#32: Bonding with Bobby Spencer

Dear Friends,

As we enter the point in our rehearsal process where we’re running straight through the show nearly day, I’m going to be called to rehearsal more often, since it becomes impossible to call actors on a scene-by-scene basis.  So that means I’ll be spending more time in the green room (the break room for actors), chattin’ with my castmates.  Which is great, because my castmates are cool.

Case in point: I had a great chat with Robert Spencer (Feste) the other day.  What a great guy.   And a real veteran of the professional theatre.  This is at least his second time playing Feste, having played the role years ago at APT.  In fact, a friend of mine saw that show, and had this to say about it: I was excited to see that Robert Spencer is in your show reprising Feste. The most magical perfomance I have ever seen was Twelfth Night at APT years ago. He was playing Feste and it was one of those nights when all the elements (literally) were a part of the show as well, never upstaging or preventing but always complementing and enriching. The show ended with him alone on stage singing ”The Rain it Raineth Every Day” a fine drizzle that seemed to be woven to fit that moment. It was incredible.  

Next time we talk, I’m going to ask him what it’s like to reprise a role he’s played before– and I’ll give you a full report.  What we talked about this time were auditions.  We both hate them.  Most actors do, I guess.  And so do directors, for that matter.  I mean, what a difficult, exhausting, unreliable way to find employees: two minutes – sometimes four – of speaking lines – usually to nobody – out of costume, out of context, to be followed by fifty other people doing the same thing.  Many great actors are bad auditioners.  Many bad actors are great auditioners.  It’s a skill unto itself.

 I, for one, generally dread them.  Especially when I’m not prepared, or if I’ve never met the director.  Sometimes you find out about an audition with only a day or two’s notice; other times you have four or five auditions in a week, and you just don’t have the time you’d like to give each script.  And of course, the director will never know that, because you can’t just walk into the audition room making excuses for yourself.  And even if you are prepared, there’s a whole element that is completely out of your control: your appearance.  You could be the most prepared, inventive Romeo of the day, but if you’re two feet shorter than Juliet, no dice. 
  However, even if you feel completely wrong for the role you’re auditioning for, you still want to work hard to prepare it, because you may be right for the next play the director’s doing. 

For my part, most of my job offers come from directors who have worked with me before, or from people who have seen me in a production, which is an expontentially better way to determine an actors ability than a two-minute monologue in a carpeted room under fluorescent lights. 

Robert Spencer has worked as a stage actor for decades, and he still gets nervous about auditions.  That’s a big reason he’s made Milwaukee his home; its arts community is supportive and tightly-knit, and everybody knows him, so he hasn’t had to audition for anything in twenty-some years. 

I can’t wait.  kr 


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