by Nick Sanchez
Growing up on Long Island, I did every school show possible. I did every community theater show possible. College was more of the same. I was lucky enough to make my Broadway debut in Rent just a year after college and from there I never stopped working on or off-Broadway. Altar Boyz. Tarzan. Mary Poppins. I was one of the “lucky ones." Sure, I busted by butt to get there, but I truly had never stopped and I didn’t want to.
When I booked Mary Poppins on Broadway, it was my very first time in an ensemble track with no understudy. I had the opportunity to simply just go to work and do my thing. This, I learned, is where my mind is the most at ease. I am a creature of habit with clinical OCD and I thrive on repetition and routine. After about a year and a half, I was offered the opportunity to go on the road with the National Tour of Mary Poppins. And why the hell not? I was single, I was LOVING the show I was doing and I had never left NYC for work after 2004. It was now 2009 and I was READY to save some money on tour. Along the way on tour, I collected a boyfriend named Sam, a car and a dog. I was set.
Finally after four years of spelling out words with my body, I was ready to come back home to NYC. I also wasn’t feeling like myself. Theater and performing felt different to me after being away so long. So much had changed about the business and I felt way behind on the learning curve. With my mental health in jeopardy and my love for performing waning, I decided to take a break and decide if I still wanted to perform. Was I running away? Was I scared of change? I DUNNO. But what I do know, is I was ready for something different.
I freaking love to cook, so I tried a cooking blog. That fizzled out. I’ve always loved kids, so I babysat this adorable first grader which put my life in a strange place of being in charge of a small child. Sam and I had been together for several years now and I was feeling like I maybe wanted to start a family. But alas, SURPRISE! No job, no prospects for a job and I was grasping at straws. I have always loved Interior Design, so with the help from The Actors Fund, I applied to The Fashion Institute of Technology for Interior Design. Their program was great and it was a state school, which meant cheap tuition.
At that very moment, a friend introduced me to a casting associate for a little show called MASTER CHEF and suggested I audition. After all, I did love to cook and it was exposure in some capacity. After several rounds of auditions and the producers loving my slow roasted pork roast and blueberry compote (I know, huge eye roll), I was invited to be on the show!
Because of this, I did not advance my acceptance to FIT and I also quit my job working at a high-end furniture store downtown. Two days before my scheduled departure, after still not receiving any flight info, I did, however, receive a short yet rather to the point email explaining that I would not be going any further in the process! I was totally gobsmacked and devastated. I don’t know what I would’ve done without Sam because the very next day, he marched down to FIT with me to see if there were any spaces left in the Interior Design Program. Someone must be looking out for me in life because there was ONE SPACE LEFT and it was ALL MINE!
I love Interior Design. Because I’m a nerd, I had a 4.0 average with straight As and I was at the top of my class. Soon after graduation, I started working for a realty company in Brooklyn as a home stager. It was fantastic, but after a while the work fell off for the season and we were really struggling financially. I then took a job as an in-house Interior Designer/assistant for a private real estate developer. I was given a lot of responsibility that was way over my head and it just didn’t end up being a right fit for me. I probably hit one of the lowest points of my life at this time and I felt lost, confused and mentally exhausted.
I happened to be at a brunch with Sam and his family one Saturday morning and I bumped into an old friend, Jim Daly. I did Altar Boyz with him back in the day and it was great to see an old, familiar face. I learned that Jim was now a talent agent and he asked what I was doing now. I grew to hate that question because I wasn’t totally happy where I was for the past few years and I would often try to unsuccessfully bulk up my ‘goings-on.' I chatted with Jim about performing and why I got out of it. He literally just smiled and said to me, "well… if you ever feel like getting back in, give me a call." So I did.
This day changed my life. I started working with Jim and company at the BLOC agency just a month later. I was TERRIFIED! I hadn’t sung or did a kick ball change in over six years. I could draw up floor plans for you in a second, I could stage your home to sell in two days, but singing a song absolutely paralyzed me.
The first email of an audition notice I received was for a little skit called Escape to Margaritaville with the music of Jimmy Buffett. I was so nervous, but I sucked it up and stood in front of a room of familiar faces, sang and danced - and to my surprise, they remembered me, too! Now, I didn’t book the show right away (there were MANY other auditions in between), but just a couple short months later I was signing contracts for my fourth Broadway show. My body is thanking me, my mind is thanking me and so is my heart.
I love performing and I obviously needed to leave for some clarity. I didn’t think I’d be back so soon, if ever. Cathartic doesn’t do my scenario justice. I was overwhelmed, thankful and entirely optimistic about my future. I guess the point of all these ramblings is noted best in the essence of one of my favorite Cy Coleman songs: “You gotta use what you got, to get what you want before what you got is gone."