A fledgling actress inspires a writing life

by M.K. Perkins on March 27, 2011

Acting auditions pasted in a spiral notebook Acting auditions pasted in a spiral notebook

I recently came across a small spiral notebook that I used to organize my days the year after I graduated from college – my first year as a professional actress in New York. The cover is made out of medium-blue cardboard, nothing fancy. Inside, I hand-wrote the date on top of each lined page. Obviously I’d never heard of a personal agenda. Many of the pages are blank, testament to my difficulties landing auditions and interviews with casting directors and agents. Some pages contain pasted clippings of open casting calls I planned on attending, cut from the pages of the bibles of the business, BackStage and Show Business. Each week I’d run to the corner newsstand and buy both papers, and then hunker down at a table in the coffee shop down the block from my apartment. Filled with optimism, I’d snip from the papers any auditions I might possibly be right for, however remote my chances, and glue them into the spiral notebook.

But more than casting calls and newspaper clippings lie between the covers of this little book. The joyful self-confidence of youth leaps off the pages, especially those containing names of people I intended to call. No matter that they were some of the most powerful people in show business, I was steadfast in my belief that they would come to the phone and talk to me.

One of those names was Sam Cohn, the most powerful agent in the film business at the time. He happened to be the stepfather of a friend who introduced me to him at a wedding. Several drinks later, he informed me that I would be perfect for the ingénue lead in a new movie by famed director Paul Mazursky. I tried calling him the next day with no success. Little did I know that he had a legendary reputation for never returning phone calls.

Undeterred, I dressed in a daytime facsimile of what I’d worn to the wedding and showed up at his office at the talent agency, I.C.M.

When I asked to see Sam Cohen, I could tell the receptionist was trying hard not to laugh.

“Do you have an appointment?” she asked.

“No, but tell him his stepdaughter’s friend is outside.”

A smirk broke through her chilly expression as she picked up the phone and called him.

Long story short, he set up an audition with Mazursky for me, which turned into several callbacks before ultimately resulting in a rejection. After learning that I didn’t get the part, I remember sitting down at the counter of a coffee shop, too stunned to order. A strange man seated on the stool next to me asked if I was all right and I found myself pouring my heart out to him. I don’t remember exactly what he said to me, but it had something to do with my being young and having other opportunities, all the platitudes you’d expect from a kind stranger.

Somehow I managed to get up from the counter and, with the resilience of youth, move on with my life. Although I’ll never forget that first searing rejection when I yearned for a life in the theater, I mostly remember my unwavering belief that anything was possible and it would all turn out right in the end.

And ever since those early days, that same confidence resurfaces from time to time, spurring me on to try something new. Like writing a novel about a struggling young actress named Kate Sachs.

What early experiences shaped your writing life?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

James March 28, 2011 at 7:43 pm

Great story, but you left out the part where you DID, in fact, get some pretty impressive gigs, no? Your persistence paid off, as it will again with your writing.

Good luck with your new site, Michele. Looks great!


M.K. Perkins March 29, 2011 at 9:06 am

Thank you so much, Jim.


Patrick Alarcon February 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Can’t wait to read your book. My wife Nita and I love reading about works set in this area. I wrote a fictional book which takes place on my daily walks through the rolling hills of Redding where we live. It is not good at all but after reading about your eight rejections for publication in the Redding Pilot, I must admire your efforts. Good luck with future works.


M.K. Perkins February 22, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Thank you so much, Patrick. I wish you the best with your book.


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