NYC New Member Reception
Guest Speaker Gregory Jbara
Tony Award® recipient Gregory Jbara was Guest Speaker at the New Member Reception in New York City on May 9th, 2011. The event was hosted by Tom Miller, Equity's Director of Outreach and Career Development and sponsored by the Eastern Region Membership Education Committee.
Gregory began by acknowledging Equity's newest Members. "I'm so impressed by you. Being a native Michigander the only way I had the courage to come to New York City on my own was because I had been accepted into a structured formal training program. So to all of you who came here because you so passionately want to make it happen as an Actor, I salute you."
By the late 1990's, Gregory's theatre career had escalated to where he was consistently seen for leading roles, but while he always got close, the role would often go to someone with bigger box office draw - television and film credits. So it seemed an opportune time to move to LA and build TV and film credits that would better position him for an eventual return to the New York stage. His career in LA was going well until a prolonged Writers' Guild strike stopped production. Then a few years later there was a potential SAG strike. "I had left New York after DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS and told my agent not to call about all the good opportunities happening in New York because I wanted to stay in LA and give TV and commercials a try." From a fiscal point-of-view, he now needed to live in LA, "I have an affordable mortgage and two sons, 7 and 10. Schools in New York are prohibitively expensive and a wonderful charter school had opened in LA near my house that was paid for by my taxes." As a SAG member, Gregory supported the need for a strong contract and wanted to be able to ratify a strike without being influenced by its consequences on the family's finances.
"The solution - find a job in NYC. Although it meant spending time away from my family, in case of a strike I wouldn't have to worry about feeding them."
A short time later, his New York agent called. They wanted to see if he might be interested in the Dad in BILLY ELLIOT. He assumed that because of his past Broadway credits, the production team had asked to see him and that they would fly him to New York and back. Turns out that was not the case, "I was not on the list of people they wanted to see nor had they asked about me. But I needed a job so I swallowed my ego." His agent was able to get him a preliminary audition with the Assistant Director. But Gregory worried that a preliminary audition for a role that no one saw him in might be suicide. After all, the memory the Broadway community had of him was playing a debonair, 185 pound French speaking police inspector in DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS. So he asked his agent if he could get him into the call back audition. His agent came through, and in the three month interim, Gregory did everything he could to bring himself closer to the character, he gained 25 pounds and on the day of the audition, shaved off all his hair. Stephen Daldry, the shows Director, saw that he was right for the role, cast him and Gregory received a Tony Award® for his efforts. "BILLY ELLIOT has truly been the most professionally and personally gratifying job I ever had. And interestingly, my initial agenda was just survival; I needed to take care of my family."
In the subsequent Q & A Gregory answered questions about focus, community, long term survival and being grounded. He believes you just keep "throwing things at the wall" and audition for everything.
At the completion of the Q & A, Gregory raised a toast to Equity's newest Members.
The most gratified Actors are the ones who are completely involved. He recommends having an accurate profile on all of the internet casting sites. And always stay in touch - when he does an audition on a studio lot, he stops by the casting offices to drop off a postcard and say hello. Before he returns to LA, he will do an e-mail and hard copy mailing, because as far as LA is concerned, "I've disappeared off the face of the earth." On what keeps him grounded, "being a Father and Husband."
New Equity Members
Welcoming the New Members were Equity Councillors and Membership Education Committee Members Francis Jue, Buzz Roddy, Ruth E. Kramer, Melissa Robinette, Nancy Slusser, Jonathan Brody, Sandra Bloom, Ron Brown, Betty Hudson and Todd Alan Johnson.
The remainder of the event provided attendees the opportunity to socialize and ask questions about all things Equity. Specifically John Fasulo, Director of Membership fielded questions regarding Dues and Initiation Fees; Calandra Hackney, Agency Business Representative spoke about Equity Franchise Agents; Keith Howard, Director of Auditions answered questions regarding required EPA's & Chorus Calls and Senior Business Representative Russell Lehrer explained riders and important contractual terms. Attendees received New Member Informational Packets, and raffles were held featuring Equity, Actors Federal Credit Union and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids (BC/EFA) giveaways.
New Member Receptions are held in NYC three times a year. If you were unable to attend the most recent event, the Fall Reception will be held in mid September. Watch Equity's website for date and time.
Gregory Jbara originated the role of "Jackie Elliot", Billy's Dad in the Broadway production of BILLY ELLIOT. His work garnered a Tony Award®, an Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Award for Best/Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical. Gregory also originated the roles of "Andre Thibault" in the Broadway musical DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, for which he received a Drama Desk Nomination, "Squash Bernstein" in VICTOR/VICTORIA starring Julie Andrews; and "Sohovik", the dimwitted catcher in DAMN YANKEES! Additional Broadway and Off Broadway credits include "Billy Flynn" in CHICAGO, WONDERFUL TOWN for City Center Encores!, PRIVATES ON PARADE and FOREVER PLAID. On the west coast: the premiere of PRECIOUS SONS, LITTLE FISH, THERE'S SOMEONE LIVING IN THE HOUST THAT JACK BUILT, FIRST LADY SUITE, the Geffen Playhouse premiere of Neil Simon's FELIX & OSCAR and as Clark Gable in the new play, MR. SHAW GOES TO HOLLYWOOD.
Film credits include, REMEMBER ME, EVERYBODY LOVES WHALES, OUT OF STEP, EXIT SPEED, Disney's ENCHANTED, IRA AND ABBY, THE OUT OF TOWNERS, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, IN & OUT - and JEFFREY. Television credits include BLUE BLOODS, NURSE JACKIE, TREME, GROUNDED FOR LIFE, MONK, THE UNIT, THE WEST WING, and FRASIER.
Gregory was born and raised in suburban Detroit. He attended the University of Michigan School of Music and The Juilliard School where he earned his BFA in acting.
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