Friday, February 05, 2010

With Oaths Kept Waking, And With Brawling Fed

I've been quiet this week because I was waiting to post with some exciting news, but I don't think there's going to be any.

To end the suspense up front, I had an audition, but I didn't get a callback. Here's how it happened.

A couple weeks ago, I saw a notice for a local Shakespeare company that was looking for "actor/teachers" for a "School Education Tour." That caught my eye. "Requirements: Experience with Acting, Teaching, Shakespeare."

Well, HELLO. That would be me, right? Seemed like a sign. Before I could overthink the whole thing, I shot them an e-mail asking for an appointment. "We can see you on Sunday, January 31 at 6:50 p.m. Thank you." came back.

Gulp. They can SEE ME. Eek.

They asked for "two contrasting 1-minute monologues, both need to be Shakespeare" so I went into research mode. Turns out the internet and the local library are filled with responses to the question "What should I do if someone wants me to give a 1-minute Shakespeare monologue?" I love to research, so before long I had every book in the county stacked up on our couch ("Why must you leave your BOOKS EVERYWHERE?" Jarrah whined.)

I quickly learned that one must not do certain monologues because EVERYONE does them. I figured these would be obvious--Ophelia, Lady Macbeth--but not so much. Because I was quite wedded to a little ditty by the shepherdess Phebe in As You Like It before one of my books listed--in the column DO NOT DO THESE--"Anything by Phebe in As You Like It."

Color me surprised, and schooled.

The next step was acquiring a team of experts. I asked my friend Lisa, who has been on a number of auditions lately, if she would help me with rehearsal strategies--for instance, did you know that the punctuation in Shakespeare tells you how to play it? I didn't. I also asked (David had this superb idea) if she would go with me to the audition, for moral support. She is a complete angel and agreed to all. I asked my friend Calvin, who is nothing if not opinionated when it comes to theater (well, when it comes to anything, really) if he would vet my choices, and then he coached me on my lines. Which really helped--I am terrible at learning lines. Once I know them, I REALLY know them, but getting there is torture.

And so the days went by quite pleasantly, studying and reading and consulting with a not-terrible flutter of nervous anticipation in my belly.

I learned a lot about auditions in general. For instance, I did not know that you NEVER look at the auditors (I hadn't even known they were called "auditors") because "they don't want to be in your audition." I learned that you answer questions with a friendly yes or no and keep the details to yourself. I learned that your audition begins the moment you walk through the door and ends when you walk back out of it. I learned what not to do with my hands, my cell phone, my excuses. It was all very informative.

When the big weekend arrived, I was pretty much a wreck. I still had laryngitis, and had accepted I was simply going to be sort of passionately throaty in my big moment. I kicked David and Jarrah out repeatedly while I paced the floors, testing out my gestures in the mirror. I had a few horrifying occasions where I would blank completely, totally, utterly--sometimes on the first line--and lay awake imagining doing that in front of the directors. It seemed like I had a shot if I could just get THROUGH it. After all, I'm no stranger to Shakespeare, and certainly not to teaching. And after five shows in the past year, I have to admit I'm not a total novice as an actor, either.

Lisa arrived early and gave me some last-minute tips ("No miming! Get your hands off that invisible necklace!") and then we were off. The theater is downtown and looked small and dark from the outside. There was a sign on the door saying "Auditions in Progress. Sssshhh."

They weren't kidding. When we opened the door, we were in a tiny black-curtained vestibule filled with other women (it only took about five of us to fill it) and could hear some loud emoting going on about six inches away, behind a curtain to our left. The unseen auditioner was tearing it up in there, clearly enjoying herself, and apparently for good reason--the unseen auditors were laughing and clapping with delight, and followed her performance with "Fantastic! We love you! What's your availability?"

My gut response was deep self-loathing and a strong impulse to turn around and run. It made sense to me if they were loving this girl--who sounded nothing like me--they were going to spit in my face. Lisa calmed me down as best she could, but we literally could not even whisper, so small was the space. The greeter smiled and took my headshot and resume, and efficiently indicated when each of us were to pass beyond the curtain. There were about three other gals in front of me, and I hated having to hear their auditions, though I was relieved to hear that no one had chosen my monologues. Having had an opportunity to hear the directors kvelling, I was now in a position to recognize what a cooler reception sounded like--a couple of these gals got little more than a "thank you!" when they were through. By now I was ready to keel over with nerves, wishing I had peed before I left the house, wanting to do some stretching but not wanting to do it four inches away from a roomful of strangers.

Suddenly, I got the smile and the nod and I was swishing through the curtain. I was in a black box theater and there was nowhere for me to go but to the front, as the directors were sitting in the seats. They were friendly and smiley, especially the man who was sitting by himself. As Lisa had foretold, they didn't say anything except "Whenever you're ready," so at least I was prepared for that. The theater spot was on, and with great relief I realized I couldn't see them even if I wanted to. I smiled and said:

"My first monologue is Portia from Julius Caesar, and the second is Katharina from Taming of the Shrew." They smiled a lot at that--I noticed later that their company is actually doing Shrew this season. And then I was off.

I started with Portia, and about half-way through I could feel I was shaking a little. I didn't worry about it too much, because I was clearly not forgetting my lines (though I switched out a word or two--all the books said not to worry about this because "they're not holding a script") and why shouldn't she be shaking? She's accusing her husband of lying to her about plotting murder. Maybe they thought I planned it. Or maybe they couldn't even tell--I wasn't shaking enough to feel my extremities go numb, which has happened to me before.

When I finished, they didn't say anything, which I'd been warned about, so I looked down, took a breath, and then launched into Katharina, which felt pretty good. I wasn't nervous, and then I was delighted to hear the three of them LAUGHING--not like I was blowing it, but more like they know Shakespeare and I was putting a funny spin on the lines. That felt good and I'm an attention whore, so the second half went even better. When I was done, everyone was grinning, and since there was no immediate noise, I instinctively beat a path for the door.

They stopped me with "Thank you. Do you have availability during the day?"

"Yes, I do." Every fiber of my being pushed me to go on: "I don't do much these days. My daughter is in preschool. We are looking at kindergartens right now. It's nerve-wracking, because San Diego has Choice, you know? Do you know about that? Here's how it works..."

But I just smiled and waited. I was about to go, when one of them said "And do you have teaching experience?" This threw me a little, since it meant that they hadn't looked at my resume, but then one of them snort-laughed like he (she?) was saying "Uh, YEAH she does." And then they asked me about teaching, and seemed impressed by what I told them. Then somebody said:

"And you have an MFA?"

"Yeah," I said. "An MFA in Creative Writing, and a Ph.D. in Literature." There was a chorus of "wows."

"Mmm-hmm, that's mostly what they're good for." I ventured, not wanting to leave without a small infusion of the ol' Sam charm. "Mentioning them to people and hearing them go 'wow!'"

They all laughed. Nicely. I felt good. We thanked each other, and I pushed through the curtain to see Lisa jumping up and down with her thumbs up. Silently. I ran and hugged her, mouthed "thank you" to the greeter, and out we went into the night.

For a moment, I was giddy with being done. And Lisa said "You rocked it! Knocked it out of the park! If you don't hear from them, it's just because they need a different type or age, but you gave the best audition you could." I don't think this was a snow job, and she was actually there.

Then we went for burgers, and I dared to hope I might hear from them. If for no other reason than how many actors are free on weekdays between 8-3 and have sixteen years of teaching experience?

But the callbacks are Monday, and it's Friday now, and it's been all week with no news. Sigh. Still, I don't feel terrible. I'm sorta proud of myself for following through with this, for the work I did, and for getting up there and doing not one but TWO monologues from memory without forgetting my lines. Right there, I accomplished something.

Maybe next time, I'll get a callback.


Myrnie said...

1) Have you seen Hoodwinked? " back? I had heard of them but never...." :)

2) I HATE when I go numb in performances! I can never feel my fingers when I sing long songs for large audiences. It stinks, because I don't know what my fingers are doing while I can't feel them!

3) You did awesome. Sounds like a great audition!

Anonymous said...

I'm with Lisa. It sounds like if they don't call you back, it's because they are looking for two-headed demons with blue hair. Or another type. Even before you described Lisa's silent applause afterward, I could tell you'd knocked 'em dead.

I'll still cross my fingers for a last-minute call back!


The Wades said...

I'm still expecting the call. You're awesome and we all know it. :)

Glad you enjoy that stuff--the whole thing sounded like complete and utter torture!!!

Nigel Lane said...

Sounds like you did a great job with the audition, well played!

Jen said...

Good for you, Sam! Ditto what everyone else said. I'm so happy for you, even if they didn't call. :-)

DrSpouse said...

Fingers firmly crossed!

erin said...

No more, but e'en a woman, and commanded
By such poor passion as the maid that milks
And does the meanest chares. It were for me
To throw my sceptre at the injurious gods;
To tell them that this world did equal theirs
Till they had stol'n our jewel. All's but naught;
Patience is scottish, and impatience does
Become a dog that's mad: then is it sin
To rush into the secret house of death,
Ere death dare come to us? How do you, women?
What, what! good cheer! Why, how now, Charmian!
My noble girls! Ah, women, women, look,
Our lamp is spent, it's out! Good sirs, take heart:
We'll bury him; and then, what's brave, what's noble, Let's do it after the high Roman fashion,
And make death proud to take us. Come, away:
This case of that huge spirit now is cold:
Ah, women, women! come; we have no friend
But resolution, and the briefest end.

(Word verification: asswar)

Aunt LoLo said...

Great job on the audition!!!!!

Synthia said...

Way to go Sam! You are a pro. I'm proud of you. They clearly liked you, but as your blog audience has pointed out, there are things outside your control. I think you have much to feel good about.

In case you don't hear back soon, I might pen an email (if you can find a contact) in two weeks time, saying what a great idea you think the project is and asking to be kept in the loop for future.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow, catching up on your blog after a bit of an absence from starting my new job and can't wait to see if another post has good news on this front... Sounds like you did a great audition! :) lIx