Behind the Table: Through the Eyes of a Choreographer. Featuring Billy Bustamante
Welcome to our newest series, Behind the Table: Through the Eyes of a Choreographer
Each installment we will be excited to hear from a new choreographer and get a little sight to them as people and professionals, both artistically and personally! This week we are excited to welcome our first guest
MM: We are so excited to have you on the blog, Billy! Thanks for joining us! So let's start with the simple things first... How did you find theater?
BB: I came from a family of performers/ culture of performers. My parents met in a band and my two sisters both preformed. I am the only one crazy enough to do it for a living though. Haha.
MM: Who has been the most influential person in your career? and why?
BB:have three mentors: My Hometown Mentor, Michael Bobbitt, My College Mentor, Forrest McClendon and my NYC Mentor, Jen Waldman. Each person nurtured and challenged me to carve out my own unique path in this indistry. I will owe them forever. : )
MM: What is the most joyful experience of your career thus far?
BB: Hands down, my best job was doing Here Lies Love at the Public Theatre. It was an original musical about my countrymen. I made great money doing a piece I was proud of, surrounded by a family of like-minded artists, and working at the Public Theatre which was always at the top of my career bucket list. A close second was doing Cabaret at Arena Stage in Washington, DC.
MM: What do you find to be that "it" factor for you when you are watching actors in an audition?
BB: It's pretty much a given that everyone will be talented. I absolutely LOVE it when people are PEOPLE! You'd be surprised how many robots walk in and out of the room, leaving you with no sense of how it will be to spend the next few months with them. I love it when people truly see the people behind the table when they meet us, know that they have something we need and (respectfully) audition us as much as we are auditioning them. We are all in it together!
MM: What is your best advice to actors who make it through the singers call and are meeting you for the first time in the dance/ movement call back?
BB: 1: Pick up the choreography as quickly as you can. 2: Come up with an intention/ motivation for the movement. Most good combinations have an arc/ story of some kind so you get points for being able to communicate that story as an actor. 3: Once your intentions are in place, use them to make strong physical choices. I'm usually don't need you to dance your face of but I DO need to know you can use your body.
MM: We always talk about expectations in class. The actors expectations of themselves. The director & choreographer's expectations of the actor. What expectations do you have of actors you meet in the audition room?
BB: It's funny. I actually try to come in with as few expectations as possible. I've been thinking a lot about expectation vs. intention vs. hopes. Personally, I like to lead with intention as it leaves more space for surprises. I intend to find the artists I need to make my show the best it can be. I hope to be surprised by a few brilliant artists who teach me something new about the show or a role. I guess in some way, i hope someone comes in who can challenge my expectations.
MM: Theater is filled with constant rejection. Is there a particular time in your career where you had to face the fear, face the rejection? How did that experience help you grow?
BB: I feel like this is daily life for us as artists. Wether it's a casting or creative person telling us, "No" or the little voice in our head, rejection (or the FEAR of rejection) is always present. Thanks to people like Jen, Michael and Forrest, I have learned how to view each rejection as a gift keeping me on the path I am meant to be on. It's often difficult to see the forrest for the trees when you are knee deep in the hustle, trying to get any job. Once I clarified what I really wanted out of my life and career, I found life gave the opportunities I was truly meant to have.
MM: Once an actor has booked the gig, What is the best advice you can give them for the rehearsal process, especially on a show that might be out of their comfort zone where movement is concerned?
BB: PREPARE PREPARE PREPARE!!!! Learn all you can about the world you will soon be living in. That way you can come to rehearsal with informed ideas and specific questions about what you know you don't know.
MM: What are some challenges you feel actors are presented with in our industry today?
BB: I think the idea of control is a big issue. I (actor who needs money) am dependent on someone (producer with money) giving me an opportunity before I can make money doing what I do. And if I'm not making money doing what I do, I am a failure. This idea can make many people feel like they have no power / control in their own career. Their lives even. While there will always be an aspect of truth in the above statement. It's important (and empowering) to clarify WHAT you do and WHY you do it. Once those ideas are clear, you'd be amazed at how many HOWs become clear as well.
MM: We love mantras and quotes to inspire us! Is there a little saying you keep in your head on particularly tough days or a quote you would love to tattoo on your forehead?
BB: I would have all the Four Agreements on my forehead, if it was large enough. : )
MM: What are you audition pet peeves?
BB: I have no patience for people who try to make themselves look good by making the people around them look bad.
MM: Learning choreography, whether it is in the audition room or in the rehearsal hall, can be a difficult task. Do you have any tips on assimilation of choreography?
BB: Challenge yourself but be comfortable with your limitations. Lean as quickly as possible but patient with yourself and others. And always remember that you are an actor communicating through movement.
MM: Billy, this has been such a pleasure!! Thank you so much for being our first featured choreographer! What's on the horizon for you?
BB: I am currently a swing in the Broadway Revival of The King And I! Come see us starting March 12th!! Once things calm down, I plan to curate a few directing / teaching projects for the summer.
Hope you enjoyed our first installment of Behind the Table! Keep your eyes peeled for more advice and insight for industry professionals! We can't wait to have Billy as our guest choreographer for our second FACE THE FEAR workshop starting in a few weeks! Want to join? Click here for more info!