Auditions are coming up! IN THE HEIGHTS and 42nd ST have already had their first round, and calls for MISS SAIGON and RENT should be announced next week for the end of the month. The audition process is one of the most fascinating of many that go into the building of a new production. Focus is on skill levels, of course, but also, on one’s openness and potential for growth.
I think I’ve developed a pretty good sense of an actor’s flexibility and nature. It just comes naturally from doing it for a while now. Intuition and going with a hunch has worked pretty well. Taking a risk. Insight into the work an actor presents at an audition draws from the experience of auditioning myself for almost over forty years. I know I have been stubborn. Either you like my way or it’s the highway…for me! I’ve been rigid. And I have also been excessively eager to please. That’s a trap as well. And I’ve been over rehearsed or under prepared. Trapped in a pattern I could not break in the moment. Or woefully clue free of studying not only the lines but also of the full characterization and research and big picture. The storytelling. I think it all gets distilled down to one of my favorite quotes: “Plant your feet, look the other guy in the eye, and tell the truth.” (James Cagney, actor and dancer extraordinaire). This concept of honesty. Of truth. Can you drop all your preconceptions and respond in the moment? Respond simply to the stimulus of the line. Or direction. Or question. Can you just be “you” and not be what you prepared? Is that even fair to ask? Is it possible? Reasonable? This line of questioning and exploration is all about this attempt in the audition to get to know you as quickly and tellingly as possible. Some actors pretend. And they make a living pretending. Acting funny. Or dramatic. Or they trade on their looks, their bodies and/or voice. They do what they do and have done it routinely competently for so long they get hired to do just that. Time after time. Perfectly respectable. But finding the actor who can technically skillfully use his voice and physicality and still be available to experience for the first time in the work is the divine combination. Some actors think real is slouching and mumbling. Dropping the final syllable of a word or the final word of a line. Onstage you have to be heard and understood to be anything, real included. And physically cut a figure in space, move through space. It’s all fake. It’s all honest. It’s an art. Some people are leery of actors. “I can’t trust you. You could be acting.” Actors are always lying, right? Well, no. It is not our job to pretend. Or lie. Our job is to tell the truth. The truth of the author’s intent. The truth in the honest moment of discovery. Doing what you’ve never done before. Finding out something you never knew before. Some actors know everything. Some know nothing. And there is everyone in between these two poles. What do you do? Be still. Be quiet. Draw from your experience. Your truth. Shut out all the noise and histrionics, the preconceived notions, the derived. And listen. To yourself. Trust. Yourself. Find it within and then speak up! Voice it. Stand up for it. It is yours to give. Only yours. Your unique way. Or the highway!
Have a great week!