I jogged in place in front of the blue screen background and smiled at the camera as if I was having the time of my life. I actually was having the time of my life as I checked off another unwritten adventure off of my bucket list, an audition in New York City!
Happily Cast into the Unknown
It was Tuesday, January 8th when I read a post on Bia Sport Facebook page that a casting agency in Chicago was:
LOOKING FOR AGE 50+ FEMALE MARATHON RUNNERS
– Female, age 50+, who ran her 1st marathon or half marathon AFTER she turned 50. (If not her first at least has run one or two after turning 50).
– Available to possibly travel to Los Angeles this weekend (potentially either Sat. 1/12 or Sun. 1/13) and shoot there Mon. 1/14 – Fri. 1/18. This would only be a 1 day shoot, so we will want to know your general availability from Sat. 1/12 – Fri. 1/18.
If Chosen for the commercial you will receive: This is a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) job. You will be well compensated based on industry rates and residuals. Starting day rate is $592.20 per day.
I thought that maybe they are also having a casting call in NYC and it might be an excuse to visit with Arron and Amy. I called and was up front about not being able to come to Chicago, asked about New York City. The only things they seemed interested in was that I had just run my first 26.2 “real” marathon and that I was over 50 years old when I had done it. Yes, indeed, I affirmed that was true and they said they would my information to pass along to someone in NYC.
I’m not a fool, I know how competitive the industry can be with folks fibbing about their age, ethnicity, weight and experience just to get a job in film. It would be super easy to just say you have run a marathon so I didn’t hold out much hope that what I said on the phone had carried much credibility.
The call came the next day when I had uncharacteristically left our cell phone at home. I was modeling for a figuring drawing class that day at the School of Visual Arts and I tapped into the Wifi there (on my iPod) to send Jim an email. I let him know that I thought I had left the phone at home and to check for me at lunch time.
On my break, I saw an email from him letting me know the phone was safely at home and I had missed a call from a casting agency in NYC. He told me he would bring the cell phone to his office and I could stop to get it when I was done at work.
During next 1/2 pose I held, my mind was racing! Might they schedule an audition for me tomorrow? Could I get onto Megabus that evening? Would my son and daughter-in-law, Arron and Amy, be ok with my crashing with them that night? Will I have time to put together a headshot and resumé? Should we cancel going out to dinner with friends that evening?
I tried to settle my thoughts and organize what needed to be done it what order. I made a plan of getting to Jim’s office, taking the phone, going to the car and asking the most important questions first. I needed to know the when, where and who and then what I needed to bring. I quickly wrote down a skeleton outline so that I wouldn’t forget what I needed to know before hanging up.
The call to Ashley of Beth Melsky Casting went off without a hitch. I managed to start with gracious thanks for taking the time to give me a call and then set about firming things up. The very first thing Ashley needed to make certain of was that I had actually run a full marathon. After I assured her that I had, she needed to know that it was only a few months ago, that it was my very first and that I was 50 years old when I had completed it. She also made certain that I had no conflicts for the next week because they were interested in flying to Hawaii (!!!!!) on Sunday to start filming soon after.
She gave me their address on Madison Ave and we set up an audition time in the afternoon. I was told New York auditions had already been completed but they would send my video directly to Chicago the same day as their auditions.
Totally jazzed about their interest in accommodating me, I asked about needing a headshot, résumé and what wardrobe I should come in. She agreed that I could bring my running clothes but could change in a bathroom when I got there. I think she told me that I didn’t need a headshot nor résumé. I also made certain that her contact information was what I needed in case something came up.
The rest of the afternoon was a blur! I texted Amy and Arron to make certain that I could stay with them, I took my own portrait and wrote my very brief acting résumé to be printed on the back. With Jim’s help, I was able to add a small insert of my crossing the finish line at the Wineglass Marathon since it seemed to be the most important detail in who they were looking to cast. Finally, I bought my tickets for Megabus, packed my bags and went to meet our friends for supper since it was very close to where the bus departed.
It was hard to say goodbye to Jim but we were both thrilled and excited about how well things came together with such a short amount of time. The bus was delayed about an hour so we stood in a cold parking lot giggling about what I might expect and strategizing on how I should approach things.
By the time I got into the city, it was almost 2AM and my dear son and daughter-in-law were kind enough to wake up to let me in their apartment. They set me up in their own bed (!!!!!!) while they crashed on the pull out futon. We all fell asleep immediately.
Running Blissfully in Ignorance
Arron and I woke up about the same time and he made me a lovely cup of coffee which I was sipping as he headed off to work. We whispered goodbyes (Amy was still asleep) and promised to keep each other posted and maybe meet for lunch. Amy must have woken upon his departing and I started picking her brain on EVERYTHING! I asked what she thought about what I had chosen to wear, if she thought it was crazy to wear my running stuff under my street clothes to save time and her opinion on everything from my make-up to my hair. It was great to have another woman’s opinion at the ready.
The private lesson Amy was to teach that morning was cancelled since the student was injured so she was able to see me downtown and join me for lunch. We hunted down the Cinnamon Snail for some crazy good vegan food and chomped on it as we walked the edge of Madison Square Park. We chatted easily about everything from auditions she had been to, when she saw Sesame Street being filmed in that very park and the curious shiny cube of a shed on the East side of the park that turned out to be a 25¢ pay toilet.
I checked my watch and, with 45 minutes until my appointment, brushed off any Vanilla Bourbon Crême Brûlée Doughnut crumbs from myself. I realized that I probably should empty my nervous bladder if I was going to move easily as a runner. My mood was positive, I was full of adventure and told Amy that I thought that maybe the pay toilet might be worth a visit. We returned, eyed all of the buttons on the exterior and saw the green “vacant” light was on. I popped a quarter into the slot and the metal door on the front started to automatically slide open as it beeped an alert sound.
Uncertain of the level of cleanliness, Amy and I tentatively peered in and were happy to see a gleaming interior. The completely metal interior was not only shiny, smelled disinfected and was dripping as though it had just been totally hosed down. It must be set up to wash down in between uses. To enhance my story, here is the experience she shared with Arron:
Just before her audition, we ate in Madison Square Park and she decided to use the pay toilet on the south-east corner. I told her I had never been I –I didn’t know if it was clean or gross.
She put a quarter in, and it starts beeping and the door slides open. She steps in, and the door slides shut. I can just peek in and see it’s all metal–and figure out that how it works is after every use, it gets sprayed completely down.
I am waiting for her, and I hear a sound from inside, and the ‘occupied’ light in the door switched to ‘out of order.’ While inside, your mom pushed the button for toilet paper, but the dispenser was empty, and the sink and soap dispenser started running!
I started worrying, because what is she got stuck inside?! Anyhow-a few moments later, it started beeping, the door slid open and she came back out.
But–for a moment, we were both thinking, what if she got trapped inside, or what if she got sprayed in a disinfect cycle before the audition? Lol!
It was pretty funny and surreal. The inside made me thinking she was beaming up to the mother ship!
Before she went in she was wondering if she could hold the door so I could go too.
Now we know the answer is absolutely not!
My perspective again; I was but reaching for the toilet paper dispenser button but had yet to even touch it when the sink started spraying water, soap and the blow drier all went off at the same time. When I did press the button (twice) no toilet paper came out so I grabbed a few paper seat covers to use. I very carefully selected the button to exit and got out as quickly as I could! Had I known the light outside had lit up out of order, I might not have smiled at the momentary thought of myself getting soaked with disinfectant before my audition. I think I would have panicked. The door again beep and I peeked out to see Amy peeking in at my status, we both laughed with relief!
A Clean Slate
I am going to back up to the point in Amy’s story where the light changed from occupied to out of order. It was then time for my big moment, my first ever casting call and audition. During the telephone conversation I had with the casting agency, I had learned it was going to be a commercial for AARP and did a quick bit of research on them. I resolved that I would be a “can do” kind of person who was excited about new experiences for this stage of my life. If going to audition for a commercial wasn’t already enough to show that – HA!
The classy offices and studios were on the 6th floor and it seemed everyone was expecting me. It was filled with a staff of impeccably and almost pretentiously groomed young people. They had me I fill out a form on their computer so that my information could be put into their system and I sat to wait until Ashley came for me.
I wondered if I would have a script to memorize or read from and looked at a pile of scripts that had nothing to do with AARP. Soon, I heard a fellow ask another if I was to be given lines and he said, “No it is just a personal interview.” Better and better! As I waited, I overheard a couple of young women rehearsing their lines (aka “sides”) for some contraceptive vaginal implant that was inserted, “just like a little tampon,” remained in place for over 20 days and “9 out of 10 couples never feel it.” They giggled and delivered their lines with mock voices that showed just how awkward it was for them. I couldn’t imagine them pulling it together enough to sound like they meant what they were saying.
They were soon called in to audition in a studio down the one hall. I calmed myself and read the warnings on the walls not to use Facebook, twitter or tumbler during the audition process. This kept me from snapping a photo of the lobby but, upon exiting, I took a photo of the hallway and the casting room I had been in.
Ashley was wonderful and made me feel very welcome. She asked if I had brought running clothes and I told her they were under my street clothes and could be ready in a second. She lead me to the casting room and as she prepared her camera I wondered if I was the first woman to shed her street clothes on that casting couch.
Running shoes on, I was directed to stand in front of the camera and slate. This was a kick-ass moment for me, I never dreamed to be asked to slate on Madison Avenue for a commercial but there I stood, beaming into the camera. I tried to talk to it like a good friend, I imagined talking to Mom, telling her my name , age and when I ran my first marathon. I answered every interview question clearly and with enthusiasm. Anytime I could spin the direction of my answers toward how awesome it was to be enjoying the new things I had been doing since I turned 50, I did with as little contrivance as possible. I stumbled once when saying the distance of a marathon (said 22.6 miles then corrected myself with a clear and unembarrassed statement).
I jogged in place front of the camera as was instructed. I jogged left, right, toward and back in place and was finally asked to hold up my Wineglass Marathon finishers certificate and slate one final time. I made no apologies and felt like I did the very best I could. I ROCKED my audition!
It is now later on Saturday and no call has come saying that I am the woman to fly to Hawaii. I am actually fine with that because I never really envisioned it going farther than the audition. Funny how stuff like that comes to be. Of course, if I get a call saying that they need me, I will be all set to go but I am really so very pleased with it all. I decided to give it a shot and, with the support of my family, did the very best I could in that short amount of time. I am well pleased.
I celebrated by stopping by the Union Square location of Jack Rabbit Sports because they were having a Ladies’ Night. I got to sample some wine and talk to some local merchants of designer sportswear. They didn’t have the cold weather running tights I was hoping to check out but it was a lot of fun anyway. The other gals there loved hearing why I was in town and that it was running that brought me the good fortune of landing a casting call. I never knew the doors that running my first marathon would open up for me.