Tuesday, May 18, 2010

You wanted two, right? OK.

Went to my audition after work. Had run through the troublesome monologue in the bathroom, and as I walked to the train I went over and over it in my head. I walked down Lake

I was the first to get out of the car and walk toward the cement stairs

to the El to catch the Blue Line

I was leading them, sort of

And took the train two stops,

The belt hanging down from his right hand

arriving in West Town

the crack as it hit my knees and ankles

 Oddly enough, I'm always much more nervous about an audition that requires a prepared piece when it's the day before or the morning of; when I'm there and waiting my turn I get a sort of giddy excitement about it all.

I got to the theater early. My mouth was dry, so I'd picked up a bottle of water, something I usually avoid like...well, like a wasted use of material and energy. I was greeted by a pleasant young woman who took my headshot and resume and gave me my info. sheet to fill out. There were two women and a man waiting already. All much younger than I.

This isn't unusual.

I sat in a chair beneath the headshots of the cast of the current show, noting that they, too, were mostly younger.

Telling myself I'd rather watch Judi Dench than Keira Knightley any day, I filled out my form, gave it to the girl, and returned to my chair. The  other auditioners studiously avoided eye contact with one another. I find this is often the case: there is a sense of awkward competition, the feeling that you can't make contact with one another because of some unspoken etiquette that you have to be at odds.  Me, I prefer to be relaxed. I enjoy auditioning, find it fun, and when I see people very tense and nervous I want to chat them up to calm them down, let them know that it's all about having a good time.

A couple more people came in. The women were all willowy. Long hair. in skirts. I'd changed into jeans and a simple black top. Sneakers. I thought about my short hair.

"Judi Dench," I thought.

I tried to get a look at the headshots being given. Color is common now. They were all professionally done. Very nice. Mine is still a black-and-white shot I took at home with my digital camera and printed on HP photo paper. It's pretty pathetic. A neighbor is a photographer, and he offered to do my headshot for free. He won't take money, so I might make him a glass piece.

I took a sip of my water, held up the bottle, and said, "The audition dilemma: a dry mouth, or a full bladder?" The others looked my way and smiled. We made a little small talk. I don't try to have my usual gregarious conversations at these times, because people need to focus and practice, and run lines in their head. The last thing they need is a distraction.

One of the girls came back from the restroom and I saw that her skirt was tucked inside her hose waistband at the back.

"Hold on," I said as she passed, and grabbed the bottom of her skirt and pulled it down.

"Gosh, thanks!" she said.

"Now, that may have been a strategy to get a part, but I don't think that's what they're looking for," I said.

Another young man had arrived and sat in the chair next to me, jittery, his foot crossed over his knee and jangling. The other young man paced back and forth, clearly running lines to himself. I tried to get his attention, but he was deep into his own head. Another girl sat stock still in her chair, eyes grimly  glued to a point on the ground in front of her. They all looked like they were waiting for their turn at the electric chair.

My chair was next to the stage entrance, and I could hear some of the monologues. Apparently, loud was in. Very Big was popular. I couldn't tell whether people were doing one monologue or two. I thought they'd asked for two.

Pacing Guy's turn came. As he passed me, I leaned over and grabbed his arm. He looked like he'd been Tasered.

"You have toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe," I murmured.

He looked. "Oh! Thanks!" and he pulled it off.

Stuck Skirt Girl was putting on her coat. "You're saving all of us from disgrace tonight!" she laughed.

"Yes, well, as you all enter, just stop here, do a turn, and I'll do a wardrobe check," I joked.

My turn came. The theater was small, cute. The seats were raked steeply, and there were about six people, including directors, sitting there.  We exchanged pleasant hellos.

"Did you want two monologues?" I asked.

"If you have two, that would be preferred," said one of the directors.

"No, I have two, I just thought I might have been mistaken for a moment."

So I launched into my first, a monologue from Sam Shepard's La Turista, where a woman recounts being whipped with a belt in front of her family by her father  for a tiny show of defiance. I heard some murmurs after I said my last line, some "Oh"s, which I took to be a good sign.

And then I did an oddball piece from Christopher Durang's Laughing Wild, a crazy number that contrasted starkly with the first. I did it mostly because it could be fired off at full speed and let me stay within the time constraint.

I got some "very nice"-s.  Now, in dating, the first-date code for "I'm really not interested" is "I"ll call you," and we all know that "We need to talk," means "Your new address is Dumpsville." In theater, "very nice" is code for "I liked it." They may not love it and they may not cast you, but you did a decent job. When they're not impressed, or have made up their mind not to cast you, you get an informative response, something along the lines of "we're going to call people back by this date."

So I think they liked me. The thing is, as tedious as it is to rehearse a monologue, as hard as it is for me to discipline myself to do it over and over and over, I have to remember how much fun it is to perform it in front of people. In fact, I may just pick monologues by characters I've always wanted to play, and craft an acting career out of auditions. I'll always have an audience, and I'll get to play whom I want. This could work.


karen said...

I like your audition style! I haven't been doing any for a while, and am toying with the idea of getting back to it in the next few years (actually, studying voice right now for starters) ... as my youngest enters school ... so I will DEFINITELY be whispering Judi Judi Judi ...

My dream role used to be Sally Bowles, but I've moved on to the Fraulein ... not that I'm quite that age yet but ...

JennyG said...

Hope you get it!

I really like how friendly the audition scene is in Boston. Not only is it small enough that I usually know, or at least recognize, a person or two at the call, but there's not this sense of cut-throat competition like there was in NYC, and like it appears there is in Chicago. People talk before auditions, and wish each other luck, and appear to mean it.

I probably won't be auditioning for a while, I got cast in TWO shows last week and don't have the desire to give up either of them.

JC said...

Thanks, ladies! I don't know that auditioning here is cutthroat so much as it's dominated by younger people who are terribly insecure. For me, if it's not fun (and that includes enjoying the others around me), there's no point. Jenny, I hear you on being overextended. Karen, go for it, girl! Judi also played Sally, in 1968 -- did you know? Judi is the mantra for the ages!