Talk Art to Me: You’ve Got Mad Skills by Vito Leanza

 

Vito in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in a costume he designed and built.

“Any acrobatics? Tell us more about your rope spinning.”

How many of you have gone to an audition and have been asked similar questions by the folks behind the table at your audition? For me, personally, it happens all the time.

When I first moved to New York City in 1995 to pursue a career in Musical Theatre, the buzz word flying around was “Triple Threat.” For those who don’t know what that means, it refers to being a Singer, Dancer and Actor. What more could Producers and Directors want? That was the whole package!

Back then (and still true today) many dancers, were strictly dancers, some could sing, but their forte was dance. They were known as Dancers who
sing. Singers on the other hand, same scenario, were Singers who could dance or Singers Who Move Well. No one really asked you if you could act, they just assumed you could. They would know more if they handed you sides to study.

In todays competitive world of Musical Theatre, Film and Television, its almost demanded that we have a special skill to make us stand out, to land that role. This is true especially in Musical Theatre where shows are much more flashy, technical and exciting! Take the recent revival of Pippin! You get the picture? Our special skills are just as important as our singing/dancing and acting lessons.

Before I found my way into musical theatre, I just happen to have many special skills. I learned because I was interested in them, not because I needed them for my resume. Here’s my list of special skills that I love to rattle off to folks for fun, but they are all true.

I am a Singer/Dancer/Actor/ Acrobat/Puppeteer/Stilt Walker/Unicyclist/
Juggler/Improv Actor/Writer/Costume Designer. In fact at one point, below
my special skills on my resume, I was bold and wrote “Creative Beyond
Belief.”

Vito as an acrobat in Joseph and the
Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

I learned all these skills bit by bit as time went by. I learned how to ride a unicycle at age 9 because a unicycle club came and performed at my elementary school. As a kid, I was also a springboard diver. I competed in high school and was a scholarship athlete in college. I had always been acrobatic and one day, while hanging around my church gym, I took those diving skills and transferred them into tumbling skills, which lead me to being a Varsity Cheerleader for 3 years. After college, I worked at Walt Disney World where I learned how to be a puppeteer and stilt walker, which were jobs within my job as a character performer and dancer. Eventually that lead me to dance classes and Musical Theatre.

When I moved to NYC and had a real resume, I would be at auditions and the producers would glance down and look at my special skills and almost always ask about my acrobatics. In fact, I got 90% of my jobs because of my special skills.

In 1997, I auditioned for the national tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I went in and sang and they asked me to return for a call back. Before I walked away, something compelled me to speak up about being an acrobat. It’s important that when you have the opportunity to sell what makes you unique, you do it! The folks behind the table lit up and said when I returned for my callback, I could tumble for them. The next day at the dance call, they asked me to tumble and I did a few tricks for them. I got the job and spent 15 months on the road.

I am now in the Atlanta Gay Mens Chorus and currently working at Stone Mountain Park during their Pumpkin Festival. I was called in to audition at Stone Mountain Park after I was seen at Unifieds. I was asked to prepare a comedic monologue and a song. I did my monologue then sang my song. They (and there were 4 folks behind the table that day) looked down at my special skills and began to ask about each special skill one by one. One director literally said “Stop, I didn’t hear a word after you said Costume Designer.” He was still trying to process that when the others where already asking about my circus skills and my puppeteering. Clearly I got the job. But I actually got 3 separate jobs from that one audition. I was hired as a Puppeteer, an Improv Actor and a Costume Designer. Here’s the kicker, I am also riding my Unicycle in a parade as well as Juggling. 5 skills utilized!

Life is a journey. We learn new things that lead us to other new things. As performers, we have a world of opportunity to learn new special skills.
Atlanta has more and more quality theaters opening all the time, plus more tv shows and movies filming here. I encourage you to seek out a
Puppeteering class, an acrobatics/tumbling class, a circus skills class. Make yourself more marketable. There’s a reason it’s called a Play.

Vito holding a Shrek Dragon Puppet that he made.

Connect with Vito:

Email: vitoworld@yahoo.com
Website: http://vitoworldproductions.com/

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