I had an audition a week or so ago where I was scheduled to meet the playwright and another actor at a small community center in neighboring Evanston. I arrived to find them at a table in the main room. Accompanying them were the playwright's wife and daughter, who was about 10. The wife had brought little homemade cupcakes. already so much nicer than other auditions.
The playwright, Mark, is putting on a showcase of his work: some one-act pieces, some scenes from full-length plays. The other actor, Ken, and I were to read some of the work. Ken was about my age. I mentioned to Mark that I had trouble finding roles given my age, and he said that he had a really hard time finding mature actors. He had had some good younger actors audition, but he really wanted to balance out the cast.
The world is a big, fat conundrum.
So Ken and I read some scenes. Ken had some experience, but he had a shortcoming that drives me straight up the wall: he couldn't cold read. He wasn't illiterate, but he had trouble just reading the page, and kept stumbling and having to backtrack. Forget about injecting any real character into his lines. It's amazing how many actors I've met who, once they learned their lines, were fine, but who really had to work hard to actually *read* them.
Mark and his family reminded me of New York Jews. If you know me, that's high praise. By this I mean that they were intelligent, educated, had a worldview, and were good, kind people. They were a refreshing change from what I'm used to. I wanted to go live with them. Their daughter, Cathy, was greedily reading a thick 'tween fantasy book whose cover revealed a tough heroine protagonist holding a sword.
One script was rather heady; the proprietor of a philosophical cafe proposed a variety of things to a patron. We started the scene with Ken as the diner owner and me as the patron. Ken, who'd been emailed the script, said he first needed some clarification on some terms he'd never seen before. In a previous scene, we'd had to acquaint him with "Aeschylus," which did not bode well.
"This," he pointed to the page.
Art Nouveau. Bauhaus. You get the idea. I don't know what disturbed me more, that he had gotten to almost middle age without ever hearing of these things, or that he'd gotten the script online and never thought to look them up.
My Scottish coworker, Colin, told me the other day that someone had rated American cities according to their intellectual rating, based on things like number of libraries, number of nonfiction books purchased, etc.
"Boston came in number one," he said. "Chicago was 22."
"So now I have hard data to support my growing impression that people here are just plain thick," I said.
I mean, really. ART NOUVEAU? BAUHAUS?
Ken and I got through the slow death that was him reading the script, then he got to leave while I read a two-woman scene. In this scene a woman tries to connect with her estranged 18-year-old daughter, who's single and pregnant.
"Cathy," the director called. "Can you come read with us?"
Cathy put down her book and bounced over. She was clearly used to this. She was adorable in pigtails and glasses. She sat down next to me and by golly, the kid could read, and she could deliver. Although I confess it was odd to have her play the character.
"I said I was sorry. that was four years ago already, for Christ;s sake," she said. We were discussing her driving her drunk boyfriend home. She was great.
We all had a nice chat. I really like Mark and his family, and I got a role in two of the scenes, including the mother/daughter scene. I confess the scene reads a bit like a piece from Lifetime TV, but I think it can work with the right approach. The daughter will be played by Mark's older daughter, who is attending Northwestern and majoring in theater. Although, really, doing it with Cathy as daughter might be really fun. If I could keep a straight face.