By Jeilianne Vazquez & Ethan Baez
Emmanuel Cologne is a senior BA Theatre major who recently made his professional debut as Paul in A Chorus Line at City Springs Theatre Company. We spoke to Emmanuel about the audition process, rehearsal process, and what learned from this experience.
What was the audition process like?
It started all the way back in October 2021 with an open call video submission to City Springs. I sent it in mid- to late-October, and I didn’t hear anything for a while. I saw that they were having the Atlanta callbacks the first week of December, and I hadn’t gotten called back at all for that. I was like, “well, that’s that’s weird,” but I remembered that on the sign-up sheet, there was a place to check if you’re a local, and I was like, “well, I live an hour away, so I guess I’m technically not a local,” so that was a stupid mistake. Essentially, I didn’t find out I got called back for the show until maybe a day or two after New Years. I got the email and I was like, “oh my god, I have to go to New York City!” That was a big thing, that the callbacks were in New York City, and I had no idea that they were in New York.
I called my dad and said, “Hi Dad, Can you loan me some money for a plane ticket?” and he did, so I just dropped everything. I went to New York, had my first professional callback experience at Ripley Greer Studios in New York City. You look out the window of the studio, and the Empire State Building is right there. Turn a couple blocks past Times Square, and you’re in the theater district. It was just really surreal for me to be there.
I arrived in New York a day before and then I prepped everything for the next morning. I go in to the audition and a lot of people who already know each other are there and I’m the only one that’s like, “I literally don’t know anybody here right now.” It’s my first time ever “breaking out into the industry.” So I sign in, I warm up and then we go into the dance call and there’s Baayork Lee with her four-foot-ten self just standing there ready and excited to teach us the opening combination and the ballet combination. I was like, “Oh my god, I don’t care what happens at this point. I’m just really excited to be here.”
We learn the opening and she works us to the bone. We do it over and over and over and it’s in this very encouraging environment. It was very exciting. That’s the first round and then they ask you to stay and sing. So I dance my heart out, did everything and we eventually had to do groups of two. We go to the holding room and we wait to see if they want us to sing for them. I got called back to sing and I said, “Oh great, made it pass the first round!” That’s fantastic. That’s what everybody wants. I went in and sang and it went great. After that, I just let it go. I said, “Whatever happens, happens.” Later, I got the email that I got called back for the role of Paul San Marco. I was like, “Well, this is everything that I wanted fully. Holy crap.”
So I get prepped with the sides, the whole monologue, the song, everything. I go in the next day, I’m not called until like five o’clock. Mind you, my flight is at like 7:30-7:45pm. I go in and they see us—it was me and two other guys called back for Paul. We go in one by one. We do the song, the monologue, everything. I thought it went okay, I did what I could do. I was really nervous because when Baayork was right there and you’re doing this iconic piece, you’re freaking out.
I ran all the way through midtown Manhattan to get to the airport. I didn’t hear for two days and then I got the call that I had gotten a part as a swing and understudy for Paul, Mark, and Larry. I was like, “Oh great, I’m in the show!” I get to be in the opening and I get to understudy three principal roles. Then, a week later, I got a call and they asked me if I would like to take on the role of Paul. Like, are you kidding me? Yes! Oh my god. It was crazy. I was freaking out, I had my dream role.
I was so nervous about the process. You get what you’ve been asking for for such a long time, but now I’m having this huge case of imposter syndrome because I’m gonna be in a room full of people who’ve been in Broadway shows and they’ve been in national tours. They’ve done the thing. I’m this random guy from Gainesville, Georgia, who’s never done anything like this before. I’ve been wanting it for a long time, particularly this show. I’m prepping mentally and everything. Then we have the first day rehearsal and I’m so, so nervous. But everyone was really nice and welcoming and I just ease myself into the process.
What an incredible story! How did you celebrate your achievement?
Well, when I initially got the swing understudy contract, I remember I was at Allie Hill’s apartment with Grace Deedrick and Abby Hand (all GTA students) and we did a toast and it was cute! But then when I got the call that I got Paul, I was in the car. I was in the parking lot of the Hosch and the first person I tried to call was my mom but she was at work, so she didn’t answer. I called Allie Hill and I said I got Paul! She was on her way to go to Michael Jablonski’s tap class and she went to the Hosch saying, “Where are you? We’re gonna go tell Michael!” So we ran to Michael’s class and I was like, I got the part! Then I took the tap class.
How was the rehearsal process different from your classes or being in shows with GTA?
I would say that GTA prepares you for professional setting. However, these were very professional people that were on top of their game. The good thing is that Baayork allowed us room to make mistakes. She really made it clear that this is rehearsal, and it’s okay to make choices. If you make a mistake, you’re in rehearsal for a reason. There was this huge sense of professionalism that was really inspiring and really motivating. It made you really want to step up your game every time you were in rehearsal. But of course, we’re still theatre people. During our breaks we joke around, laugh, talk. It wasn’t all super serious.
How long was the rehearsal process?
It was a really, really quick rehearsal process. I think we had maybe three or four weeks until we went into the theatre. It was super quick to get all the material in. It was really nice because we learned everything and then we had time to clean everything up.
Did you feel that GTA prepared you to work professionally?
I felt pretty prepared. The only thing that was in the way for me was just those nerves and imposter syndrome. But, once you get through those hard days, I realized I do belong here and once you get through that and you do the work and you do all the preparation. I feel like GTA, and the faculty especially, really prepared me to carry myself as a professional versus just a student.
What have you learned from this experience?
I wanted this role for the longest time and I resonate so much with a role like this. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, I was very vulnerable. I’m on stage by myself for like 10 minutes, and it feels like centuries, in one of the few moments in the show where it’s complete silence and it’s just me speaking. I learned how to be very vulnerable and very okay with flooding my emotions out to thousands of people and being comfortable with that. I’m sure there will be roles in the future where I will have moments of, “Should I even be doing this?” But I think now I feel very confident going out there and getting what I want in terms of auditioning and just pounding the pavement. Of course, there’s always still gonna be those nerves, right? For an audition, they’re always will be. But I feel very confident and where I’m going in life in terms of being an artist.
Do you have any advice for your fellow students who are looking to work professionally?
I think one thing this experience has taught me is to trust your gut. If you have that burning feeling inside of you that there’s something that you want to do and there’s something you want to pursue, it’s possible. Just remember that you have to be your biggest advocate, and no one’s gonna put in the work but you. You need to go into the studio, go into the practice room, and use all the resources that we have on campus. Read books about theatre, engulf yourself in what you love to do. Do the work and great things will happen. Talent is great, but it’s not enough. Once you go out there into the real world, talent is the bare minimum. Many people are talented. But are you a hard worker? Can you put in that work? Are you a nice person? Are you kind and get along with people? That’s what matters. Just stay inspired. Keep going.