by Jarvis B. Manning, Jr.
I was on the road in the cast of Motown The Musical’s first national tour for more than three years. It was my first Equity production, and the place where I learned so much about the business: the good and the not so good. I made my Broadway debut on the show’s second return, and soon after we were given our closing notice. This was a huge wake up call for me.
The days, weeks, and months after became moments of worry. I lost some love for this “on and off again” or “it’s complicated” relationship that we call our business. It didn't help that I was starting to see so many people on my timeline getting married, having kids, and living that “real life.” It seemed so beautiful to me.
Two or three months later, there was a casting notice for The Detroit Project Workshop. It sounded interesting so I decided to go to the vocal audition.
Vocal Audition: No Callback.
Invited Dance Call: No Invite.
I went to Louisiana to work with my grandfather in the field. He spoke to me about my cousins, while ministering to me. He said, “If you’ve been going after your dreams the same way for years and getting the same response, respond differently.”
If you keep trying to open the door the same way, you’re wasting time. Kick the door down.
I went back to New York City defeated, yet encouraged. I didn’t set an alarm, but God woke me up super early that morning. I was told no again after asking to be put on the list, yet I still didn’t leave.
They called the dancers in, I walked in with them… I was told to leave... I left my headshot… I prayed in the hallway… I got dressed...
As I began to leave the audition site, they called back for me! I didn’t get a callback, didn’t get invited back, yet they called back for me.
This is the fire that burns inside me every night in this particular show.
Now, I have been in the cast of Ain’t Too Proud since the first New York City workshop in February 2017. I’m honored to portray the roles of Elbridge "Al" Bryant (the original lead Temptation) and Norman Whitfield (Motown Writer and Producer). I've had the opportunity to perform in legendary houses such as Berkeley Rep, The Kennedy Center, Ahmanson Theatre, Princess of Wales in Toronto, and now the Imperial Theatre.
I can’t give less than my all on that stage. I wasn’t even supposed to be in the room. Yet, I was meant to be in the room
This isn’t a moment to brag or seek attention. This is meant to encourage someone who wants to give up. (I had my towel out, ready to throw it in!) I’m passing my Granddad’s advice on to you: Try it another way, whatever your it may be.