Wednesday, April 22, 2009

nytheatremike Battles the Recession (Interview with Michael Criscuolo, Part 1)

Michael Criscuolo (who blogs as "nytheatremike") is not letting a bad economy keep him down. I've been staying in touch with him about his various enterprises, which are making a big difference for his career even during this downturn. I asked him if he would be willing to share some of his strategies and ideas with the good readers of the Good News Theatre Blog. Here's the first part of our cyberinterview:

Me: Michael, you’ve been very proactive recently about coping with the tough economic times. I know you’ve been doing some freelance work, and you’ve also started a business as an acting coach. Tell us more about these endeavors.

Michael: Well, after many years spent slaving away at various “survival jobs,” I decided to dedicate this year to making the transition into full-time actorhood. I figure at this point, with the economy being what it is, my chances of landing a paid acting gig are as good as landing any other gig. And I’ve had good results so far: I’m currently working as an understudy for The Pearl Theatre Company’s new revival of Tartuffe, which has been a blast. Great people, great production, and just a great all-around experience on many levels. The Pearl is a classy organization and I’m very happy to be working with them. I encourage everyone to do the same if they can.

In addition to that, I’ve finally succumbed to the typical New York actor routine of trying to score auditions and get seen by people. Good results on that front, as well: I’ve recently been seen for a number of really good acting gigs both in and out of town – a gratifying development, especially since I don’t have an agent and am doing everything on my own. I feel like all my diligence is finally beginning to pay off, which just motivates me further.

As for the actor coaching...well, auditioning has been on my mind a lot in the last year or two. For a long time it was the obstacle I couldn’t overcome: I was afraid of it, I hated doing it, and I didn’t feel like I was any good at it. But, eventually I realized I wasn’t going to get anywhere unless I got over all that, so I decided to tackle my fear head on and wrestle it to the ground. Just as an experiment, I tried changing my whole attitude towards auditioning and looking at it as something that might be fun. Many of my friends had told me they always liked auditioning because, in their eyes, it was an opportunity to act and a chance to always be working on something new. All of which I thought was a lot of bunk...until I tried it, that is. Turns out that my change in attitude worked like a charm. I also adopted a whole new batch of preparation and rehearsal techniques that really helped focus and ground me. Now, I actually look forward to auditions and am not afraid of them anymore, because I’m confident in what I’m doing and not worried about shooting myself in the foot.

So, armed with all that new knowledge – and thinking once again about the current economy – I thought I’d give actor coaching a try. No reason I should keep all that info to myself, right? If it can work for me, I figure it can work for others, as well. Having directed before, I feel comfortable coaching actors because the way I work is very similar to the way an actor and a director work together in rehearsal. Plus, on a practical level, I wanted to try coaching because I liked the idea of being my own boss and making my own hours. Why get up early in the morning if you don’t have to, right? I’m still just starting out so there’s still a lot of room for growth, but the coaching has been going pretty well so far. All of my clients have been pleased with their results, whether or not they booked the gig, because they now feel more comfortable and prepared going into their auditions – which is the whole point of this enterprise, as far as I’m concerned.

Me: Tell us about the monthly e-newsletter you recently launched. What’s the special vision/mission of this project? Why do theatre folk need another newsletter about theatre—what’s unique and special about what you are doing?

Michael: The newsletter was started as a way to promote my coaching services, but I wanted it to have more content than just that. I wanted it to have a little something extra that would make it stand out. So, I asked a few friends who also coach for their opinions, and my former audition coach suggested also using the newsletter to plug other people’s shows. Her opinion was that it would be good karma to do so: if I scratch their backs a little bit, maybe eventually they’ll scratch mine. I’m all about the good karma, so I decided to give it a try. Soon thereafter, I accidentally stumbled upon the monthly newsletter of monologue coach Karen Kohlhaas, and discovered that she does exactly the same thing. Her newsletter is absolutely brilliant, and it was a great inspiration for me.

I wouldn’t say that theater folk need another newsletter about theater. Instead, I would say that theater folks need every forum they can find to hawk their wares. So, I offer my newsletter as another form of publicity to friends, colleagues, and coaching clients who have something to plug. It can be anything they want, really: a show they’re in, a service they provide, a class they teach, etc. The only stipulation is that anyone who wants to post something has to provide their own content, tailored to specific submission guidelines I give them. By writing their own content, they get to decide which information gets posted, instead of leaving that to me.

I also like to think that the newsletter provides a tacit endorsement of everyone who posts in it: if you trust me and my opinion, then you might very well like these shows, or this vocal coach, or this digital video editor. That sort of thing.

If you want more information about Michael's actors' coaching services, or to be put on his email newsletter list, email nytheatremike.

Part 2 of the interview will be posted tomorrow.


BAMBOUK said...

I first met Michael Criscuolo as an undergrad and he was always an actor's actor. He did great work then, and I'm excited to see how he has parlayed his craft into a career helping other actors. He's the real deal, and I look forward to reading part II.

nytheatre mike said...

Thanks for the great comment, my friend. You are too kind - and I appreciate that!