UNCG GRAD TAKES ON NEW YORK CITY
” THE AUDITION IS MY ART NOW “
Patrick Ball grew up in Summerfield. He now resides in New York City pursuing an acting career. A risky endeavor when many of your Facebook friends are posting about marriages, babies and new homes.
“One of the big draws the UNCG theater program has is the BFA showcase in New York,” Ball said. “You travel to New York and you perform in front of a bunch of industry professionals, agents and directors. It’s really nerve-racking, you get two minutes on stage to explain to a bunch of New York pros why they should choose you.”
Ball “lucked out” and was signed to Abrams Artists Agency. He was able to meet the president of Warner Brothers and they gave him the Hollywood spiel. “You’re gonna be a star kid, we’re going to have you on TV within the year; of course I bought into it. In college you never really think about all that stuff. The highest rung on the ladder is basically regional theater,” he said.
Ball initially came to UNCG for filmmaking, but once he took his elective acting class he was hooked.
“Since then going through that whole training process, I’ve come to accept theater, it’s unparalleled in the catharsis that it offers you. It’s sort of an accepted truth that theater is the actor’s medium, and film is the director’s medium. In that way I feel a lot more creatively fulfilled on stage,” Ball said.
Ball has been in New York for almost three years now since leaving a month before UNCG graduation in 2013.
The idea of pursuing such a career – moving to New York with the hopes of landing great gigs – might seem daunting.
Ball lives in the “land of the plenty” in his New York day job at a prominent fashion photography studio.
“It’s pretty exciting, it’s a really bizarre view of the world,” Ball said. “The scene is occupied by stylists, producers, and assistants. Everything is BUZZ and POP, high fashionistas, now, now, now. The models and the photographers however are chill as fuck. They aren’t the uppity skanks that you want to just hate for being so beautiful, but they are generally really chill. Obviously that is a huge generalization but a lot of them are really cool.”
Ball returned to Greensboro recently to perform in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He explained how this role was one of the most draining, exhausting and rewarding processes he had ever been through.
The Greensboro News and Record reviewed the performance as “Serving as an explosive opening to their 15th anniversary season, Triad Stage delivers a wallop of a punch with this production. As the alcoholic Brick, Patrick Ball delivers a contained, haunting performance, reminiscent of Ray Milland in ‘The Lost Weekend,’ as a man who is too lost to be found.”
There is a risk in many professions, some small and some great. It is a risk to up and move to New York City, a city that promises you the world if you work hard enough. But “if you don’t work hard you will be on the street smoking crack out of a light bulb,” Ball said.
Although he is surrounded by family and friends at home, Ball has a sanguine feeling about Greensboro: “I couldn’t live here,” he said. He explains there would be an inner sense of not being fulfilled, of not turning over every rock.
“I wouldn’t be doing my family any favors or justice. I have a really supportive family and they have become really invested in me and my journey,” Ball said. “My dad would always say ‘I don’t care what you do, as long as you just do it all the way.'” Ball’s dad is a paramedic, his mom is an E.R. nurse, he likes to joke he was born in a state of emergency. He has a younger brother Eric who is finishing up his degree at UNCG and a younger sister Cassie who graduated from UNC and is going back to school to become an occupational therapist. Ball is extremely proud of his family, you can see a sense of familiar comfort wash over him as he jokes about the dynamics. “Cassie wins the battle every Thanksgiving for being the best child, because she devotes her life to helping kids with autism.”
Ball’s sister Cassie gives a more personal account of Patrick when he is not in the spotlight. “The primary feature that defines Patrick, to me, is his interactive-ness. His natural mode of being is outward. We’re inverses in that way, I think. We are both very thoughtful and reflective, but whereas my thought tends to come first in the form of planning and understanding everything I can about what I am going to do before I do it, Patrick’s process starts with doing,” she said. She also touched on his ability to reflect after the fact, which she believes allows him to better draw meaning from situations.
There is an inspired tone in Cassie’s voice when she is talking about her family and her oldest brother.
But such an attitude may have to be present in the traits of an actor: This incurable sense of curiosity and of processing who you are, but more importantly who you can be. Cassie said that this attitude of ‘jump now, think later’ does not always work out so smoothly, but it is a part of who Patrick is nonetheless. “It’s not just with our dad, though. Patrick makes connections with new people very quickly and easily, because he is driven to actively participate in the space around him and with the people and objects in that space.”
Ball continues trying to put into words a feeling he has always had within him. That energy Cassie describes growing up seeing first hand, Patrick has translated into a career.
“What has continued to drive me, and the majority of artists I respect, is the curiosity about yourself and the human condition,” Ball said. “You get to talk about it, in a more truthful open way than most people get to talk in real life. Then you get to do it in a room full of strangers. It creates this really rare sense of communion, well whenever it’s done right.”
Throughout the entire conversation he never once mentions the word “celebrity.” Jokingly, he said “If you are out to make a lot of money, be really fruitful, don’t be an actor. Actually just stay away from the arts in general; don’t do anything that involves words or pictures or sounds, stick with numbers and microchips. But if you want war stories and battle scars to tell people about”¦” Ball estimates that he has had over 300 auditions since being in New York and he has booked probably six or seven of those. He talks about the audition process, how you just have to learn how to let it go. You make auditioning your job, not acting. “You don’t realize for the rest of your life you’re going to be working by yourself, probably on the train after an eight-hour shift at work, reading a script just as fast as you fucking can. You go in a room and you have memorized 12 pages in 12 hours and now you have 90 seconds to go in front of a casting director that casted Transformers and you’re in a room with ten other guys that look like you and strangely decided to wear the same thing,” Ball said.
Ball comes alive when he is talking about acting and this maze of a process. The part that would break most people, besides the incredible amount of rejections, is the fact that you never know if you do not get the gig. There is no courtesy call saying thank you for busting your ass.
“That’s what’s most disturbing. You have to sort of get into this mentality, the ultimate level of transience. I’m doing this audition for the auditions sake then it’s done. I’m not waiting for a call. I’m not expecting a call. I don’t even want a call, really, the audition itself is my art now.”
“I can’t say anything about all actors, but I do keep going back to this photo that was being passed around online,” Ball said. “It said ‘Art is the collision of absolute narcissism and crippling self-doubt.’ In order to be an actor there has to be something in you that makes you run away from the familiar. To me, actors are always running from something. There’s a reason we want to be someone else, you are one light and you are just putting different shades on that light. Actors are people who want to know themselves, at least for me I want to know myself better through this medium.”
What advice does Ball give those thinking about pursuing an acting or arts career? Stay hungry. Make sure every week before Friday you have done something that week to propel you forward as an actor. “UNCG alumni Alex Cioffi signed with my agency, so I know what they are throwing him into. Rooms bigger than he can imagine and his ego is going crazy and he’s having to deal with all this rejection. You have to take care of your health, eat well, and go to the gym; but don’t go to the gym to look like a calendar model, do it to take care of your body. Also realize what outside of acting do you need to be sane? If you have a relationship, tend to that relationship.”
Ball speaks highly of those who are in this career for all the right reasons. “Many people get into acting because they want to be famous, rich, the promise of celebrity, someone of importance. But the best people, much like John O’Creagh from ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,’ the best actors are the people that do it for the love of the game. Young actors do not be crushed. Keep your soul alive, and keep your art alive.” !