That’s what actors do! We gladiators of the ego, are but wretched fools fighting for the approval of an often more wretched fool. I walked into a theater yesterday and there were 25 people waiting to read for a 5 person show. One of the parts was written for a woman of about 60 and since all of the other folks were college students I secretly screamed SCORE! I hadn’t used my tiny nubbin of an actor’s head to figure out they could just change the line which read “I lost my son 25 years ago” to “I lost my son 10 years ago” and use a little hair spray.
Like any job interview, the first thing you do at an audition is fill out lots of paperwork. Just like a sporting event, there is a release in case of death or injury. Unlike a job, there will be no pay. Unlike a softball team, you don’t have to pay to play, but the director and stage manager will act as if they’re giving away their right ovary and testicle so you better appreciate it.
On the form, you are asked which part you want and if perchance they decide you suck would you show your commitment to the talent of the rest of the folks by running the lights for them. You are asked to name the parts you’ve played which most capture the spirit of your work. I notice that my favorite part, evil ice queen, does not correspond to the kindly, quirky neighborly role I have chosen. Maybe I should go home. I turn in my sheet and the games begin.
The director looks at me with a large smile and bright eyes! “Are you “Meryl”? I use a pseudonym here just in case because this actress is a nice person even if I hated her guts at this moment. I shake my head no and “Meryl” who has just entered and is seated behind me steals away the only attention I get from the director all evening. SLUT!
“Meryl, thank you for coming. I’ve heard so much about you. I look forward to your reading.”
I hate this town. I hate theatre. You would think at my age I would realize that there’s always someone that’s been invited or precast or the director has in mind for every role. Life isn’t fair. No one’s looking forward to me walking into a room. I could try and wow them with my talent but that’s not the easiest thing for an older, angry, depressed woman to summon up. Acting is based on relationships and I had none established in this particular room.
So the stage manager asks me to read for the role of the woman in her mid twenties. Fine, I got to read with a couple of other actors who were fun. This is the only part of auditions which is a kick. It’s like juggling or doing acrobatics, maybe like playing chess on roller skates. I like it. Finally, a half hour later I get to read for the part I want. I’m exhausted with tension by this point, I’ve worked all day, had to listen to everyone else read and compare them to myself. I’m mediocre. I’m a 51 year old, mediocre actress in Anchorage, Alaska. That’s pretty sad. At least I have my beef stew to fall back on and my pie crust. My ability to cook has served me better at work than my master’s degree but that’s another story.
When “Meryl” quietly tells the director she must leave early he is again effusive. “We’ll probably have call backs tomorrow, Meryl. Just a couple of people for each part. We’ll let you know but it will probably be about 7 pm. Thank you so much for coming.”
I don’t get asked to read again. I leave with the bulk of the people who have not been given a new part to read or a repeat at a given role. I won’t be back tomorrow. “Meryl” might be, despite the fact that her reading was not as great the reputation which preceded her. There were a couple of the young students who were quite funny in their readings for the neighbor. I hope one of them gets the part. My ego needed a boost so I stopped by Baskin Robbins and got a brownie sundae with gold medal swirl and peanut butter cup ice cream. I will have the next 9 weeks free to do what I chose since no one chose me. Sounds like a good consolation prize. I definitely won’t be doing the lights.