Friday, February 03, 2006

How to Audition Actors

Actors are a bunch of cry babies who are always on their cell phones, always whining to or about their agents, always complaining about the money they make for the work they do. (I can say this because I do the same thing.) But you've got to respect your actors when you're casting.

I went to an audition last night, and I wondered why I was even there. I tried to go with what I was feeling, following David Mamet's advice from True or False. Yep. Didn't make the audition a better experience.

I've been on both sides of the casting, so I think I can share these tidbits with some knowledge of what I'm talking about:

1. Respect the actor's time. My audition was scheduled for 7:45 PM. I arrived at 7:20 PM, and there was a girl in the lobby who signed in at 7:00 PM who was scheduled for 7:30 PM. We both had time to read the ENTIRE first act of the play, then wander around the theatre. They called for her at 8 PM, but she offered me her spot since I needed to go. That poor girl wound up waiting until after 8:30 PM to get in for her audition. That's just not cool. I know we're cry babies, but if you're not paying us then don't waste our time.

2. Don't make the actor read most of the script in the audition. It's an audition, not a first cast reading. Every woman there last night had to audition with the entire first act of the play. That's a complete waste of time. Hit the highs and the lows, then get them the hell out. If there's not even the potential for the actor to get the tough spots, bring in the next actor. My earlier audition was a monologue. Two minutes, very simple, very respectful of my time. There's NO reason to audition people with an entire act of a play, especially when you schedule six or eight people within a two-hour period and each reading takes thirty minutes. If you want to see more than the tough spots, a hint of character, an understanding of the script, or even the ability to stand up and say some words in front of people, HOLD CALLBACKS for the people you liked.

3. Actually RUN your auditions. It didn't seem like anyone was running the auditions last night. The director came out to the lobby once there were four of us waiting (8:00 PM). He was about to violate the sign-in sheet and take the girl who just walked in because here appointment was scheduled for 8 PM. I followed him into the theatre, waiting for instructions on what he wanted (should I stand on the stage, is something happening before I stand on the stage, where do I start reading, anything else I should know). He gave me none, muttered something to the committee of theatre members (maybe fifteen random old people) in the audience and disappeared. He came back, climbed into the audience without saying a thing to me, then hollered wondering why I wasn't on stage. I read the ENTIRE FIRST ACT, then left the stage to collect my belongings. All of the other auditions I've ever attended have ended. They usually say "Thanks" or "That was fine" or "We'll be in touch" or "Nice to meet you." I didn't even get a "Screw off." I stood there, waiting for a dismissal or some direction and I got none. I guess it's fitting. The audition didn't have a good clean start, so why would it have a good clean end? You can't do that to your actors. I went out into the lobby and told the girls I wasn't sure they were finished with me because they said nothing but I was leaving, so I wasn't sure when they would be on. The least you can do is tell your actors when to begin and when you are finished with them.

4. Okay, so you're running behind. Say something. I understand if the auditioners get behind. Maybe it's taking longer than expected, people showed up too early or too late, whatever. The decent thing to do is tell the people who are waiting that you're running behind. Giving a wait estimate is even better. How long did those other girls wait after I left?

These are the biggies that were very clear to me after that audition. I know I'll apply them when we do casting.

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