Neil Starkenberg


EP 95: Neil Starkenberg (autogenerated)

Dane Reis: [00:00:00] 

[00:00:00] you booked it, episode 95. 

[00:00:05] Okay, let’s get started. I am excited to introduce my guest today. New stock and Berg. Are you ready for this Neil? 

[00:00:14]Neil Starkenberg: [00:00:14] I think I am Dan.

[00:00:16] Dane Reis: [00:00:16] All right. Neil is a multifaceted performer who has been seen on many stages across the country. Credits include Broadway in mama, Mia, national international tours of mamma Mia and Peter pan Vegas in for the record Baz, where he played rowdy and under-studied Romeo, Christian Gatsby and Scott and top rock at the space. TV credits include instinct. How I met your mother the today show 

[00:00:45] and the premiere of the Meredith Vieira show. Regional credits include Footloose Rocky horror picture show Greece, mama Mia, seven brides for seven brothers cabaret, grumpy old men, the musical hairspray showboat. And hello, my baby, the world premiere. Just to name a few. Neil has also performed alongside artists, such as earth, wind and fire. The Steve Miller band, the radio city, Rockettes and Frankie Grundy. He also holds a BFA in musical theater from Cal state Fullerton. 

[00:01:16] Neil. That is a quick intro of who you are and what you’ve done, but why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself, filling the gaps, who you are, and a little bit more about what you do as a professional in the entertainment industry. 

[00:01:31]Neil Starkenberg: [00:01:31] Well, my name is Neil stark and Berg. My Christian birth name is Neal Joseph’s stark Annenberg, and I’m an actor in LA. And I am on the up and up of trying to break in the voice over industry right now during quarantine. Um, I grew up in orange County, California. I was a big fan of the arts from the age of four. I want to say. 

[00:01:56] I played the saxophone since I was nine. And so it’s just been in my body. It’s the name of my blood. It’s been what I wanted to do since I was just a kid. 

[00:02:05]Dane Reis: [00:02:05] Love it. And let’s move on to this section here. And Neil, look, I am a sucker for a good quote. What’s your favorite quote? You’d like to share with everyone. 

[00:02:16]Neil Starkenberg: [00:02:16] My favorite quote is one that I found long ago. It’s by an idol of mine, gene Kelly. It is. Dance joy. You dance. Love you. Dance dreams.

[00:02:28]Dane Reis: [00:02:28] I love that quote. And can you expand on that a bit? And. Talk about how you’ve applied that to your career and your life. 

[00:02:37]Neil Starkenberg: [00:02:37] Sure. Um, Um, well, singing in as well as dancing for me is a euphoric experience. It’s that time of the day where I’m no longer Neil, I am something bigger. I am. The kid that I was working for all my dreams, uh, I, I just love the freedom that it brings. And that’s part of you Dan streams that rang so clear to me growing up, because it is true bliss when I am performing and making people laugh and making people smile. 

[00:03:07] That’s why I know I was exactly meant to do what I’m doing and , whenever I feel fed up and whenever I feel down about the business, I just try to always remember that. The yearning to be, uh, the star that I’ve always wanted to be. And just always remember to dance your joys, to dance your love and to dance your dreams out. And that goes in for singing acting, or whatever aspect you want to put into the arts.

[00:03:30] Dane Reis: [00:03:30] Yeah, I love that. And I love how you just totally embodied that entire quote. And it’s so true. And I’ve seen you perform, I’ve , I’ve had the pleasure of performing with you and. . You are absolutely an embodiment of that quote. 

[00:03:41]Neil Starkenberg: [00:03:41] Thank you so much. I really appreciate 

[00:03:43] Dane Reis: [00:03:43] Of course. And let’s get into the section in Neil. Of course you are an entertainer. I am an entertainer, and I think that you would agree. That this industry can be one of the most subjective, brutally, honest and personally emotional industries in existence. And you know, you know, as well as I, that in order to create and have a successful career in this industry, like you’re having now. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work. And while yeah, there was an outrageous amount of fun and excitement being an entertainer, doing what we do. There are also our fair share of obstacles, challenges, and failures. We are going to experience and we’re going to have to move forward through if we want to continue doing this for our careers. So tell us what is one key challenge, obstacle or failure you’ve experienced in your career and how did you come out the other side better because of it.

[00:04:39]Neil Starkenberg: [00:04:39] Well, I can agree fully with everything you have just said. Uh, Uh, 100%, but  I mean, the business in general is just an immense obstacles to overcome just alone by forging it by yourself to break into the industry. Uh, with all the no’s and you look like this, and you’re not like that. So just keeping your mind right. right. And knowing that you are you and you’re supposed to be doing, you always is a top priority is to always remember, but then other times you get. Handed a card that you never thought that you wanted to deal with? Such as, like, like, I have dealt with a couple of injuries in my career that to this day still affect how I. Or adapt for a role, how I prepare for a role. And it’s hard to like get over that because you’re getting older and you’re not able to do the things that you’re normally in your early twenties being able to do without a care in the world. But going back when you’re down and feeling like you can’t get back up on that horse, I was always humbled. I was always better at what I was doing when I came back. And honestly my mind was ready and wanting to do my craft so much better than I was before. So sometimes you’re not wanting to get the hand that you’re dealt for the opportunities, but it’s how you overcome them and succeed after is what truly defines you.

[00:06:02]Dane Reis: [00:06:02] could not agree more. And I think you’re right. I love how you said. That, you know, when you got injured, you had to come back that you had  even more passion, even more love for what you were doing and this drive to do it. And I think that also comes out of. A refinement for what it is that you do, because like you said, when you’re in your early twenties, you can pretty much put your body through absolutely anything off stage

[00:06:27] and off stage and just boom, next day. You’re. Bright eyed, bushy tail can slay it again and, you know, go out

[00:06:32] Neil Starkenberg: [00:06:32] You pop an ibuprofen and you’re good to go.

[00:06:35] Dane Reis: [00:06:35] But now, you know, you get after you’ve been in this career for a little while, your body doesn’t react the same way, which is totally fine. That’s just part of the journey, but in doing so. I think it really forces us to really refine our, our skills and our techniques, because not only is it making us a better performer and more mature performer, but it’s also being safer and knowing how to create longevity out of our career.

[00:07:01]Neil Starkenberg: [00:07:01] 100%. And honestly,  it’s, it’s a,  it’s a key element in the industry that you need to always give your 100% every time. I think we all know that, and it’s a given, but when you are able to keep yourself in that mindset of everything is right, I’m doing everything the same way and injuries cannot. Tom at that time because you’re preventing them. I think that is also growing up and knowing your body and knowing that exactly what you said. The longevity is key. If you want to make it in this business for your body and for your mind and health.

[00:07:34]Dane Reis: [00:07:34] Yeah, absolutely. . And let’s move on to a time that I like to call your spotlight moment. That one moment in time you realized, yes, I am going to be an entertainer for living or maybe it was, yes,  this is what I need to be doing as an entertainer. Tell us about that.

[00:07:57]Neil Starkenberg: [00:07:57] Well, if you ask my mother, she would tell you that I was supposed to be in the spotlight from the very get, go. Cause my first word was it mom or dad? It was light. So. I mean it from the get go, I was always trying to be the star. Bye. I think  first moment that I realized is when. I was performing in high school. In a funny thing happened on the way the forum, my mom and my family were in the front row. I was playing Suda lists. I was a lot heavier back then. And I remember coming out for the last bow. I got the principal final bow and everyone was standing and clapping. And I looked at my family and I realized that one. I’m actually kind of kind of good at this, which is surprising to me. And also I love this feeling and I don’t think you can recreate that feeling in anything that I’ve ever done in my life so far. So. So. I want to go further with this. I want to keep feeling this feeling. I don’t want it to stop. And so I think for that moment, when I realized in that bow, I was like, I’m going to go do this. I’m going to go and try this out. I think was a beautiful moment for me and my family, but definitely my spotlight moment for me and my family was when I. Uh, was, yeah, that’s it.

[00:09:16] Dane Reis: [00:09:16] Yeah, I love it. And I want to piggyback on that real quick and talk about your number one book. That moment. Walk us through that day, the auditions and call backs. If they happen to be a part of it, what was going on in your life? And what about that moment? Makes it your favorite book? That moment?

[00:09:38]Neil Starkenberg: [00:09:38] Sure. Uh, it would have to be the Broadway call that everyone dreams of getting when you were. Starting in this career. Um, I was actually touring with the company already of mamma Mia, um,  and I actually, oddly enough, was in Vegas. Um, I was about to go indoor skydiving, right behind circus circus circus. And we, uh, got there and my agent left me a message. And I said to my roommate, Tucker, Hey, you go sign us in. I’m going to call my agent. It’s probably for a self tape that I have to do that I don’t want to do. You. Or something I’m already booked. I got on the call and she goes, Neil, are you sitting down? I was like, no, I’m about to go indoor skydiving. So we’re complete opposite. And she goes, well, you’re not going to California any more on this leg of the tour. I was like, why not? Did I get fired? She goes, no, you’re going to Broadway. And I go. Are you kidding? Are you, are you joking? She was known you, you leave in six days to go perform with the Broadway production and you are uplifting your role, which I was pepper mainly. That was my main role. And I understudied sky, which is the other principle role, which has never been done on the Broadway stage ever, but they adopted my exact track. I had on the tour to the Broadway production. In six days for me. Was. Unreal. I went numb. I cried. I called my mom. We cried more. I cried. I called my sister. We cried even more. And then I went indoor skydiving and scream my lungs out. It was. Honestly the best day of my

[00:11:12] Dane Reis: [00:11:12] Oh my God. I love that story. That’s so good in the fact that you were going , indoor skydiving is

[00:11:18] Neil Starkenberg: [00:11:18] guy actually thought I was screaming because I was hurt in like in the midst of that fan going, but I was just screaming. Cause I was so elated.

[00:11:28] Dane Reis: [00:11:28] Yeah. Oh, I love that story. That’s so great. And let’s take a moment to talk about the present. Actually, I want to back up real quick. 

[00:11:37]So when you got to New York and you opened a New York, talk about that a little bit.

[00:11:43] Neil Starkenberg: [00:11:43] Wow. Uh, what else? A whirlwind. Uh, I remember I was thrown into the show. I met the cast that I, I, I only knew one person in the cast and all they enough, we dated in high school, me and her when she was like, I call it like a high school sweetheart. But, um, I got there, I didn’t know anyone. And I got put right into the show and I ran with that show for three years until its closing in 2015. And I remember talk about another spotlight moment. I remember my entire family being in the front row again. Um, my first bow as a principal on the Broadway stage, and it was a whole nother feeling of a full circle, and this is just beautiful, but I closed that show and it was one of the. Highlights of my career in the highlights of my life. For sure.

[00:12:31]Dane Reis: [00:12:31] That is amazing. I love that story so good.

[00:12:36]Neil Starkenberg: [00:12:36] It was beautiful. I’m not gonna lie.

[00:12:38] Dane Reis: [00:12:38] Yeah, that’s great. And let’s take a moment to talk about the present. What projects are you working on now? What are you looking forward to? And. It’s a weird time. We are amidst this global pandemic. How do you see the entertainment industry moving forward in the next couple of years?

[00:12:57]Neil Starkenberg: [00:12:57] Well, first off, I’m looking forward to seeing people in human form. Again.

[00:13:02] Oh, exactly. Yeah. In three D four. 

[00:13:07]Um, but also just like creating with people again. That’s I think what I miss most and. I know we’re all reinventing ourselves during this time by the pandemic. And I think that’s, uh, where I’ve been going. I’ve been trying to figure out what I can do that is creative. That fulfills, that same feeling I had on stage, then I can do from a safer place, AKA my own home or. Maybe, uh, do commercials or something, but I’ve really loved breaking into the voice over industry. It’s something that I can create characters. I can be in a world all from the comfort of my own home, and I can do it at my leisure, but also be really crafty and very particular of how I want it to be perceived. I can take liberties it beautiful. Um, and so I think that since I’m reinventing being only imagine that the theater world itself is reinventing itself, going into people’s homes, bringing things online. And I hope it continues that way. So we can bring more arts to as many people as possible, because I think it is a lot of people don’t want to go to the theater because they feel it’s weird, but they were sports fanatic. So I think it’s beautiful that we can bring it to their own homes where it’s safer and more comforting for them to see and bop their foot too. You know, so I hope that it keeps on going that way in it, honestly, it just brings us all together.

[00:14:26] Dane Reis: [00:14:26] Yeah, . I love that. You’re exploring other things that are fulfilling you artistically and creatively, but also I love that you also want all of this online experience or the. The idea that we’re sharing so much more performance with the rest of the world. And I really as well hope that it sticks around because. you did mention, you’re like, you know, the people they’re like, Oh, I like my sports. I can’t go to the theater. Uh, well, I think people also forget that, you know, back in the. Fred Astaire, gene Kelly, ginger Rogers days, the big MGM movie days. Musicals and the arts were at the forefront of entertainment. 

[00:15:00] Neil Starkenberg: [00:15:00] Oh, Ultimated our entire 

[00:15:03] Dane Reis: [00:15:03] them. You know, and we’ve, you know, we’ve moved away from that and it’s coming back. Of course you get them, the movie musicals and things like this, and they’re broadcasting Broadway shows, but. I’m really hoping that through this as well, that, like you said, a lot of this online content and streaming things and bring things to people sticks around in really. Gets people inspired by the arts again.

[00:15:26]Neil Starkenberg: [00:15:26] 100%. It’s beautiful because it’s. I know as a theater performer, I love the feel of a live audience. There’s nothing like it. There’s nothing like it in the world, but we are reaching so many people at their homes at their hearts at their core. When you do that, when you’re letting them relax and letting them just enjoy in the comfort of their own home, I think it’s just gorgeous.

[00:15:52] Dane Reis: [00:15:52] Absolutely. And which will only translate into people, wanting to go see people live right. 

[00:16:01] Yeah, absolutely. Well, let’s move on to one of my favorite sections in the interview. I call it the grease lightening round.

[00:16:09] Neil Starkenberg: [00:16:09] Hey. 

[00:16:11] Dane Reis: [00:16:11] I am going to ask you a handful of questions. I want you to answer them as quickly and concisely as possible one after another. Are you ready?

[00:16:21]Neil Starkenberg: [00:16:21] I think so.

[00:16:23] Dane Reis: [00:16:23] Alright. First question. What was the one thing holding you back from committing to a career as an entertainer?

[00:16:30] Neil Starkenberg: [00:16:30] Ooh, the uncertainty and rejection for sure.

[00:16:34] Dane Reis: [00:16:34] Hmm. Second question. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

[00:16:41]Neil Starkenberg: [00:16:41] Don’t be normal. Do you.

[00:16:44]Dane Reis: [00:16:44] Love it. Third question. What is something that is working for you right now? Or if you’d like to go pre COVID, what was working for you before our industry went on? Pause.

[00:16:56]Neil Starkenberg: [00:16:56] Well for me right now in my sanity walks around the block or doing wonders, but for the group for creatively. And, uh, what I was trying to do before COVID is I really was focusing on. Me and wanting to grab my career back into my hands and not let an audition or a. Show or a movie slipped me by that. I wanted to take the reins and it was honestly a lot of fun and I got a lot of stuff done. So I think I want to continue that I’ve just not waiting in the back seat for my time to come, but for taking it for what it’s worth at the time.

[00:17:34]Dane Reis: [00:17:34] Yeah, I love that you brought that up. That you said I’m going to take the reins of my career. Cause I feel like it can be so easy to get in to, you know, you’re you know, you’re just going. To the gig, the gig to the gig. And all of a sudden you realize. You like. I I’m just kind of. Taking what’s coming at me and not to say that that’s a bad thing, but. You might be taking too much. You just taking things because they come at you not really putting much thought into if you actually want to be doing them or not, or if they’re actually artistically fulfilling that, they’re just giving you that paycheck. You know, and there’s importance to making money. Sure. And there’s times when you have to do that sometimes, but. . To really feel like your in control of the work that you are accepting and doing is so important.

[00:18:15]Neil Starkenberg: [00:18:15] It is. And it’s good for your sanity as well, because if you’re not loving what you’re doing it sometimes if you’re not. A great performance. It can show in your performance, you know, and I’m not saying that, uh, other great performers don’t have their bad days either, but I’m saying if you’re not loving what you’re doing, It definitely will show in some way or another. 

[00:18:32] Dane Reis: [00:18:32] Perfect. And the fourth question. What is your best resource? Whether that is a book, a movie, a YouTube video podcast, maybe a piece of technology that you found is helping your career right now.

[00:18:47]Neil Starkenberg: [00:18:47] Oh, I love watching people do their different self-tapes online. I get so many ideas. I got. Uh, background for myself tapes. I have a whole new self tape, a studio in my room. It is cool. I am so proud of it, but also. I think when you, um, go and explore watching your professionals, that you idolize, you learn so much. I remember being in shows and just watching the people I idolized in the shows I was with. If I got the chance to talk with them, that would ask them questions, but honestly, just watching the pros do what they do. So I’ve been going also through YouTube and just watching. Performances that are on Broadway or tours or anything just to get my hands on them and feel like I’m part of the, um, Create the part of the culture again.

[00:19:39] Dane Reis: [00:19:39] Yeah, absolutely. You can 100% learned so much from watching people. I mean, I mean, Think about sports, for instance, you know, every single professional sport watches tape of there. Of their previous games. Right. And

[00:19:53] they analyze them always, but we as performers, I think rarely do that. Um, it’s not necessarily something that  we’re brought up with, but you can learn so much from reviewing not only your performances, if that’s a possibility, but other people’s performances and not watching them just for the entertainment value, but for the technical value of what’s working and what doesn’t work.

[00:20:15]Neil Starkenberg: [00:20:15] Absolutely. I remember when I thought I watched a tape, I remember telling my friend, I was like, that was the best take. I watched it back. It was not. But then I watched it, that next take was so much better because I knew what my body was doing. I knew what I was portraying and I could. Hone it and tweak it to what I wanted the audience to see, you know? you know? So it is just like taking that time.

[00:20:39]Dane Reis: [00:20:39] For sure. And the fifth question. If you had to start your career from scratch, but you still had all the knowledge and experience you’ve collected from your career in this industry, what would you do or not do? Would you do anything differently or would you keep it the same?

[00:20:57]Neil Starkenberg: [00:20:57] Ooh, that’s a good question. That’s real good. Um, I don’t know. I think. I think I would do a lot of the things I’m the same, not because I thought they were great at what I did. I just am so happy with the memories and the opportunities that I was given in my lifetime. They’ve been amazing and they’ve always treated me with such kindness in anything that I’ve done. So I don’t, I don’t want to change anything that, but I do want to say. I would try to be more focused on my craft at a young age and not so focused on the accolades and the celebrations after which are fun in itself. But. I would tell my younger self, you will find so much more joy in the dedication and determination that you did for that role. In the payoff you haven’t been to pride, you have, that you did is way more than a person. That’s a stranger, a reviewer or a peer can ever give you. It’s that internal monologue big saying I did this. I. Am a star because I put in the work.

[00:22:00]Dane Reis: [00:22:00] You put in the work, you said it right there. And the last question. What is the golden nugget knowledge drop you’ve learned from your successful career in this industry? You’d like to leave with our listeners.

[00:22:13]Neil Starkenberg: [00:22:13] I, it goes back to one of the quotes. I think I just repeated earlier. It’s do you and be you don’t be normal find what makes you special? Because it took me a long time to figure that out in my career. But once I did. I just leaned into it. And so many doors open that I could not even possibly begin to tell you of just leaning into what makes me me me. No one else will have that. No one else on this earth has your eyes. How’s your smile has that mole. So lean into it. . 

[00:22:47] Embrace it, because that is what truly will make you shine. 

[00:22:52]Dane Reis: [00:22:52] Absolutely love that. 

[00:22:54] And to wrap up this interview, Neil, it is time to give yourself a plug. Where can we find you? How do our listeners connect with you? Is there anything you want to promote? 

[00:23:07]Neil Starkenberg: [00:23:07] Uh, I would love to promote anybody that wants to learn how to play the saxophone or acting or dancing or hone in your craft. Go to my website, Neil dot com. We can FaceTime. We can zoom. We can do whatever you want. Also, if you want to find me on any of the socials, I am on N J stark and Berg on all socials. 

[00:23:29] Tick tock included. And I am just so thankful for you having me, Dane. Thank you. This was great. And I am so honored to be a part of this. 

[00:23:40] Dane Reis: [00:23:40] Aw, thank you so much. And for everyone listening out there, I have put the links to all of his socials, his website, all that in the description of the episodes, you can easily connect with Neil. And Neil, thank you for those words. And thank you for taking the time to be on the show today. 

[00:23:55] It’s been a pleasure to speak with you. 

[00:23:57]Neil Starkenberg: [00:23:57] Absolutely. And you as well, Dan, thank you so much.