Actors act. But before they can act, they must audition. That’s what they do. Right?
Recently someone I know auditioned for a show they really wanted to be in. For the purposes of this post, let’s call them Janice. Janice found a deep, personal connection to the script and found that being cast in a role in this production would truly strengthen and challenge her as a performer and artist. She decided that this would be one of the most important auditions of her career and was adamant about being cast.
Janice did not waste any time in preparing for the audition. She read the proper materials, including Audition by Michael Shurtleff (twice, cover to cover), did extensive research on the show and its playwright, began an in-depth character analysis, read through stacks of plays to find the perfect monologue, dropped into the perfect monologue, had multiple coachings for the audition, made her fellow actor friends listen to the monologue, made her boyfriend listen to the monologue, made her parents via Skype listen to the monologue, picked the perfect outfit that was flattering, appropriate, memorable, but not memorable for the wrong reasons…
Janice was prepared. Every single day from the announcement of the show to the day before, she worked tirelessly to prepare.
And so, a few weeks later, it was the day of the audition. She got 9 hours of sleep the night before. She made sure sure didn’t eat any of the foods that are said to sabotage the voice on audition day: no milk, cheese, or any other dairy because those cause mucous, no oranges, lemons, or any other citrus fruits because those dry out the throat, no spicy food or coffee because those irritate the larynx, no Sprite, no Pepsi, or any other carbonated beverage because those cause too much air in the stomach, no ice cream, gazpacho, or any other cold foods because the cold will cause the esophagus to constrict, and absolutely nothing with salt because that’s just asking for a death sentence. Instead, Janice enjoyed a handful of almonds and a plate of rice.
Janice practiced self-affirmations in the mirror throughout the day, assuring herself that she was beautiful, talented, and was going to do excellent work in the audition room that day.
Janice ran the monologue through her head one or two times and only felt the need to practice it in the studio once, because she knew she was prepared and did not want to jinx anything.
Janice arrived to the audition 30 minutes early. She checked in with the stage manager, found a private space to do a full voice and body warm up, fixed her hair and makeup in the bathroom, and took a few laps down the halls listening to music on her headphones and doing breathing exercises until she was on deck.
Janice waited in the wings and tried not to pay attention to the incredibly talented woman auditioning before her and tried not to think about how beautiful that woman was and tried not to think about how funny she was and tried not to hear the auditors laughing at her hilarious delivery and tried not to think about how she was about to pee her pants even though she emptied her bladder three times since arriving to the building.
And then it was time. She had one minute to make the auditors fall in love with her so hard that maybe they’ll feel so inclined to cast her right there on the spot. Actually, let’s be a little more generous. About 10 seconds of walking into the room and finding the light, 10 seconds of slating to a mixture of smiling and stone cold faces, 5 seconds of a deep breath and getting into character, the minute monologue that we hope we doesn’t dare go even 2 seconds over, and the 10 seconds of the awkward “thank you” walk away.
So Janice had 95 seconds. 95 seconds to showcase an entire BFA’s worth of work. No problem.
Janice begins her monologue. She’s centered. She’s ready. She’s doing great. She’s about to reach the climax of the monologue. And then. She just. Blanks. She’s forgotten the entire English language. Everything and everyone she’s ever known and loved is just gone. She forgot the line.
How could she forget the line? After weeks of preparation, practice, and refusal to eat grilled cheese, she forgot the damn line. She tried to stay in character the best she could. It’s just a dramatic pause, they’ll never know! She stood there fiercely, with determination, searching every crevice of her brain for an inkling of text. The clock was ticking. 20 seconds left. She lets in a breath. Stay in character. 10 seconds left. Where is the damn line? Why couldn’t someone be on book? 5 seconds left. It comes to her. She’s overjoyed.
“And THAT’S why I–”
The man with the stopwatch holds up his hand. That was a minute, thank you.
“Oh. Okay. Okay, thank you,” Janice says.
Janice took one last look at the people who were in control of her destiny. The people who could make it possible for Janice to pay her rent on time and eat another handful of almonds. She walked away. She exited the building. She cried in her car.
Janice didn’t get a callback.
Janice didn’t get the part.
Janice hates auditioning.