I spent my first few years out of university doing the usual showcase and non-Equity work. I had the good fortune, despite my non-union status, to be freelancing with a few provisionally supportive agents. One of them sent me to an audition for the Wilma Theatre of Philadelphia, where Jiri and Blanka Zizka saw in me enough raw material to make them believe they could mold me into something like the actor they needed to play Dorian Gray, in their multimedia adaptation of [Oscar] Wilde's story. That job meant so much to me, not least because it provided me with my Equity Card.
ANDRÉ DE SHIELDS
It was 1969 — the final Summer of Love. While finishing my studies at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), I learned Tom O'Horgan was holding auditions for the Chicago production of Hair. I had to be there or be square, but how? Money was scarce, so in order to raise round-trip bus fare I sold points in my future career to a few believing friends. The little money I had raised didn't include funds for an overnight stay in the Windy City. I slept in Grant Park, used the facilities in the Shubert Theatre to freshen up, sang Wilson Picket's "Midnight Hour," did something "sensitive" when asked to demonstrate movement, and, in September, opened in Ragni and Rado's legendary musical as a member of the Potawatomi Tribe. The rest, as they say, is history.
(This feature appears in the January 2013 issue of Playbill magazine.)
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