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The Working Actor

Not Every Opportunity is Golden

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Not Every Opportunity is Golden
Dear Michael:

Two horror stories: (1) I was auditioning for a play in a small black-box theater in Brooklyn. The play was pretty experimental, like most black-box plays, and so was the audition. We improvised a few scenes together in front of the director-playwright, occasionally changing roles. Nothing too bad -- except this went on for a good 30 to 45 minutes (I believe the play itself was around 30 minutes long).

Finally, he'd seen what he needed from everyone except me and one other actor. He was considering us both for the role of a junkie, so he asked us to take turns begging him for the part as that character, the way a junkie would beg a friend for $5 for a fix. My mind immediately pushed back. Sometimes when that happens, it's your instincts telling you to jump off a sinking ship. Sometimes, it's just fear blocking you. In retrospect I'm pretty sure this was the former, but I jumped in and tried my best anyway. Since that was the character, it was at least applicable. But we were literally begging him to give us the part. He just sat and listened to us. Did not get the part. Do not feel bad about it. The director ended up playing the part himself. Will not beg during an audition again.

(2) When I first started auditioning for student films here in NYC, I was once asked to read for something at the student's apartment. In the Bronx. As soon as I exited the subway I realized I'd made a huge mistake, but after an hour train ride I figured I'd at least see what the place looked like. It turned out to be a small home, and the student's parents were lovely, and he was polite. But it was incredibly awkward -- one of those situations where you're in the middle of the audition and realize this isn't at all a project you want to be part of. As nice as he was, his grasp of English was tenuous at best. And if he really was a student, why did he need to have auditions at his Bronx apartment? Despite these experiences, I still feel like a jerk for asking to see the script first.

Colin, NYC

Dear Colin:

I enjoy weird audition stories, so thanks for sharing these entertaining tales. They bring to light a very important point for our readers: You don't have to do everything you're asked to do as an actor. You don't have to accept every offer, jump through every hoop, or tolerate situations that are beneath your dignity or unworthy of your valuable time. It's weird out there. There are lots of folks who don't know what they're doing, have unrealistic demands, or seek to take advantage of actors' desperation. Never presume that people will be respectful or competent. It's always your responsibility to vet and evaluate each opportunity for legitimacy and value, and to protect yourself from weirdness. And if you miscalculate, never be afraid to graciously extricate yourself ... and walk the hell out.

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