About this series:
These entries are taken from my article “Don’t Call Us — We’ll Call You.” It is a tongue-in-cheek survey of actors’ silly mistakes that should never have been made. Your comments are welcome, but PLEASE don’t comment “that’s dumb” or “everybody knows that” because I have personally seen these mistakes cost actors (sometimes even professional actors) roles.
YOU ACTED LIKE YOU WEREN’T ENJOYING YOURSELF. You sat in the corner, never smiled the whole time you were in the audition room, and never gave me any indication that you enjoyed meeting me or the others who were auditioning. I enjoy theatre. I like to work with others who enjoy theatre. Life is too short; if I can’t have fun with the people I work with–I’ll find people I can have fun with (why do you think they call it a “play”?).
I’ve seen it over and over again throughout my careers. All of ‘em: from slinging burgers at my high school job at Hardees, through college, and all the auditions I attended for all the roles I played during my acting days– people like to be around people who know how (and WHEN) to have fun while they work. Don’t get me wrong– they want people who do great work– but if there was a choice between the best actor in the world who is a bit of an unsociable primadonna, and a capable actor who is likeable and altruistic, my money is on the capable actor. Every time.
If you’re a “serious actor” who has great chops (performance skills ready to go at any moment) but is there to do your job and go home so you can get to another acting class somewhere or study the latest film by your favorite “method actor,” you need to find your latest acting coach and give him a slap on the side of the head. S/he told you wrong! Yes, if you’re a great actor, you’ll get roles, I’m not denying that– but to CONTINUE to get roles at the same theatre, you’d better have some social skills.
I don’t mean that you have to try to be buddies with the producers or directors. You don’t have to joke around with them, go out to have drinks with them after rehearsal or name your next baby after them– but you have to let them know that you ENJOY working with them. Put on your PR cap and figure out a way to let your co-workers know that you enjoy the opportunity to collaborate with them.
Me? I throw in one-liner jokes at appropriate times during rehearsals. I’m a hugger, so when I see people I give them a hug and ask about their lives. When I’m working on a scene, I’m 100% there, committed to the work we’re doing. When I’m off, I am careful not to distract those who are working or those who are trying to watch the work (you learn a LOT by watching other actors work). I usually try to attend the social activities (group dinners after rehearsals, cast parties, drinks after shows, etc) but being a Dad and husband, those are not as often as I would like.
What NOT to do? Don’t isolate yourself during rehearsals unless you’re working on a scene. Find times to interact with EACH of your cast-mates. Make it a point to have a moment with your Producer, Director, Music Director, Choreographer, Stage Manger, Stage Hand or Techie. Don’t think of it as kissing butt or schmoozing or any other patronizing thing– think of it as job reinforcement. Let your cast-mates, directors, staff, crew– anyone you rely on to help you do your job– let them know you appreciate them, that you consider their contribution important to the process, and that they can count on you to do whatever you can do to help them do their job.
Please don’t let this advice lead you to be cloying or annoying (sorry, the songwriter in me kicked in). There are few things more annoying than someone who tries TOO hard to be everybody’s buddy. Remember, you’re dealing with people who read people for a living. If you can’t sincerely enjoy other’s company– they’ll pick up on it. As the old Vaudeville bits go: “Always leave ‘em laughing” and “Leave them wanting more.”
For more on this, see this, too.