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Actors Tell Their Telsey Tales

Thanks to Bernie Telsey, I have a wife and a career. When I first came to New York, I volunteered for a short while at MCC Theater, where Bernie and Robert LuPone are artistic directors. Bernie, Will Cantler, and David Vaccari had me be a reader for a couple of auditions. A month or two later, Wit was coming in from Long Wharf to MCC, and there was one male role open. Bernie asked me to come in and audition. I got the role. During the 18-month run of Wit, I got to work with three amazing lead actresses—Kathleen Chalfant, Judith Light, and Lisa Harrow—and I fell in love with my wife, Jodi Schoenbrun, who at the time was general manager of MCC. If I hadn't been cast, we would never have spent all that time together and would never have fallen in love. I went on from Wit to do TV (Law & Order, One Life to Live, Guiding Light), theater (Off-Broadway and regional), and lots of commercials, and Jodi and I have been together for over 10 years. Thanks, Bernie!

Brian Carter

The funniest experience I've ever had at Telsey's office was my callback for Jerry Springer: The Opera. I went to the EPA for this production, which was a big-deal concert at Carnegie Hall. I auditioned for the role of Shawntel, who is this larger-than-life, voluptuous pole dancer. For the final callback, I had to sing "I Just Wanna Fucking Dance," Shawntel's power ballad.

I knew I would have to pull out all the stops to convince the casting panel that I fit the role. I went to Victoria's Secret to purchase a hot red bustier in my size: 36D. I showed up for my callback in the bustier, a short denim skirt, knee-high boots, and the gaudiest dangling earrings I could find. When the audition began, I sang, "I don't give a fuck no more/If people think I am a whore/I just wanna dance/I just wanna fucking dance." Wailing G's and A's at the top of my vocal range, I began to give over to the character. I was extremely grateful to be considered for such a high-profile concert. Wearing the costume and singing those notes pushed me way beyond my comfort zone and was a great acting challenge.

Mara Jill Herman

I've auditioned for Telsey lots of times, but one time I will never forget was not an audition for me but a Godspell audition for my awesomely talented friend Kevin Kahoon. He made up a skit based on a story in the Bible, and he asked me to play a blind man who can suddenly see. When I got there for Kevin's audition, I mentioned to him that I was in the middle of my own callback, for 13 at Chelsea Studios, and was in a rush to get back. Kevin told this to the people at Telsey, and they let him go early so that I wouldn't be late. My part was to enter, tear off my sunglasses, and yell, "I'm saved! I can see!" while Kevin was singing and dancing and shouting, "Praise the Lord!" They loved it, and it was some of the most fun I've ever had at an audition. And because they were so helpful, I was able to get back to my own audition on time (and book the job). So thank you, Telsey; you guys are the best! (Plus, last November, they cast me as Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird at Hartford Stage.)

Henry Hodges

After a few callbacks for The Capeman and Rent, I finally landed my first stage job through Bernie Telsey with De La Guarda at the Daryl Roth Theatre. It changed my life in many ways. Bernie's office and staff were still fresh on the casting scene, and they were so down-to-earth and made you feel extremely comfortable. Their offices over the years were always painted in vibrant colors, with great art on the walls, and the staff was filled with energetic, youthful vibes that oozed "cool factor." You always felt this staff was moving upwards and onwards, climbing towards many goals. I never felt threatened or scared about auditioning for Bernie or his office, because they manage to make you feel at ease the moment you walk through the door. They root for you. They treat you with kindness. And they never gave up on me after so many tries on other callbacks. Congratulations to Bernie and company, and thank you.

Alex Perez

My story about Bernie starts way back when in the '80s, when we were developing plays for MCC Theater. He and Bobby LuPone had created this fledgling company dedicated to producing new and exciting theater. So they set up these fun weekends in a big house out on Long Island, where it was like we were all back at camp, except this camp was for play readings. When we struck upon one in which all the elements jelled, Bernie and Bobby would produce it.

I was lucky enough to be cast in a play loosely based on Billie Jean King. Bernie took us all to the U.S. Open, which was a really cool gesture and produced a lot of camaraderie for us as a cast.

Bernie has always been and continues to be a really cool, down-to-earth, bleepin' talented guy. People love being around him because of that and the fact that he does his job so well, with a keen eye for the best-trained and most talented actors around. And for hiring like-minded and highly skilled people like Will Cantler, David Vaccari, Bethany Berg, and Tracy Little Canfield to help carry out his vision. May there be many more years of Telsey + Company, so the country's entertainment pool will continue to dazzle and amaze its audiences. Bravo, Bernie!

Maggie Reed

I first met Bernie Telsey in the early 1980s, when both of us cut college classes to work as extras on All My Children. Bernie seemed familiar to me, but I couldn't quite place his face. Then in the 1990s, I enjoyed a decade-long association with MCC, the theater group run by Bernie and Bob LuPone. One summer, a bunch of us MCCers were in Newport, R.I., to volunteer with a local spinal-cord rehabilitation facility. During a break from the program, we went downtown to the tourist-heavy pier area. Some people got all flustered when we passed by; they stopped us to ask for autographs. I had graduated from extra work to a recurring role on All My Children, so I figured they were talking to me. But they brushed right by me—they wanted Bernie. They exclaimed, "We loved you on The Partridge Family!" Nothing Bernie said could convince them that he was not former child star Danny Bonaduce.  So he finally gave in and, with a smile, gave them his autograph. Bonaduce's autograph.

Bill Timoney

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