Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: auditions

The birthing of a new production

Yesterday was a rollercoaster. I held auditions. I find it as hard holding them as doing them. I have to put out an enormous amount of energy to get people to be their best selves and to have a good time. That’s important to me. I was lucky yesterday. I allowed my instincts to speak loudly and I had no doubts about the two people I cast for a fantastic play I will be directing really soon. Now that the decision is made, and my offer has been accepted, I am allowing my imagination to soar. I am in the space of possibility and dreaming into the ideas, the vision, the meaning, the flow. And I am so terribly excited to be directing somebody else’s writing.

Last year I met an extraordinary young woman, Sara Shaarawi, at the WPIC (Women Playwrights International Conference) held in Cape Town. I was assigned to her as a director to work on a staged reading of an excerpt of her play Niqabi Ninja, and I got very excited. I knew I wanted to put the piece on, but timing and other stuff and life got in the way, until the Rhodes Reference List protests reminded me of how relevant and important this piece is. I wrote to Sara and told her I was ready to try and put it on, and she sent me the latest draft. It is radical.

So, on 18, 19, 20 July we will be doing a showcase of the play at The Alexander Bar. I will be inviting some VIPs of the theatre world (in Cape Town) because this piece must be seen, and appreciated, by as many young people as possible. And I am so, so excited. Save the dates, and come and have a look.

Holding Auditions in Hell

The second I had pressed ‘post’ I knew I shouldn’t have. I had been wrestling with whether to go open with my audition call for my latest industrial theatre project or not, but after a particularly lacklustre response from two agents I thought, what the hell. It felt only fair to make the call as wide as possible, and I put the audition notice on two very apt and specific pages; Cape Town Castings and Stage Jobs Classifieds. Bad idea.

In the brief I say “Please email me a CV and pic to secure a booking.” In the brief I give the rehearsal and performance dates, and audition venue. I am specific about what I am looking for, including colour, gender and age. I give my telephone number in case anyone has any queries. Bad idea. I have been WhatsApped up the yingyang with “I wnna b in ur movie” “intersed your promo” “y u ignoring me?” “acting age 25-35, can I still audition” to quote about 1%. I have been flooded with CVs and pics from wannabe performers who are filing clerks from as far away as Carletonville. I have had rude messages demanding that I accept video auditions and show reels. The entire wannabe acting community of Jozi has made contact.

And then, from the professionals, I have had ‘the changing of the time’. What that is, is the to and fro of emails shifting an audition time and date, up to four times. It is fair to say that I am in a constant state of losing my shit. And the auditions are only on Thursday and Friday. I don’t think I am going to last until then.

Audition angst

A friend of mine went to an audition recently. He was excited and well prepared, in a terribly realistic way. While he didn’t think he stood a very good shot he really wanted the director and others involved to get a glimpse of him and see what he was capable of. You never know.

I spoke to him after the audition and he was miserable. He had gone blank, even though he was well prepared. We spoke about it and he suggested that he he had walked into a really negative energy. Nobody had introduced themselves, or given him a chance to introduce himself. There was very little generosity in the space. And I just don’t get it.

Auditions are by their nature stressful. I have been to many and held even more. And when I am holding auditions I want everyone who walks into that room to be able to do and give their absolute best. It is my responsibility, regardless of whether I can see instinctively that they are wrong for the part, to give them my full, positive attention and to encourage the best out of them. I want to see the potential. I want to recognise the possibility. This doesn’t mean that I don’t get irritated with people who are unprepared, or with agents who clearly haven’t read the brief, or with actors who do Shakespeare for an industrial theatre audition. My end of the bargain is to create that positive space for all who come and ‘do something’ for me to see. That’s what I want when I go and audition.

So, when I hear horrible stories about directors (and producers and designers and managements) being the stereotypical sour pusses at auditions I can’t help but wonder how hideous the rehearsal process will be. And that’s the exact opposite of what any theatre experience should be. It should be a joy.

Industrial Theatre Auditions

I want to try something brave. I know a few actors read this blog, and there are quite a few of my friends on facebum who are actors and are friends with actors. So, here’s what I want to do. I am casting a role for a fantastic industrial theatre project that starts rehearsing on 19 September and carries on through to mid November. It’s an amazing cast so far.

I am looking for a male, in his thirties (or even forties; quite broad) who can play a warm, friendly, accessible type boss. He is a bit conservative, but very passionate about his business. A bonus would be that the actor can sing really well. Are you him? Do you know of a friend or colleague who is? Colour is not an issue. Pink, or light brown or dark brown.

Please send me an email to megan@improvision.co.za if you are him, or you know him. If I don’t know you, send me a CV. Or inbox me on facebum. If I think you are suitable, we will set up a meeting.

Auditions

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!

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