TheaterMania U

Standing Tall When an Audition Goes Awry [or better]

A personal report from the audition room.

"Should I just leave now?"
(stock image courtesy Microsoft Office Images)

Enter and pass the reception, sign-in sheet, waiting room, to that place that can be so unbelievably daunting – the audition room.

Here’s what happened to me in one of those rooms recently.

As I always try to do, I did my best to prepare. I had the lines down. I had a distinct vision of the character. I’d read the play through a couple times.

And I was mentally ready. As I’ve said before, I go into every audition with the attitude that even if I don’t get the part, maybe I can impress somebody who’ll think of me for something else. I rarely leave an audition feeling like I absolutely blew it, wishing that I could disappear by putting on a cloak of invisibility – like Harry Potter’s. But I sure did after this one.

So what happened? Let’s start with the atmosphere. Loudest A/C ever – the kind that drowns out the city’s car horns. I saw the casting director say hi, but I sure didn’t hear her. I worried about how high I’d have to turn up my volume to be heard. And I wondered how this would play out given that the audition space was separated from other actors in the waiting area by nothing but a flimsy curtain. Talk about an inhibiting and wholly non-conducive setting.

Gamely I dove into my first round of sides. It involved an intensely emotional breakdown of the character, with the stage directions stating, she “loses it and begins breathing heavier and heavier.”

Now, I know that some directors would say, “disregard the stage directions.” But when a playwright is so specific and descriptive, I’m not going to ignore an overt cue.

When I finished the side, the director asked in a somewhat bored and disparaging tone: “Why are you hyperventilating? That’s how you get when you’re upset?” Overacting on my part? Perhaps (what if I do hyperventilate when extremely distressed? I don’t…don’t worry). One thing was certain: he threw me completely off my game. I felt disconnected. I was angry. Wasn’t the director supposed to be working with me – not undermining me? I had to recover quickly to get through the two remaining sides. While they went better than the first, I knew I was no longer in the moment.

As I expected, no callback. In the midst of my post-audition distress, it dawned on me that I had as much control over how I handled the outcome of this horrible scenario as the director. (Well, okay, I couldn’t cast myself, but…) I could stew about the awkwardness of it all (and what an unnecessary jerk he was), or I could move on and call it a lesson learned. It also helped to talk it out. He just wasn’t that into me. Not a good fit. Next!

So as in life, you won’t click with every person you meet. But the people with whom you do connect are the ones who matter. In this biz, it only takes one to say yes. And for the ones who don’t say yes? Go in there and nail it for yourself. Let’s not forget one of the quotes I included in my last blog (my personal fav at that): I went in there to get them. I went in there ready to read this damn part and you better all be ready. -Jack Nicholson (Pretty sure he never apologized for being Jack…)

In my next blog, I’ll talk about what I’ve learned to do before and during the audition to increase my prospects of having a really good experience.