A Different Sort of Audition, Part 2
A few days and a couple hundred distractions later, I walked into the studio and handed in my headshot and resume to the person checking us all in. Her name was Sarah, and she said I could leave my bag, coat, and shoes out in the hallway. I did, and passed into the main room.
About a hundred or so people, most dressed for an aerobics class, were spread out and stretching on the floor, in front of the wall of mirrors. Had I walked into a dance company audition by mistake?
"this is a sort of competition," he said, "please know that we are looking for something specific. If you are not chosen, please understand that it does not reflect on you being a good or bad actor. It's just that we are looking for people who can do something very specific. If you leave now, or if at anytime when you feel this is not for you, we will not be offended at all."
Great, I thought. I tend to think in concrete terms. I would much rather have someone tell me to use my diaphragm than to "project my center energy" or something like that. The more this guy talked, the more clearly it was starting to look like that.
Until he got to something new. "remember the first time you fell in love?" he asked. And then he smiled.
I blinked. I was back in a place years ago, just after a circus had performed. I sat across from a beautiful girl. We had a car with a full tank of gas at our disposal. I remembered the expression on her face when I asked her where her passport was.
I snapped back to New York, and our smiling instructor. "That feeling," he said, "is the feeling you must always have when you are acting. If you cannot conjure that feeling, please leave now." I didn't leave.
First was a complicated set of stretches and lunges involving breathing very forcefully. I felt like most of the people in the room were about as confused as I was. Then came a the idea of projecting your energy forwards. It was working with energy of the head, the instructor told us. There were a lot of loud "fffing" sounds from the other actors as they make shard gestures to mimic him.
"Now," the instructor said, "I want you to hold your hands above your head. We're going to work with energy of your heart. He let his hands fall and described the energy as it passes through, down and out.
I obediently held my hands up. I stretched. Something between my hands started to tingle.
"Now!" we dropped our hands. Whoosh.
I don't know if it was what he had been looking for, but I felt it. Something passed through my entire body, head first, and then outwards.
From then on, things started making more sense. If I tried to describe it, it would sound like new age nothing. But, even if I don't know if I was getting it right, I could sure feel something.
Next up, he broke us into four groups, and one group at a time, we circles up. One person would come into the center and, well, act. Then another person would act with them.
It started off with one group trying to drown each other out with the monologues they had prepared. Then our group came. A dozen actors came in and out, each interrupting each other with a different Shakespearean monologue. When I saw an opening, I grinned and stepped into the ring, just as two people were trying to shot over each other, and I began that "Three Days of Rain" Monologue I'd thought was so funny weeks ago:
"It's the same thing, all over again." I said, as everyone else turned to me and fell silent. "It's the same thing!"
That was all I needed. The rest of the monologue had to wait as a new actor came in. And I responded to them. When I stepped out of the circle, the instructor quietly tapped me on the shoulder and said "you're five. Group five."
After more of this, several copies of text were passed out. It was Midsummer Night's Dream, the first fight between Titania and Oberon. The opening line was his: 'Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania." Everyone in the room came into a circle. An actor and an actress were selected and put into the ring. The Oberon delivered his line, hard, angry. The instructor starting talking about the head energy of the line again.
I went back to the text, thinking about how to act it, when I remembered something. From the book. Find the complexity. "I hate you" might mean something very different.
I tried my best to forget everything I knew about the play except for one fact: Oberon and Titania were husband and wife. From these lines, it's clear they've broken each other's hearts many time over. But at some point, they must have been in love. There might be more than hate and anger in these words.
The first two were dismissed. Another two called up. Then another. Then an open call. Four stepped up, two remained to speak the lines. Next, seven stepped up, three started speaking two remained. Fifteen stepped up, three remained, two speaking the lines of Titania together as one. Eight stepped up. Every Oberon another steady, uncomplicated angry character.
Six stepped up, I was the only male. I took a breath, and a woman actress beat me to the punch, crossing gender lines to play Oberon. Somewhat chagrined, I took my place back in the circle again. I waited two more turns then stepped out again, just as my castmate, Samantha did. We locked eyes, and I conjured every bit of love and heartbreak I could muster and commanded the scene. Everyone else took their places in the circle again.
When we were done, the instructor quietly approached me again.
"I said you were five? You're six now. Group six."
After the audition was over, everyone who was told they were parts of groups five and six were gathered. They told us they liked what they saw and would love to have us back for a callback audition, which would be held in early December.