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 WEREN’T COOPERATIVE. When we were doing improvisations or other theatre games, you gave me the impression that you didn’t approve of my audition methods or that you thought it was silly. Silly you. I can tell a lot about your personality by the way you cooperate with an audition format. What makes me think that you won’t be uncooperative during my rehearsals as well? You haven’t learned yet that you need to ACT as though you are a team player, someone who can play the “Audition Game” in a cooperative manor.
I vividly remember my performing days. So many things that stand out that I really, really loved about that lifestyle: the teamwork, the applause, the rush of adrenalin, seeing the audience’s eyes as I was singing to them, the cast parties, making people laugh, dating dancers (ah, but I digress!)– but the one thing that I absolutely HATED was auditions. I hated it with a passion. Don’t get me wrong– I was pretty good at it, but I hated every moment of it. It went against every grain of my being. I’m such a non-conformist that the thought of standing in front of a group of producers like a trained monkey in a zoo pretty much repulsed me. But in the thousands of years of Theatre, they haven’t found a better, more reliable way to cast shows, it was either put up– or shut up.
Now, it seems pretty dumb that I was in a profession that relied so heavily on something that I detested. That’s life! My love of performing outweighed my destain for auditioning. The way I got through it was by treating it as a GAME.
The object of The Audition Game was to convince the producer that s/he didn’t want to produce whatever show for which they were holding auditions without me! I had a pretty good package going: I had a big voice, my acting was pretty good (for a singer), I could move well (though I’m not a dancer), I had a LOT of backstage tech skills, and I was a nice, polite guy with a good sense of humor. My job during an audition was to make sure the producer knew all this.
I would come into the audition full of energy, convince them that I had talent, then display my ability to use appropriate humor. The Producers may have been sitting through hours (or days!) of auditions and anything I could do to stand out was usually appreciated.
Now, as far as humor goes, I have to emphasize APPROPRIATE humor. Actors, directors, and producers work long and hard. Being able to find appropriate ways to alleviate stress and tension is a big plus– but nobody likes a smart-butt who doesn’t know when to shut up.
And while I’m at it, one of the biggest challenges an actor faces during an audition is when you are asked to do something…. dumb. I had a producer ask me to improvise an elephant standing on one leg. I’m serious. Instead of telegraphing my opinion of this request– I smiled, said “You bet!” in my most agreeable voice and did it. When my audition was over, I thanked them, exited the space, and kept my mouth shut.
What if that “dumb” request was actually a wily producer’s way of seeing how far I’d go to be a team player?
When I was directing a show in grad school, I had a buddy of mine attend my auditions to observe how the actors related to me. I was relatively new to the directing thing and hadn’t developed my ability to see out of the back of my head yet. He not only told me where I wasn’t communicating my intentions very well, he also let me know if my personality would clash with that of an actor. My buddy knew me very well and his input was invaluable to me. Our rehearsal process was so short, we didn’t have time to mess with personality clashes.
Playing the auditions as a game can help you get through even the most rediculous audition situations with your pride and reputation intact. Be a trooper, be a great team player, and just do whatever you’re asked to do. The producer may be new to the audition game– or he may just be trying to find something fresh and new to ward off boredom. Just do it, thank them for the opportunity, and keep your mouth shut. They may have a buddy in the green room listening for who complains about the dumb audition.