Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Actor's Audition Enigma

A friend and director presented a staged reading of a play that I attended several months ago.  I came  to support his work, but enjoyed the play very much.  It was about LA Showbiz and the stereotypes that frequent this town. It was funny and showed the complete insanity in the business of "show". Although I thought the play had a few problems, it was certainly a project that could and should be fully realized.
Weeks later that same director came up to me at a social gathering and mentioned the play was being presented next month at a prestigious theatre in town.  Then he said, "I think you would be great in one of the roles.  There is very little money, and I know that your are busy, but would you consider it?"  
An actor only hears one statement in a question like that: "You would be great in one of the roles!"
Naturally I was flattered, inflated and complimented. Of course I would consider it, and could actually squeeze the project into my schedule. So I began the journey that every actor takes, no matter who they are or what the status of their career. 
The director is a fan of my work and as it turns out the writer had seen my one man show and loved it.  The director got me a copy of the script and I began to become familiar with the play.  There are three men and three women who play various characters in twelve different scenes that take place in a Deli. Since the male characters are somewhat interchangeable I
was not sure which role I "would be perfect for."
A week later the director asked me if I had gotten a call for the audition. My actor's ego rebelled a little. Audition? The director and the writer know my work and like my work, this is a little theatre that pays almost nothing, I have done four television series and am a Tony Award winner... audition?  Ego aside I said of course I would audition. I chastised myself for thinking that I was so good I did not need to audition. An actors insecurity will always trump ego.  
Turns out that I was not going to be in town for the auditions. I quickly adjusted my expectations and gave up the idea of doing the play. It was easy to let it go and tell myself "this isn't your experience to have, move on."  So I did. But it is never that easy. 
My friend said, "That's okay we'll just bring you in for the call backs when you return." 
Of course I could do that,  although I have never auditioned well.  Once I am "off book" I can find my footing as an actor, but with a script in my hand searching for the words my dyslexia will take over and torpedo my best attempts to show what I can do. With a sense of dread looming in my gut I got the sides and prepared for the audition.  
Now to prepare for any audition actors have to completely give into that role. It is always like a suit that is not tailored very well and as uncomfortable as the fit is, you have to make believe it is an Armani, custom made for your talents. No matter how many times your insecurity tells you this is not a good fit, you have to believe that you are the star of the fashion runway and go for it completely.
The call back audition day comes. It has been a long time since I sat in a room full of actors all wanting the same job but that sick feeling of competition immediately returns.  
The director comes through the waiting room, greets me and gives me a big hug. I feel the tension from the others. I am one of those actors every audtionee hates. I am friends with the director and obviously have an unfair inside track for this job.  Little do they know that this "advantage" does not quell the panic attack raging in my belly.  The pressure to knock it out of the park has only increased. 
The actor that I am reading with has agreed to run lines with me before we go in.  It is not helpful, the actor was simply reading words and there was nothing there for me to react to. It is finally our turn.  
Once on stage in front of the director and producer my partner taps into his inner Laurence Olivia and the emotion he spews forth is bipolar.  He was saving his talent for the money shot. Having had years of experience reacting to unforeseen moments on stage I was able to go with him and the scene caught fire.  I was pleased with the audition. The sheer panic of trying not to let this guy steal the audition released me from my dyslexic disadvantage. After being brought in another couple of times reading with some of the women, we all went home.
For the next couple of days I begin to work this job in my mind. How will I do that audition scene better in rehearsal. Who will be the girl that I have that great drunk scene with?  Can I get some of my old casting director friends to see me do this part? Maybe this part will inspire them to bring me in for some "pilot season" roles.  Perhaps this will be the part that will show this town that I am not just a ventriloquist actor but a legitimate actor as well. I was suddenly not just invested in the project I have mortgaged my heart for this role. 
After a day or so, I am wondering why I haven't been contacted. Why is it taking so long for them to make a decision. As fate would have it I see the director at another social function last night.  He says, "The calls went out and your name isn't on the list." So goes the heartbreak of show business, I didn't get the part.
It was not a part that I have been waiting all my life to play.  It was not a job that would have much of an impact on my career. In fact I thought I was doing my friend a favor for considering it. But to do the best audition you can you have to convince yourself that you are perfect for the role, and this job means everything. In essence you have to hand a group of producers your artistic heart only to have it returned, stamped "rejected".  Unfortunately there is no other way it can work.
There is a quote on my refrigerator attributed to Buddha, "In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.
I am gracefully moving on, but doubt that this experience will make the next one less painful.
As you were,

1 comment:

Gwyn Oswin said...

Thanks SO much, Jay! I'm job hunting at the moment and, while not an actor, I am familiar with the giving your all to something and then being marked rejected. Alas, I do need to work on being more graceful. ;) But this will help me remember.