by Blakely Slaybaugh
When anyone enters show business 99.999% of us aren't doing it for the fame, the accolades, or the awards. Let's be honest, its a business that demands 100% commitment and it still doesn't work out sometimes. We do it because we need it. We need to create. We work for weeks and sometimes years to tell a single story.
So what does it feel like when your cast mate from a recent production texts you late one evening congratulating you profusely on your nomination? Well I can tell you if you were me you wondered what the hell he was talking about. Turns out I'd been nominated for the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical for my portrayal of Prez in The Pajama Game at Arena Stage. I was dumbfounded and quite frankly still am a bit.
When I arrived in D.C. to begin working on The Pajama Game at Arena Stage back in September there was already a sense of excitement and anxiousness about what we'd discover. I'd recently finished a two year contract with Cirque du Soleil's Paramour on Broadway and was ready to find roles that would continue to hone my physical comedy skills. Prez fit the bill.
I was working with a creative team I knew trusted in the specific skills I brought to the table and a cast that included literal legends in our field. Alan Paul (our director) and myself had worked together a few years ago on an award winning production of ...Forum at Shakespeare Theatre Company and although I had never worked with our choreographer Parker Esse, I had followed his projects closely. We all knew we wanted to go with a bit of a different twist on how Prez is usually done. Over the course of six weeks of rehearsal and previews we found him and I then had the pleasure of bringing him to life eight times a week for over month. It was joyous time. I got to play opposite the incomparable Nancy Anderson as Gladys every night while sharing backstage banter with Donna Mckechnie. It was one of those times in life you really take a mental note of. To acknowledge the awesome moments that only being an actor can provide.
Being nominated for a Helen Hayes Award is just a small but very special reminder that goals are achievable. That we all should trust in the dedication to our craft. It means that it's not even remotely time to sit back. It's time to work harder and challenge yourself even more.