Wednesday, March 4, 2015

HOLAwave: How I Got To Broadway (Part 2)

[HOLAwave represents a series of guest blogs by industry insiders giving informative and educational tidbits for the Latino performer. They can range from acting and auditioning advice, tech tips, legal advice, marketing, producing tips, and so on. Get caught up in the wave– the HOLAwave.]


The musical Fun Home is
based on the graphic novel
memoir by Alison Bechdel,
pictured above.
"Wow, Joel, you can really sing," Jeanine Tesori remarked, peering up from behind her glasses as taught the cast our voice parts for a now-unused song "The Lord Moves in Mysterious Ways." A small waterfall with snow-capped mountains in the distance could be seen outside the giant windows of our rehearsal room at the Sundance Theater Lab in Utah. This place was incredible. I had the opportunity to learn from so many theater artists that I had admired for years. I soaked it all in. I even got to taste Liza Colón-Zayas' pernil which rivaled my Abuela's [grandmother's]. I was a bit surprised by Jeanine's observation. "Uh... yeah I guess," I replied. "Isn't that why you cast me?" "Not really," she said. "Lisa and I just thought you were really fun." 

See that, folks? They just thought I was "really fun". I was kind of offended at first. I suppose my ego was like, Why isn't she obsessed with all the talent I oooooooze all over the place?! But the truth is, all the talent in the world means nothing if you're an assh*le to work with. That's a piece of wisdom that, so far, has served me pretty well.  

Fun Home librettist and
lyricist Lisa Kron and
composer Jeanine Tesori.
After three weeks of development at the Sundance resort, Fun Home was further explored as a "lab" production at the Public Theater in 2012. This was the first time the piece was being put on its feet for an audience and from the first performance we could tell there was something special about this show. Audiences responded incredibly well and the piece was picked up for the Public's 2013-2014 season. We got a rave in the Times, Broadway rumors ran rampant and I suppose the rest is history.

Throughout this journey I kept thinking, When am I gonna lose this job? This is just way too good to be true. But I came to realize that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I was recently reminded of an experience I had shooting a guest-starring role on the television series "The Big C" on Showtime.

Academy Award nominee
Laura Linney of
"The Big C" (Showtime).
I actually got the job in a funny way (I'll try to be brief). I took a class with the casting director of the show, Abbie Brady-Dalton of Telsey Casting at One on One Studios. She liked the work I did in class and it came up in conversation that I was fluent in Spanish. A few weeks later I get a call from my agent saying that they needed someone who spoke Spanish to do a table read of an episode of "The Big C," however, the role was already cast with a guy who lives in Los Angeles so they just needed someone to hear it out loud. I have never been one to squander an opportunity so I said yes. The next day I found myself at the production office in Stamford, Connecticut reading scenes with Laura Linney. My whole body was shaking with nerves but I kept my cool. After the table read, we all exchanged pleasantries and I said goodbye to the director, Michael Engler, and the writer/producer Jenny Bicks. They seemed pleased with my work and I was happy to have made a good impression on them. On the Metro-North train back to NYC, I find out that they liked my work so much they decided to rewrite a character so that I could be in the episode. I was FLOORED. A few weeks later I found myself in Puerto Rico, the place where my parents were born, shooting my first TV job.
Throughout this journey I kept thinking, When am I gonna lose this job? This is just way too good to be true. But I came to realize that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I was recently reminded of an experience I had shooting a guest starring role on the TV show "The Big C" on Showtime.

Joel Pérez and Academy Award
nominee Gabourey Sidibe in
"The Big C" (Showtime).
On the first day we all got to location, the production had a welcome party for the cast and crew. Everyone was partying, having a good time and soaking up the island air. I knew no one and felt really uncomfortable about the whole situation so I was at the periphery, observing the scene. Michael Engler, the director, sidled up next to me and asked, "How are you feeling?" "Honestly, I'm super nervous right now," I replied. "Remember that feeling," he said, "because it will only happen a few times in your life."

I realized that that nervousness was incredible excitement for the sweet gig I was about to do. "And remember," he added, "you didn't sneak into this party, you are an invited guest."

Opportunities in this business come in waves and I am humbled to take this journey to Broadway with Fun Home. Rehearsal officially starts today and I'm so excited to reunite with the team to tell this beautiful story– a story of family, love and acceptance. I don't know what the next few weeks have in store as we gear up for opening, but I can't wait to share it with all of you! 

To be continued....

Joel Pérez is a performer living in Brooklyn, NY. He's done work on TV in "Person of Interest" (CBS), "The Big C" (Showtime), and "Black Box" (ABC). He has toured nationally and internationally in In the Heights and Fame. He will star in the upcoming Broadway production of Fun Home after originating the role off-Broadway at The Public Theater. He has  participated in developmental labs with the Sundance Theater Lab, Soho Rep, Atlantic Theater Company, and many others. He has also worked on several commercials and voice-overs. He's an ensemble member of Broken Box Mime Theater and Pregones Theater. He studied at Tufts University, The British American Drama Academy and Upright Citizen's Brigade. He is repped by BRS/GAGE and Abrams Artists Agency. For more information, click here.

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