In the summer of 2006, I had just graduated from the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama. I was lucky enough to sign with agents and a manager after my senior showcase, and, before graduating, I had an offer to join the non-Equity company at that summer’s Williamstown Theatre Festival. I was delighted at the idea of joining such a well-respected company. Williamstown was, and continues to be, an incredible place to work.
The week before leaving, I was lucky to find myself in final callbacks for three jobs at once: the 2006 Broadway revival of Les Misérables, the Second Stage production of SubUrbia and the first national tour of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Not wanting to miss out on any of those opportunities, and with the input of my new-found representation, I regretfully informed Williamstown that I would have to decline their offer to go there for the summer, thinking I would get one of these other jobs.
Of course, I didn’t. "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," I guess.
So, it was back to the drawing board. I was glad to book a gig performing in The Full Monty at the Westchester Broadway Theatre, my first ever paying job. It didn’t pay much, but they operated under an agreement by which I would receive my Equity card at the end of the contract.
However, I never made it to the end of that contract. A few weeks into the run of that show, Spelling Bee called to let me know they needed an immediate replacement on the road. I was thrilled, and Westchester was kind and flexible enough to let me out of my contract early. I rushed to the Actors’ Equity office to pay my initiation fee, and was touring the country a week later. (I even returned to Williamstown as a member of their Equity Company in 2013.)
My maternal grandfather was a Ukrainian factory worker, who passed away when I was young. Upon joining Equity, my mother told me how proud he would have been to see that I was a “union man.” There was a lot of pride and status associated with that in his family, and to be able to achieve that, even in a career he never could have imagined, still stays with me.