When You Eat Shit At An Audition
I'm awful at auditions. I always have been, and even though I'm planning to take some workshops to alleviate this, I imagine it will never be my strong suit. I find it very difficult to translate my strengths into a 60 second monologue, or a couple 30 second improv scenes.
Like any actor who has been around long enough, I've failed far, far more than I've succeeded. A lot of my auditions, however, have been improv auditions. For groups and teams and touring opportunities. And, I've eaten shit at about 95 percent of them.
The first audition I blew was for an acapella group my freshman year of college. My singing voice was once called "one of the worst sounds in the world" by some high school classmates, so needless to say I didn't succeed. Fortunately, this failure led me to audition for an improv group, and I succeeded because they liked my chain-smoking sexy grandma character, and I never looked back.
When I lived in Southern California, I auditioned multiple times for Harold teams at the iO West. I failed. I failed at four improv auditions for the Playground theater, many for writing and directing shows, touring opportunities, Boom Chicago, Mission Improvable. And I've bombed regular auditions for commercials, agents, Columbia College films, and so many other random, independent things that I've lost count.
I'm not that bad at improv, or acting, I just audition like I am.
It's funny, in improv auditions, the auditors often say things like "We're not looking for you to be funny, we're looking for strong improv skills, support and teammwork." So you make leafy ruffly sounds in someone else's scene about an orchard and dive in as the footstool in a scene about a grandmother and you think "I'm scene painting! I'm a supportive player!" And then some innocent-looking 4-foot 11-inch girl steps out and initiates a scene by saying something like "I got shit in my cunt during my last abortion" and the auditors laugh hysterically and everyone fingerbangs themselves and she gets called back and you're like "But I was a footstool."
You were also clearly not having any fun, which auditors notice as well.
In theater and commercial auditions, I'm even worse. Because I look like Thor, but really only play manically unhappy fiftysomething women from the year 1993, my monologues always come off hilariously stunted. I have to at least act like a normal dude if I want to get the normal dude part, right? And then I'm given a side that was clearly written by a four year old, read aloud by a Scottish octogenarian with a stoma in a wind tunnel, and then translated into text by voice recognition software. And I when I look at the nonsensical side, I suddenly can't read anymore, and after I eat shit on my first try, out of pity the auditor gives me a vague instruction for a second read ("Be yourself, but more cautiously unconcerned") and then has me read it again, and I eat shit again, and then they smile grimly and say "Great, thanks for coming in, we'll be in touch," which means "We'll send you a polite thanks-but-no-thanks email in two days."
No one is their best self in an audition. Years of work, of proving yourself otherwise, mean nothing if you can't get the tone right reading three sentences about a fake body wash. Or be Stephen Colbert levels of brilliant in a 30-second improv scene with a person you've never met.
I get it. If you can't succeed in the contained pressure of an audition, how can you be expected to succeed when the cameras roll, or the stage lights go up?
And, truthfully, looking back, I wasn't ready for a large number of the opportunities I auditioned for. My task, then, has been to find ways to show the unique abilities I feel I do have in alternative mediums. And to be patient. And to take each failure and recast it (pun intended) as a learning experience.
And so, these days, I like to look at each audition as practice for the next one. And if I succeed, all the better, but no matter what, I'm getting something positive out of it besides the brutal feeling of eating shit in front of important people and hating myself for days. Though, that's fun too.
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