An Actor Prepares, Again

After a longer-than-needed, self-appointed artistic hiatus, I did my first general audition today in a long time. And, it feels good. I mean, earlier today beforehand I wasn’t so sure. I kept imagining scenarios in my head that included everything from my mind going blank to having a medical emergency on stage to being straight up kicked out of the place and not allowed to audition at all!

That’s when I realized I was a bit anxious and needed to relax.

General auditions are odd, and often annoying. When auditioning for an individual show, depending on the company and the script and the director’s choice, the audition may consist only of reading sides, and only occasionally involve showing up with prepared material. Most actors I know sort of hate the monologue auditions, even while understanding its value. General auditions typically ask for two contrasting pieces, sometimes one needing to be verse, occasionally with a song. Plus there’s little sense of for whom or what you’re actually auditioning, as you’re part of a lined up schedule – go in, state your name and what you’re about to present, do your monologues, say thanks and leave. NEXT!

My problem with monologues is that I absolutely hate finding them, and even more so I think I’m pretty bad at finding them. Over the years I’ve often had a small handful of them at my disposal, but the problem is that over time they get to feel stale or no longer work for me or, even worse – I’ve shown everyone in town this monologue and it needs to be retired. (This is part of why I track what monologues I’ve done for which directors, to try to avoid repeating it.)

My hiatus wasn’t a fruitful time where I read lots of plays (where I would find great audition material.) In fact, during the past year or so I’ve probably read the least amount of any time in my life. I usually have at least one book on my nightstand, but it’s been a real dry spell. So when I realized it was time to get back in the game I started monitoring the audition sites again, looking for opportunities. When this came up, I put a reminder on my calendar for the signup date (there was a small window of opportunity) and started thinking about what I would do.

That’s when I realized I was screwed. I needed some fresh material.

I spent the next several weeks flipping through plays, anthologies, my paper files of monologues, my electronic files of monologues….I think it’s the worst part of being an actor. I hate it. If there were a service where someone would send me recommended monologues appropriate for me to do on a regular basis, I’d read those plays and happily pay for that service. Thankfully I came across something in time, and in the course of about 9 days I worked up a new 1 min 15 second, dramatic monologue – scored, memorized and fully embodied. (I coupled it with a contrasting one I’ve done before, but this theater hadn’t seen.)

Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could do it – that I could be ready. And I was prepared to cancel my audition slot. (For which I’d kick myself for months.) But it went off without a hitch, and in fact, I think I had their attention and that it went well! Not only do I recognize more clearly the time and committment I personaly need to work up such a thing, I’m confident I could do it again.

I’m feeling back in the game, and tomorrow I’ve got another chance to use this new piece!

Note to self: Keep reading and looking for material!

I will be doing a monologue from…

If someone asked me what is the worst thing about being an actor, and assuming I couldn’t answer anything like “you don’t make a living” or “there’s not enough work” or “you get tired of the audition couches after a while, you know?” then I’d have to say that it’s finding a good monologue for auditions.

I hate hunting for audition material. It’s so time consuming and tedious and hit and miss. It’s like looking for a needle in a library. I’m always keeping my eye out, whether I’m reading scripts or novels or memoirs, if I come across something that might work as a piece I flag it. The problem is, I don’t come across them often enough. And the ones I do, well, I’m kind of stretching it sometimes to say, yes this has a start and a finish and an arc. Maybe I’m reading the wrong stuff. Maybe it’s me. One would think that a late-30s (on stage, if not in person,) white guy could find a monologue, right? I seem to find pieces for angst ridden 20 year olds and guilt-ridden old sots twenty years my senior. But in between is rarer than it should be.

Well today must be my lucky day. This morning, while sitting at the dining room table eating my oatmeal, I was thumbing through a magazine which included a script. I scanned the pages looking to see if there were any monologues for men. And there it was! A quirky, funny, yet serious, piece with a beginning, middle and end that could be taken out of context and made to stand on its own! And it’s a boy! Er… I mean, an “early 40s” man!

Not only that, but to make it even more fun, it’s not crap. The play itself, is funny and clever, and the characters are well drawn. At least, that’s true in the first half that I read this morning; the first half leading up to my new monologue

I’d say exactly what it is, but I don’t want to share it. I hate nothing more than hearing someone doing my monologue while I’m sitting in the lobby on deck.

What are you doing?

Last night I was sitting at a studio, auditioning actors for a play. It’s the general audition for this show, and I requested a two-minute contemporary monologue. When people are good and interesting and solid, you know it almost right away. Sometimes from them walking in the door. Others you have to warm up to a bit.

I didn’t have anyone timing it, and I’m fairly certain a couple of them were longer than two minutes. That’s ok. I’m pretty easy going at auditions. In fact, I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, and feel really bad when I think they’re….awful…or not talented…or especially if they’ve just “blown it” because they were unprepared or nervous. When I’m thinking of other things, I should know I probably don’t need to call them back.

Sometimes my mind wanders to random thoughts. Here are a few of them……

“Really? This is the outfit you chose for an audition?”

“Why do you think that piece is right for you?”

“Did you read the character descriptions in the audition notice? If so, I’m curious, which one do you think you should be considered for? ‘Cuz I’m not seeing it.”

“You are so brave for doing that monologue, I want to cast you on guts alone.”

“You are so brave for coming when you have no experience or training, and reading that poetic paragraph (which I think you wrote) as a monologue. I didn’t even see the paper shaking in your hand, but you looked like you were going to faint. I wanted to say it’s going to be ok, take a deep breath.”

“You are so much cuter in this picture than you are in person.”

“You’re not wearing any shoes. Or socks.”

“I gave you something extra to read, so I was hoping to see something different than what you brought in. You’ve incredibly made it the same as your own monologue.”

“You just apologized about being sick immediatly after shaking my hand. Now I longer care about your monologue, I can only think of getting swine flu.”

“Where did you come from? And will you be in my play, because I think I love you. And I wish I were that talented and skilled when I was your age.”

“Please stop now.”

Two Minutes to Shine

I’m directing another show in about five or six months. Auditions run three days, starting tomorrow. I’m looking forward to this in a different way than the last set of auditions where I was the auditionee. Last time I was in charge of most everything, and it was my project, although truly it was our project. This time, I’m just the director. There’s a whole separate person who’s playing producer, and another playing playwright. This time there’s a dramaturg, even. I just have to show up and audition actors.

How cool is that?

And this time, because it’s a full two-act, original script that’s going to go through development and I’m not exactly sure what I really want in a cast (other than the usual – smart, talented, hardworking and reliable) I’ve decided we’re going with monologues for the initial auditions. It’s been a long time since I sat listening to monologue after monologue, for hours on end, and while I know it can be tiresome and tedious, I think it’ll be a little exhilarating too.

From the looks of the list of actors scheduled it seems like a lot of new faces. This could be good. I mean, this could be bad, too. If I don’t recognize the name, then where have they been? Likely working mostly off my radar. My radar is fairly wide.

But I’m going in optimistic and hopeful. Plus if I’m lucky, I might find a piece or two I can steal, because I hate looking for new material for my own monologues. It’s so hard to find a good monologue to audition with!

Ugh. Monologue auditions. What a pain. For the actor, that is. I’ll try to keep that in mind as each new person walks in the door.

One step forward, Two steps back

There’s this audition for a Fall production. The audition is next week. The director is good and well respected. We know each other only through the local theatre scene. We’ve never worked together.

I should sign up.

But I know two things: 1. My chances of her casting me is likely very slim because I am not only probably not right for a part, I suspect she can cast this without auditions. 2. I’m not prepared to bring a solid monologue to the audition, and since I’ve never even auditioned for her I don’t want it to be weak.

How lame is that?! I’m ashamed.

I should always—it’s worth repeating—always have several pieces ready at the drop of a hat for auditions. There are times when that’s been true, but at the moment the only things I could bring forth with little prep would not be right, needs to be replaced and wouldn’t suffice. So many auditions these days are readings, or just invited call backs. I don’t have to do monologues as often these days!

This is horrible, and I feel like a complete loser. I think I’m going to just pass.

It’s (yet another) new company’s inaugural production, and this play (a very cool Guare piece) is supposedly representative of what they hope to do, so I’m interested to see what happens. To see what they do next. And perhaps, next time around for them, I’ll be ready.

I could justify all this by saying, “You know what? I’ve spent the past 5 months or so researching and writing a new, exciting play that I’m going to be going in to rehearsals for in a couple weeks.” And I could go on about how busy I am, and I don’t even have time to prep! And that’s all true.

Still – I should be ready. That’s a lousy excuse.

In the good news category, though, I was asked this week about my interest in directing a workshop and possible full production of a new script next Spring. This is for someone with whom I’ve only…sort of worked with. (It’s complicated.) They feel confident from what they know and have seen. They’ll see my directing work first hand later this summer. They sent the script. I’ll see what I think. We’ll chat later. We’ll see how it goes.

So…minus 1 for not being ready, plus 1 for garnering interest from others.

Oh, let’s be honest, shall we?

-2 for not being ready.

I’m down 1.

Monday, In my Head

Spent. That’s how I feel. Spent. And the mindless tedium of the ol’ day-job isn’t helping me any. On nights of difficult sleep, like last night, my mind races with ideas and accomplishes things left and right. Around 3:30 a.m., I resolved my casting woes, and finished a top-notch script. By 4:00 a.m., I had started work on my next project. 

In my head.

But today, right now, my day is filled with pushing papers, installing office equipment, answering idiotic questions, and solving everyone else’s problems but my own.

I had hoped to take a decent lunch break so I could do some more editing on my script, in preparation for my meeting later this week with my co-writer. Lunch break didn’t quite work out that way, because, you know, the copier was jammed or the printer didn’t arrive or something.

I sit here and I dream about taking some serious time off work—stay at home, write this script and plan my production. And then do other things, like find some fresh audition material and work up some new monologues, so that the next time a good opportunity arises, as one did recently, I’m ready to kick butt instead of kicking myself in the ass for not being prepared.

I have to do it in bits and pieces and fits and starts, because

making art ≠ making money to pay the bills

and

creativity  ≠  health insurance.

Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t a new realization.

It’s just a tough Monday playing it out for me.