Q & A Kevin Bernard
KB: I want to start by saying there are a thousand ways to make it through life and this business. I always enjoy doing talk backs after a show because invariably somebody asks “how did you get to Broadway.” My first show was great because I often did a talk back with another girl in the cast who was the other side of the coin. She had never sung on stage, never acted on stage and never auditioned for a show! And, it took her one audition. One day! Then I loved to follow her with, “It took me ten years and at least a hundred auditions!” So, all I can speak to is my journey. It has been wonderfully full of laughter and tears.
BB: Where did you got to college for theatre and/learn the trade in order to move to NYC to pursue theatre as a career?
KB: I started at University of Texas on an acting scholarship, and then transferred to University of Houston to finish my degree. I was fortunate to have started working professionally when young and was surrounded by theatre people who had the utmost respect for the art and professionalism of theatre. I still remember (and repeat to students) my favorite lesson from my childhood days in the theatre. I had an early director tell me to imagine there is a box at the door as you enter the rehearsal room. As you enter, deposit your ego there. It will be waiting for you as you leave. It was a concise way to get the point across that we were there to serve something greater than ourselves.
BB: As far as schooling/training what were some attributes to studying there?
KB: The University of Texas gave me some great foundation work, but I ultimately decided I needed to finish training at UH where I received a BA in their acting department. Looking back, I believe the best part of my training at UH was their well-rounded curriculum. They didn’t push a single approach to acting. Our acting teachers all seemed to come at it from different angles.
BB: What is one thing that you learned while actively pursuing a NY stage career that you wish you would have known/learned before moving to the city?
KB: There are no rules and nothing is fair. That seems bleak, but I don’t mean it as such. It just means, I had to constantly adjust and remember that life is a journey. I had to quit measuring myself against others. It is so much more of a business than I thought it was going to be. The power of the people between you and the creative staffs overwhelmed me. I couldn’t believe how hard it was just to be seen for a project. My first job I booked out of NYC was a great lesson. I went to an EPA and was cut by the casting director basically when I walked in the room. However, the director (who wasn’t at the EPA) had worked with me once in Texas. I saw him on the street and he said I should come audition for his show (the one I had just been cut from). Of course, I go to his invited call and booked it! Don’t forget it’s a business. I put a lot of effort into denying that.
BB: How was the transition from going from college to pursuing a NY career?
KB: I was an odd-ball. I didn’t move here to make it as an actor. I had planned to go to LA to act. I spent one weekend in NYC and was pretty much hooked. I was scared and awe-struck. There was no place else I could picture myself living. It was brutal trying to make it as an actor. I had limited connections. I had no agent. I didn’t come from a well-connected university. I was just another nobody: sitting on sidewalks, shuffling through lines, freezing my ass off, getting rejected…and I loved every minute of it. I just dove right in.
BB: How/when did you get your first Broadway job?
KB: I got my first job on Broadway ten years after moving to the city. I didn’t move here to get on Broadway. I moved to NYC because it was so full of art, energy and life. I slowly got interested in Broadway and made failed attempts for years to make it there. It wasn’t until I decided to stop leaving town and put all my energy into training and auditioning that I finally landed the Oklahoma! revival directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Susan Stroman.
BB: Can you offer a piece of audition advice?
KB: Serve the script and serve the song. Whether you are doing a scene, monologue or song, try to leave yourself out of the equation. When I finally stopped serving myself in the audition I felt like things went a lot better. I mean, don’t try to show them why they should hire you. Just go in and tell your story. Make sure you know exactly what your objective is and how you are going to achieve it. That helps to drown out all the noise/anxiety of the audition room. And, of course, tell yourself you are a “rock star” before you enter the room! The business is harsh. You just have to rise about that reality. Keep a healthy circle of friends. Go run in the park. Take a big deep breath and tell yourself life is full of failures, which will make your successes that much sweeter. My granddaddy always said in business it took ten “nos” to get to one “yes.” I explained to him in OUR business it was more like 100 “nos”!
BB: What was/is your day job and other ventures in between gigs or do you do both simultaneously?
KB: I have been very fortunate to spend most of my life in NYC working as an actor. Lately I have been teaching more, which has brought me great joy and enabled me to choose a little more specifically what I want to do on stage.
BB: Do you still train/work on your craft? How? Where?
KB: My current training is teaching others. I have returned to studying and growing as an actor in a way I never anticipated. I have gained so much more insight into my craft by teaching others. I have gone back to reading acting books. My latest favorite is Grotowski’s “Towards a Poor Theatre.”
BB: Any words of inspiration or anything else you want to say/impart?
KB: Steel yourself. Screw your courage to the sticking place. And, live your life!
Kevin Bernard – Currently standing by for James Lecesne in The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey. Recently starred in critically acclaimed The Hero, Metropolitan Playhouse NYC. Broadway: Billy Elliot, Curtains, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Oklahoma! Off-Broadway: Lone Star Love and R.U.R. Off-Off and more Off: plenty. Also has been seen in many music venues downtown as a singer/songwriter. Favorite regional work: It’s A Wonderful Life. Favorite national tour: Jesus Christ Superstar. And all crowned with my loving family: Heather, Billie and Henderson. www.kevinbernard.com