When I first moved to New York I was ill-prepared for the winter. I thought a simple pea coat and scarf would be just fine. As a young actress just emerging from the cozy womb of a college theatre program, I was also ill-prepared for the idea of getting up at 5 AM to wait in line for hours outside of a building I hoped to have the chance to audition in. Though I was a Girl Scout for thirteen years, preparedness was not my forte.
When you audition frequently, you develop a routine. You make “audition friends”, some of whom blossom into real friendships, whereas others never progress beyond sign up buddies and partners in the quest to “get seen” at any given call. You plan your weeks together based on who will be the earliest to rise to be the signer.
I had lots of “audition acquaintences”, but I did begin to form a few actual friendships. One such lady was Daniella; a smart, interesting female to talk (or not talk) with for hours.
One particularly early and frigid January morning, Daniella came upon me waiting in line outside of the Actor’s Equity Association Building. In my pea coat, I was truly frozen through and praying for a freakishly early sunrise. She freaked out. She told me I was going to get sick; she told me this was not going to help my career. I needed a real coat. I told her I was completely fine and that she shouldn’t worry. I couldn’t defend myself further as I was certain I would crack a tooth from shivering.
We sat the miserable day out, waiting for our turns to go in, say monologues and be thanked for our time. After those fleeting moments of glory, we made plans for the next audition and moved on with our respective days.
A week later, we found ourselves outside in that line again, but this time, Daniella had a present for me. “It isn’t very nice to look at, but it will keep you warm.”
She had lugged this enormous old sleeping bag of an ankle-length down coat all the way from Queens to Midtown. It was tattered in places and the down trailed behind me wherever I went. It was the most beautiful coat I’ve ever worn. It kept me in fighting shape through two brutal audition winters.
Though I no longer have the coat (having passed it on to a different actress friend when my dad bought me a new one a couple years back), and I no longer know Daniella, the memory of her generosity and kindness in the face of my stubborn pride warms me to this day.