Three young actors who've never met before sit around a table at a Broadway watering hole, recalling The Moment.
Tavi Gevinson was in a hotel room with her dad when her agent called. Alex Sharp was rehearsing a student production at Juilliard. And Micah Stock heard the good news in person, at the home of acclaimed director Jack O'Brien.
"He actually said the words, 'Kid, you got the job,'" Stock recalls. All three actors laugh at what sounds like a line from a 1930s movie.
"Can I tell my mom?" he asked.
A TANTALIZING MOMENT
There's nothing quite like that feeling, they all agree, when cast in your first Broadway show. It's a tantalizing moment for an actor. And pretty exciting for audiences, too, glimpsing a star in the making. Imagine what it must've been like to see Meryl Streep making her Broadway debut in the 1975 revival of "Trelawny of the 'Wells,'" hear James Earl Jones uttering his first lines as a servant in 1958's "Sunrise at Campobello" or catch a gawky Barbra Streisand belting out her showstopper in 1962's "I Can Get It for You Wholesale." There's real street cred for those audience members who can say, "Yeah, we knew them when."
This year has had a slew of debuts, what with last season's Debra Messing, James Franco and Bryan Cranston, and this fall's Rose Byrne and Ewan McGregor -- to name just a few -- but all of these come wafting in on Hollywood fumes and the perhaps dubious honor of being cast not necessarily just because of talent but of name recognition.
This fall also brings the debut of Gevinson, Sharp and Stock, impressive young actors whose names are less familiar. For now. Yet, their critic-approved performances -- "astonishingly assured" (Gevinson in "This Is Our Youth"), "exciting" (Stock in "It's Only a Play") and "spectacular" (Sharp in "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") -- give some indication that their less-than-famousness will be only temporary.
"I was the only NOT-famous person," Stock says of the Terrence McNally comedy, directed by O'Brien. Stock plays Gus, an aspiring actor and star-struck coat-check dude, holding his own alongside stars like Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Megan Mullally and Stockard Channing.
A Broadway debut obviously marks a major career leap. But for these three, the very act of debuting seems to inform their performances. And mirror the challenges their characters face onstage.
Gus, for instance, has just moved to New York to make it big. "That excitement and semi-greenness is kind of who I am," says Stock, 25, a Dayton, Ohio, native who moved to the city three years ago.
FORMER FASHION BLOGGER
Gevinson, 18, from Oak Park, Illinois, co-stars in "Youth" with Kieran Culkin and Michael Cera, playing Jessica, an overprivileged Upper West Side slacker and college freshman. In real life, Gevinson's a former fashion blogger who achieved a modicum of fame at age 12, when major designers began inviting her to runway shows. She expanded her blog into an online teen magazine. She's recently graduated high school, broken up with her boyfriend and moved to New York.
"It was like I didn't know what my identity was anymore," she says of the character she portrays. Jessica's "lostness was very real for me."
Sharp, 25, born in England and a recent Juilliard grad, has perhaps the biggest adjustment to make -- in "Curious," he plays Christopher, an awkward teen math whiz who appears to struggle with some form of autism. But when Christopher embarks alone on a dangerous journey, he surely is entering familiar territory for Sharp, who rambled across South America solo for several years after high school.
"It was terrifying at times, but I love that," he says.
Talk with them long enough, and you start to see qualities that may very well make for star material. Stock is articulate, poised. Sharp betrays a fearlessness behind his deceptively boyish grin. And Gevinson, the youngest and least trained, radiates a raw star quality onstage. Whether she pursues acting, journalism or fill-in-the-blank, she has that "It Girl" thing that draws you in.
The three exchange tales of auditions, rehearsals, performances, discovering shared struggles. And illusions.
"Was your opening night ... fun?" Stock asks. "I was sort of naïve -- I thought I'd see my friends, but it's more like work."
"Yeah, it's a work night," Sharp agrees.
"It's an event," says Gevinson, who spent much of the night stuck in a press suite.
"I was unaware that at midnight the reviews come out," Sharp admits.
"Our show is ABOUT that," Stock says, leaning in. "It's set at an opening night party ... so there was this terrifying meta thing happening."
"Yeah, yeah." Gevinson giggles.
"I'd heard horror stories of being at your opening night party and the reviews come out and everybody leaves if it's bad," Sharp says. Then smiles. "But I was too pumped with adrenaline ... and kind of drunk." They all laugh. "My manager was like, 'The reviews have come out' ... and literally I thought I was gonna pass out."
Luckily for each, the overall reviews were favorable.
"I stayed up till 6 in the morning," Gevinson says. "I was like, I wanna feel this for as long as possible."
Now, of course, with opening night and their official debuts behind them, walking onstage is feeling more like business as usual.
"In a pleasant way, it's become more like any other job," Stock says. "There's a lot of fanfare and glitter, initially. Now there's a comfort in the ritual."
"It's like a day at the office," Gevinson suggests.
"Yeah, a very pleasant office."
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Broadway's swell, but nothing beats the thrill of your first stage role.
ALEX SHARP: "I played a very complex, multidimensional character -- Piglet in 'Winnie-the-Pooh' -- at age 7, in England."
TAVI GEVINSON: "Going into second grade, I sang 'Cabaret' in the Camp Shalom talent show at my synagogue. 'Life is a cabaret, ol' chum.' I was like, why did they let a child sing that ... in front of torahs?"
MICAH STOCK: "I played a 60-year-old pirate in a youth theater production of 'Treasure Island' in second grade. I had 85 lines." (Yes, he counted.)