ActorQuest - Kristin Huffman Goes Inside 'Company' 15
In November, Kristin Huffman made her Broadway debut as Sarah (flute, piccolo and sax) in John Doyle's production of Company. The actress, with a new series of tales that go inside the making of Company from an actor's perspective, starting at the Cincinnati Playhouse and on to New York, continues her stories about a 15-year career that has led her to the door of the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.
This is the fiftteenth story about the "Making of Company." If you haven't read the others, go back and do so and then rejoin us here!
(I feel the need for a disclaimer on this story. Our producers treated us well. But in taking you all along on the Broadway ride, I needed to share my own personal purgatory with you. Here then is that story!).
SCENE FIFTEENTH: PURGATORY
Pur-ga-tory (Pur gah tore) n. pl. 1. a condition or place in which according to Roman Catholics and others, the souls of those dying penitent are purified from venial sins, or undergo the remaining temporal punishment for mortal sin forgiven on earth); 2. any condition or place of temporary punishment, suffering or expiation); 3. the waiting place between when you have been told you are going make your Broadway debut and the actual beginning of said Broadway show.
Let me take you through the stages of purgatory. Level One: The "I think I am in the show, but I have yet to get the actual offer" phase. Even though everyone is assured that indeed, this whole cast will transfer to Broadway…we've heard it before folks. It's entirely possible that money will change hands and so will the cast. That phase lasted about a month.
Level Two: The "Call to the agent to verbally offer the role" phase. There were no details at this point, but the verbal offer of the show was made. And….it was left that way for about a month. No one got any numbers, or exact details about start dates and whatnot. This phase also lasted about a month during which you were not sure you should mention the offer to friends and family or sit on it a while longer so as not to jinx it. There is a lot of knocking on wood connected to this phase.
Level Three: The "Here is the money we are offering, take it or leave it" phase. This is where purgatory gets a bad name. The back and forthness of it all. Agent to client to agent to producers and back. This phase could also be called the "lagtime" phase, as that is what it is made up of mostly. The time between when your agent gets back to the producer with the counter request is timed so as not to seem anxious but also so as not to be the last person back with a counter request. Then that offer sits with the producer for another week or so while they let us stew, and finally turn us down. This went on for a good three months. And nothing ever really changed. In fact, at one point the negotiator actually said "I just don't think this is going to work out". She said that in a general way to all of us, but my stomach dropped into my feet when my agent reported that back to me. Scare tactics in Purgatory? Yes, that is their job. The budget is set and they are trying to stay on track. And besides, how better to make you repent the sin of having no Broadway credits yet? Back and forth they went, while we wallowed away in purgatory waiting for our future to be decided.
At one point, in level three of purgatory, I seriously thought I had dreamt it all and that it was never going to happen. That it was all a big joke to make me quit my university gig and tell all my friends about my Broadway debut, and then to have the rug cruelly ripped out from under me. By the way, during this time it is important that friends and family call or write to find out when they can purchase their flights and reserve hotels for opening night. Since you don't want them to waste money if it all falls through and yet you also want them to get a good price if it all works out, you can successfully create a "side" purgatory for yourself here. Finally, after my agent had gone back into the fray for the ninth time to get a small amendment to the instrument maintenance clause, they all agreed and finally sent out my actual paper contract.