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The Actors Project NYC celebrates its 29th season with Industry Night

Cast members and industry network during The Actors Project Industry Night.
Cast members and industry network during The Actors Project Industry Night.
Diana De Rosa Photo

The Actors Project NYC’s (TAPNYC) Industry night is a true favorite of its members because that’s when both the industry and the actors get a chance to meet each other in a relaxed atmosphere. It follows one of the company’s season showcases (in this case Season 29) and it’s for all the actors who performed and the industry that watched them.

The industry got together to have their picture take at TAPNYC Industry Night.
Diana De Rosa Photo

The founder of TAPNYC is Bobby Holder, who created it 10 years ago after he’d also taken the acting journey. While he enjoyed acting he decided to follow his idea of creating a company that would help upcoming actors meet industry and land representation.

Now, the proof is in the pudding with 75% of his actors, both new and veteran, working with agents. In fact, agents, managers and casting directors were all networking at this year’s Industry Night and sharing their thoughts. What they seemed to appreciate the most was that this group gives actors the nuts and bolts needed to begin their career in the world of acting.

In fact, TAPNYC has a very committed program of providing workshops to outline the basics which includes having a good headshot and resume. They also talk about the business side of acting including the importance of networking and marketing yourself on many levels. This is combined with a series of troupe meetings where you perform a monologue in front of your peers and are critiqued on your performance and given ideas on new things you can try and ways to enhance your monologue.

Finally, you get to audition to be cast in a showcase which includes attending a dress rehearsal and tech rehearsal before performing to an audience of family, friends and, most of all, industry. Then if you meet the criteria you are invited to Industry Night. A lot of industry attended this year’s event and gave high marks to the way Bobby Holder, his associate Ann Bonner and company manager Renee Iovine run this company.

Industry agree that TAPNYC offers them what they need for their rosters

Albert Bramante, a talent agent from Emerging Talent (www.emergingtalentllc.com) works with a number of TAPNYC actors and consistently comes to all of their events.

“I thought there was a lot of great talent this season. I could definitely tell that they pushed the envelope,” he commented. Like many of the others, Albert has a roster of talent types and some of those spots need to be filled. And so those are the actors he’s looking for, but it goes beyond that.

“I want to see actors who are not afraid to take risks,” he commented. By coming to the showcases it gives him a chance to see how the actors work, especially those who appear in sketches with other actors.

“I watch their presence onstage and how they are connected with each other. That’s what inspires me to bring them into my office.”

If Albert calls them in for an interview then the true test begins. “It all depends on my needs at the time, what their goals are, what their career plan is, what they are doing now and how we personally connect.” If they pass that test then he begins a freelance relationship with these actors and the rest is up to them.

Albert pretty much casts for everything but Nicole Astell a talent manager from Prestige Management Group, has her own approach. “I look for both talent and looks,” she explained. And like Albert she wants to see how actors interact with each other in sketches.

If she likes the way they interact, “then it is all about personality and how well we get along, I need someone I can work with professionally, yet still banter with.”

That seemed to be a common theme that it’s not just about the talent but also the comfort level of the agents with the talent and vice versa.

Lorna Rainey from Talent Express (www.thetalentexpress.com) in Astoria has a wide range of people on her roster and she approaches it differently than some of the others. “I am not looking for any particular type but rather actors who really milk everything they can out of their role and are very entertaining. I look for people who are engaging. Those are the ones who encourage me to be involved with them.”

Like Nicole, Lorna emphasized the importance of being comfortable with the actors she works with. “When I like you I am going to do my best for you. It’s the same for all of us. This is a human and personal business. Although it is about business at the end of the day, it’s about people. On my roster I don’t have numbers or objects. My roster consists of real people with dreams and ambition. How I present them and sell them is what creates good business.”

Like Albert, Lorna also feels that TAPNYC offers its actors more than just the ability to perform onstage. “I have found some of the most well rounded, well prepared, savvy, dedicated performers at TAPNYC. Bobby does a splendid job of selecting the right people and the right material and then he coaches them on how to bring the best out of that material.”

Lorna has watched TAPNYC grow. She’s been coming to the productions for the past six years and recalls that in the beginning not that many industry came to his shows but clearly that has changed.

“I am amazed at how Bobby, over the years, has continually built up TAPNYC to be one of the go to talent resources among well respected agents, casting directors and managers. The reputation has spread and been so overwhelmingly positive that the shows are always very well attended with lots of industry present,” she Barry Kolker, a talent agent from Carson-Kolker Agency commented, "I had so much fun watching Bobby Holder's Dramatically Comical showcase. It's very kind of Bobby to give so many performers a chance to showcase their work for the industry, and family and friends. You could tell that Bobby puts 150% into his shows with the professionalism, organization.....plus the humor.''

Alison Franck, a casting director from Liz Lewis Casting, took a slightly different approach then the others simply because of what she does. What she likes about TAPNYC actors is that the program gives her what she needs. “They give me a blueprint of what this person wants to put out there. It is an essence of what they are; a snapshot of their personality.”

Alison feels that how TAPNYC approaches their showcases, sketches and contests “is done in such a way that the actors feel more like themselves and they seem to love what they do, which isn't always the case at the events I go to.

“I love that the actors are so happy with themselves. They want you to come and they are excited about it. That is what this program is made for, to make them feel good about themselves, to feel empowered with an inner strength. I want to go to the showcases because the actors want to be there and they want me to be there.”

Alison also noted like some of the others that there is more to being a successful actor then just acting and this program helps smooth out all those edges. “They also learn how to market themselves. They get to understand what the business is about. They are coming to us prepared.”

Alison then focused a bit on how building a relationship can help get you work. “The main thing for me as a casting director is if we've met and you see something online and you really want to be seen for it, remind me how I've met you and how I've seen you and if you fit the part then you’ll get a chance to audition.”

That said, Alison is definitely unique in that she doesn't mind having people she has met email her and it was surprising to hear her say that there are lots of people who never reach out. “I can only keep track of people who want to be found,” she added. “If you see something you are right for email me. It is almost less invasive and more personal at the same time. I will definitely read it and it won’t bother me. And don’t forget to remind me who you are,” she concluded.

A host of actors came out to meet those industry mentioned above and others. In addition to those mentioned above Peggy Becker, a talent manager from Parkside Talent and Marius Bargielski, a talent agent from Metropolis Artists, were also chatting with the actors.

The actors are truly happy and are not afraid to say so!

And just as Alison expressed, it was clear that the actors were truly excited to get the chance to chat with industry up close and personal and also to talk about what this journey has meant to them.

Among the alumni was Melanie Garcia who comes all the way from Staten Island for troupe meetings and special events. This is Melanie’s fourth season and like so many of the others she’s focused.

Melanie explained that the way the program is run encourages her to work hard. Not only does TAPNYC offer its troupe meetings program but also has annual Monologue and Scene & Sketch Challenges.

Melanie is one of the people who takes advantage of every opportunity offered by TAPNYC. She’s appeared in four showcases, competed in both the Challenges mentioned above and also comes to all the social functions to network with her fellow actors and get a chance to meet industry.

“I try and do everything I can,” she remarked. “Being a part of this ensemble exposes me to a lot of things and I take advantage all the time of everything I can.”

Kamaria Williams is a fellow actor who hails from Washington Heights, NY. This is Karmaria’s first season. When asked what she took away from the experience she remarked, “I learned the importance of practicing and what is an ensemble.”

Kamaria also auditioned and made it into Troupe 10, which is the Scene & Sketch troupe that performed in all the Season 29 showcases.

“Being a part of Troupe 10 I learned what it’s like to collaborate every day to create something fun and exciting without being arrogant,” she explained.

“I also learned to listen and take in what the person says. You have to listen and talk to each other. It’s also about bonding – that chemistry offstage helped us onstage and I gained friends.

“Performing off of the audience with my cast members was the most special to me. The audience reacting makes all the hard work come together and it’s all about a team effort.”

Beth Miller, from Bridgewood, NY, has performed for four seasons and could say only positive things about the experience.

“It’s a great opportunity and taught me how to put myself out there.” Beth also recalled how she updated her headshot and resume based on what she learned in the workshops.

Overall she feels prepared for when she does go out on an audition and the fact that she has to perform in front of her peers and had to audition in order to get into a showcase inspired her to work harder.

“Knowing that I have to go in front of someone each week makes me practice much more and makes me be better,” explained Beth. “My favorite was that I got to try a lot of things with my monologue. It was never the same week to week. I liked being able to experiment.”

One of the things she also learned through the process was how in a monologue you need to get connected to someone based on the situation. Even though they are invisible to the audience, to the actor they must be real.

“I learned a lot about connection and the people I was talking to. It helped me to focus,” she concluded.

Samantha Baptiste hails from Elmont, LI and she has a web site at backstage.com/samanthbaptiste. She’s one of the newbies since this is her first season.

Although you wouldn't know it from her performance, Samantha admitted to being both shy and reserved. “I learned how to put myself out there and network with actors, agents and managers,” she explained. “I never thought it would be possible doing it on my own but I've learned I can communicate with other people who are after the same thing. I never thought I would get to meet all these actors and industry.”

Samantha also went on to say that she learned about how being critiqued can help you. “I learned to accept the feedback, both positive and negative, and not take that as meaning I was a bad actor but rather perfecting my craft.”

She chose as her best piece of advice how important it is to “be original which to me means to not to be scared to try to take my acting to the next level. Be unafraid and be innovative with the piece that I have.”

Samantha concluded our conversation noting that a year ago she would have never imagined where she’d be now. “I never thought I would be in the situation where I would be networking with actors, agents and managers. That alone is a dream come true. Last year it was something I wanted to pursue but now I am on the road to doing it. I’m just excited to be here.”

Ben Brunnschweiler, who lives in NYC, is another fourth season actor who was also selected to be in Troupe 10 and like the other troupe 10 actors he feels it’s allowed him to expand as an actor.

“It has given me the opportunity to free myself up. We worked for two months with the same actors. The experience of being with them on a daily basis was amazing. Here you were with the same people day in and day out working on the same material. It became a support system that encouraged you to try something different. If it works it works, if it doesn't they will let you know.”

Ben then compared that to having to perform a monologue where you are alone and left on your own to figure out the direction. “You don’t have the other people to work off of that are giving you ideas. You have to depend on yourself, whereas in the troupe you have your fellow actors saying go for it we are right there with you so give it a shot.”

Like so many others, Ben feels he’s gained so much from the experience. “It has given me a community. I have the opportunity to sit in a room with other actors and I have been able to meet agents and managers that have indicated they want to work and freelance with me to further my career.

Season 29 is another TAPNYC home run

All in all the sentiment was that Season 29 was a home run and for founder Bobby Holder it was rewarding.

“Season 29 was one of our most exciting at The Actor’s Project NYC! We produced five Off Broadway shows that were attended by agents, managers, casting directors, and hundreds of TAPNYC supporters,” he remarked.

“What warmed my heart the most was this season we had a lot of alumni in the audience, success stories that had returned to watch the shows and many who returned to help out with ushering, concessions, etc. I think a lot of the new actors are surprised to know that we have so many represented actors helping out with their shows.”

In fact, those of us who performed in Season 29 witnessed all those alumni helping people into their seats, setting up and refreshing the stage throughout the evening and doing whatever it took to make this season another success story.

After each showcase there’s always a cast party, which gives the actors a chance to relax and get to know each other. Bobby is always encouraging the new actors to not hesitate to ask help from the alumni.

“The cast parties are always fun when I introduce a successful alumni to a new actor,” Bobby commented. “One example is that many cast members at the closing cast party recognized Darlene Dues from ‘Orange is the New Black’ (Season 2 Episode 1, Darlene played Joyce). Darlene was a TAPNYC star taking pics with everyone. It really made me feel pure joy, like all our hard work means something to a lot of actors.”

Darlene is only one of many who have successfully been able to enjoy their love of acting. If Bobby added up every success story over the 10 years (from Broadway/Off Broadway to Film /TV /Commercials and Print) that number would be in the hundreds.

“I see one common theme in most of those success stories,” continued Bobby. “Successful actors have a love of the journey and because we are part of that journey (assisting many actors land their first agent) they return to show their support and love to us season after season.”

In the acting world there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes growth and even when you land the parts any actor will tell you that there’s a lot of waiting. You need to enjoy every aspect of the acting world and not just the part where you see your face on the silver screen or stage. And you need to not take that journey by yourself. There is power in numbers.

“Actors who are in this industry need to know that the best thing you can do for your career is love the journey (rehearsals, networking, etc). So many actors make the mistake of thinking they can make it in this industry all alone. A journey by yourself is a lonely journey and usually not very successful!

“TAPNYC is an ensemble and we want you to know the journey should not be alone. Acting is not a solo career it’s a career that takes writers, directors, managers, agents, other actors, and the list goes on.”

When Bobby created his company, he did it with the idea that he wanted to create a sort of brotherhood where all of his members (past and present) are taking that journey together and now that’s exactly what has happened as was clear this year.

“Nothing will strengthen your career or your performance more than embracing an ensemble,” Bobby continued. “Enjoy the journey and the folks around you. Actors who do that in our company quickly become success stories. The actors who love the process and those around them always take direction well, connect on stage, and ace the interviews with industry.”

So now Bobby is already looking to the future. “Next at TAPNYC will be our 30th season! We have been assisting actors land agents and get work with three seasons a year. TAPNYC members and alumni dominate the rosters of many agencies and management companies in New York. We plan to celebrate that! We have an AMAZING Team at TAPNYC and we are expanding to include more directors and casting associates.

"We’re also reaching out and giving back with more FREE events for members and non-members of TAPNYC. We just started Coffee and Tea with TAPNYC which is an event once a month where members can bring non-members or any actor who is interested in knowing more about TAPNYC can attend. Actors who attend can meet The Actor’s Project NYC team and industry who are coming to our shows and working with our members and alumni.”

The Actors Project NYC is currently casting five Off Broadway Industry Showcases for Season 30. TAPNYC is a unique membership theatre company that assists its actors land agents and get work through industry showcases and new plays. To see some of their success stories check out this video: https://vimeo.com/99838031 and for more information email: info@theactorsprojectnyc.com.