By Susan Myhr Fritz
I didn’t know it would be my last audition—for over a decade. In a back room of the NY Downtown Hospital, sequestered from the “regular” crowd of patients seeking treatment or remedies for more quotidian ailments, my husband Dan was being treated with caution—potentially contagious with a yet-to-be-determined disease. Was it TB? That was TBD… I turned to him, Dan, all 29 years old and 6’4” of him, and said something like, “I hate to leave you alone, but need to go.” I had two AEA auditions that afternoon. I’d memorized, I’d prepared—heck, I had even scheduled appointment times for once!
It was the actor’s life and as much as I sometimes loathed it, I loved it. Loved and breathed it.
Dan was the part of my life that was steady, steadfast, and would always be there. Acting was… the slippery endeavor I grasped and clawed my way to make stay—if even for the 60 seconds or fewer it took to perform the monologue that day. “Stay, though thou kill me, sweet Demetrius!” Iambic pentameter in time with my uncertainty. I didn’t know that day that these auditions would soon occupy an insignificant space in my life’s rearview mirror.
I never got a callback, but my life changed in other ways that day when doctors discovered that my husband’s ailment wasn’t contagious, but was devastating. He was diagnosed with cancer, and everything changed. The spoiler is thus: he died, as did the hopes I once had for my career. Circumstances being what they were, acting was no longer the be-all end-all of my life. It felt frivolous to make art important when my grief lived at center stage. Life moves in phases, though, and events big and small change it.
So, over a decade later, after giving up on my childhood dreams of acting on the big stage or screen, I found myself curious about the possibility of revisiting my acting life inside of the tiny squares many of us became accustomed to because of the pandemic.
My own square space to occupy for 4.5 hours, 3 nights per week. Zoom-land was small enough to feel safe and somewhat anonymous; large enough to change my entire perspective. Zoom as creative ember? Who knew?
Not I, but here I sit, a couple of weeks out of the Global Virtual Conservatory:
a changed performer, a changed person, and—most significantly—a true friend, colleague, and ally of and for the 11 other spectacular humans I shared those aforementioned Zoom squares with.
The expression “Art for art’s sake” always irritated me… I somehow was taught to believe that nothing is worthwhile unless it leads to something tangible or measurable (or pays…). Although a lot of “measurables” materialized from our GVC group, such as solo pieces we wrote and performed (my desire to write a one-woman show inspired), the in-depth study of the Practical Aesthetics technique, and weekly self-tape work, we also had the freedom and flexibility of low-stakes. None of this—not even the short films we collaborated on and filmed—would go on our “Permanent Record”—acting or otherwise.
There were no grades, and the only failure possible would have been to give up on ourselves and each other in this virtual laboratory.
This didn’t happen in our Zoom family. As the weeks passed and life continued happening, we took turns lifting each other up in a way that is truly rare. My GVC cohort became my creative family—incredible artists who brought their best and left as collaborators. To date, I’ve even met 3 of them, as the kids say, IRL! Yes, I am excited to see what’s next for my acting re-do, but I’m equally curious about my GVC friends—I will cheer them on stage, screen, Zoom squares, and beyond. Turns out perhaps the end wasn’t an end; there’s no “last audition” until the final curtain falls.
Susan Myhr Fritz
Susan Myhr Fritz is a native of Great Falls, Montana, who initially left her home state to attend the University of Pennsylvania. A circuitous educational route led her to a semester at New York University’s CAP21, an internship at the Late Show with David Letterman, a semester abroad at Trinity College in Dublin, and—finally (phew!)—a BA from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU.
Susan is a longtime student and instructor of yoga, nomadic pet-sitter, English as a Second Language teacher, and former Peace Corps volunteer. She earned her SAG card playing a flesh-eating zombie in the film I Am Legend. Favorite theatre roles range from a stint at quirky off-off-Broadway theatre Under St. Marks, to new works at Columbia University. Her first book, Everything Relevant Has Already Been Said, was published last May. Currently a Writing Coach for the Akimbo workshop, Writing in Community, Susan loves composing birthday haikus for her friends and, thanks to the inspiration of the GVC, is working on a one-woman show. susanmfritz.com
Global Virtual Conservatory
Rooted in multicultural perspectives on performance methodology, this remote program draws from Atlantic Acting School and Atlantic Theater Company’s broad and diverse pool of working artists – from NY to LA, Argentina, Australia, London, and beyond! Over the course of three concentrated six-week trimesters, students will develop three distinct portfolio pieces – a self-scripted solo project, a film project, and a collaborative group project.