The Blanch Blog
Follow Kyle's thoughts on his artistic journey
As I look back at 2019 I am overwhelmed with gratitude by the many opportunities for growth that fell in my lap throughout the year; my first official business trip to NYC, difficult career decisions, an exciting new job, (WITH BENEFITS!) and a directing gig!
I began the year by finishing a 10 month stent of performance jobs that challenged me both physically and vocally and helped me overcome old, collegiate feelings of insecurity. I welcomed a few months of rest but was eager to get back into the audition world for fear of remaining unemployed forever. My fiancé (then girlfriend), Cat McWhirter, had just moved to the city so I could no longer avoid it like the plague!
So I visited her in late February, and in ten wonderfully exhausting days we visited friends and saw sights, saw two shows (Sleep No More and Come From Away, both imaginative and inspiring masterpieces) and went to 7 auditions together. Six years out of school and I finally realized that the audition scene in New York wasn’t the scary place my professors made it out to be. I can also finally say that I’ve waited in line, freezing at 6am only to be typed-out or never seen. But I got three callbacks (not including the dance call where I completely embarrassed myself… wasn’t the first time, won’t be the last)!
One callback was a waste of time because they asked for a rap song and I chose to do a patter-song instead… because that’s all I CAN do! I’m painfully white. They hated it… but they were impressed by my knowledge of the obscure musical Bubble Boy. The second went well, but didn’t pan out. The third I BOOKED!
It was a new, gritty, limited-run, off-broadway show called “Revelation” being produced by friends-of-friends. Unfortunately they couldn’t really pay me enough to justify moving to the city for 10 weeks. Herein lies my first professional dilemma of the year: get an off-broadway credit and go into debt, or stay in Lynchburg and self-produce / direct a production of Tuck Everlasting with friends… and probably still go into debt.
Yes, at the time I was weeks into planning what was going to be a great outdoor production at a park in Virginia and quite possibly be the beginning of the theatre company I had been trying to start for years. I had solidified the venue and was finally offered the rights despite the fact that the show was restricted at the time (never take ‘no’ for an answer… the writers have more power than the licensing agencies!). Every one of my friends were onboard and were perfect to fill all the roles and we were having production meetings and designing the set. It was going to happen!
So I decided to decline Revelation in favor of finally starting my theatre company. But the very same day I turned down that opportunity, I got a call from a connection offering me a role in School House Rock at Roanoke Children's Theatre. It would be a few months of solid work, but was it worth giving up on producing Tuck Everlasting? It wasn’t going to happen without me and I felt like I was again giving up on my true dream of directing at my own theatre company. So that was hard choice number two.
The next day I was still reeling at the fact that (for the first time ever) I was offered a professional role without auditioning when I got another unexpected call, this time from Sight and Sound Theatres, saying they are looking for an immediate replacement in their Branson production of Samson. All of this while still in NYC! So much so soon! I had randomly submitted my video reel for Sight and Sound earlier that year but I had basically given up on working there after having auditioned for them at least three times.
Eventually I accepted an ensemble role in Samson and I moved to Missouri to start by March 19th! However there were a few stressful weeks of uncertainty waiting to hear if I got the job and prayerfully deciding between the three options, all with their pros and cons. My friends were very understanding and I’m sure we will produce something wonderful together someday. RCT was not quite as forgiving as I was in contract negotiations with them when I backed out. But I’m so glad I went with Sight and Sound.
The following months were full of new challenges; from learning an entire show in a week, to learning to fall off a 12 foot cliff four different ways. The large Christian company was welcoming and I found my close friends fairly quickly. Halfway through the year I had the chance to learn another role in the show after someone left for grad school. I was given the Back-up Modabiro track; he is the old man that cuts off all of Samson’s hair. I had never played an old man before so that was a fun physical and vocal challenge.
In the fall I was asked if I wanted to direct Of Mice and Men with the local community theatre run by Sight and Sound employees on their time off. I was over-the-moon excited because I haven’t been able to direct since college and I was excited to stretch those muscles again. But more on that experience in another blog.
Auditions came and went for the upcoming season and I was cast in Miracle of Christmas as Understudy Michael / Ensemble. Again I got lucky—the man who was offered primary Michael decided to move on from Sight and Sound and I found myself getting to fly everyday as the primary warrior archangel. It was so much fun… and a bit uncomfortable until I got used to the harness.
Slowly through my time here at Sight and Sound it feels like they are trusting me with more and more. Sometimes I feel unworthy to get to do what I love while proclaiming the gospel to thousands everyday on that ginormous stage, but I am reminded that throughout history the Lord has often used people who were unqualified and unworthy to do His will. I am yet another example. Trust in the Lord and your steps will fall into place. Its a lesson I have to learn over and over; it is not always easy, but reviewing this last year has been a wonderful reminder.
This is a safe zone for me to record artistic growth. This may include: character research, behind the scenes peeks, expounding on the places I travel, interesting interactions with other humans, lessons I've learned, advice for other artists, or anything that strikes me as inspiring on any given day!