Occasionally, I’ll go on these Brechtian auditions that consist of all the actors in the waiting room talking about what a shitty and surreal process this business is, and then immediately partaking in the shitty and surreal. “We’re not really competing against each other,” this woman says to the room. “If I don’t get the role, it’s not meant to be mine. We’re competing against ourselves,” she says, plugging her ears when the sounds of the current actor auditioning come wafting through the wall. “Right?” she yells at us, grimacing.
As an actor, trying to explain what we do to, say, a family member who’s never auditioned is like trying to explain geometry to a cat. The cat will look at you – hell, it might even listen – but it will never, ever, get it. This is a survival instinct, I believe. Because if family members truly understood how harrowing the business can be, they’d pack us off quietly and quickly to the nearest facility.
What makes it even worse is that we choose to do it. I definitely take the struggle for granted. I forget that to an outside observer, what we do is truly insane.
Auditioning often means going into an airless room, facing a panel of airless humans, and trying to convince them you’re a genius. And all without prescription drugs. Well…
Freakishly, I usually love to audition. I have this cd that I use to do a vocal warm up in the car, and the woman narrating always asks “How do you feel today? What do you want to accomplish by the end of the day?” Then there’s a pause, then she says, “Ah…interesting.” To which I always, always say “Thank you!” Sometimes I mess with her when she asks these questions. Fine, I say…and – I want to shock someone into silence! or I want to accomplish a series of meaningless tasks! or I want to keep from wetting my pants…just once! Still, she always thinks I’m interesting. She has a sonorous, classically-trained voice and I try not to be self-conscious as I do face exercises and tongue waggles and general bizarre contortions while driving.
Commercial auditions can be the worst. Sometimes you just go in the room with a pack of people who look vaguely like you, they give you the “explanation” of the audition (usually in the voice you’d use to talk to an utter moron), and then you say your name to the camera and present both sides of your head – profiles, please. I was in an audition recently, and after giving my profiles, I said, How come no one ever asks to see the backs of our heads? What if there’s a huge bald spot there or something? I hoped to come off as self-knowing and wry with a dash of indignance. Well, let’s see the back of you, then, they said. I turned around sheepishly and that was the end of that.
A genius would have had something written on her back. All I did was prove I wasn’t balding.
But then, sometimes, you have an audition where you kick everyone’s ass, including your own. You walk into the room and instantly charm everything, including the plants. You’re funny, self-deprecating, attractive, and you smell good. And then you start the audition and all of that STAYS. There’s love just being handed out in slices, like cake, and you’re all sharing the same fork and giggling and having little frosting wars and dammit you’re brilliant.
If you’re smart, you leave this audition thinking That’s Right. That’s How We Do It. I am the Ruler of this World. If you’re a dumbass, you leave thinking Holy Dogs I Just Booked That Role. Because let me tell you, Uncle Pete, nothing is guaranteed.
Those of you who follow my ramblings know I just went to Vegas. And I just realized why gambling doesn’t really interest me – I do it all the time, right here in LA.