in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory you practically expected him to burst into song at any moment. It was pure magic.

Passing Mills Pharmacy now I realize: every memory is now merely another painful nostalgic touchstone. None of it, not one single thing, will ever be magical again.


I am on the curb in the chair on big trash day.
I have been out here for hours.
I am soaking wet.
I am touched on the shoulder by Lilly.
The moment had arrived to just surrender...

When we woke the following morning, all had been cleared away.
If only all of it were that easy.

05 March, 2014

Ask Al: Results

Last semester, I had a student who was working on the powerful penultimate scene in The Children's Hour, and came across some of an actor's most common and frustrating challenges. She had done all of her homework, research, written a kick-ass biography, and identified deeply with the character. There was nothing left for her to "do."

But once she got into the scene itself she was confronted with a problem: how do you divorce yourself from what you consider to be the "best results?"

Often, when we are acting, it is difficult to lose your inner critic; to turn off the voice that is cheering you on as you cry real tears, or beating you up as you deliver a line in a less than convincing way.
Sound familiar?

How often have you been in a scene and self-edited by damning yourself with internal thoughts such as, "Wow. That sucked..." In that circumstance I like to try a little tactic called "That sucked BECAUSE."



"That sucked," (you actor-brain says,) "because..." (your character's brain clicks in) "because I really wanted to connect with Astrov and to have him see that I love him."

"That sucked... because I don't think I got through to Orsino..."
"That sucked... because I don't think Torvald understood me..."

See? You are thus empowered to turn your self-editing into a positive force! You can use it to not only help get you back into the play, but reignite your motivations two-fold!

That said, here is a snippet of correspondence with my student working on The Children's Hour:

Dear Al,
I'd like your help with a few things...
So, the first time we went all the way through, I felt my feelings. It didn't even feel like I was saying lines.
However, the second time we ran the scene, I think I was trying too hard to re-create that same emotion. I was almost forcing myself to cry. I kept hearing this voice in my head saying, 'That was so good the first time, why aren't you crying?!!? CRY!!"' I guess it relates back to the, "You only have 100% of what you have today." What can I do to get out of my head? I was trying to achieve what I had just achieved, but that resulted in disconnected failure. 

This is a totally common habit/error even in professionals. Don't beat yourself up, let's just learn from it! 
I could try the "That sucked… because…"?
Absolutely! That is absolutely the first option I would try. The other thing is simply to remember that the first time you did the scene, you weren't connected to Evie's outcome of "crying, and feeling the feelings." You were actively pursuing Martha's outcome; you were living her truth, relieving Martha of all of this emotional pressure. You were actively confessing your lifelong secret, your forbidden love for Karen, and proposing the possibility of trying to get Karen to make a life with you! Ultimately: you were too busy living Martha's life to worry about Evie's tears!

You must be so focused on pursuing your objectives as Martha, that you don't care whether or not you cry or laugh or scream or turn purple as long as you are truthfully pursing your goals. Some rehearsals you might cry, some you might laugh, some you might do both at once, some you might be extremely confident and at peace... Who is to say that any of these are "wrong" as long as they are exactly the truth of that moment? That is what 100% of what you have today really means. That as long as you are 100% rooting for and fighting for MARTHA, and do not give a shit about E "crying" wowing the audience, and winning the Tony for her tears, you are going to be just fine.

Because my doll, it is not about you. 

It is ABOUT Martha.
You must SERVE Martha.
You are up there to tell her story
     and Martha doesn't need your tears for her story to be told.
She needs your truth!
No matter what state the truth is in.
(In fact, Martha probably doesn't want to cry! She wants to be strong. She wants to say all of this with as much composure as she can muster. Martha would want to fight the tears!)

So the next time you find yourself in that internal monologue saying "Cry! CRY!" Take a minute, dig deeper, and say "No! Convince Karen! Rouse Karen! Go to Karen!" 
Go get what you want with even more necessity!
Because what you want? Is Karen. Not tears.


After our next rehearsal Evie wrote back with the following.


Before class today I thought about how I was going to serve Martha today because her story deserves to be told; told through my truth. While I was up there I cleared my mind and let myself forget about wanting to "win a Tony" or please anyone. I told myself all that matters is that I give 100% of what I have today in this moment.

The first time we ran the scene I felt the guilt and the shame. I tried to remain strong, but I broke down in the end. It felt so good to get my secret off my chest. I wanted peace. My order of objectives the first time: make the best out of what we have, to get Karen to talk to me and to look at me, to comfort, to forgive, to tell Karen the TRUTH; to be strong, to please, to convince, to persuade, to love her, to want her; to make everything go away, to free myself, to relieve myself.

The emotion that came out of my body when I pursued those objectives was just heavenly. I didn't once think about needing to cry! Martha didn't want to cry at first, she wanted to be strong! I wasn't even trying to recall lines because they just came out. The emotion I was putting out facilitated the correct words. I rarely found myself saying, "Oh crap, that line sucked..." but when I did, I used the "that sucked because..." and it TOTALLY WORKED! 
The key moments are in the silence and stillness. There were so many words being said without speaking. It's funny... I felt a perfect parallel with the end of the scene and my dinner exercise. It was the exact same feeling of relief. How neat that I was able to experience that feeling through Martha!? Through another person.
I was honored to know that I SERVED MARTHA with ALL my truth. In the end, I was MORE happy that Martha's story was told truthfully than I was happy about MY performance as an actor.... It is not about the actor's results... wow... It's. really. not.  

So. After that extremely successful first attempt at the scene, we made a few comments, observations, adjustments, and we almost instantly started the scene again.

Now... I didn't even think we were going to run the scene again after all of THAT. But.. well, we did. YUP.
My initial thoughts were, "Okay, don't try to recreate what just happened. Just go with the flow, and if needed, choose a different objective. Well, that is exactly what I did. I suddenly felt myself getting mad that Karen didn't feel the same way as I did! Thoughts were running through my head: "How could she lead me on like that all this time?" "Why is she turning away from me?" "Why is she being so crass?" "I need to physically go near her to prove my point!" and "Why can't she just say she loves me too?" And that last questions was the moment when my objective changed. I realized that Karen loved me, but she didn't love me. From then on it was a completely different scene, but equally as  truthful. 

I was more concerend about serving Martha. It was my obligation to serve her. To tell her story.

And oh: did she ever serve. 

04 March, 2014

Getting a "Look"

Remember when Maria Callas told Sophie DePalma to "get a look?"
Well she was right. 
We all need a look. (Some of us more than others *hint hint* Miss Sophie DePalma)

That is why I was both honored and relieved to have the great George Brescia of "George B Style" @GeorgeBStyle helping me to find the swan beneath the layers of my everyday duckling. The "boho-chic" duckling. The sometimes insecure " grad-student-buried-beneath-a-headscarf-and-a-bulky-cardigan-or-three" duckling.

Onwards and upwards little duckling.
Onwards in clothes that fit.

George obviously has impeccable taste, and he is always on the lookout for big new talent, which he has more than found in Dee Hutton Style.

Their brand statement is preeeeetty rad:

"DEE HUTTON is a designer collection for women that honors the old world craftsmanship and intimate customer experience of sumptuous atelier salons. Offering clothing for the current season in a variety of colors and fabrics, and delivered to customers within weeks, DEE HUTTON provides a contemporary model of luxury made-to-order for a new generation of style-setters. Separates, cocktail dresses, and evening gowns will be constructed using the finest fabrics, embroideries, and skins sourced from around the world. (...) Available by showroom appointment and at trunk shows nationwide, DEE HUTTON is produced entirely in New York City"

DEE HUTTON just launched this past October, and they're coming out with their second collection in a few weeks- you definitely check them out. I love them. Plus, they are located across Union Square from my theatre (the Vineyard) on 17th Street & Broadway. Visit deehutton.com to see their full line and book an appointment to visit the showroom.

Because Dee Hutton is a modern made to order designer collection of gowns, dresses and separates.
Because clients (like me!) can collaborate and customize their selection in a myriad of colors and fabrics.
Because they happily entertain slight design modifications (such as: adding a sleeve, changing the length, color, etc) which makes each item unique to every owner (for example, [after I wiped the gobsmacked drool off of the sample I tried on] I designed this jumpsuit with them!)

Ta daaaaaa!

Opening Night of Arlington at the Vineyard Theatre! 

[:: : confetti : ::]

©Walter McBride for Broadwayworld.com
Kapow! This is the 'James' Jumpsuit (aptly named because Dee Hutton wants you to feel like a Bond Girl), which I love this piece because it looks like a gown...but IT IS NOT. It is a sexy jumpsuit. With elegant flowy trousers so you can fight the bad guys. Or claw your way to the hor d'oeuvres. Or both.

But even the best outfit isn't complete without the perfectly crafted accessory, and a face would look scathingly naked without the wonders of beauty enhancement, not to mention the Price-Phillip-hacking-away-in-the-jungle-of-briars fortitude of a woman brave and talented enough to whip this head of hair into Glamazon glory.

 So. This getting of a "look" wouldn't be complete without 
...the evocative jewelry of Vincent Peach (@VincentPeach)
...the alchemical wizardry of Amanda Thesen and her 'Love Your Look' makeup genius (@Love_Your_Face_)
...and the 'hairy godmother' JT Franchuk (@jenytamera). 
-- all of these mediums are art, dear readers, and I was one lucky lady. 

©Walter McBride for Broadwayworld.com

©Walter McBride for Broadwayworld.com

01 March, 2014

Discussing Arlington with Broadway.com

Enjoy this stunningly edited video discussion from the wonderful team at Broadway.com.

25 February, 2014

Arlington: Rehearsal Log for TheaterMania.com

As commissioned by Theatermania.com, here is a comprehensive log of our Arlington rehearsal process over at the Vineyard.

All with wHitty qWhippy captions. Because that is how I roll...

"Arlington Star Alexandra Silber Takes Us on Her Journey From Rehearsal Room to the Stage of the Vineyard Theatre

Behind the scenes at the new Polly Pen-Victor Lodato musical.

Starring in a one-person show is a daunting task, especially when you're performing at a veritable institution like off-Broadway's Vineyard Theatre. But if Alexandra Silber, star of the new musical Arlington, is nervous, she's not letting it show. Backed only by a pianist, Silber is all alone for the show's 55-minute duration, taking the audience on a harrowing journey through the psyche of Sara Jane, a lonely army wife who eagerly awaits her husband's arrival home.
In preparation for the start of performances, Silber takes us on a journey of her own — one from her rehearsal studio to the stage of the Vineyard Theatre — where you can catch Arlington through March 23. Check out her photos and quirky captions in the gallery below."

19 February, 2014

Ask Al: Networking

Hi Al, 

I'm an American acting student studying at The RWCMD [Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama]. What are some actions I can take/things I can do to network while still in school overseas? And similarly, when I am back in the states? 



Dear Abroad,

All of these are great questions.

First of all congrats on your educational adventure! (I oooobviously identify...) Remember: continue to celebrate your adventure. It can be difficult to see so many of your British classmates make plans to stay in the UK. I know it is hard to envision an alternative life for yourself when you are in the minority, but fear not! Celebrate that you get to have yet another adventure as you return home to the Land of the Free.

Networking can be tricky and emotionally taxing, but breathe: if it doesn't come naturally or easily, take heart. It can be tough on anyone. Everyone in every and any business has to attempt it on some level, so try to approach the entire thing first as a necessary exercise in human nature (not a make-or-break career killer.) You're special. I know that. The trick with networking is getting other people to know it too.
...That's it.
So while you're taking heart, don't freak out—you're not slicing brains or FIXING SYRIA...you're mostly just... going to parties...

The advice I have to offer is pretty simple. (And in six steps. You know how much I love numerical points...)

Here we go... 

1. Don't lose touch with the people you already DO know.

I know. I know. But think about it—"Networking" is only as powerful as your base Network. And you absolutely never know who or what anyone will ever become, who or how anybody can help you--even in the most seemingly insignificant ways.


2. Continue to network with the new people you meet. 

Even the British people— you never know who they might be able to introduce you to.

When young actors ask me for advice, I sometimes tell them what people in the corporate world call 'NYFO'— or, Network Your Face Off. You want to NYFO so hard that you HAVE NO FACE.

Nearly everything I have worked on in the last three years (from theatre, to orchestral gigs, to my teaching at Pace), can be directly traced back to both connections I’ve made, and help I’ve received from a network that is expansive, diverse, and crucially: active.

3. Say 'YES.' Then Show Up and Show Often. 

The best networking suggestion I can offer? Say yes to invitations. Even if it isn't clear what you’ll 'get' out of the event.

I’m not arguing for overbooking yourself into exhaustion, nor am I campaigning for long,  unstructured conversations with every single person you meet at the opening of an envelope. But my most fruitful business connections have resulted from a spontaneous gathering or event I was not, at the offset, entirely sure about.

Some call this "making your own luck—" but making your own luck simply means increasing the odds of making the right connection.

Of course you can’t possibly go to every soiree, cocktail to-do, industry party, opening night, nor could you take every single meeting. But by regularly connecting with people you think are interesting, you guarantee yourself a richer life. But you also heighten your potential for unexpected benefits in the form of seemingly serendipitous connections. Some of the best friends, allies, business partners and jobs I've acquired came through other friends, acquaintances who saw me and sparked a mental connection—even when I did not.

You may be asking, how can I make these connections in the first place?
That's my point: SAY YES. Then show up, and show often. Get off the sofa, put down the Pringles, turn off the Netflix binge marathon, brush your hair and go—go to that thing your roommate's boyfriend's cool artist cousin is throwing.

This should be obvious, but when you are starting out in any industry, it is an understandably unappealing idea to socialize with people you don’t know (especially when you’re working 16-hour days at some temp job to supplement your artistic dreams). But everything, and I truly do mean every single thing, starts with showing up.

4. Ask others for help both directly and specifically.

If you work with someone you REALLY connect with (say, a guest director), ask them directly: “Do you have any American contacts you might be willing to make an introduction to?” If they do, the probability is that they will. People LIKE to help other people. Well, most do.

When it comes to the networking, my advice is ALWAYS to be very specific. Identify you ask for help, EXACTLY what you want. General questions aren’t going to help you at all! “Can you help me?” Isn’t as effective as “I am looking for American connections to meet in person the week of February 18th. Do you have anyone you would be willing to connect me with through email or by phone?” The latter is a specific request to which a person can offer a “Yes” or “No” answer. Help people help you by knowing what you want and need! On that note, my penultimate, highly-complementary strategy:

5. When you identify exactly what you want, broadcast that to every person you meet. 

When talking about your career goals and artistic dreams, be honest—first with yourself and then with others. A little candor combined with an honest bid for a connection with others, goes a long way in turning a conversation from trite to meaningful.

A few months ago, a friend of mine was on the hunt for a new agent after a long pause from the entertainment industry. For an entire month, she answered every “How are things?” question with some variation of: “Great! I just started back in the business, which has been a great adventure. Auditions, meetings, and I’m also trying to meet with a few new agents. How are things with you?”

96% of the time, she said the conversation continued as normal, with a corresponding update and usual small talk. .
...But four people she spoke with were different:
       "They immediately responded by suggesting they had a former colleague, relative, mailman, or ex-husband at Blah Blah Agency," she said, "and would I like an introduction?"

Within six weeks, she went from career stagnation, to four warm personal introductions to power players who could make her career re-boot happen. Eight weeks after that: she had both a voice over gig and a fantastic job in regional theatre. The overall point is this: people WANT to help others if they can. But they can't help out if you don't make it known.

Party at chez Al Silbs.
6. Don't just get a life. Have a life. 

If you have a life—by which I mean a life full of friends, family, meaningful activities, interests, and higher purposes—you won't feel as desperate about your career.

Then, don't just be the person that goes to the parties. Be the person who throws them! They don't have to be big or fancy. Two years ago I resolved to open my home up to two or more people per month. There were no restrictions on what they had to mean (giant Labor Day soiree, Burns Night with Scottish pals, a tea party with Nikka and Amy Jo, or Make-Fun-of-a-Movie Night with local Astorians—no matter!) I not only learned a lot of hosting and opening my heart and home, but I entered a new form of networking sentence "Oh, hey didn't I meet you at Al Silber's party?" Look at that—I get to fill my house full of friends and fun, and my name gets out there in the universe when I'm not even there. Magic.


Remember that networks are powerful, but only as powerful as YOU make them. And, when the dance is done well, a network reveals a core of individuals who are all rooting for your success, more often than not, truly pleased to help you.

16 February, 2014

The New York Times

©Tony Cenicola
It is so exciting to be featured in The New York Times.

But, what is even more exciting is when the feature emerges from a truly heartfelt conversation with a writer who you feel actually "gets" you; a woman you spent nearly an hour with, opening your the true nature of your soul up to a sympathetic and interested confidante.

Such was the case with Times reporter Anita Gates.

Better still, was that I feel the feature truly reflects the nature of our conversation.

The print version is available everywhere, today.


A version of this article appears in print on February 16, 2014, on page AR2 of the New York edition with the headline: After Marquee Roles, an Epiphany.


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