I moved to New York City from Columbus, Ohio in the summer of 2012 with high aspirations of becoming a professional actor. Everyone had warned me beforehand how tough it is to make it in NYC, but I didn’t care. I had to do it or else I knew I’d regret it. Everyone told me to save up at least $5,000 before I moved because money goes so fast in NYC. After working as a waiter in two restaurants for a year after I graduated from Ohio State, I saved up $7,000. I wanted a slightly bigger safety net.
The hardest part is making the actual, physical move. It was tough to pack up my life in Columbus and throw caution to the wind and move somewhere that felt too colossal, noisy, and scary in my mind. I moved to Astoria, Queens that July with a college, actor friend. Having her there to show me the ropes of the city was immeasurably helpful and within the week I was already auditioning.
It’s hard moving here with no agent or manager and not being in either acting union, Actors’ Equity or SAG-AFTRA. Being non-equity, I had to crash the Broadway and Off-Broadway equity principal auditions. That meant that I would wake up early in the morning, go to the equity building in Times Square, sign my name on a sheet of paper with hundreds of other bleary-eyed, wannabe actors, and sit on a wooden bench for up to eight hours with the hope of being seen by a casting director. Oftentimes, I’d waste whole days there, never get seen, and then return home defeated, but ready to do it again tomorrow. I knew persistence was the best quality to have in this business.
What was amazing about wasting away on a wooden bench with other actors is that I made new friends quickly and many of them had great advice for me about auditions, classes, and how the industry worked. I learned about Backstage and Actors Access and created a profile on both and started submitting for film and theatre projects.
In my first week in NYC, I was cast in a play called “House Strictly Private” by Jimmy Kerr that was in the 1st Irish Theatre Festival. I couldn’t believe it. Everyone told me how hard it was to book anything in this city and I did it in my first week! The second week, I booked a short play festival at The Secret Theatre in Long Island City. Two plays in two weeks?! I couldn’t believe it! I wasn’t making any money from them, but who cares?! I was ACTING IN NYC! I thought everyone in Ohio was wrong and that making it in this business was easy. I mean, look what I did!
I was on a roll and it wouldn’t stop any time soon. In September, two months after moving to NYC, I booked my first Off-Broadway show: My Big Gay Italian Wedding at St. Luke’s Theatre. Everything was about to change for me.