Google audition tips. You’ll find many that would hold for any job: Be confident, bring a photo and resume, do your research. Bartek Szymanski has one more: Audition for everything to gain experience, get that role and follow your dream.
“I auditioned for things I never imagined doing,” admitted Szymanski. “When I was a senior in high school, I started to apply to anything anywhere and would take a train in to New York City multiple times a week to build my resume.”
Some roles he landed, like his recent guest spot on the Oct. 23 episode “Brother’s Keeper” of NBC’s “Chicago PD”—his network TV debut—and others he didn’t. But Szymanski keeps auditioning.
“Singing, dancing, goofing off—I felt comfortable being in front of a lot of people. It gave me a sense of justification for my dreams.”
Perhaps his drive comes from realizing acting is what he wanted to do at a very early age.
Born in the United States but then living in his parents’ native country of Poland until he started public school in Norwalk, Szymanski recalls being at a distinct language disadvantage upon his return stateside. You wouldn’t hear a marked accent to listen to him now, but Szymanski recalls struggling with English up until sixth grade. Working on his diction in acting class has certainly helped erase those traces of his native tongue, although he will admit that if he gets too excited or talks too quickly, that subtle accent may return. (And the accent came in handy for his "Chicago, PD" role.)
It was this lack of language that also kept the young Szymanski isolated.
“I was a very shy kid and didn’t have a lot of friends because I was limited by language," he explained, "and then throw in the new environment. I was socially awkward but learned that on the stage I felt comfortable. Singing, dancing, goofing off—I felt comfortable being in front of a lot of people. It gave me a sense of justification for my dreams.”
And as with any child, those dreams were many and often changing. Szymanski loved soccer and joined a team, dreaming of scoring in the World Cup. Later baseball drew his attention and the dream became playing in the World Series. The one dream that remained constant, however, being on a stage.
“Whenever I was on that stage and heard the applause,” said Szymanski. “It gave me the sense that I was getting a little closer to my dreams.”
With a supportive family who want to see their son with a career he would not only thrive at but love, Szymanski joined Norwalk’s Crystal Theatre and when it came time for high school he applied and was accepted to the Regional Center for the Arts in Trumbull, a part-time magnet school for students in Fairfield County. Szymanski would start his school day at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk and then move to the performing arts school in the afternoon.
Unfortunately for Szymanski, school budget cuts cancelled the transportation that had previously been available to Norwalk students traveling to the Trumbull School.
“My dad had to take off work to bring me there at times or I’d find a carpool. It wasn't easy,” recalled Szymanski.
“Acting comes first.”
The Norwalk native has kept busy since graduating from Pace University’s Acting Program with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2018. He now calls New York City home, while his parents and younger sister remain in Norwalk.
When not acting, Szymanski hasn’t had to fall back on the stereotypical standby of waiting tables.
Instead, he's taken a number of temp jobs: from deli cashier to carpenter's assistant. He's also taken several freelance and part-time marketing jobs—thanks to skills acquired at Pace—to cover the bills while auditioning.
“I give everyone I work with all my effort; I get the job done successfully, but acting comes first.”
Szymanski's favorite role to date was one he played in a short film released in 2016, “The Origami Gate.” The film won critical praise and was nominated for Best Concept at the Brightside Tavern Shorts Film Festival held biannually in Jersey City, NJ and for Best Medium Short at the Hang Onto Your Shorts Film Festival held annually in Asbury Park, NJ since 2015. You can find the film on Amazon Prime.
“I’ve played many roles, but that one always comes to mind as my favorite,” reminisced Szymanski. “I played an older individual with dementia in his 70s who imagines he’s meeting this young woman who in reality is his wife and he doesn’t recognize her.
“The age of the character was shown through physicality and characterization; there wasn’t much makeup used. Preparing for that role was quite a task.”
Szymanski, already a veteran of many short and indie film projects, doesn’t have anything firm lined up as of this writing. He’s getting ready for pilot season, which will start early next spring. And if that takes him to Los Angeles, so be it.
“I had a moment right before my college Showcase,” recalled Szymanski, “it’s such a stressful time—all my classmates, fellow actors, hoping to get signed and the pressure keeps building. I was in a weird place, so I imagined my younger self and sat him down in the front row. I told myself it didn’t matter what the audience thought as much as what that little boy thought. I was doing this because of that little boy’s dreams.”
It is those little boy’s dreams, after all, that have Szymanski right where he wants to be.