Monday, June 6, 2011

A Look Into The Mind Of Nicci Claspell...

As I'm sure you can guess, much has happened in the past few months. Chicago has been over for some time now, and was a really fantastic production. I can't say it went off without a hitch, but I'm confident in saying that everyone is really proud of what we put up. And it was filmed!! That is rarely allowed out here, so it's exciting that we'll be able to order dvds and see how good we actually were :)

In other un-career-related news, I've been single for a few months. It's a strange thing after being in a serious relationship for over 3 years, but I knew it was what had to happen. Very hard to do, but the right decision. In the time since, I've been focusing a lot on rebuilding relationships with friends and dedicating myself to my career. Which brings us back to the point of this blog...

I've been on several auditions, a few film/tv/commercial but mainly plays and musicals. I've actually been cast in and had to turn down/drop out of a few projects for various reasons. It's something I hate doing, but have found it necessary due to other developments! Which I'll get to right now.

The main reason I'm back here today is to talk about my most recent trip to New York. As you may have noticed in past blog entries, I try not to divulge too much information about projects I get excited about. Maybe it's superstition... considering the fact that I wear the exact same thing to a callback as I did to the initial audition, right down to socks and undies (yes they get washed first), I'd say it's probably superstition. Well, I've been doing the opposite lately and it seems to be working wonders. So get ready for the longest post ever, because I plan on giving more details than ever before!

I'll start by saying the main event here is the American Idiot first national tour. I attended an open call at the beginning of March, three months ago. I woke up later than I intended, and expected there to be a huge turnout for the call. Here's what I wrote in my planner while I was waiting for my turn to sing:
"This could have been the one, but this is not the one. Just because I couldn't get ready fast enough. I'm number 46 or 48, somewhere around there. I believe they've got Equity & EMC scheduled till at least 11:40, and the audition is supposed to go until 4:45, so hopefully it will go smoothly so I can sing. I like open calls. I like when they hold us in a big dance studio, it's great for observing people. They asked for the guys to bring a guitar to accompany themselves, so I'd say there's at least 3 guitars being played simultaneously at any given time. I like that this all doesn't make me nervous. It may have a few years ago, but I feel relaxed now. The only thing is, I wonder if it looks like I'm trying too hard, with my hair and my clothes. I brought a few different tops & shoes just in case, and I'm pretty sure I'll be changing. It's not like I don't have the time!"
And a little while later:

"This might be the one. They're actually ahead of schedule, by about 20 minutes. My appointment time is 3:20, so I may go shopping & be back by 2:30. Though I may not - knowing me, if I leave, I may not come back.
Even just a callback. For ensemble. Please! A shot is all I need."
So now you all see the flashes of desperation I get while auditioning. At least I can still be relaxed during it all.

Here's what happened... I had planned on singing a Paramore song that I didn't really know, and wasn't even sure I liked. I have Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker" in my book as a backup, but I figured half of the girls there would be singing that. I did decide to leave and come back, and while I was in my car I was thinking of other songs I could possibly sing instead. When I got home I began searching for Melissa Etheridge sheet music, when it hit me. "Whats Up" by 4 Non Blondes. I'd never heard it on piano, and have only sung in a handful of times when it came on the radio or someone else sang it at karaoke, but I knew it was the song I had to sing. I found the sheet music online, printed it, and headed back over to the studio.

There was only a little bit of waiting until it was my time to sing, and the dance studio had cleared out considerably. I got into the room, went over the song with the pianist, and began to sing. I did have to start over once because I underestimated how much breath I would need to singe the first line, but once I got going again I don't think it could have gone much better. In fact, in the middle of the song where it starts to get loud and powerful, I'm pretty sure a silly grin crept up on my face because I realized it sounded even better than I thought it would! It sat perfectly in my voice and I belted the top notes with ease.

It takes me about 20 minutes to get home from this particular studio. I looked at my phone when I got home and saw that there was a voicemail - it was from the American Idiot people, requesting I come back the next day for a callback. I hustled to switch my shift at work and confirmed that I would be there. The following day, the main casting director was also in the room. I sang the same song, and was asked on the spot to come back in a few days to sing once again, and to dance. I was given music for the character Whatsername, one of the leads.

The day of that third callback was an exciting one! I sang in the morning - my audition song, plus one of the two songs from the show they had given me, it was put on tape this time - then I had an audition for a film, then went back for a dance call for American Idiot. It's days like those they make you feel like a real like actor, pounding the pavement. Dance calls usually make me just a little nervous because although I can dance, I wouldn't consider myself a "dancer". Luckily, this dance call mainly involved running back and forth and throwing ourselves around. Though a little painful, it was easy as pie. I was among the 6 or so girls that were asked to stay and learn a second, shorter combination. That, too, was pretty easy to pick up.

About a week later I received an email from casting, saying they thought I did really well at the callback. They wouldn't know what the "next steps" would be until May, but to let them know if there was anything that would make me unavailable to them.

Fast forward to 4 weeks ago (wow, was it a month ago already??), I got an email saying that more callbacks would be held in New York and they would like me to attend if I was able. Well, there is NO way that I was not going to be available!! Luckily, I had already requested the weekend in question off because of a friend's potential birthday weekend in Vegas. As fate would have it, that excursion was cancelled so I didn't have to miss out on any big celebration, and I didn't have to get any shifts covered at work because that was the week that one of our new girls was supposed to start, so she just got those shifts. Everything fit right into place.

I want to take a moment to thank my wonderful parents for providing funds for me to fly to New York and comfortably spend what turned into a week there. A big thanks to my sister as well for hanging out with me and letting me stay with her. Cecil, Anne, and Sarah Claspell, you are the best people in the world :)

I took a redeye on friday night and arrived around 11:00 on Saturday morning. Sarah met me at the subway station and we headed to her beautiful place in West Harlem to drop off my stuff. That night we attended the third annual Improm, which is an improv prom. People involved in comedy all throughout NY dress up to the nines, and couples get to do a 5-10 minute improv set together. Which meant that, as each others dates, Sarah and I got to perform together for pretty much the first time ever. I was nervous about it, having only completed the first level of UCB's improv classes (ooh! I'll have to talk about that later!) but it was fun and we got some laughs. After that, she and I went on to kill it at karaoke downstairs, and impress people with how much we are alike.

The only important thing that happened on Sunday is that Sarah and I got lobster rolls from Luke's Lobster. It was honestly one of the most amazing foods I've ever had. We also went to Williamsburg and saw the most hipster flea market I've ever seen. As I said, Sunday was all about the lobster rolls.

Monday was Memorial Day and we attended "The Company Picnic", another event involving many people in the comedy community. There was also a guac-off which we participated in, and our blue cheese guacamole was a hit. I don't think anyone officially voted, but if they had I'd like to believe we would have won.

And now for the main events, what you've all been waiting for, the callbacks! Tuesday morning at 10:30 was my appointment time. I got up early to do my hair exactly as I had for the initial audition and dress in the exact same clothes. As luck would have it, Sarah works directly across the street from the studios where the callbacks were being held, so she escorted me all the way there! I had some extra time so I decided to find out why everyone from the East coast loves Dunkin Donuts so much. Yeah, they know how to make a donut.

Once inside the studio, I had a little time to wait around and talk to the other people there. I saw a few familiar faces from the Los Angeles auditions. Once again, not nervous. Pretty relaxed. I got into the room not too long after my appointment time and sang the same two songs I had been given three months prior. We were asked to prepare one of five poems, but to my knowledge they didn't actually have anyone do them. When I was done singing, the casting director walked with me out of the room, and asked me to come back later to audition for another project they're doing. When I went to his office to pick up the sides, an associate/assistant told me that they're reviving On A Clear Day You Can See Forever on Broadway, and it's going to be starring Harry Connick Jr. I had a few hours to kill so I bought a new dress that would be more appropriate for this particular role - a 1940's Jazz singer. I'm positive it would have taken away a little if I had shown up in the American Idiot attire. I ended up reading/singing for the casting associate/assistant that I had gotten the sides from, and it felt very good. He actually looked through my book after I sang and asked me to do another song, one of my favorites to sing - "Life of the Party" from The Wild Party. I love singing that song because I feel I can really let go and just have fun. He said considering the amount of time I had to work with the material from the script, I did a great job.

I was called to come the next day to sing and dance for American Idiot again. This time the director, Michael Mayer, was in the room. This was very exciting because he was the original director for Spring awakening, and he's also directing On A Clear Day. That seemed to go well, and once I was done singing, I was given music to look over for a different character. The casting director talked with me again and asked how long I would be in town, and I told him I had a flight early the next morning. He told me to look into how much it would be to change my flight to a later time/date so I could be seen once more for AmId in the morning, and On A Clear Day in the afternoon. If need be, they could help out with the cost. I immediately got on the phone with the airline and got a quote. I also called my manager to tell her the good news.

This particular day got up to about 90 degrees, and had about 64% humidity. It also happened to be the day of the dance call. I changed into my dance attire, complete with leg warmers and a fishnet shrug thing, but once we started dancing these things were quickly removed. Though there was air conditioning in the room, there was only so much it could do with probably 30-something people running around and slamming ourselves into the ground. We also learned another combination that involved capoera and other defensive moves. There was not a single dry body to be seen. Once again, I was asked along with a few other girls to stay and do the same girly combination we were taught in Los Angeles.

As I was leaving the room, I spoke with the casting director and told him the price of the cheapest ticket we found. He said it wasn't a problem, they would reimburse me for it. The whole thing. What? These things happen?? It's a strange and wonderful feeling when you're liked and wanted to the point that a casting company will shell out hundreds of dollars just to keep you in town for one more day. Even now, I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.

A few hours later I sang once again, this time with just the pianist and musical director, the music for the other character I was given earlier. I was told to forget about the other music and come back the following morning at 11 to sing this new stuff, for the character Extraordinary Girl.

And I did. The toughest part about this whole experience was not being warmed up enough. Unfortunately I couldn't belt some of the notes I normally would have been able to, but luckily I think I was still able to mix them very well. I get the impression that the creative team liked me a lot, and there's nothing more you can really ask for than that.

I had a couple hours to kill before my On A Clear Day audition, so I tracked down the Luke's Lobster truck and got another lobster roll. It was absolute heaven.

I returned to the studios, changed into my more appropriate dress, and sang/read for the Clear Day creative team. Michael Mayor seemed to be impressed that I could transition from punk rock AmId to smooth jazzy Clear Day, and said it's been a good day. It certainly was. A good week, actually.

I slept on and off from around 8pm until 3am, packing and facebooking intermittently. I caught a cab at 4am for a 6:55 flight from LaGuardia. Arrived in LA around noon, went home to drop off my stuff, and went straight to work.

There are several things I glossed over, this entry being long enough already. I got to meet up with some of my friends from my Alabama RENT cast, the lovely Meagan Elizabeth Lewis, Stephanie Mosley, and Lauren Bowling. Tuesday after the first auditions I got to see Sarah perform in 2 improv shows at UCB which were absolutely incredible. I also finally treated myself to 4 meatball sliders from The Meatball Shop, one of my very favorite places to eat in the world, as a celebratory last meal in NY.

I heard from my manager this morning that I seemed too young for On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, which I was half expecting but I'm so happy just that I was brought in for it in the first place. She also said we should hear about American Idiot by the end of the week, which is exciting and nerve wracking. I'd rather it just be a surprise, but now you know exactly how long you have to send good vibes my way. I really do feel great about the whole experience and have a good feeling about it. I'll be sure to update here when I get word!

(to view pictures to go along with all of these words, check out my album on facebook!)