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Backstage Experts

Storytelling Your Way to the Callback

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Storytelling Your Way to the Callback

The practice of actors communicating with a live audience is the core of our art and the essence of our human connection. It is the campfire, the tribal sharing, the ancient ritual of storytelling, live, immediate, for that moment and then forever gone. There is nothing quite like it, and for those of us whose roots are in the theater, it’s the origin of our creative expression. It’s our touchstone. Likely somewhere along the way we were also smitten by film, seduced with another kind of voodoo. We disappeared into the enchantment of the screen and felt its magic. But the initial spark of the human connection happened on stage with a live audience, telling both an intimate and universal story. It was, and is, our lifeline. It’s sometimes ritualistic, sometimes church, (as Denzel would profess), always communal.  

“It has been said that next to hunger and thirst, our most basic human need is for storytelling.” —Khalil Gibran

Joseph Campbell talked about original rituals—in conjunction with myths—satisfying pleasure, power, and duty. These myths become collective storytelling, taking on a life beyond their original rites. Then they became entertainment for their own sake, needing storytellers and performers. These stories live in us today just as they always did. So if we can find the power of the personal myth in each of us, in each of our stories, we can affect each other profoundly. 

Once a myth “catches you, you develop such a longing for one or another of these traditions of information of a deep, rich, life-vivifying sort, that you won’t want to give it up.” —Joseph Campbell to Bill Moyers

What we have been experiencing at BGB is this kind of immediate, intimate storytelling, acting that takes your breath away. Each individual sharing a story through personal and connected narratives. Some of the best “theater” we’ve witnessed has happened in these rooms. Just recently, we were blown away by a succession of provocative live encounters in class. Actor after actor threw themselves into deep, personal stories. It was what we have always loved about theater. It was both private and communal. It was our myth-sharing, our collective storytelling. It was our campfire. 

The audition room can be your campfire. You’re not there to show anything or to perform in a heightened theatrical way. (We don’t know the difference, frankly, between a stage and screen performance other than volume and the understanding that you might have to reach a little further.) You’re there to have a shared, live, even divine experience with us. No matter what kind of spectators you think we are, we are your audience; we are a part of what you do. 

Even in a casting room, you are ordained to be the storyteller. You’re there to take us on a mythological journey. To engage with us in that ephemeral moment in time when, like on any stage, in any ritual, or campfire ceremony, the lights go down (they may not actually go down in most casting rooms), everyone looks with wonder and anticipation, and you transport us into your story. A story we may have written, are directing, producing, or casting. And still, for those few minutes, we are sitting around your campfire and you are telling us your story—your interpretation of the myth. You are chosen to help us “suspend our disbelief.” We await with excitement. For no matter what we know, you have the power to move us, to carry us to any place you choose. Then together we experience that enigmatic moment; it’s alive and then gone. We’ve shared something intimate together, storyteller and audience. We’ve done it just as it’s been done for thousands of years. In a gathering in the woods, in an amphitheater, in a pub, in a black box, in a classroom, in an audition room. 

So for your few minutes living in the world of that play, why not make it about immersing yourself and us, your audience, in the most sublime storytelling possible? Why not light the campfire and draw us in? Why not give it everything you’ve got? How else can you affect your audience? How else can you stay in our minds and in our hearts? How else can you secure your way to the callback?

Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!

Risa Bramon Garcia is a director, casting director, owner of The BGB Studio and Backstage Expert. For more information, check out Bramon Garcia’s full bio!

Steve Braun is an L.A.-based acting coach, actor, owner of The BGB Studio, and Backstage Expert. For more information, check out Braun’s full bio!

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