By: Doug Shapiro, Accelerated Artist NYC Career Coach
“I’ve run the gamut. A to Z.
Three cheers and dammit, C’est La Vie.
I got through all of last year
And I’m here.
Lord knows, at least I was there,
And I’m here!
Look who’s here!
I’m still here!”
Hello again, my beautiful Accelerated Artists!
This article series is to offer perspectives from three very different actors who have been on the boards for a while and continually keep working. Whether you serve as a screenwriter, theatre technician, or choreographer, read this through the filter of your own calling. Part three in a three part series, this week I’ll be talking about the indomitable Deborah Tranelli. (If you’d like to check out week one in this series, featuring the experience of yours truly, click here, and week two, featuring master-man-about-town J.B McLendon click here.)
If you’re in the beginning stages, here are some ways to lay the groundwork for a long-term career. If you’ve been at it a while and in the trenches with us, here are some ideas to keep it fresh.
Deborah Tranelli, 61
Deborah Tranelli and I met performing in new musicals. She’s a phenomenal talent and now works with me as a Business Role Player with Potential Squared. Deborah was also a series regular on Dallas, which ran from 1978-1991.
“Don’t Put Labels on Yourself, There are Enough People to Do That for You.”
After graduating from Northwestern, Deborah started booking theatre work in Chicago. When she got to LA, many casting directors were hesitant to see her because she was a “theatre actor.” So, she met the one professional who could see past that and booked Dallas. Then, after working on Dallas for several years and moving to NYC, casting directors wouldn’t look at her because she was a “TV actor.”
Others may pigeonhole you, however, you know there’s more to you, so don’t limit yourself. “You have to be strong, and always explore new aspects of your talent.” Deborah chose to move to NYC to be closer to her “heart-home,” her family. And she discovered if she wasn’t going to just step on to a Broadway stage, she would have to find other avenues to make her career flourish in the Big Apple.
Deborah’s recommendation is to DIVERSIFY. For example, she is not just a “singer.” She’s explored every aspect of what that means: as a jingle singer, recording artist, concert performer, and new music theatre actor. What are all of the options available to you within your chosen artistic calling? Then, with a brainstorm you can form your action plan to pursue them!
Involve Yourself in Projects that are Exciting to You.
Deborah has an award-winning album called “A Lot of Livin’,” and was involved in every aspect of the process—from material selection, to arrangements, to mixing, to producing. “Being involved in every step of the process goes along with being totally involved with whatever you’re doing in the moment. [This] sometimes becomes a challenge when you are involved in many projects at the same time. However, being present and committed to the moment is so important to your professional character/integrity/reputation, and [it’s] why people will want to continue to work with you in addition to admiring and respecting your talent.”
After our interview for this article I suggested this section as “Create Your Own Work.” She clarified that creating her own work has been a part of it, however the larger picture is actually choosing projects that put her in a space where the pistons are firing and her creative juices are flowing. Some people find their niche and do it over and over. For Deborah, she loves to constantly retool and redefine what she’s doing, whether or not she’s leading the project. The tools are in the toolbox, but sometimes the factory has to retool to survive. “The important thing is to be ‘active and actively pursuing’ projects that get you excited and engage your true passions and gifts.” She credits this as the secret to her longevity in her career.
As Deborah’s experience has expanded, she has felt a stronger calling to mentorship and coaching. When we ran into each other on a train ride to Princeton, she shared this with me. If she hadn’t expressed to me her passion to explore this avenue, I wouldn’t have thought to recommend her to Potential Squared. Now we are working these corporate role-playing gigs together, making good money and having the time of our lives.
Shift Your Audition Mentality
You do reach a point where you get tired of the hustle and constantly putting yourself out there. So, Deborah has become more selective in her self-submissions for roles. This does not mean limiting herself to roles she thinks she can book, it actually means only submitting herself for projects that excite her.
Deborah has also shifted her audition mentality. She does the preparation work because it’s all she has to claim, and she is no longer in the approval trap—“it’s not preparing for the audition, I’m rehearsing and going in for a performance.” In the audition room itself, this shift has shifted from “looking for a handout” to “entertaining for few minutes.”
She also recommends you own your successes and failures… without dragging your failures behind you; a bitter energy level doesn’t serve you at all.
At a time when Deborah was graduating from high school and heading off to spread her wings in college, she heard a Joe Raposo song on Sesame Street (also made famous by The Carpenters): “Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear, just sing. Sing a song.” Your voice is the only one you have, so celebrate it to own it.
Perhaps J.B.’s, Deborah’s and my visions of success differ from yours. Perhaps they validate what you’ve always believed. If you walk away with nothing else from these articles, I trust what you will walk away with is the release of allowing other people’s vision of success define what yours looks like. Stick to your values. Embrace your curiosity. Enjoy redefining yourself as your career flourishes and reaches your ever-growing audience.
Are you ready to form your own custom-made action plan that aligns with your values, goals, and brand? Let’s schedule a 20-minute intro session and begin the conversation.