Monday, March 12, 2012

163. Interview with Bryce Pinkham (Yale) - Part Four

(This is PART FOUR of the interview with Yale graduate Bryce Pinkham. Click HERE to read PART ONEHERE to read PART TWO and HERE to read PART THREE. This interview was conducted at Cellini Restaurant on E. 54th St. in New York City on January 6, 2012, and was lovingly transcribed by my mother, Dorothy Wilcox. Thanks, MOM!)

(Yay, Bryce!...Break legs in Ghost: The Musical!)

Virginia: Okay, we’ve talked a lot about good audition advice. What is the worst piece of audition advice that you’ve ever gotten?

Bryce: Hmmm...(Thinking.)

Virginia: Can I share with you mine?

Bryce: Yeah.

Virginia: "Just show up."  People say that "showing up is half the battle."  I’m like, "NO! That’s like the last two percent."  And sure, yeah, if you don’t show up, you're not going to get the job, but STILL...

Bryce: There’s a difference between being relaxed and allowing for whatever is going to happen to happen and just showing up. Yeah, if you show up, but you show up unprepared... then, you know, nobody’s happy...

I’d encourage people to just treat the situation for what it is, admit what’s going on in the room. Sometimes you get in there and you feel like it’s just hard to be a human being all of a sudden -- It’s hard to say hello to someone and goodbye to someone or introduce yourself. I don’t know why this happens to us. I do know it’s nerves and fear, but if you can just try and do things like walk at normal speeds and say goodbye and have a nice day and thank you to your reader in particular. I always try to say thanks. That’s one thing, having been a reader, a reader can really help you a lot in an audition. Again, that’s more for professional auditions than it is in grad school. But I don’t like when people pretend that something is going on that’s not going on. They forgot the line. They forgot the words. Just stop, say I’m sorry, I forgot the words. They don’t care. They want you to get it right. They want you to do well. Everybody in an audition wants you to do well. Nobody wants you to suck.

Virginia: I have a grad school audition question.

Bryce: Yeah, sure.

Virginia: You got to observe a lot of the auditions for Yale after you had been accepted, right?

Bryce: Yeah, you can do that if you want.

Virginia: Did anyone ever ask to direct their monologue to you while you were in the room?

Bryce: No. But if you’re considering….

Virginia: I mean, obviously Ron and Walton don’t want you to direct your monologue to them. They want to be able to watch you.

Bryce: Yeah.

Virginia: But is it appropriate to ask to direct your monologue to a grad student or someone, if they're in the room?

Bryce: Well, I think you should ask, if you want to use somebody, whether it’s the auditioner – which I don’t recommend -- or somebody else in the room, a student, or a reader, what have you. I ask readers who have been brought to the audition to interact with people. For example, if I’m singing a song to someone in particular, I ask, "Can I use you for the song? Do you mind if I sing this song to you?"...

You know, usually it works out great....But’s helpful to me, and hopefully they enjoy it. I don’t know. But in terms of grad school auditions, I would say... yes, but be prepared for them to say no. If you say, "Can I use one of you guys for this monologue?" And Ron or Walton or whoever says, "No, I’d rather you actually just did the monologue."  Just be prepared for that reality, so that you’re not committed in one way. "I have to do this to somebody or it’s not going to be good."

Virginia: But in your experience at Yale, did that ever happen while you were in the room?

Bryce: I never saw that happen, no.

Virginia: Everybody would just do their monologue, pick a point on the wall and speak?

Bryce: Yeah, I mean... I wouldn’t say pick a point on the wall. I would say the gaze is probably in some general direction.

Virginia: But they’re not talking to a person.

Bryce: They’re talking to a person... But the reason I stop you at "looking at a point on the wall" is just because I think for me, in my experience of doing those things, it’s easier to actually go into what I would call a "soft focus" and imagine a person there... as opposed to finding the middle of the room and saying it to the exit sign, you know?...Which I’ve also done... If it helps, find the exit sign and just sing to it.

You’ve done all the preparation. Don’t let the nerves of the moment interfere with all that. Take the time to remind yourself of your breath and also...whatever you've come up with...Okay, this is the person I’m talking to, this is what I need from them, and this is why. And this is what just happened [in the scene]... And, again, imagine they’re right over there, and I’m going to start. As opposed to,...okay, they’re running late so they probably need the next person in here, and I’ll just pick a point on the wall and start.... Again, it’s your time, you’ve done the work, you paid money to be there.

Virginia: A lot, yeah.

Bryce: So I’m not saying get in there and do your warm-ups in front of them. Please do not do that.

Virginia: (Laughs.)

Bryce: But feel free to take your time to make sure you’re breathing and start the way you want to start. I don’t advocate stopping if you feel -- oh, it’s not going exactly the way I want it. First, you can never control what they say. You can only control what you do. And if you feel like you’ve drastically gone away from what you said you wanted to do, then you can say, "I’m sorry, I’d like to start again. May I start again? Take your time again and start."  But again there’s something about the insistence or the boldness of a proposal that is worth more to me on the other side of that table than the person that comes in and gets all the beats right or puts the emphasis on the right word as opposed to comes in and lays the meat on the table... "That’s my audition!" You know?

Virginia: Okay, so I want to finish up by talking about your current project (Ghost:The Musical), and just ask you a couple of questions about that. When do you guys go into previews?

Bryce: We start previews March 15,2012 and we open in April 23, 2012.

Virginia: Tell me about the project and how you came to be involved.

Bryce: I am going to be originating for Broadway! -- I say that because it’s going to be very exciting. Remember we talked about the little kid who like gets to say stuff? It’s in these moments where I have to force myself to say those things because the easy path would be to say, "Oh, I’m doing Ghost. But the more fun path, the part that you feel like... not only have I earned this, but I have to see it in this way in order to give it the value it deserves and give it the effort it deserves.-- So I’ll be originating for Broadway the role of Carl in  Ghost:The Musical, which is currently running in London. I’m going over there on Tuesday to see the show and meet the cast.

Virginia: They’re flying you out?

Bryce: Yes.

Virginia: Cool.

Bryce: They’re flying me out, and I’m getting fitted for a harness, so yes.

Virginia: Do you get to fly?

Bryce: Well, there will be some certain moments that involve harnesses. I’ll say no more than that.

(Here's a video clip of the Broadway cast's trip to London!!!)

Bryce: How I got involved is... I auditioned.

I just remembered this the other day -- This will be good -- I originally auditioned for the Patrick Swayze role - Sam. I originally auditioned for that for a workshop that they were doing in London with the intent of maybe doing a production of it, two years ago...And I auditioned for the role Patrick Swayze played in Ghost on the day that Patrick Swayze died....And I remember thinking at the time, this is just weird. And it was, again, one of those moments where I was thinking, if I think too much about this, I’m not going to be able to go in and do this audition.

Virginia: Right, you’ve just got to let that go.

Bryce: And I went in and did the audition. Yeah, it was fine. I think it was okay. I didn’t think it was my best. But the director sat me down and talked with me. And then I never heard back. And I thought, okay, well... And then here we are a year and a half, two years later, and I get a call to come in and audition for the friend, the part that Tony Goldman plays in the movie. And I went back and I looked at the script, having remembered going in for the other role before. And I had this realization of... oh, yeah, this is the part I would want to play anyway.

Patrick Swayze’s was a great role, obviously. It was super important. But there’s something about this guy that’s more interesting to me as an artist looking to tackle something. And so that’s what got me psyched to go back in and say, I know I wasn’t right for that guy but check this out. Which is sort of the attitude I try to take a lot in auditions is... "Look, check this out, check me out."  Sometimes it’s hard to back up because I feel like…

Virginia: This might not be a good fit.

Bryce: ….this might not be it. I probably had tried to do that attitude when I went in for the Patrick Swayze, check this out, and it didn’t work. Fine...But this time I really felt like, oh, yeah, something about this is more exciting, makes more sense. I know where to start with this. And so we did about 3 – 4 callbacks I think. 

After I had a second callback, the next day I had a call to go and meet the director, and did that. You know, I sat down with him and chatted. I had a really sort of like interview, really. And that was on a Sunday, and I was expecting, you know, like next week, Monday or Tuesday I’m going to find out about this. And a month and a half went by and I didn’t hear anything, so I thought okay, that’s gone. I’d really --

Virginia: Let it go.

Bryce: -- completely had let it go. I sort of had forgotten about it, honestly. And then another call, yeah, they still can’t make up their minds. Would you come back in? I said, of course I’ll come back in. So I did and we did another one of those, as I mentioned before, auditioned with tons of people and on video, you know, sending it to London, so people could see it.

At that time, I was like, well , I know what I’ve done in the past, and I know I’m not going to do anything worse than that. If anything, I’m going to do even better. So I had that confidence. They like me enough to bring me back in. Now I just have to go in and do what I do and enjoy it and stand behind it completely. So that’s what I did. I mean, I say it so easily, like yeah, that’s all I did,...but it was terrifying.

Virginia: Right.

Bryce: Terrifying and nerve wracking to get the call that I got...  It was like BRILLIANT! I mean, I was screaming in the streets. So it’s like, as much as it pays to play it cool and say, "yeah, it’s no big deal," there’s also a little kid inside that’s doing backflips.


Virginia: Yeah. So what do you think is going to be your greatest challenge in tackling this role?

Bryce: Well, I think there’s a trap in this role which is, when I tell people who I’m playing, they say, oh, you’re the "bad guy?" And that’s a trap of both the genre of musical theatre and also just the way we see stories, a little two dimensional... or a little "Disney-ified"...

So I think the challenge will be to make him more than just a "bad guy" in a sort of archetypal sense. I think the challenge will be to make him "a guy" and to make him believable as someone who could make such a terrible, terrible decision and then make even worse ones as he goes on. Which is initially what interested me... I want to investigate a guy who is on the other side of a really, really bad decision that turned out really bad, as bad as it gets, the death of his best friend. And what does he choose to do in that moment, save himself? Or come clean? Or what are his choices?

Virginia: Right.

Bryce: And why does he go the way he does? 'Cause that’s interesting to me. It’s interesting to me to investigate these guys who work in the world of finance where everything seems limitless and, you know, they’re motivated by something else. And he must have felt in some way untouchable to go after this thing that he went after which was putting a friend at risk.

So you know, all that and at the same time it’s Ghost. It’s like a great movie, and it’s fun to play a bad guy, right?

Virginia: Right.

Bryce: So it’s balancing those two things. I’m not going to take it so I’m talking about it like it’s Shakespere....But at the same time I’m not going to just put on my villain hat and say "good to go."  So I think the challenge is making it three dimensional and believable.

Virginia: So how do you think that your three years at Yale, particularly, helped prepare you to approach a great opportunity and a challenge like this, to get to originate a role on Broadway?

Bryce: Well, I always say that after the stuff I went through in grad school, and I mean that in a positive way, like the performance I told you about -- downstairs at the Yale Cabaret, and some of the projects you do as a student there, under little sleep and no energy and the things – nothing will scare me more than the stuff that I had to do there. I know I’ll never be as scared as I was at certain moments. And so that prepares me knowing that I will be very nervous doing this, you know, when we actually get to performance. And I’m already nervous about the first day of rehearsal, but I’ve made friends with those nerves in a way that I know that I will come out on the other side ‘cause I came out on the other side of that other stuff.

So that’s sort-of battle preparation. But in terms of approaching a role and finding a place to start – I think that often the hard part is... Where do I start with this?...Yale taught me to seek out those challenges of my character or... what’s exciting about this guy. What is the part of this character that you can attach to, that you can say, yeah, I get that actually? That’s always a challenge. I’m not a Wall Street banker that bet money on his best friend’s life. But I know what it feels like to be on the other side of a really bad decision, not ones with those stakes. But I’ve made really bad decisions before, and I know what that feels like in my stomach. So why don’t I start there, and then see what we can build on top of that. And if it doesn’t work, we’ll tear the whole thing down and we’ll start from a different place. So I think it’s about knowing, having the confidence of just starting and making choices because, one thing, Yale doesn’t give you time to think too much because you have so much on your plate. You literally just have to DO in order to get it done. And you come to’s a better choice because I had to make it – not on the fly -- but I had to make it fairly quickly. And it got me along faster, so that by the time we were in tech, I had a performance built up that I could go through again during tech and say, "What do I really want to do here? Should I do that? Should I do this?" Not like, "Oh, my God, what am I doing?"  You’ve already said, "Now give this choice up. You made this choice, it didn’t work, took half of each, put them together, now I’m doing this. Awesome. Let’s go."

So Yale also prepared me to shed things well. You learn to trust people who are telling you things. Because you realize through feeling yourself progress that your teachers know a lot and that they want you to be better. And what they’re telling you is only meant to make you better. Whether it does or not remains to be seen, but their intent is always positive. So it helped me learn to trust and distrust outside voices.

Virginia: Be mindful of listening to your own self.

Bryce: Yes. And to question other people’s viewpoints. I think the most important thing it did for me is it gave me a sense that I am an individual artist with an opinion and an approach that is worthy of being in a rehearsal room. And worthy of being expressed... not in an overbearing way and not in a timid way... but somewhere in between. "I agree with you that he’s this but I don’t agree that he’s this."  Maybe we can have a discussion about it and find a common ground. Or "Gosh, maybe I’m wrong. You’re actually totally right. Thank you for allowing me to talk through my choice to realize that it was wrong."

Virginia: So we’ve got to wrap up. Is there anything else that you want to express to the blog readers? Words of encouragement?

Bryce: Yeah, I would just say, you know, try -- as hard as it may be -- try and breathe through the entire thing. It sounds "widgy woo woo" but it’s true, remind yourself to breathe... Breathe. Be bold in your choices. And, as I said before, don’t bring in something you’re not proud of. Make us something – bring a gift into the audition room that is something you’re proud to bring as opposed to something you think we want to see.

Virginia: I think that’s great.

Bryce: Yeah, I think that’s it.

Virginia: That’s awesome. Thank you, Bryce.

[End of recording.]

Just have to say how wonderful it was to use this blog as an excuse to sit down with Bryce and get to ask him ANYTHING I WANTED...all under the guise of providing a inspirational interview for the blog...Which is also an outcome of the effort.

It was a joy to get to talk about creative process with a man that has grown sooooo much from the first time I met him...when we were 13-year-old tap-dancing ensemble members of Stars 2000's Teen Theatre production of Anything Goes in Northern CA.

Wishing you a hugely successful run of  Ghost: The Musical , Bryce, and continued challenges that lead to artistic growth and a life-long career in the performing arts...both, making a living and living your dreams!


"You will always have more to learn. Even if you're the best of the best, there is always room for improvement. But at the same time, there will always be people with less experience and skill than you, who will consider you an expert, and find value in what you have to offer." - Dan Johnson, Right Brain Rockstar

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