As the line Frank Sinatra made famous goes, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere. It’s up to you, New York, New York.” More than a few Broadway hopefuls have come to the city with the same dream: that of making it big. Michael Minarik, a swing in Broadway’s Rock of Ages is living that dream, and he has some tips for those who want to follow in his footsteps. In our interview, Minarik recounts his own journey—from performing at a small theater in New Hampshire to becoming a New York City real estate agent to pay the bills to that fateful day he received a call inviting him to perform with Rock of Ages.
Minarik has been with Rock of Ages since opening night in 2009 after acting in the pre-Broadway workshop of the show in 2008. He is also working on Fat Camp, an off-Broadway musical, which premiered last year.
COOL JOB Q&A
NY: What was your first job in theater?
MM: Performing for a summer in Lincoln, N.H., at the Papermill Theatre. I was paid 90 dollars a week, and we lived in an old ski lodge in bunk beds. We rehearsed a show during the day and did a different show at night. When I wasn’t rehearsing a show during the day at the end of the season, I was a bus boy at a local restaurant to make extra money. One of the best summers of my life.
NY: When did you first come to NYC? What did you do when you got here?
MM: I came to NYC after performing in two national tours out of school. When I arrived here, everyone told me I needed a “survival job” to make it through the lean times when you weren’t performing in a show. I was reading the Village Voice one day, and on the back there was an ad that said “You want to make 2K a week?” I thought, Sure I do. So I went and got my real estate license, applied for the job, and became a real estate agent in NYC renting apartments. I met the most interesting people, and learned a lot about the city. Loved it.
NY: How did you get involved with Rock of Ages?
MM: I auditioned for the show in 2008. They did a reading, which is where you perform the show for other potential investors. I thought it was amazing. I didn’t do the Off Broadway show, and then re-auditioned for it again in 2009 when it was coming to Broadway. I remember getting the call from my agent on 47th and 8th that I got the job. I was standing right in front of the Starbucks there. The funny thing is that the show was going to be in the Brooks Atkinson Theatre right there on 47th and 8th where I got the phone call. Changed my life.
NY: Is New York the best place to pursue theater? What makes it easy, what makes it difficult?
MM: I think so. NYC has so many opportunities to do theater. From fringe festivals, to readings of new musicals, to Off Broadway, to nonprofit, to Broadway. There are seemingly new shows popping up all the time about the widest ranging of subjects. It seems like every day I hear about a new musical being mounted. The difficulty is there is so much talent. I mean it’s incredible. You can go see a cabaret act of a friend who has never been on Broadway, and you hear them sing and perform and think, how in the heck are they not starring in a Broadway show? And then you realize, Wow, the talent pool is so deep.
NY: Where are the best places to network in the city?
MM: I would think almost anywhere. I know that sounds cliché, but I play in the Rock of Ages softball team where the Broadway shows play against each other every morning [in the Broadway Show League]. Even there you can meet new people involved in Broadway shows. So I think, honestly, in this city, if your ears and eyes are open, you can find someone involved in theater—even when you are up to bat in a game and the catcher behind you might be a choreographer of a new musical. It’s pretty incredible.
NY: For someone just getting into NY theater, what should they expect? What’s the initial auditioning process like?
MM: It’s tough. I remember my first audition experience. I was sitting there for eight hours waiting for my appointment. If you don’t have an agent you have to wait. I did it, and thousands of others do it too. But if this is what you really want and you believe in yourself, then the eight hours seem like nothing because just being in NYC auditioning for a big show is what you always dreamed of anyway. And remember, the people behind the table auditioning you want you to succeed. It makes their job easier if you are amazing because then they are done looking and they found the person they want! Just know that and have fun!
NY: What advice would you give someone trying to break into the business? What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
MM: The best advice I was ever given was don’t ever audition for the role when you first go in for something. You have no idea what the creative team (director and such) is looking for. It’s like trying to solve a math problem without knowing calculus. These directors and choreographers and producers and casting directors are doing so many projects. So if you aren’t right for this one, don’t worry—they might think, “Hey! They aren’t right for Oklahoma, but I am directing Sweeney Todd in five months and I think they are perfect for that.” So just go in and do your best at first. It’s not about the job; it’s about doing your best.
NY: What does an average day look like for you?
MM: Well I usually wake up at 8 or 9am and go for a run or workout. Being on Broadway is a physically demanding profession. You are essentially an athlete. You have to keep healthy and in shape to do a show eight times a week, or in my case three to four times. I cover five roles in Rock of Ages, so I have to go on at a moment’s notice—from the character who dances up a storm, lifts people, moves tables, and climbs a 30-foot pole to the bar owner who is much less physically active. Then I usually have an audition or two for a commercial, TV show, or another musical; then I am working on some side projects of my own.
If I am not called to go on that night, I walk to the show with my friend who is also in Rock of Ages, and I am at the theater by 7:30pm. I’m done at 10:30pm and go home. If I am called that day to go on for someone, I warm up my voice at home for 30 minutes, drink some tea, get to the theater early and go over my part and stretch on stage. We do a quick rehearsal with the cast to make sure I don’t drop anyone in the lifts and such, and then it’s time to put on the glam makeup, get into microphone, go over my lines in my head and BOOM I am on a Broadway stage. It’s the best job in the world, and I feel blessed every day that I get to do it.