Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The thrill and the horror

I wanted to do a quick piece on auditioning. It’s a complicated experience for an actor. On the one hand it is a chance to prove yourself—it’s basically a chance for you to perform. But it’s also very nerve wrecking. You have essentially under a minute to prove to these people that you are the actor they are after. You have to give it your all—knowing that there is at least a 95% chance that you won’t get it.
This week my school held auditions for Oedipus. The director is a man I have worked with before. The play is amazing. I wanted a part.
So I found a heart wrenching classic Greek monologue and prepared it.
Despite my best efforts to slow time down the night of the auditions finally arrived. My roommates very patiently dealt with my roller-coaster emotions. “I don’t even want a part. I don’t have time for this. I’m taking eighteen credits. I shouldn’t even audition.” “If I don’t audition I will just feel like a wimp. There is no way I’m getting in, but I guess I’ll still try
out.” “Who am I kidding I haven’t acted in over a year!” “Which color scarf should I wear?” “Which shoes should I wear?”
One roommate was even supportive enough to put the dinner she was making—gourmet Mac and cheese-- on hold and do my make up for me. It was amazing and really helped me feel relaxed because 1. I felt pretty. 2. I didn’t feel like me. The way she did my makeup was a way I have never done before and it was easier to look at myself in the mirror and see not Madison but Ismene.
After my outfit was picked… my hair and make-up was done I went to my room and turned up Enya really loud. I choose Enya because I figured she wouldn’t annoy my roommates. Then with the music blaring I practiced my mono. I pushed myself. I screamed. I yelled. Now you see why I used the music… I didn’t want to subject my roommates to that.
But I needn’t have worried; when I went to leave they had already left to rent a movie. (I found out later that they picked enough—you the one where Jennifer Lopez is beaten up by her husband until she has “enough” and kills him. Just so you know. Yes we are sick.)
So… I made my lonely way to the theatre building. I had planned to be there about twenty minutes early so I could be one of the first to audition. That didn’t happen. I got there and had to watch a bunch of fabulously talented other actors go first.
Then I heard the director say my name. I made my long walk up to the stage and delivered my mono. I felt good about it. I projected. I didn’t hold back. I followed impulses.
When I finished my friends told me I did a good job. But seriously—your friends always say you did a good job. Maybe I need new friends… ones who will tell me when I’m crap.
So my friend and I walked home, wondering if God rolls his eyes at prayers for actors. He probably thinks “You think your audition is hard? I have thousands of children in Africa and other countries suffering genocide and starvation.”
The callbacks weren’t posted until 2pm the next day.
Can you appreciate how long a wait that is!!!!!! My day begins at three thirty in the morning. I was up for almost 12 hours before even knowing how my precious Friday night would be spent.
So I sat in class convincing myself I didn’t care. I was too busy for a part. But I did a good job. I hate call backs. Well they are usually pretty fun. But I’m tired… I don’t want to go back tonight. AAHHH!!!
My last class ended and I bolted across campus to the snow building—where the theatre and music departments are housed. All the way there I was thinking about what a cruel system auditioning is. First you go spill your heart in front of a bunch of other actors who are more talented and have more experience than you do. If that wasn’t enough then you had to go read a list to see if your name was on it. Also reading this list will be all those more-talented/more-experienced people. You will have to elbow your way through these brilliant people to even see the list and when your name isn’t there they will just look at your pityingly like they really thought you had a chance and they can’t believe the mean director didn’t cast you. While in reality they are thinking “sweet-heart find a new hobby.”
I finally got to the building and approached the double glass doors. Before entering I checked to make sure there were none of the said more-talented/more-experienced people around. Then I realized two things. One there weren’t any m.-t./m.-e. In my direct vision but I couldn’t see very much into the lobby. Two however what I could see in my limited view included the bulletin board. On which as posted a call-back list on which… was my name.
I threw open the doors and read the list again and again. It was my name. I’d made call backs.
I was grinning like an idiot when I started to choke up. What was I thinking!!!! I didn’t have time to do this!!!! This would mean possibly dropping my screen writing class—possibly one of the only things I’m actually good at!!!
I went the callbacks and saw several friends/ acquaintances. The thing about the theatre is that it makes friends or at least allies for you. I am either close to a lot of these people because we have done previous shows together. Even those of us who did not know each other were joking, picking each other up, dancing and chatting.
All this ended abruptly when the director* walked in. All at once the room went silent. This man walks in and an entire room of theatre geeks stops talking and sits down and folds their arms like they are in church. That is a superpower.
He realized we were all mutely watching him. “Keep talking, I’m listening to the gossip.” He instructed. All of a sudden I found I had nothing to say. This rarely happens to me. Usually if I’m not speaking it’s because I don’t want to. Not because I don’t have a clue what to say.
A few moments later I still hadn’t found anything to say, and The Director called the meeting to order: “As many of you can see there are many people you auditioned with last night are not here. I am glad that you are here. You are here because I saw something I could use in our production of Oedipus. That being said, I was very disappointed in what I saw last night. I know that all of you can and have done better than what you gave me last night. What I saw last night made me want to retire. I thought, ‘Ah it’s happened. No one listens to the old man anymore.’ So please, please to better tonight.”
So basically we only made callbacks because we were slightly less-crappy than the other kids? Great. Besides, he says he has seen us all do better? Well, I killed myself in that mono… if that wasn’t enough maybe I should just leave now…
The first assignment he gave us was a series of movement exercises. Walking across the stage in a slight dance routine. Fun, except I haven’t danced in forever. FOREVER. Then he has this little drum that he uses to keep tempo. It is actually pretty stressful do a dance while he pounds on his drum. Then when we finished he would say “Again, FASTER.” And hit the drum faster.
Then he assigned the girls on monologue and the boys another. We each had a few minutes to read the lines of the Messenger—if a girl—or the Priest of Zeus if a boy.
One of my friends got herself so into it that her hands sized up. It was creepy. But she used it and her mono. was wicked good.
I was pretty pleased with my mono. I used the stage, I screamed, acted hysterical, pulled all the stops just like the particular director that I don’t want to name is always telling me to do.
Then we had all done a reading and said director explained “The cast list will be up at about ten thirty. Have a good evening.”
My friend who had had her hands seize up on her… well I wasn’t going to let her walk home alone, and she does live in my complex. On the way home though we and another friend from my Tech. theatre class decided we couldn’t very well wait home and then go to the cast list. We wanted to be around people who understood. So we went to a local “Mexican”—in the loosest sense of the word—restaurant and hung out until the cast list was up.
We arrived at the cast list—most our cast-mates he beaten us there— and were all thrilled to see our names. I was a suppliant and an attendant to the queen. There were hugs, congratulations, and “I’m so excited to work with you”’s all around. I called my mom even though it was midnight where she was and told her the good news. She said congrats. and that she knew I’d get it.
Then we all realized that we were expected to be at rehearsal tomorrow and we all said “see you tomorrow!!!!!” excitedly and hurried home for a few hours of homework and sleep.

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