So much has been written about how horrible it is for actors to do auditions. They have to wait, nervously. They are vulnerable lambs in the hands of directors/casting directors/idiots who don’t recognise their talent/can’t tell that they are having a bad day/already know what they want and it isn’t them. Actors bemoan the lack of work/the kind of work/the dates. Actors do have it hard, and I know. There have been many disgusting audition experiences that I would love to erase off the hard drive of my memory.
But this post is about ‘holding’ auditions. Actors, just think about it from this angle for five minutes. It took me a week and a half to set up auditions. Here are just some of the things I had to do. Create an audition brief. Send it to 5 agents. Liase with agents around days, times, slots. Book an audition venue. Slot in and make allowances for independent actors who wanted to attend and who either didn’t have or weren’t sent by their agents. Send fifty emails. Refuse to answer ‘please call me’ SMSes from actors. Make an audition form. Make audition lists. Make audition numbers. Change the schedule 100 times. Fill in empty slots, rebook and switch times. Deal with irate actors whose SMSes I hadn’t returned. And this is all before auditions had even started.
So, yesterday was day 1 of 3. In the morning I had less than 50% turnout from the one agency. My 11h30 arrived at 09h30, there were three 10h20s, and in the space of a morning actors managed to assign themselves numbers completely randomly different from the order in which I saw them. All of this would have been ok if…
I had sent out a very clear and detailed brief around the characters in the work and asked actors to keep this in mind when choosing a short monologue. I would watch the prepared piece and then we would sightread from the script. Well, I never. Firstly, most of the independents had never seen the brief. I have no idea what they were thinking. They had no idea what they were auditioning for. I saw poems. I listened to sad letters written to sons in exile. I heard a massacre and slashing of a village, I witnessed a child do some weird thing in a new dress. Haibo! Really though, what were they doing there? I started getting cross. And here’s why. I had to sit there through it all. From 0900 to well after 1700.
I must be fair. Some auditionees were completely prepared and had given their material a bit of thought. Some of them had even written pieces themselves or found cool things on the internet. Bravo for those guys. That was really exciting. By the time my last person left yesterday my head was ringing. And I knew that today was going to be more of the same.
And it was; in reverse. I had a great morning, with tons of well prepared and talented performers, only two no shows, and young people with tons of commitment and enthusiasm. I had more than one 1st choice in my notes. Then this afternoon it went totally pear-shaped. Only two of the first six bookings came, and then some of them came late. Two people got the day wrong. One person didn’t know what I was auditioning for, and one person had not auditioned before. Surely not? One person did a Shakespearian monologue. For a piece of industrial theatre.
Now, I have been in that hired room for two days and there is still another to go. I have repeated myself so many times I can do this in my sleep. Yet I am not asleep. Each person gets my full attention, notes, appreciation, input and even my lectures about bad choices, arriving on time, making sure that people are available for dates, making allowances for sight reading, finding out where people live, you name it. Each person gets a full ten minutes or more of my time. Each person gets a good shot. What do wannabe actors think? that if I asked for a short prepared monologue I didn’t mean them? Why do actors sabotage any real possibility of actually landing the work? Do they really think that I will magically fall in love with them regardless of their total lack of preparation and thought?
Well, actors, I won’t. And I am seeing hundreds of you. I am going to choose somebody who looks like they are going to be good to work with; someone who is on time and prepared and does themselves justice by treating me with respect. And I know it’s just a piece of industrial theatre; but it is well paid, beautiful, amazing work!