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Workshop Worries

I read David Goldyn's letter regarding casting director workshops [Back Stage West, 4/18/02], and I wanted to respond. I have such mixed emotions after taking a number of these workshops. I have gained some valuable information (there are two 10-week workshops that I have done with very good people), but my concerns are as follows: Is it really best to "learn" in front of someone who may give a job? In addition, can casting directors help you develop a technique to become better in auditions on a consistent basis, or do they just point out problems that the actors now have to learn how to fix on their own? The other item is: If you take five different classes, you get five different views based on personal likes and dislikes.

These are questions I have struggled with; they are not monumental. What is monumental is an industry of taking actors' money—actors who are usually struggling to begin with—without regard for providing a businesslike service.

Recently I went in to see a workshop owner, who provided me with his resumé as a casting director and a list of casting director workshops he ran. I asked many questions, and he seemed to be knowledgeable. So I decided to try a four-session series for $100. He asked me to make the check out to "cash"; he said his credit card machine was down. This made me feel uneasy, but I decided to go ahead with it. He listed two of the workshops he said I would be right for. The first was to be on a Saturday a few weeks ago. I asked him what time, and he said I should call a few days beforehand to get the time.

I called on Wednesday; he said that they hadn't confirmed the time with the casting director yet. I called on Friday and no one answered the phone, so I left a message. No one returned my phone call, so I was unsure what to do. Saturday at 9 a.m., I called again, and he answered the phone and said that the workshop had been cancelled. I asked why no one had called me to tell me. He said that it was my responsibility to call to find out when the workshops were scheduled. I reminded him that I had called twice and that no one had returned the message that I had left the day before. He said he had been busy in a casting session at a studio and couldn't return calls.

Once again I suggested that someone should have gotten in touch with me. He then asked me if I had gone out and gotten drunk the night before—how dare I call him on a Saturday morning and bother him! I couldn't believe he would say that to me, when I was just trying to follow up on a workshop that he sold me.

I asked for my money back. He said he had a no-refund policy. I mentioned to him that I had never been told of a no-refund policy—and he proceeded to call me a "little bitch, not an actress." I asked once again for my money to be returned. The answer was more of the same abuse, and he then he hung up on me.

This is an extreme case of what is happening (at least, I hope it is), but I do feel that a great many of these workshops are run as if they are doing actors a favor rather than a providing a service. When you pay money for anything, that person is supposed to be providing you with a service. There has to be a fair and equitable way of doing business. A class should be a class, and a casting session should be a casting session. And nobody should have to degrade themselves or be treated without respect to pursue a career in the arts.

Margaret Melanie

Los Angeles, Calif.

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