Tuesday, November 02, 2010

I've Always Depended Upon The Kindness Of Strangers

So, I need some advice. I mean, it's going to sound like I need a "no, really, you're awesome!" pat on the shoulder (and certainly I would never turn that down) but really I want some objective opinions. As objective as you can be about me, which will vary depending on who you are. :)

I mentioned a while back that rather than quit community theater in a blaze of melodramatic glory when I had a major casting disappointment, I had decided to go full-out in the other direction: audition for everything that appeared on my radar, rejection be damned.

And I'm pleased to say that I've made good on that vow. I've had three big auditions in the past two months. The first one, you've heard about--a lot--because I was cast. It's been a balm to my wounded soul to have people appreciate what I can do, and I'm having fun and being challenged, too. But...how to explain this? The show is not part of an established theater, with a long history and a season of plays lined up. It's a one-off from an independent production company, and as such, I don't think I was competing against the classically-trained community theater denizens who usually come out for these things.

But the other two auditions, I was. Two theaters, on opposite sides of the county, with a full season of shows on the bill. One comedy, and one drama. One paid, one not. I went for it because both of the plays interested me, and because both have juicy roles for women. I also figured that I'm not going in totally cold anymore--I have seven shows under my belt from the past two years.

Readers, I do think I am brave for having done these auditions. Both of them required me to memorize a monologue and perform it for a roomful of strangers in a space I'd never seen before. Even though I'm getting used to it, I recognize that for most of the world, that little activity description would be a deal-breaker right there. Memorize? Perform? Strangers? Hell, no. So, yay for me! I was brave.

But I didn't get a callback either time. The first one--the comedy--I chose my own monologue and thought I kind of killed it, Southern accent and all. I knew it cold, and really felt almost relaxed when I performed it. And, in the immortal words of Diana Morales, "I felt nothing." But I'm not talking about me. I felt all kinds of things. But I felt nothing from THEM. It was like performing for a force-field. I had a strong sense that I'd lost the part the second I walked in the room and they saw me. Gulp. That is hard to take. But probably true.

The second time (this was just last night) felt different. For one thing, I'd been asked to memorize the same monologue as every other woman. And I could tell it was tough. Just reading it was hard for me. I had the sense every time I did it that I could be making a hundred different choices. I even read the whole play, so I would have context. I had this weird sense that I just didn't have the formal training I needed for this kind of intensity. Maybe that sounds like an excuse. But I felt out of my element.

But the audition was different. I was a lot more nervous, for one thing, and didn't feel as confident about the material. I have never done drama before (well, Ibsen, but that has no profanity or physical violence--emotional, yes) and worried I would look like a shrill hack for two minutes. But I went for it. I don't think I forgot anything, and I didn't hold back. And when I was done, I didn't feel nothing. I felt like at least a couple of them were reacting. I felt a molecular change in the room, as I'm fond of saying. And then I got a surprise when the director said:

"Thank you. Can I ask you something?" (Um, sure. Of course. Absolutely.) "Would you be willing to try it again, but this time...really frantic?" (I had been the picture of intense calm. But sure. Of course. Yes.)

No one has ever asked me to do it again. A different way. I was kind of encouraged by this--maybe I shouldn't have been, but I was. And I went for it, and I was definitely frantic. Partly because I started pacing around. Partly because I was now forgetting big swatches of the monologue, though I didn't stop at all, I just kept going. But I did it. It was definitely different.

Afterward, I couldn't tell if it was a train wreck or what. It might have been. I felt hot and hoarse. They asked if I was free for callbacks, my schedule, yada yada, and I was on my way. I have gotten skilled enough to remember to thank everyone with a smile, walk with confidence, shake everyone's hand firmly. That much I can manage.

So I just got the e-mail saying they saw a lot of talent and unfortunately and thank you and try again. Really, it's mighty nice of them to even send an e-mail, and so soon. I do appreciate that.

But here's where I need the advice. Is it enough now? I mean, I'm not saying that I should give up my girlish dreams of being a real actor, but is it time to admit that I'm just not very skilled and go take some classes or something? Pay my dues some more? Or, decide to write and direct, both of which I think come more naturally to me?

The fact is, though, that I'm a performer. Of some kind. I may not be good at this, but I WANT to be. Is that enough? Or, if I keep going and keep getting rejected, will it just leak into my system like slow-release arsenic that I'm chasing a foolish dream, and then I'll be disillusioned for life? Is it better to stop now and just imagine that I might have gotten somewhere, someday?

I truly don't know. What do you think?


Logical Libby said...

Not if you enjoy it. And not if you feel there is still something more you want to do.

I gave up acting. I was done. I admire people who carry on. But only if they really love it.

And callbacks are subjective. Always remember that. It could be for a million different reasons, and likely not because you weren't good enough.

Melissa said...

Okay here's my opinion after a couple of glasses of wine... go for writing and directing. I'm sure you enjoy acting but if it's not up to par according to the people you are auditioning for and that's been happening for awhile you may need to let it go.

When I first started out in broadcasting, I thought I would do well. I went to broadcasting school and even went to a place that did radio for cable networks to get practice. You would have to pay for studio time but if they liked your stuff you would be on Cable Radio Network. They never used my stuff. But I wanted to stay in broadcasting. I got an internship in Thousand Oaks and eventually my Program Director took me off the air to save my job. But he really liked that I was organized and had a good sense of computer automation so I became a programmer. I found my niche in the field I wanted.

Sam, your writing is FANTASTIC!!! I'm sure you would sale more copies of any book you wrote than "Eat, Prey, Love". And I'm sure you would be asked to write the screneplay because of your acting and (don't forget) directing. Eventually after you learned the ropes you would probably make a good director too.

Just my two cents. Please don't correct my grammar. :-)

Stephanie said...

I don't know if two auditions without a callback is just reason to give it all up, particularly when you still want it. I say yes take some classes, continue to audition and delve into this world that you clearly love.

I'm sorry you're disappointed.

Laural Out Loud said...

You are so incredibly talented. I think this is just the beginning of your journey. But no matter what you do, please keep writing!

Unknown said...

Two things:

One, I agree with Stephanie that two uncast auditions is not enough to say you've given it your all and it's never going to work. That's not even a representative sample, and the shows may not have been right for you. Keep going on auditions for a bit; if, after a half dozen more, you feel the same, then give it up. Classes also wouldn't hurt in the sense of giving you some pointers; but, I am of the opinion that either you are an actor or you aren't, and you can't learn it like you'd learn to read. (For the record, I think you are.)

Two, you can do both. You can continue to audition and you can write and direct. It'll be tough, but the youngster is in school, so you could use that time for the writing/directing grunt work. You can focus more intently on the avenue that bears fruit.

As Libby said, this is a VERY subjective world. Not right for a part doesn't mean not right at all.

Kate in Perth said...

I think it's wonderful and brave of you to do those auditions. I find it really inspiring to read about how courageous you are with what you do creatively.

You love performing, so keep going, but if it starts to 'leak into your soul like slow-release arsenic', then stop and focus more on writing and directing. Do some classes if you want to, it might be interesting and lots of fun.

Mrs. Chapman's 2nd Grade Class said...

Don't give up if this is something you love! Keep auditioning, take a class if you feel that will help. But, don't give up.

I also happen to believe you are a born writer! Can't you do both?

Whatever you decide, I happen to think there are big things ahead for you. :)

Michelle W said...

Sam, reading any post you do about plays, auditioning, etc. you sound so alive! (Does that sound silly on my part?) You really do. Even in rejection, you are still so passionate. Don't really great actors get rejected all the time? Maybe the parts weren't right for your mad skills. :)

My vote is to keep acting and NEVER give up writing. You're the whole enchilada. (And I know enchiladas. I'm from NM.)

Amy Miyamoto said...

Hi Sam,
I was drawn to you today and to rad this post. First I am so delighted to hear that looking back you have been in so many productions over the last two years. I still remember our one night improv class and your mentioning of the idea of pursuing your first audition - so much fearlessness and beauty have unfolded since then! My hat is off to you my beautiful friend.

Next thing that comes to mind about what to do next is to look at the BIG WHY underneath the possibility of continuing down the acting path. Is the journey one of internal payoff regardless of the outcome? Or is the continuation in pursuit of recognition and approval outside yourself? Answering this questions might offer some insight as to the next step on your journey that feels most beautiful, passionate and COMpassionate for yourself. Questions that really only you can answer.

Finally I am reminded of the Kevin Spacey video (via The Actors Studio) I saw recently - I was moved by the point he makes about being clear on the internal motivation at the core of one's life pursuits.
Sending you much love - Whatever you decide - I am confident that you will continue to channel the beauty that is Sam into the world in some fulfilling way. Love, Amy