Friends of RTC - Becca Ayers
Here is some advice she offered when she spoke to RTC's Corrine McAlee recently:
Hi Becca! Thank you so much for agreeing to be a part of our “Friends of RTC Blog Series”. Kristin McLaughlin Mitchell/RTC Founder & Producing Artistic Director thought it would be fun to share her friends’ Broadway experiences and stories with her RTC followers and rising stars.
How do you and Kristin (McLaughlin Mitchell/RTC Founder & Producing Artistic Director) know each other?
I graduated with a BFA in theatre from Stephens College in Columbia, MO and Kristin shortly after, when I was lucky enough to land the role of Sally Bowles in "Cabaret" at Barrington Stage Company with the late great legend, Marni Nixon. This production went on to have co-productions at the Orpheum Foxboro and the Cambridge Theater Company.
"Cabaret" was a big deal for me because not only is it how I got my Equity card (the professional actor's union card), it was my bridge to living in New York City! I was extremely lucky to get the job through a series of circumstances, as I was living in Kansas City around the time it was being cast. I wanted to move to New York sometime soon, but didn't know exactly when or how. I was understudying in a new show that was being work shopped in Witchita, KS, whose creative team lead actors had been brought in from New York. The person I was understudying felt under the weather on a day when she was to do some promotional singing for the show at a mall, so I stepped in to sing her part for her. The writer of the show, Mary Bracken Phillips and a dear, talented woman saw me sing that day and mentioned that she had a friend (Julieanne Boyd) who was looking for a true-to-the-Isherwood-novel-aged Sally Bowles for her upcoming production (in the book, Sally is 18). I had just graduated from college a few months prior and had turned 21 at my first summer stock gig in Macomb, IL. My sister was already living in New York, subletting and waiting tables and she delivered my headshot to Julie, who decided to bring me in to audition. I quickly booked a flight (that I still think miraculously and, probably mistakenly was way too cheap for how last minute I was booking it) to audition. I stayed with my sister in her tiny sublet on the upper east side, auditioned and MIRACULOUSLY booked the gig. I found a sublet of my own and moved to New York about a month prior to starting the gig, which (with the co-productions it ended up acquiring) ended up lasting six months. The show starred the legendary Marni Nixon and Spiro Mallas as Fraulein Sneider and Herr Schultz. During rehearsals, I was non-Equity, and then acquired my Equity card when the show opened. I was 21, and though I was INCREDIBLY lucky, it was still not a linear trajectory for me. Though I worked steadily regionally, it still would be almost another ten years before I would book my first Broadway show.
In this business, it's hard to ever know what kind of advice to offer people, because one never knows when, where and how a person will get their success. The biggest bit of advice that I can offer, though, is to follow what you truly want. I know that can be difficult as a young person. Being someone who has taken direction my entire life, it's still something I very much struggle with, but Austin Kleon , New York Times best selling author said something that resonates with me most: “when people give you advice, they’re really just talking to themselves in the past.” I think this is the most important thing when taking ANY advice, and something I wish I would've considered when taking the advice of my mentors. Usually, they are telling you what THEY would've done, which may not be the best advice for you. Often times, they will end up scaring you away from doing what you want to do or try because they were scared or they have a set of rules or goals they feel they had to follow or accomplish before they could get what they wanted. For instance, you should have your Equity card before you go to New York or you should go there with a certain amount of money, etc. When I was at "Addams Family" on Broadway, I went back to my alma mater to accept an alumni achievement award and I interviewed the other actors in my show on their advice on coming to New York. Their answers couldn't have been more different. Some INSISTED that you have a side career to fall back on. Others said they came to New York with $300 and no plan. I suppose my advice would be to do what I am still doing in my life; "throw it against the wall and see what sticks". Read "The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Short Stories" by: Charlotte Perkins Gilman. "The Yellow Wallpaper" was the first feminist story, but Gilman has so many other stories about many other women AND men with the same theme: DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY AND THE WORLD WILL BE A BETTER PLACE. Follow your bliss ... throw it against the wall as many times as you have to and see if it sticks, anyway:)