Favorite Film/TV Casting Director: Marci Phillips

“I absolutely love actors,” says Marci Phillips, executive director of primetime casting for ABC. “My dad was an actor, my husband’s an actor, and all my friends are actors. I kind of devote my life to them.” Whether in the classroom or the audition room, Phillips says, it’s her mission to help actors get to the next level in their careers. And actors recognize her dedication from the moment they meet her.

Melissa Center, who took Phillips’ six-week on-camera auditioning class, says it not only helped her technique but also led to occasional work as a reader for Phillips’ casting sessions. “She’s great about making new relationships with people,” Center says, “and she understands how hard it is for actors.”

Even though he hasn’t been cast by her yet, David Shih believes that Phillips “really wants you to do well. She wants to equip you so that when you actually do come into the office for an audition, you’re prepared and you know what she’s looking for.” Shih adds that there never seems to be a long line or waiting list at Phillips’ office, she always apologizes profusely if someone has to wait, and she’s always willing to give an actor extra time in order to get the best take.

“I think most actors are cognizant of what they’re up against,” Phillips says. “When somebody really believes in them and spends time with them and really sees them, instead of just ‘No. 53’ in the room, I think that gives them a bit of hope that someone is actually looking at them and appreciating what they have to offer. That’s the relationship that I have with every actor who comes in.”

Marci Phillips, Executive Director of Primetime Casting, ABC, 157 Columbus Ave., 2nd floor, NYC 10023; (212) 456-3631.

Runners-Up:
Gayle Keller, Finnegan/Keller Casting, 176 Grand St., 3rd floor, Room 315, NYC 10013.
Jonathan Strauss, Lynn Kressel Casting, Pier 62, West 23rd Street at the Hudson River, Room 304, NYC 10011.
Todd Thaler, Todd Thaler Casting, 130 W. 57th St., NYC 10019.
Victoria Visgilio, ABC, 157 Columbus Ave., 2nd floor, NYC 10023.

*****

Favorite Open-Mike Night: Don’t Tell Mama, Manhattan Monologue Slam, and New York Comedy Club (Tie)

Each of the winning open mikes represents a different avenue of performance: song, monologue, and standup comedy. Every night of the week at Don’t Tell Mama’s low-pressure open mike, singers of any genre or style can take the stage accompanied by one of the club’s talented pianists. “It’s very central to Midtown and where a lot of people work, if you’re trying to get an audience,” says singer Diana LeBlanc. “It’s not a huge place, but it’s always full. Also, the food is excellent, since they added food in the lounge next to the piano bar.”

The Manhattan Monologue Slam offers a supportive atmosphere, but participants in the monthly competition hesitate to call the audience friendly. “It’s like American Idol for actors, basically,” says actor Steve Leon. “Only having literally 30 seconds, you have to be on your game. Within that time frame, if you fumble, bumble, and get off track, usually the crowd lets you know.” Actors sign up on the spot to be judged by celebrities and industry pros such as Sarah Silverman, Jenna Fischer, and Spring Awakening producer Jeffrey Richards.

New York Comedy Club hosts its open mike six nights a week, Sunday through Friday. Amateur standups can practice their routines, get feedback from club management and pros, and network with working comedians. “It’s a very friendly place,” says comic Ellen Orchid. “And they’re very fair, so you don’t feel like you won’t ever get stage time.”

“Having been a comedian,” says club owner and founder Al Martin, “I remember when I first started that I was treated like crap. People are impatient with you and they don’t really have a lot of respect…. And I felt we could create our niche by being nice to aspiring comedians. We try to nurture and develop the new talent.”

Don’t Tell Mama, 343 W. 46th St., NYC; (212) 757-0788; http://www.donttellmamanyc.com.
Manhattan Monologue Slam, 92Y Tribeca, 200 Hudson St., NYC; (212) 601-1000; http://www.mmslam.com.
New York Comedy Club, 241 E. 24th St., NYC; (212) 696-5233; http://www.newyorkcomedyclub.com.

Runners-Up:
Penny’s Open Mic, Under St. Marks Theater, 94 St. Mark’s Place, NYC; http://www.pennysopenmic.com.
Nuyorican Poets Café, 236 E. Third St., NYC; (212) 780-9386; http://www.nuyorican.org.
The Duplex, 61 Christopher St. (at Seventh Avenue), NYC; (212) 255-5438; http://www.theduplex.com.
Apollo Theater, 253 W. 125th St., NYC; (212) 531-5305; http://www.apollotheater.org.

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