types and auditioning (my day off)

Life outside Milwaukee Shakespeare: I had 40 glorious hours at home in Chicago.

Leisure time! I got to see the new Michel Gondry film Be Kind Rewind, the one with Mos Def and Jack Black making their own versions of famous films and sweetly inspiring the audience to “take stock in their own happiness” by democratizing their entertainment consumption.  This led to me having some fantastic action-packed dreams starring me: First a full-on superhero blowout, wherein I battled a 20-story grey robot beastie terrorizing an industrial park/shopping mall dream-place, then a hard-boiled cop thriller where I infiltrated and broke up a conspiracy to bump off a high school’s valedictorian, including taking the perp out on top of a fold-up cafeteria table.  Thrilling and heroic, and I awoke with the feeling that I can do and be anything! Yeah!

Which is often the privilege of being an actor–getting to temporarily visit the worlds of your characters, and convincing people you belong there, be it gritty modern realism, long-past periods, or far-flung fanciful fantasies.  Give me anywhere, and I’ll fit myself inside of it.   

Yet sometimes I get caught up thinking of myself only within the confines of the Industry, the Business: the narrow, normal and easily-understood boxes that make up the genres we’re accustomed to.  “Be aware of and master your type,” is common professional advice, even in the more insulated Shakespeare world.  I told a Chicago friend (Erica) I was actor-talking with that it’s okay that I might not be doing any acting for awhile (circumstances I’ll detail here someday), because I need time to grow into the gravitas needed to play Prince roles.  She asserted that I was still in the pocket for Lover roles, though.  And I thought, is that it? Lover or Prince?  Is that all I can present myself as at this point in my life/career?  Why can casting directors so seldom envision someone who is outside the typical conceptions for a role as an interesting choice to play it,  to allow for a fresh and unique telling of a story?  Why not a goofy-lookin’ Romeo, or a skinny Macbeth?  I suppose it has to do with not being able to take too great a risk in the professional world, lest the sponsors or subscribers or critical establishment be displeased and the bottom line effected. 

So us actors play along with the game, shoehorning ourselves into prescribed types in order to improve our odds of employment.  We pick audition pieces that “best showcase our abilities and attributes,” though perhaps we burn with secret desire to do a wholly “inappropriate” piece because we truly identify with it (I wanna do that Viola piece from Twelfth Night!).  I guess it’s best to find something to represent yourself that both satisfies your soul and the market, always a tricky proposition.

Anyway, I was thinking about all this and having this conversation with Erica because part of my 40 hours in Chicago was devoted to my Chicago Shakespeare audition, just completed three hours ago.  This being the third time I’ve done a general for them, I wanted to come with something off my standard palette, so I readied two new-to-me monologues, which required a lot of prep time to squeeze onto my Cymbeline-d plate, but was a blast to do.  I will miss running those monologues in the shower.

See, after a while using an audition monologue, it gets stale.  I have the words down so well I start to sing it like an old song, getting stuck in old pauses and intonations that once held a ring of truth because they were borne out of a moment of real inspiration in rehearsal.  However, inspiration is elusive at the actual audition, especially with the attendant nerves and professional formalities.  So the audition, much like a performance of a play, needs to have consistency–a slightly artificial gloss that will ensure you appear you know what you’re doing even if you’re not feeeeling it that morning. 
I mean, you could  go in to the audition room and wipe the slate clean and tell yourself all you’re gonna do is Stay On Objective and see what happens, but there’s no guarantee that that instance’s effort will be compelling in a way that displays your talents and intelligence.  So the memories of those original moments are trotted out and exploited.  Maybe that’s just called Making a Strong Choice and Committing To It (Gag-inducing actor jargon).  Maybe, like recognizing and embracing one’s “type”,  that’s another necessity of this business we call show, which derives but deviates from the human impulse we call making art.



1 Response to “types and auditioning (my day off)”

  1. 1 chrissycons
    February 28, 2008 at 4:34 am

    Ah, remember when days off were days off? Those were times.
    Good to see you, sir. I hope the audition was rockin’. Clearly I was not in your dreams, as my name and “Valedvictorian” are rarely in the same vicinity.

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