by Nicholas Ryan
I swore I would never swing, understudy, or standby again, but some experiences are bigger than you and it's your job to learn to accept them when they turn up.
I left Beautiful on Broadway with no regret in my spirit but quite a bit of uncertainty for my future. I left New York. I went home for the holidays. I visited my girlfriend on tour for her birthday (Long distance sucks btw). I wrote a damned good pilot. There was no guarantee I would ever work again yet faith in my abilities, myself, and my God kept me focused and believing that I would.
So there I was standing in line waiting to board a plane to Tennessee to celebrate my love's birthday for a few days when I received an appointment to audition for the latest Roundabout/Fiasco - Sondheim revival of Merrily We Roll Along. The audition was for the day after I got back from Tennessee. In New York... but I was flying back to D.C where my family was. This also only gave me two and half days to learn three songs and five scenes before going in. Could it be done? The stakes.
I accepted the mission because Sondheim. I got a train ticket to Penn Station for the day I returned to D.C. I did the audition at 11:30 am and essentially acted like an idiot with Alex Gemignani and Emily Whitaker (our stellar music department) for 20 minutes. I had done so much preparation that I actually had fun in the room. A rarity.
I took the train back to my family and did my best to forget I had even auditioned. Five days go by, and I put all my energy back into finishing my pilot. Just as I was reaching the end of my rope, I get a follow-up from my agency with a callback! Having only auditioned the songs the first round, the callback would focus on scene work. It was all happening! Everything I had been shouting I wanted to do to any being with two ears was happening.
I had a week to prepare and a week to suddenly develop a case about auditioning without song. I auditioned in the rehearsal space at 7:15 pm all five scenes to a packed room including Noah Brody (our director). Very proud to say they laughed when I wanted them to. I left smiling and walked down to The Stephen Sondheim Theatre to fill my cast mate Liz Larsen in on the callback during her performance of Beautiful (Merrily is her favorite Sondheim). The next day I received an offer to stand by for both Frank Shepard, Joe Josephson and Charley Kringas and all at once, I knew I had made the right decision.
It's been just over a month since I joined this adventure. So much has shifted and settled within me since my first day at Roundabout. I've met so many impressive artists whom have challenged my understanding of the term, "collaborator." During such a small window of time and without more than a single music rehearsal, I've once again been reminded of my brain, heart, and passion for storytelling. Which I personally believe is a necessity for creating purposeful and truthful theatre.
This process has already gifted to me more than I dreamt I would ever receive artistically not excluding a meeting and personalized correspondance between Stephen Sondheim (currently being framed as I type - thanks for the advice Kevin Duda). However, this experience is not without it's hurdles. From overwhelming stress and self-applied expectations to quiet breakdowns over the loss of my iCloud storage and subsequently my tracking sheets *faceplants*, I've definitely been refreshed back to the solitary and emotional journey that is specific to this position.
However, tracking and auditing the rehearsals of these busy-minded, "old friends" offstage and on has already been an invaluable addition to my artisitc growth. I honestly wouldn't change a moment thus far. We are almost a full week into previews while still rehearsing new changes during the day and implementing them into the performance that night. I'm thrilled to be apart of this moment.
I feel beyond privileged to witness firsthand the integrity of these magic makers. Me personally? "I... I feel I am growing." I feel as though for the moment, I'm completely at peace with where I am. I can't wait to see where this show lands by opening night, I look forward to sharing the stage with these pals, and I invite you all to join us.