The Four "I"s
The Practice: The four I's. Imagination, Intelligence, Industry, and the Internet. Research the play, the theatre, the director, the reviews, the casting office, the playwright, his/her other works, arcane subjects related to the play (like the costumes, society, history of the period). The Internet is a great friend--from the site The Social Significance of Modern Drama to another site on Shakespeare. The Moral: PREPARE.
The Self: I have had the opportunity to be a fly on the wall at a few auditions. And I swear you can tell if someone can act, if someone has presence, if someone can take over the room from the second they walk in the door. There is just "something" -- no it is NOT smart ass, wise guy. No is it not cool. It is PRESENCE. You just gotta get it if you weren't born with it. Go to the theatre, watch films. Define what makes someone so immensely good and successful while someone else equally as good is not successful. Of course luck is a factor, but presence plays a bigger role!
Presence really has little to do with talent. You can be enormously talented and not have a whit of presence. And vice versa: Lots of presence and little talent is infinitely more desirable than lots of talent and little presence. (Of course, both are ever more preferable!) Have all antennae working so you can read the committee instantly to know whether they want you to joke, chat, get down to business. Presence is an inner quality. Define it and then acquire it. Of course you need talent but with marvelous presence you don't have to be great. You do have to be good, but good + presence is a winning combo. Great + presence = star.
Interview: Be prepared for anything. If the director (or whoever) doesn't take the lead, you must. But be careful. Tell the truth but be diplomatic. Watch out about commenting on something in the office/room. It may not be their office. Chat is often well covered in the audition books I mentioned above. But again be prepared for anything. At a recent interview for a film, after stating her name, the casting director instantly said, "Well, Janus, what was it like to work with X?" (X was a well-known director / actor.) Oy! Deep breath. An easy answer would have been, "Oh he was wonderful, great." Dead end. BOOORING. Instead I chose to say truthfully, "It was a perfect experience." Then snippets of examples why it was perfect. Stories, but truthful. The casting person spent the entire 12 minute interview asking about person X. Thank goodness I really liked director X, thank goodness he treated me beautifully, thank goodness I knew his history (Internet info, again). Moral: Be prepared for anything. Spontaneity is good as long as it is controlled. (That only seems to be an oxymoron. Think about it.) Be interesting. The expected, store-bought, easy, clichŽd phrases make for a boring interview. Keep enthusiasm there, but well under control.
Dress: Nice casual is the best choice. If you are up for a bag lady/man, don't wear tight mini skirt or tux. Also do not go in tatters and ratty hair. Nice casual. Remember your headshot didn't look like a street person. If you are up for The Sound of Music, common sense says no Debbie Does Dallas cleavage. Use your common sense.
Misc. list: When you are finished with the sides/monologue, take a beat, bow your head and say thank you. Give them a couple of seconds. They take the lead here. Either they will thank you or they may ask you to do it again and give you directions. TAKE THEIR DIRECTIONS although they may seem absurd. They may be testing your attitude. Exit with pride, even though you may not feel it. Fall apart later, if you insist.
Rarely, extremely rarely, you may ask if you can repeat something. Someone told a regional open call committee she didn't think she had sung her best and asked if she could do it again. They told her to come back at the end of the day. She did. Sang better. Landed the role. But please do not abuse this. Remember they may think you did a fine job.
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Article re-published with the permission of Inverse Theater Company
Inverse Theater, a New York Company dedicated to producing new American verse plays, was voted Best Downtown Theater by the New York Press.
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