Behind the Table: Through the Eyes of a Choreographer featuring Patrick O'Neill and an exciting offer!
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 happy to introduce a great soul in our community,
MM: Patrick! We are so happy to officially have you on the blog at Motivated Movers! You are such an inspiring person in our lives and we want to thank you for that and sharing yourself with our community! Let's start off with the age old question... How did you find theater?
PO:Theater found me! I was on a road trip with my family and there was a huge brown paper bag filled with cassette tapes sitting between my brother and I. Somewhere in Connecticut I found CATS. I was convinced it was a rock band for about three months until a friend's mother set me straight. The tour came through Boston and my parents took me to see it. We sat in the last row of the Shubert Theatre and I stood on my seat the whole time. I was hooked.
MM: Who do you think has been the most influential person in your career?
PO: Only one? Sheesh. That's impossible. I am the product of people taking chances on me. My parents. Teachers. Acquaintances. Strangers. Directors. Choreographers. Agents. Each has been influential for a very specific reason. When given the chance, I make sure to thank them and I repay the debt by actively taking chances on others.
MM: YES! So many juicy ideas in that response :) We are a product of our experiences. I think it is absolutely wonderful that you can honor all those people who have gone out on a limb for you, and that you actively try to do the same for others! Let's take a page from your book! Looking back on your career thus far, what do you think has been your most joyous experience?
PO: Again...only one? Impossible. I have a list that goes on forever. If I had a gun to my head, I would say the day I got the keys to my first apartment in New York. it was the beginning of a lifetime of future and possibility. That's pretty joyful.
MM: That is the first step, huh? So much is at your fingertips with the turn of that key! OK, now let's move onto your work behind the table. What do you find to be that "it" factor for you when you are watching actors in an audition?
PO: Actors and dancers who are clearly prepared and rehearsed stand out like sore thumbs. It makes them appear present and centered in the moment so their work can shine. That to me is the "it" factor; a combination of preparedness and presence. Even if you aren't right for the job that is hiring, you will be remembered.
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?
PO: Breathe. We know where we found you. We are GLAD we found you. That's why you're coming back! You offer skills that we need. It's my job to get you to your best. Trust me and ask questions if you're not getting what you need.
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?
PO: I always say: "We aren't interested in what you can't do. We are interested in what you CAN do." To me it is far more interesting and exciting to watch an actor or dancer who may be less technical but who brings 100% of themselves to the work. I'd rather watch good storytelling than perfect technique any day.
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?
PO: Congrats! You booked it! First, celebrate. We work too hard not to. Once we get to work just keep focused on what is being asked of you. If you're out of your comfort zone with dance, make friends with the dance captain. Buy them Starbucks, alcoholic beverages and chocolates. Ask them for help when you need it and thank them profusely if they do a good job. If you're lucky enough to have some time before the gig starts and you know you'll be doing Argentine Tango, take a class on your own to get your body going in that direction.
MM: What are some challenges you feel actors are presented with in our industry today?
PO: The industry is SO over saturated and it's so much more difficult to get into the room today than it was ten years ago. Keep fighting the good fight if it's something you know you were born to do. It may take some time but the cream rises to the top. We will find you. I promise.
MM: What are you audition pet peeves?
PO: Don't treat your wardrobe for a dance audition like dance class. You don't need to look like you've stepped off the pages of Vogue but be sure to look your best. As for footwear: Heels for ladies (or sneakers if the show calls for it) and character shoes (or sneaks) for the men. They make you look like pros. Please leave the little competition slip ons in class.
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?
PO:We all learn differently. Think of how you studied for a World War II history exam your junior year of high school. Did you learn a list of facts? Did you memorize dates that triggered the memory of what happened on those days? Did you write it out on paper and memorize photographically? However you absorbed that information can be applied to how you learn choreography. It's more of a mind game than a physical game. Do you remember short phrases of choreography and string them together? Do musical accents help you remember? Do you remember the verbal description they use when teaching? Find the science behind your natural learning technique and use it to your advantage.
MM: OK, so we always hope for the best and that we book the job, and you just gave us some AWESOME tips on how to get there, but we all also know the other side of things. 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?
PO: We, as actors, are rejected three times on Thursday before lunch. And that's just Thursday! I am always facing fear and rejection. Daily. Anytime we choose to audition or perform we have a choice: We can either let the fear get the best of us and quit or we can focus on the possibility that exists. I choose to dwell in possibility. It makes Thursdays much more bearable.
MM: As we start to wrap up this lovely time with you, I would love to know if there is a moment when you knew that this crazy thing we do was your passion? The thing that has helped you cling to these dreams when life gets tough!
PO: I know there has to have been a solitary moment that began the trajectory of my artistic life but I can't remember what it was. What I do recall is the sense of community that existed and I know that I was strongly drawn to it. We get to create together. It's not mine. It's not yours. It's ours. That has always been the root of my love affair with the theater.
MM: We love mantras and quotes to inspire us and enrich out community. 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?
PO: I generally have the words "pro tempore" on my dressing room mirror. It's a hoity toity way of saying "this is temporary". It reminds me to take a minute to enjoy the fleeting nature of happiness and success and know that if it's a less than perfect project that it too will pass.
MM: Patrick, THANK YOU so much for spending a little time with us and give us a little inspiration on this lovely (almost) spring Monday! What is next for you! Where can we find you next?
PO: Right now we are preparing for the spring workshop of SCHOOL OF ROCK which is moving into the Winter Garden this fall!! I also have Jerry Lewis' THE NUTTY PROFESSOR and Barry Manilow's HARMONY hanging in limbo. They are two very different but very beautiful shows that I hope the world will get to see one day.