Did everyone have a great summer? I hope so - it’s hard to believe we’re just a week away from Labor Day.
Besides an increased course schedule at Ted Bardy Acting Studio, my big summer event was returning to the routine of auditioning every week. It feels great to be back in the swing, and I’ve gotten encouraging feedback from casting directors so far. I’ve been called back for a few projects, and I booked a lead role in a theater showcase! It’s too early to say more about that right now, but stay tuned for details as we move into the fall…..
Those of you who know me from my time at Calvin Klein are aware that I played the role of “casting director” for the corporate office and collection store for many years - I placed hundreds of candidates into open positions. So you’d think it would be easy for me to understand the casting director’s perspective and breeze through the audition process, right?
As you know, for a typical job interview, you first meet with HR, and then you may be passed along to the hiring manager if you’re considered to be a viable candidate for the open job. These initial interviews may be 30 to 60 minutes (or even longer), which gives the candidate plenty of time to get over any initial anxiety and ease into a successful meeting. The HR rep greets you warmly in the lobby, you follow him to his office, exchange some pleasant small-talk, and share tales of your work experience. Maybe you have a humorous anecdote or two, or can show your personal interest in the company by sharing your knowledge of their web site and social media presence, and current articles you’ve researched in the press.
So…….this is what happens in my auditions:
I stand outside the door of the audition room, and enter when signaled. The casting director (and/or director, assistant, intern) is seated behind a desk. I say hello and smile, they say hello and smile, and then I start my audition. The audition consists of performing a prepared monologue, or it could be performing a small chunk of the show’s script (these are called “sides”) that I was given 20 minutes prior to walking into the room. After I’ve finished, I smile and thank them, they smile and thank me, and I walk out of the room. End of audition.
Everything I just described takes three minutes. Or less. THREE MINUTES!
What is the casting director hoping I will show them in these three minutes? Well, they’re hoping I will be exactly what they had envisioned for the role, based on their conversations with the director of the play, and their own instincts of how the character should be played. That’s all. They make this judgment based on everything they observe within that three minutes, which does NOT include any of the following: a handshake (never, NEVER try to shake someone’s hand at an audition - they’re trying to avoid germs), a humorous anecdote you’d love to share with them, or any discussion whatsoever of your experience or observations on the character, or the play, or the fact that you were born in the same town as the playwright. There is (quite literally) no time for nerves, or indecision, or anything but a polished, confident execution of the audition material. Simple!
Because it’s so challenging and intimidating, auditioning is often an actor’s least favorite activity. But we must embrace it, because we’ll continue doing it throughout our careers in one way or another. It’s not about “qualifications” - it will always be about chemistry and the director’s vision; the best we can do as actors is to be as prepared as possible, project a comfortable confidence without a trace of arrogance, stay in the moment, go with the flow, and enjoy the process. Learning how to audition well is a specific skill set all it’s own, aside from training as an actor. We read books and articles, and take classes to learn how to do it properly.
I’ve had a few experiences that threw me off this summer -
- When arriving for an audition, I went to the restroom, and was standing next to another actor at the sink. Later, when I walked into the audition room, that same man was sitting behind the table. He wasn’t an actor after all - he was the casting director! My mind started to race, trying to remember if I did anything strange at the sink in the restroom, like making funny faces in the mirror or re-styling my hair for the tenth time. That one moment of shock was enough to shake my concentration, and it was not my best audition.
- Remember what I said about shaking hands? Well, one lovely and personable casting director (from a regional theater far from NYC), upon my entering the audition room, walked over to me and shook my hand warmly. It blew my mind because it was so unexpected. Again, not my best audition.
- While standing with a small group waiting for my turn in the audition room, and trying to maintain focus and concentration on my dramatic monologue, I was surrounded by a bunch of rude, loud, giggling actors who all knew each other and were jabbering away with no regard for maintaining the standard professional silence before entering the room. To confront them or give them the stink-eye could’ve taken me even further away from center, so I just looked down and did my best to block them out. The good news is that, once I walked into the room, the distraction vanished, and the casting director was very complimentary of my performance and choice of material.
I’ve come to enjoy auditioning - it’s a chance to perform, to bring my unique viewpoint to the material, and most importantly, make connections with casting directors that will hopefully call me in repeatedly for future projects. The casting directors only want us to succeed, and must make difficult decisions in each casting session. It’s a major challenge on both sides, and one that takes a great deal of practice and determination to meet successfully.
Onto the next audition…..