Category Archives: audition

I’ve come this far, but even so, it could be yes, it could be no…

Whew! Auditions are done, show is cast, most of my crazy week is almost done! Auditions are always kind of exciting, you know?

Not my theater. Just A theater. But this is kind of what our auditions look like so I’m STEALING it.

Everyone shows up, all excited and bright-eyed, and you get to watch them (hopefully! usually!) putting their best foot forward, and then you get to cast some of them in a show! And that’s the best thing, you get to tell people they’re cast. (SIDE NOTE! The only time I ever got to call someone and offer them a part, I was SO EXCITED. See, it’s the director’s job to do that. Because it’s a kickass job. It’s fun, the person’s all excited, etcetera, etcetera. So my friend K. asked me to call someone and offer her a part. I WAS SO STOKED! I got to call someone and offer her a part! And I was all YES I WOULD LOVE TO! So I did, and guess what happened, no seriously, guess what? SHE DID NOT WANT THE PART. No! I am SERIOUS! It was an AMAZING part, and the funniest part in the show – not the biggest, but totally the comic relief – and she was all NOPE. You could HEAR the sneer in her voice.

SNEEEEEEER.

She wanted one of the bigger parts. Which she was too old for and wouldn’t have worked for her at all. Also the part was a lesbian and she was like, “my husband’s a big deal in the community so people wouldn’t like it if I played a GAY PERSON.” So I had to call K. all, “she said no?” and when I told her why, K. was all, “UGH DEAD TO US” and I agreed – K. and I are very simpatico, yo – and we offered the part to someone else. And listen! Sometimes the stars align. Because the person we gave the part to? WAS that role. She was PERFECTION. She was hysterical, she was sympathetic, she was gorgeous, she was a joy to work with, she totally lit up the stage every time she walked on, and she’s still one of my favorite theater people and when I see her she gives me these huge fierce hugs. Oh, also? SHE PLAYED A LESBIAN WITHOUT BEING ONE! I know ZOMG, right? Heh. She had to eat a BILLION TONS of food onstage every night. Like, a BILLION TONS. I’m totally exaggerating. But lots. Her character was supposed to be nervous, so she had to eat all the finger foods at this wedding. So every night, I had to make this huge plate of like olives and berries and brownie bits and cheese and things that wouldn’t crunch and she could eat quickly and say her lines.

EAT ALL THE THINGS, A.! (Her name was A.) EAT THEM ALL! While ACTING! (She truly and well rocked my face off every single night.)

[SIDE NOTE WITHIN A SIDE NOTE: due to some terrible experiences, K. and I, every year, look at the list of shows we’re going to do and are all, “UGH THIS ONE HAS FOOD.” We hate shows with food in them. Seriously. All you have to say to K. is “remember the eggs?” We had TWO shows with eggs. We have MULTIPLE BAD MEMORIES OF SHOW-EGGS. Eggs, left even a day, SMELL, you guys. Never do a show with eggs. Also, if you are watching a show and eggs are involved, please give kudos to the stage crew; they deserve them.] She didn’t even complain! Not at all! Except she asked for more fruit and less brownies, because she was worried she would get fat. Hee! She’s about as big as a minute. I love her. ANYWAY! This isn’t even a side note. It’s like a whole blog post of its own. I tried to offer someone a part once, they declined in a weird way, and we ended up winning in the best possible way, so it ended ok after all. END OF THE STORY.)

Let’s start a new paragraph. Palate-cleansing-like. Anyway, the WORST part of auditions is sending out the regret email. Because then you’re crushing people’s hopes and dreams and I hate that part.

I hate making people sad-clown. Also, I hate sad-clown. SORRY YOU GUYS.

I mean, yeah, sure, not everyone in the world can get a part, I know, I KNOW IT, but it still is my least favorite. (I hate it especially much when I have to send regret emails to people I’ve worked with before and I love to death. That kills me. Because I LOVE them. And they are WONDERFUL. And I want to HUG THEM UNTIL THEIR HEADS POP OFF and they are JOYS to work with and they are SO SO TALENTED. But it’s not my call, it’s the director’s call…and who am I to say who he picked isn’t right for the show? The cast he picked is absolutely wonderful. There aren’t enough parts to go around. It’s the nature of the beast. I hate hurting my friends, is what it boils down to.) There are three types of people who audition (well, other than the ones we cast, of course): a., people who are very good and almost make it, but not quite; b., people who are kind of middle-of-the-road, but not delusional, and they know they’re not going to get the part when they see the talent they’re up against (this was me most of the time I acted, I can admit it); and c., people who are DELUSIONAL AND THINK THEY ARE THE BEST ZOMG.

Luckily, this time around, we didn’t get any Delusional Diedres. Or Delusional Dereks, I guess. Everyone was calm. We’ve had some weirdos in the past. I don’t want to…um…what if they’re reading…I can’t call ’em out. Rude rude rude. Um, well, what can I say. We’ve had crying in the lobby. We’ve had people who DEMAND to read for another role after we tell them we’ve seen everything we need to see from them and they can go home. We’ve had people send me mean, mean emails in reply to my VERY NICE regret email. (Yes, yes, I know it’s still a rejection, even though it’s a regret email…but be GRACIOUS. There aren’t as many parts as auditioners. There never are. And even if there are, some people aren’t right for roles.) We’ve had people show up for auditions who are forty years too old for the part and be SO UPSET when they weren’t cast. We’ve had people show up blitzed-off-their-face drunk and almost fall off the stage. Once someone (who I think was…um…home-challenged? FINE I THINK HE WAS HOMELESS HE HAD A SHOPPING CART FULL OF CANS AND ALSO FOR SOME REASON CARPET REMNANTS, NO, I am NOT making fun, I am AWARE I am almost homeless myself, thank you very much, I AM REPORTING JUST THE FACTS) showed up with a bunch of weeds and was all, “here are some flowers, cast me!” and they were CRAWLING with bugs and I was all immediately bug-covered and I was trying SO HARD not to scream and was like “thank…you?” and when he went into the theater (after asking me to watch his cart) I threw the weeds into our backyard and washed my hands a billion times.

Here are some purty flowers for you purty lady I am a cast member now?

Oh, and once a lady body-checked me into a wall because she was walking into auditions but not auditioning, and I didn’t know if that was ok with the director, so I asked her to wait a second while I ran in and asked, and she was crazy with lipstick that went outside of the lines, and she said “I WAS TOLD IT WAS OK BY THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR!” (I’m the artistic director) and body-checked me into the wall and ran in. Then came back out a few minutes later with a handful of gum-papers and rolled-up programs and tissues and said, “I found this on the floor in there; it is trash. Hold out your hands, I’ll give it to you,” and I was like, “Um. No. Garbage can. There,” and she was all “HUFF HUFF TRYNA DO A NICE THING HERE.”

This woman needed to go into the penalty box. What, you think I don’t know it’s called the penalty box? I totally surprised you. You’re WELCOME.

So…yeah. I know you’re all thinking I’m super-glamorous and I’m wearing all black and a beret and oh, I don’t know, snapping to show approval like a beatnik and shit, but really we sometimes have to deal with a lot of lunacy. And the BEST part is we have to be nice because we can’t piss off a potential patron because theater is not rolling in dough, you know. So you deal with the craziness and you paste on a smile. A BIG OLD SMILE. And then sometimes you run into the kitchen and you hide behind the fridge.

NOT ME. Except for kind of the glasses.

But also let’s say 98% of the time it is totally awesome. And I do own a beret. I don’t wear it, but I own it. I got it at this awesome thrift store and it was totally brand-new and it’s wool and it has a little dragonfly on it and it was three DOLLARS. I mean, even to never wear it I had to buy it. I WANT MY THREE DOLLARS.

I WANT MY THREE DOLLARS!!!!

Anyway, I sent out the regret emails and we’re all cast with a great cast and the show’s going to be wonderful. And I so so SO hope that some of the people come back and audition for our next show which I’m stage managing because this show only had 4 people, and our next show has LOTS of people, and also I’m stage managing it and there was a LOT of talent at auditions and I’d like some of that on my stage in February!

OK, this is getting long and I have things to do like watch Project Runway and eat a popsicle and pet Dumbcat who got a billion times needy for no apparent reason today and also hid in the pots and pans cupboard and meowed from INSIDE there today and made me think my kitchen was haunted. Happy day, cactus flowers! Do something fun!

(Title from “I Hope I Get It” from A Chorus Line…which has one of my favorite auditioning songs, “Dance 10, Looks 3.” Hee!)


Show Me a Great Actress, and You’ve Seen the Devil

Over the years, I estimate that I’ve participated in (insome way, shape, or form) approximately 43 billion theater auditions. What? You“doubt” that figure could be “accurate”? Well, I doubt your face is accurate. Ha! I guess I schooledyou. 

Yes, yes, I’m exaggerating. But I’ve been to more than myfair share of auditions. First, when I used to act, as an auditioner; now thatI’m working for a theater, as one of the scary people who sit in the audienceand pass judgment on the people auditioning. And, as such, I have a few helpfultips for anyone planning to audition for a community theater production. 

Now, please note, these tips may or may not hold true forauditioning for film, as I know nothing about that, other than it seems peoplewait in really long lines when general casting calls come to town and I have towonder if it’s worth it because I am the MOST IMPATIENT PERSON ALIVE. I can’teven wait five minutes in a grocery store line without starting to grumbleunder my breath. Some of those people wait OVERNIGHT. I don’t get that. I guessit’s exciting that you might see yourself on the big screen? And you can put iton a resume? And I suppose it has to have happened at least once or twice thata director sees some sort of spark in an extra and turns him or her into thenext big thing (but probably that’s not going to happen to you, so I wouldn’thitch my wagon to that particular star)? 

So here are some tips if you ever plan on auditioning atyour local community theater. Helpful! I’m telling you. You come here for thefunny, you leave A BETTER PERSON FOR IT. 

Be prepared.  First, read the audition notice. Not justwhen to show up and the address of the auditions, but the characterdescriptions and the ages. Are all of the women in the play under the age of 25and you’re 50 (and you look 50)? You’re probably not going to get cast. It’sreally best not to waste anyone’s time – ours or yours. We’re going to thinkyou’re delusional and you’re taking time away from people who actually have ashot at the parts. Second, it doesn’t hurt at all to read the play you’reauditioning for. It’s not a prerequisite, no. I’m not saying don’t show upunless you’ve read it. But this is kind of a test, and wouldn’t you want tohave done your homework before showing up with your number two pencils andscrap paper? Also, you might read the play and find out it sucks. I mean, thetheater isn’t going to think it sucks, obviously. The theater chose the playfor a reason. (In case you’re wondering, theaters don’t arbitrarily choose theplays they do every season, like, throw names in a hat or something. I’ve beenon the play selection committee at my theater for years. It’s a lot of work. We read30-40 submissions and we discuss the hell out of them and do lists of pros andcons and choose directors with care and put them in the order that works best.It’s not something we take lightly.) So anyway. Read the play. Maybe you fitthe age range of the actors we’re looking for, but you have a deep issue takingyour clothes off onstage and there are three nude scenes. You know not toaudition. See? Aren’t you glad you did your homework? Gold star. 

Put your best faceforward. Again, we’re not going to NOT cast you if you show up looking likeyou just rolled out of bed. We’ve cast people like that before, depending onour needs and who gave the strongest audition. But it doesn’t hurt at all todress neatly and professionally. Am I telling you to wear a ball gown and operagloves? No, looney tunes, I’m not. (Although, you’re a theater person, no onewould even look at you twice if you did.) But even nice jeans and a dressyshirt will do. Also, be prepared to move. Women that show up in too-shortskirts kill me, because listen, I’ve gotten too many beaver shots over theyears from women who wore inappropriate skirts to auditions and then had to beactive in their audition and oh! Hello! I see you wore a thong yikesaroonie!See, I sit in the front of the theater, because I’m usually the one calling outyour name and telling you all when to come up and what scene you’ll be readingfrom. So if there’s crotch to be seen, I’m seeing it. And I can’t UN-see it,you know? Also, you’re not fooling anyone, short-skirt-and-cleavage-top. Thedays of the casting couch are over. Most of our directors are female, and themale ones, sorry to say, are mostly gay males. (It’s the theater. I don’t knowif I’m blowing anyone’s mind, but there are a lot of gay men in theater. Iknow! Hide yo wife hide yo kids, right?) If you think your sexy-mama getup isgoing to get you a part, no, it’s not, and also, secret mental points againstyou for thinking you’d be getting a part with your jiggly bits and not youracting skills. 

Don’t be a douchebag.Don’t come in like you’re too cool to be at the audition. Maybe that works inNew York City, I don’t know, because I DON’T LIVE THERE AND OBVIOUSLY NEITHERDO YOU. We’re a decent-sized city, but we’ve got a small-town vibe going forus, especially in the theater scene. Come in nicely, with a smile, be friendly,and do what you’re asked to do without argument. Now, I know, you might benervous, and this might make you quieter than normal. That’s expected, and that’sfine. But entering in full-on bitch-on-wheels mode? Black mark on yourpermanent record. Actual examples of this: someone who refused to fill outaudition paperwork because “I don’t have time for that,” (and then proceeded totalk on their cell phone for the next half-hour loudly while people werelooking over the audition material); someone who went into the theater when weasked the actors not to do so because we were having a meeting in there aboutthe order of auditioners and then refused to leave because the lobby was toocrowded and it really wasn’t all that crowded; a person who looked over theaudition material and then said “the scene I want to read isn’t here, do you havea script, I’m going to be reading a scene of my own choosing” (this is not anoption, but nice that you’ve decided on your own that it is!); and the personwho decided at the last minute they weren’t going to audition, but talkedloudly to everyone around her all through everyone else’s auditions anddistracted everyone. Also? If you’re new to the theater, you don’t know whoanyone is, and what their relationship is to everyone else. So BE CAREFUL WITHYOUR TRASH-TALKING. We’re theater people. We gossip, we trash-talk, we bitch.Yes. Yes, that’s what we do. I know that. But if you’re new to a place, you haveto watch who you’re doing it TO. I’ll never forget the woman who gave abrilliant audition, and then came back to her seat and started to run down thetheater, the area, the other actors, the audition process, and the plays wewere doing that season with the person sitting beside her. She did it quietly;she wasn’t distracting. Thing is, the person sitting beside her WAS THEASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF THE SHOW AND A BOARD MEMBER. Needless to say, she wasn’tcast. 

Be honest. We askthe information we need on the audition sheet. If you leave something off – theage range you can play, dates you have a conflict and won’t be able torehearse, a character you’re unwilling to play, that you’re unwilling to swear,kiss, or be nude onstage – this hinders us in our ability to cast you. See,here’s a backstage peek into the audition process, at least where I work. I assumeit’s basically the same in other places. We watch everyone audition. Everyonewho showed up and is interested in auditioning gets a chance. Auditions areopen; no roles are precast. Then, once we’ve seen everything we want to see, wesend everyone home, spread out the audition sheets and our notes, and talkabout the roles and who is in contention for them. If you didn’t write that you’reunwilling to play Felicia, and you gave a kick-ass audition for Felicia, youmight get cast in that role. Actual conversation I had once with someone we’dcast: “Hi, this is Amy, calling to let you know you’ve been cast as blah-blahrole in blah-blah play! Congratulations!” (After a loooong pause) “Oh. I’m notat all interested in that part. I don’taccept. Thank you for calling me, though.” Hmm, let’s think how this could havebeen avoided. If you’d READ THE PLAY, you’d have known you weren’t interestedin the part. Then you could have WRITTEN IT ON YOUR AUDITION SHEET. But even ifyou didn’t read the play, you sat through two nights of auditions, so you knewyou didn’t want that part. Why didn’t you come up to one of us and TELL us, “I’dlike to amend something on my audition sheet” and write “not willing to acceptthe part of Judy” or whatever on it? So THAT was a waste of time. On a happiernote, the second person we called for the part – someone we’d decided on foranother part and decided to switch to that part – gladly took the role andROCKED it. She was the star of every review. And every time I read a review ravingabout her in that role, I hoped like hell the woman I’d called originally wasreading it and weeping into her cornflakes. Because I am PETTY and MEAN. 

Don’t be delusional.This one’s tough. I mean, I have to appreciate anyone that shows up.Auditioning is hard, I know. I used to do it. I’m debating doing it again laterthis season, actually. (Cue nervous nailbiting…NOW.) But you know those peopleon American Idol that show up andaudition and you turn to the person you’re watching it with (or your cat, I don’tknow, I don’t judge and NEITHER SHOULD YOU) and say, “She can’t think she’s good. She doesn’t, right? The producers put her there so they’d have someonefor the clip show, right? No one’s thatdelusional, right?” Well, I can’t speak for AmericanIdol? But in real life? THOSE PEOPLE SHOW UP. I’m sorry, people. I reallyam. The only consolation I have is that you probably don’t know who you are, ifyou’re reading this – you probably wouldn’t even identify yourself with the “delusional”moniker. I would give examples but I really don’t want anyone reading thisaccidentally to identify themselves. I don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings. Ireally don’t. I just find it very hard to believe you can’t see yourlimitations. Listen, I wouldn’t, for example, show up to audition for a chorus.BECAUSE I CAN’T CARRY A TUNE. Likewise, I would not show up to run a marathon,BECAUSE I AM FRIGHTFULLY OUT OF SHAPE. Is there something I’m not aware of thatstops people from realizing they can’t act? I’ve been doing this – seriously,not even exaggerating this time – for almost 24 years, and this still surprisesand kind of upsets me. It sometimes takes everything I have not to yell “Really?You aren’t pulling our legs? Where’s the hidden camera?” after one of thereally heinous auditions. THEY’RE THAT BAD. Again, no hate mail, I appreciateyou coming out, and it takes bravery to audition, it does. But how can you notknow? And also, there are classes you can take to get better, maybe take one? Idon’t know. 

Don’t take itpersonally. We get a lot of people auditioning for a few parts. Justplaying the odds, you don’t have the best chance of getting a part. If you do –congratulations. It’s the best theater in the area, in my humble opinion; you’regoing to love the people; I’m so, so excited to get to know you and to get towork with you. But if you weren’t cast, it isn’t anything personal. (Well,unless you trash-talked to the wrong person in auditions. Then maybe it is.)Casting is a tough thing. We take the following into consideration: your look,your audition, your availability for rehearsals, your onstage compatibilitywith the other people we’re considering casting, your reputation among othertheater people in the area, your resume, how well you took direction (if wegave any), our gut feelings about you, and about 53 other tangible andintangible things that go into casting a show. Again, like choosing a season,we don’t cast a show arbitrarily. We have to work with you for a few months. Wealso are dependent on the money we make on the shows to stay afloat; if theshow bombs, we don’t make a lot of money, and we need that money because, let’sface it, theater’s not that lucrative. So if you don’t turn in a top-notchperformance, it’s not the best thing for us. Let me reiterate – IT IS NOTPERSONAL. Don’t go around telling people my theater “hates” you. We don’t, butwe’re going to start if you keep bad-mouthing us. One of the things we alsotake into consideration – how well you take rejection, if you’ve been rejectedbefore, and if you came back to audition after being rejected by us in the past.We do take into consideration past auditions, if they were excellent. It is inyour best interest to be CLASSY. 

So there you go, potential auditioners. Is it scary? You betyour ass it is. It’s putting yourself out there and getting up in front ofpeople voluntarily and letting them judge you. However, let me tell you fromexperience, the high you get after having auditioned, whether or not it wasultimately successful, is something everyone should experience at least once intheir life. You feel like you can tackle anything, seriously. And if you arecast? You’re in for the ride of your life. Yes, sure, I’m biased andtheater-crazed, I’ll take that criticism gladly. But if you’ve ever thought ofdoing it – do it. And if it’s my theater, tell me hi. Just keep your crazy eyesand beaver shots to yourself, because I don’t want anything to do with those.
(Title is from a W.C. Fields quote, because I don’t want anyone to be all “thief, thief.” “Show me a great actor, and I’ll show you a lousy husband. Show me a great actress, and I’ll show you the devil.” I will not comment on the veracity of this quote.)

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