In her blog, Louise Sorel is sharing the story of the beginning of her acting career. In this installment, she is anxious as she awaits a meeting with a New York agent.
William Morris Agency.
1601 Broadway — eighteenth floor. Despite the June heat, I am freezing. I guess it was the elevator but my body temperature is going bonkers. Nerves. The girl at the front desk asks for my name. She is a pretty blonde, chewing gum, has teased hair and a squeaky voice. She asks my name. “Louise Sorel. I’m here to see Phyllis Raab.”
She pushes the hold button. It lights up and she announces me to the inner offices. I still don’t believe I’m going there.
“Have a seat. She’ll be right with you.”
Have a seat? I think, “I can’t sit down.” My life is on the line. I pace, pick up a Hollywood trade paper, look at all the movies being made, look at theater reviews, can’t focus. Finally.
A rotund blond in a mini skirt comes out of a door and says my name. “Miss Sorel, follow me.”
We pass little cubicles with secretaries babbling away on phones that are ringing off the hook. People are swishing up and down the halls. A door opens and there she is. A petite woman wearing the biggest pair of black-rimmed glasses I have ever seen. They appear to be bigger than her entire person. She has short brown hair, a large mouth, a cute nose and she is curled up in a swivel chair like a cat. If ever there was a sound of New York it is echoed here in her voice.
She gives me an enormous smile, giggles and says “Hello Louise, Cy Feuer says you are a very serious young lady and a very good actress. I like that. What can I do for you?”
“I just want to act, anywhere, well really on Broadway or, I don’t know, anything.” Hoping I’ve said the right thing, I’m looking through my bangs and rather long, complicated hair. I’m feeling shy, bold and crazy all at the same time.
“Well,” she says in her nasal, giggly New York twang, “I don’t know your work but I’m willing to send you up for something. There is a show coming up, a comedy that is being directed by George Abbott. It’s called Take Her, She’s Mine and it’s about college kids. I think you could be right for it. Call me tomorrow and I’ll set up and appointment.”
I’m flummoxed! George Abbott! He’s the biggest director on Broadway. Broadway! Broadway! I’m trying to be calm. I’ve learned to cover up my overly exuberant hysteria. I can’t go around jumping up and down. “Thank you so much,” I say and reach over to shake her hand.
“Don’t thank me, thank Cy Feuer.” She giggles. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Leave your answering service number with my secretary.”
I levitate out of there. There must be an angel on my shoulder.
Back onto Broadway. Alone with my exhilaration. Everyone looks like my best friend. I hop, skip and jump down the street.
Morning. Here’s your dime, Mr. Bell. I feed him and dial my service. There’s a message from Ms. Raab: I am to be at the offices of Harold Prince, the producer of the play at 2:00 pm. Done! Help? She did it! I’m going! I’m petrified.
Now I have to figure out what to wear. College clothes? Not in my wardrobe. I’ve always been a little off in the clothing department. Costumes are my thing. I’ll just have to play it down. A skirt, a blouse, a sweater? And then there’s my hair. This mop of Jewish, wild hair — I have never been to a beauty salon and certainly can’t go now. So, too bad. This is it! I am standing in line, in the hallway of the Harold Prince offices with at least fifty other actors. They all look perfect for these college roles. I am convinced that I’m too offbeat for this and just want to flee.
I stick it out and get to the casting lady, who turns out to be Mr. Abbott’s daughter, Judy. She looks at me for what seems like a minute and says, “Could you come back tomorrow, take these slides and try to look a little more collegiate? Maybe fix your hair and wear a plain blouse? Go to the Broadway Theater at 11:00 am.”
“Yes, I think I can do that,” and take a cue from her clothing. She is blond, WASPish and wears a simple cotton, short sleeved blouse with an a-line skirt. I bolt out of there and fast walk all the way back to the 90th and West End to our basement. Even the garbage smells good. I think I’ve managed to tone myself down. I’m at the Broadway theater. This is where I saw my first and only Broadway show with Ethel Merman in Gypsy.
I’m now about to audition on the stage where she stood just one year ago. I sneak around to the side door and peer in. I see an actor following the stage manager around, trying to keep up and still hold the stage. I can’t see anyone in the theater. I know I have to get through this. There must be a way to grab them. I’ve got to take a chance.
For more of Sorel’s blog, click here.