(Originally posted: Tuesday, January 13, 2009)
Finally, here is the story, as promised, of my latest audition adventure. While it is absolutely ridiculous and I in no way condone my general unpreparedness, I’m quite proud of myself. Turns out the “No Excuses” rule in my life is working. So here it goes:
Backstory to this: I found a really great monologue in a book and I really want to do it for something. I haven’t worked on it. I haven’t memorized it. I haven’t really done anything beyond make that decision. When I scored this audition I was sure I was going to use this new monologue. And then it was the day before the audition. Oops.
1. Keep a book of monologues you have worked on. This makes picking one as simple as turning the page.
I decided to go with the old standard audition monologue. A wise decision, given it was made the day before the audition. And only after a frantic internet search for the text. The plus here was that I actually liked the internet version’s cut better than my own, even if mine is closer to the play. This did present a last minute re-memorization predicament, of course. And I feel all this procrastination may have been the result of my well-documented hatred of audition monologues. Or it may have been because I forgot about the audition…
Okay, technically speaking, I didn’t forget so much as it just crept up on me. I swear I thought I had more time! Apparently I did not take into account the impact of the holiday insanity on my preparedness. But, in the midst of a chaotic work week, I pulled it together. Sort of.
2. Rehearse your monologue. Remember, a polished monologue takes time!
I located the text of my monologue on Wednesday, memorized it in 2.5 seconds that night (the real reason for choosing something I was already familiar with), repeated it a few times in the A.M. and had a minor panic attack due to the lack of minutes between me and the audition. To calm myself, I decided in my non-committal way to come home between work and the audition. I effectively gave myself a loophole: staying downtown to kill the significant amount of time between work and audition would have forced me to actually go to the audition. Going home meant I could go or I could not go. Nothing like a little last minute vacillation.
3. Every well-prepared actor should have a stockpile of headshots and resumes. You never know when you might need one.
I managed to block the whole impending audition thing out during my day at the office. In fact, it wasn’t until my driver (AKA uncle) was standing in front of me with his coat on at 5:30 PM that I realized I had neither headshot nor resume printed. Thank goodness he’s a patient man. So I ordered prints online–not the most cost-effective way to do it, I assure you, but I need new headshots so I don’t want fifty of the current one hanging around–and printed my resume. All at lightening speed. And as I settled into my heated leather seat for the ride home, I was still undecided–to audition or not to audition? Apparently, that was the first question…
4. Establish a pre-audition routine that works for you. Go into it relaxed and ready!
At home, I spent an hour on my back channeling all my years of Alexander/Feldenkrais/Strasberg/Yoga training and technique–my attempts at relaxation. I feel like I’ve been wearing my shoulders as earings for months now. It isn’t pleasant. Then I dragged myself to the shower, got dressed, put makeup on, checked the clock every other minute–if you’ve ever done anything by rote, you get how this went. Mindless. Machine like. And then I left.
It wasn’t so much an active decision that moved me out the front door. It was more like something inside me just knew I was going to go and said, “Stop making excuses and start moving…” And, really, who am I to fight these forces? So I walked to my local Black’s feeling pretty decent about the whole thing. Until: lights out, doors locked. Insert expletive. In my lightening speed, I read the wrong store hours and assumed they were universal. Again, expletive. Defeat. Sort of.
5. A first impression is key to casting: arrive early and prepared.
So I stood there staring at the closed store for a while. And then I decided, screw this. I showered. I put make up on. I told my friends I couldn’t hang out because I had an audition. I’m going. The worst they can do is not see me and maybe that will teach me a lesson about being prepared. And yes, I will look like an A*hole for not having my headshot, but I think that would be categorized under “things that are my own fault.” It was a whole “you made your bed now lie in it” conversation in my head. And off I went. Being angry (even if it’s with yourself) can be productive. It’s kind of exhilirating.
I was riding that high until the theatre came into view. Then the panic set in–the tightening of the chest, the short breaths, the whole bit. Here is my issue: I hate being late for anything but I also hate having to sit around waiting for upwards of fifteen minutes. It throws what little focus I have in audition settings. My cure is to keep moving. It settles me. It puts me in my zen place. Or whatever. So there I was, circling the block while reciting my monologue. Trying not to let anyone see my lips moving. Just another crazy person.
6. Thinking of auditions as competitions is counter-productive. It isn’t really about being better than everyone else, but about being the best you can be.
Eventually I went in. Still early enough to satisfy my anal retentiveness, but not early enough to have to sit in some stuffy room forever with every other actress auditioning. I don’t like the intimidation game, I don’t believe in it, and this situation almost always leads to it. And by some miracle, they were running on time. Early, even. Several people didn’t show, apparently–I should add that I had no contact number for the audition. I couldn’t call to cancel. I probably would have after the Black’s debacle, but I firmly believe that the only thing worse than showing up unprepared is not showing up at all. And I took this as a good sign. To the best of my understanding, auditions were scheduled by playing age. No shows means less competition amongst the 18-24 female set. Bonus.
7. Always follow your instincts. When nerves hit, instinct is your most reliable tool.
Enter the audition gauntlet. It was a crowd. Seriously. Easily fifteen people. I was not expecting this (I’m not sure why I wasn’t since I knew it was an audition for multiple plays). Secretly, this was really exciting. My audition monologue works way better with a crowd. I rejoice. And then I sit down. Wrong move. This is not at all the right physicality for this monologue. And now I don’t know what to do with my hands. Expletive. Too late, I’m already talking. Well, you win some, you lose some. Mental note to figure that one out beforehand in the future.
8. Don’t be afraid to take risks. They might work out.
They seemed to dig the monologue. It is, after all, a darn good monologue. And they seemed to be enjoying passing my resume around (score one for my big name university with its even bigger price tag). I relaxed a bit, given that I knew I could handle the rest. I eat cold reads for breakfast. Okay, maybe not, but I do like them better. And then this:
“Can you do a French accent?”
“Yes.” (I haven’t done a French accent in at least three years.)
“Could you do the beginning of your monologue with a French accent?”
(Internal monologue expletive at exactly the same time as:) “Sure!”
And I pulled one out of you can probably guess where. A pretty good one at that. Confession: I am kind of a perfectionist when it comes to technical things like this. I am actually a big dialects nerd. I was forced at my fancy schmancy school to learn the International Phonetic Alphabet in first year. As soon as I figured out how this made dialects happen, I was hooked. And I am actually really, really good at them. It’s the one thing I will give myself. But I like the IPA approach and that takes time, off the cuff is another story. Even I impressed myself by pulling that one off. And acting like it was nothing. This was turning out okay after all.
9. Listen and absorb all notes in an audition. You are here to show, more than that you’re right for the part, that you can be directed.
I read for two more things–one well, the other not as much. The one that I read well was fairly easy. I got it, I could relate to it, and I think I took the note I was given in the couple of lines I had to work with. The one that didn’t work so well, I should have asked the question in my head when I was given the note instead of assuming I got it. I had seen the side in the lobby before and had already decided the part was not for me. Which was unfortunate because it seemed like a really good part. It was just way outside my realm of experience. But maybe if I had asked my question I would have been more believable than I was. Or maybe some things just aren’t believable (see: Tom Cruise in Valkyrie). Or maybe I should just stop casting myself while at auditions–after all, casting directors will probably pigeon hole you all on their own, why help?
And then it was done.
10. Post audition: evaluate without over-analyzing.
I walked away feeling good about the whole thing. Then, of course, the “I shoulda” rant came on in my head. This is the hard part–waiting without going crazy. There will always be things I could have done differently or should have done differently. But obsessing really won’t get me anywhere. Evaluation is important–figure out what worked and what didn’t and take productive steps from there. But you can’t change what’s already happened, no matter how much you dwell on it. So auditions ended on Sunday and call backs are on the weekend (ring phone, ring!). I’m cautiously optimistic. Despite all the ridiculousness, it wasn’t a terrible audition. And, whatever the case, there will be other auditions. Even ones I will be prepared for! But this rather fubar-ed audition reminded me of these words of wisdom from my former dialects teacher:
11. “Don’t worry so much about being great that you can’t even be good.”
Perfection isn’t always possible. Things happen. Don’t make excuses. Roll with the punches. Do the best you can under the circumstances. Then, keep going. It’s all you can do.