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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

And I Think I'm Going Out Of My Head

Held auditions for the New Show on Sunday, and first round of callbacks (sort of like a second interview for you non-theatre types), and will be seeing more people on Thursday. Then, sometime next week, schedules permitting, I'll try to moosh those two groups together for a final round before making casting selections.

Auditoning is an arduous, time-consuming, and frequently frustrating experience - regardless of which side of the stage you're sitting. It's one of the things I definitely do not miss from my days as an actor: standing in front of strangers rattling off some previously prepared piece of script, and hoping that you can convince them in 30 seconds that you are absolutely right for the part, and there's no point in even looking at anyone else. Personally, I much prefered "cold readings", basically just being handed a piece of the script, which you may or may not have previously seen, and making instant choices about characters and relationships based solely on what's presented in front of your eyes at the moment you read it. Any trained monkey can memorize a monologue; cold-reading is a skill, and in my opinion, is a much better gauge of an actor's ability to live "in the moment".

For directors there are other, equally maddening experiences. Actors are, as a general rule, rather flakey about things like: showing up on time, or, letting you know they won't be showing up at all, or being prepared when - or if - they actually DO show up. Of the roughly 25 people we had scheduled for Sunday, about seven or eight simply never appeared. I found out a couple had in fact e-mailed our production manager, but saying you won't show up for your audition two hours before it's scheduled isn't much of an improvement over completely failing to notify anyone at all.

The ones who do show up can generally be categorized into three distinct types: "the professional", "the amateur", and "the wannabe". The first, clearly, are those who are on top of their game, have their materials prepared, and who - regardless of their relative level of talent and technical ability - present a reasonably professional demeanor.

The "amateurs" are the relative newcomers, those who haven't had much experience with the process, who forget something crucial, like their head-shot, or half the lines to the monologue they've probably memorized just a few hours earlier, but who nevertheless seem earnest, and just need someone to give them some coaching on technique and audition ettiquette.

Finally, there are "the wannabes", the ones who simply have no clue; you wonder how they even found out about the audition, and marvel despite yourself at whatever insane, spontaneous impulse caused them to not only think this would be a good thing to do, but who actually manage to short-circuit the natural human tendency to avoid humiliation and ego-deflation, and show up anyway, regardless of the fact they: A.) have absolutely no experience whatsoever; B.) have no idea what is expected of them in the audition process; and C.) who, despite these other considerations nevertheless BELIEVE that they can compete against actors who have studied, earned degrees, and performed in real, honest-to-goodness theatrical performances.

You always get one or two of these every time; on Sunday I had three. No monologues, no resume or headshot, no idea about what they were getting themselves into - no indication in fact they had even bothered to read the audition announcement beyond the point where it listed the date, time, and who to call to make an appointment.

And you, as the director, the nominal head of the project, have to be nice to them - you absolutely HAVE to be, because you don't want the next person outside the flimsy wooden door - the actor you may have been waiting to see, who will absolutely nail their piece and give you hope for the future success of your project - you do NOT want that actor to hear you crushing the soul of some poor, misguided, perhaps even clinically delusional person with stars in their eyes, dreams in their head - and not an ounce of talent, training, or technique to their name, because they don't know that other person from Adam, and they will quite naturally think you a mentally unstable, misanthropic monster for whom they absolutely, under no circumstances whatsoever will want to commit eight to ten weeks out of their valuable lives cowering in fear of, or muttering in frustration about.

So, you behave yourself, thank the wannabe for coming, tell them you'll be making a decision soon, never for a moment revealing how excruciating the last three minutes have been for you, and - when you finally, politely usher them out through that door - you take a deep breath, shove the experience into your personal mental round-file, and get ready to greet the next one, hoping against hope they'll at least have some of the basics under their belt.

And it's pretty much like that all day long.

Which has led me to the conclusion that the only people who hate auditions worse than actors - are directors.

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Posted byCOMTE on 2:29 PM

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