My dream started in high school. It was my junior year and I was in my first drama class. Mr. Wonder was the teacher and his personality fit his name. He had a big broadway smile. His hair was a shiny dirty blonde turning white with a combover. He stood about 5’11 and his voice projected through the back of the room as he began his intro to the class. I immediately felt at home. I knew that this is where I wanted to be for the rest of my life. Not a junior in high school but an actor around other actors; playing, pretending, inventing. The first lesson in class was pantomiming. Mr. Wonder made us all pretend we were breaking into and apartment through a window. After that first day Mr. Wonder became my first acting mentor.
I was lucky to have Mr. Wonder as my teacher. The knowledge he gave me was invaluable. Mr. Wonder was generous and happy to share the way. He himself was a professional broadway actor in his hay day. He shared his stories of auditions, his process and the shows he was on. He was a great piano player and knew all the show tunes and could sing them all. He directed all the plays in school and loved what he did. I remember telling Mr. Wonder “This is what I want to do. I want to be an actor”.
I had a lot of questions. Where do I start? How do I find an agent? What do I need to do? Believe it or not when I was in high school in the early 90’s google and youtube didn’t exist. I depended on my teacher. He explained to me how to get started. The first thing to do was to pick up 2 acting editorials. One was called The Ross Report. A book that came out monthly and had all the agents in NY listed with their address and what they were looking for. The other was Backstage Magazine. This magazine had everything I needed to get started, inside I could find a photographers to take my headshots as well as other acting classes and info. It had all the casting breakdowns from broadway, TV, dance and film. You could submit yourself. Backstage came out every Thursday in NYC. Lucky for me, I live in Downtown Jersey City which was only 2 stops to Manhattan but I didn’t have to go all the way into the city to get it because I found a news stand by the Grove Street train station that carried it.
I quickly found a photographer and took my first black & white headshots at 17. It became my routine every Thursday morning to go early and grab Backstage Magazine and start going through all the Theater, TV and film breakdowns in New York. I looked for all the descriptions that fit a 17 year old puerto rican or latino. I would highlight each one and write the address on manilla envelopes, add my headshot and resume and a short cover letter. I would then mail them all out. It would vary between 5 and 10 envelopes a week. It’s a good thing I had a job at the pizza shop.
Mr. Wonder really was a treasure for me. He answered all my questions and prepared me for my adventure. Showed me how to prepare my resume and what to expect at auditions; little nuances that I still use to this day. I don’t know if I would be where I am if I hadn’t met Mr. Wonder. Mr. Wonder showed me the way and I ran with it. Now it’s your turn.
Thanks Mr. Wonder