Monday, September 08, 2014

An Exercise in Auditioning...

In my scene study class this past week, I got to see an "audition exercise", and it was pretty cool.

As an actor, I can audition 20 times, book 1 job, and have no idea why I didn't book the other 19.  Getting feedback is the rare exception rather than the rule.  Usually when I show up to audition, there are several other actresses (even male actors, sometimes) for the same role, and all of us are capable of doing the job.  There is no point to trying to tailor my performance to what "they" are looking for, because I don't know what that is, and they may not even know until they see it.  I build my character by using the text and other information given in the script, plus any character description that has been provided.  Then I trust that I've done enough "homework" at home, and go give 'em what I have.  If they feel that I'm right for the part,   I don't know what the other actors are doing in the audition room, and they don't know what I'm doing.

In the audition exercise, four actresses were given the same scene, and had to go onstage one-by-one, and read that scene with another classmate (the same as they would with a casting director).  The actresses were not allowed to watch one another audition.  Luckily, I was part of the "audience" and I got to watch, because I learned a lot.

Because we are all classmates, I am familiar with the work of all four actresses, and none of them are slouches.  Each actress gave a very different audition from the others, with no overlap at all.  One, however, was not right for the role casting-wise.  She was too "mature" (and not just in age) for the role.  She had gravitas where the role demanded lightness.  Not a bad actress - just not right for THIS role.  So that leaves 3.  One actress was right for it, but her performance was just "ok," and she didn't drop the character when she left the room (nor say "thank you"), so it made her either appear green or like she wasn't happy with her audition.  So that leaves 2 actresses with a viable shot for the role.

These 2 actresses both happened to be blonde, which was funny, given the stereotype of blonde actresses only being picked for their looks - and both are really talented, and right for the role for reasons that had nothing to do with hair color.  One actress came in like a whirlwind, took command of the room and took the audience on a journey with her - she was phenomenal... until she got to the part where her character was upset and she started speaking in a voice so shrill for so long that I couldn't wait for the scene to end.

The other actress had a more grounded approach - honest, real-world, and relatable.  I connected with her portrayal instantly, but she seemed to be having some problems with the script because she kept pausing when the words most needed to fly, and it was distracting.

These 2 actresses would get callbacks.  Not because the others are bad actresses, not because these two are blonde, but because they have the best shot at bringing that character to life.  At the callback, they would be expected to have the scene memorized, deeper choices made, and be closer to what an actual performance would look like.

As the third actress auditioning walked out onto the stage, I stifled a groan - I had seen this (long-ish) scene twice already, and I didn't really want to see it again.  How, then, must casting personnel feel when they watch actor after actor come in and do the same scene over and over again?  It showed me that if I audition without making the scene my own or "elevating" it, casting is going to be bored, I'm not going to get the job, and thy probably won't even remember me.

This was reinforcement of some things:

  • It's important to respect the text, but equally important to be true to who you are.  If the audition calls for an "orange" and you are a "banana," you won't fool anyone into thinking that you're an orange.  Just be the best gosh-durned banana that you can.  If you're brilliant, when they need a banana, guess who they'll call?
  • Be professional: You have been invited to audition.  Say "hello," "thank you," and "good bye" where appropriate no matter how your audition goes.
  • Be prepared (part of being professional) Ok, you're talented, but so is almost everyone else at this level.  You can't go in and "wing it" if others have prepared.  You will look under-prepared, and piss off casting.
  • Do not bring your personal issues into the room with you.  In fact, don't even bring them into the building.  They'll be right where you left them.
  • Audition, process your audition quickly (think about it, write about it - whatever you do), then let it go.  You can't change what you did, and your booking or not booking the job is out of your hands.


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