You know, it’d been awhile since I was able to go to an audition without any preconceived notions about what was going to transpire. I’m usually so loaded down with expectations that I sometimes don’t enjoy the process the way I should. Then something like last night pops up and reminds me of just how liberating the act of not giving a shit can really be.
I absolutely SMOKED that audition.
I’ve found over the years that I tend to audition the best when I’m able to fly under the radar. I actually prefer to be an outsider, because it means that I don’t have to prove myself to anybody. I just have to get up on stage and do my thing. Sitting there, waiting for my first chance to read, I feel like Jack Nicholson’s Joker in the original Batman movie. “Wait’ll they get a load of me.” I get giddy just thinking about it.
Now in this particular instance, I knew the Director and the Playwright on a surface level. We’d met on numerous occasions over the last couple of years, and in fact, I was in one of his plays last year, although he wasn’t directly involved in the production. I wouldn’t call them “friends”, because I hardly know them as people, but I know them well enough to have them recognize me when I arrived, without the awkward, “why do I know this guy?” vibe. They greeted me by name, and after getting over their initial surprise at seeing me there (I had never so much as *seen* a show at their home theater, let alone auditioned for one), seemed genuinely excited to have me there. But I didn’t know the Co-Director or the Stage Manager at all, never mind the other auditioners, most of which seemed to know each other on some level. It was the absolute perfect atmosphere for me.
The play calls for 3 men and 2 women, all roughly between the ages of 30-40. The turnout was light, as there were only 3 women and 5 men (me included) there, which if nothing else, allows for the chance to really show what you can do. Nobody actively sucked, and in fact, if I was casting the show, I would have had a hard time differentiating between most of them in terms of talent. Everyone seemed competent, although nobody really shined. Except me. And it wasn’t even CLOSE.
You know you’re doing something right, when you see a scene read four times, then you read it, and everyone AFTER you copies what you do. And that was just my BLOCKING.
Because the male roles can be flip-flopped, they had us read every side at least twice, switching roles in between. So on average, we saw each side about six times. The first side involved a couple at a restaurant. Four readings in, and I was the first one with the brains to say, “hey, mind if I drag this chair up on stage?” Needless to say, the other readings that took place in that setting used the chairs. Which I realize, doesn’t exactly make me Tim Burton in terms of visual genius, but nobody else had the sense to do it.
One scene involved a couple standing and having a conversation, with another character (serving as an unseen “alter ego” to the male protagonist) dropping in sarcastic wisdom as they spoke. Prior to my reading, the alter ego chose to stand off to the side, far away from the action. After mine, everyone chose to mimic my choice to stand just between the couple and back a step. Again, I’m not a genius, but I was making choices.
Cue up the opening monologue, which clearly states in the description that the main character spends a few moments nervously contemplating his cell phone before introducing himself to the audience. I’ll leave it to you to figure out how many of the guys just plowed ahead with the opening lines prior to my whipping out my cell phone and standing their silently for a few moments. Needless to say, the guy after me… he had a cell phone.
As for the readings themselves, all I can say is that when you’re reading a comedy, and you’re not getting a reaction from *anybody*, your reading might be a bit subdued. Especially when the director has prepped you by telling the entire group at the top of the night that it would be near impossible to be *too* over the top. On the other hand, I had the playwright cracking up, and he WROTE the flippin’ thing. You know, it’s really hard to be humble when you sit back down and everybody’s looking at you with the expression of “DAMN! I wish *I’d* thought of that!”
So, yes, I smoked that audition. For two hours I pretty much owned the room, and I’m a guy who usually spends the night kicking myself for my mistakes. But not on this night. Afterwards, the playwright approached me and with a rather large grin shook my hand. “Can you be in EVERYTHING I write?”, he asked. “You find such great stuff in my writing.”, a statement I find somewhat ironic as I think I’m simply performing it the way he’s written it, but whatever. I suppose after watching so many people get up onstage and not get your work, it might be disorienting to have somebody else come along and totally nail it.
If I get cast, if I don’t… at this point the end result hardly matters. I’d love to do it, but I wasn’t planning on doing anything before last night, so whatever disappointment I’d feel at not getting it will be minimal. In the meantime, my ego has a brand spankin’ new memory to chew on the next time I start kicking myself.
And I’m more than happy to put that in my pipe and smoke it.