It Was a Day

Yesterday was the craziest, longest day I’ve had in a long, long time.

While I usually think that talking about auditions is a jinx, not talking about them hasn’t really gotten me anywhere either, and auditions were one of the crazy things yesterday. The big thing, however, was that I had my memorization test for my new job. Thirty pages of script, to be recited twice in two different situations in three hours, and I was a wreck. I had stayed up for about three hours after I got home from work at midnight reviewing my script. But before the test, I had an audition.

The first one was for a bunch of tv (probably webisode) pilots at Temple University. I left earlier than anticipated, so I figured I’d get to the audition earlier. Unfortunately, I can’t read a map, so after parking in the work parking lot and taking the subway, I stupidly decided to walk from one of the stops… which was about a mile and half away from the audition building. True to my M.O., I was wearing shoes that should not be worn while walking long distances, and by the time I reached Temple (still at my planned time, despite the long walk through the projects), I was in pain.

I signed in and sat down in the lobby to wait. I didn’t have to be at my tourguide memorization test until 12:30 and I figured that an hour and fifteen minutes was more than enough time to audition and catch the train back to Reading Terminal Market. Forty minutes later, I was still waiting. I considered just leaving so I could get to the Market and study my script. But I really, really wanted to audition, so I decided that I would leave at 12:05 at the latest.

Finally, I was called in. The room where the screen tests were happening was big and divided into four sections: a holding area, and one testing area for each of the three films. Though I didn’t want to be That Person, as soon as I was seated in the holding area, I went up to the P.A. and asked if I could be moved up in line. I really hate asking for favors at an auditions lest it make me seem high maintainence before they even consider casting me, but they wouldn’t even be able to consider me if they didn’t see me. So I did it and they told me I might only get to be seen for one pilot instead of all three. Obviously I couldn’t do anything to change that and at least I would be seen for something, so I said that was fine.

As it happens, I got to audition for two. Both of them were cold reads, which are a strength of mine and just fun in general, and the two scripts couldn’t have been more different: in one script I played a secretly pregnant teenager yelling at her mom and in the other, I played an almost scarily sunny cult member who talked about how great life is.  The first reading was fine, and they said I did well, but who knows what that actually means. The second one, though I stumbled through a lot of it, seemed to really impress them, and as I was doing the scene for a film camera, the director of photography was snapping pictures of me. I really hope that something comes of one of those; I worked on a Temple film before and it was really fun.

I navigated my way around the campus to the train station, took the train one stop to the market, and sat in the agreed-upon location. I was ridiculously nervous for the test, even though I should have been fine: the person testing me was my friend and fellow AU graduate Beth. I had texted her the day before telling her I was freaking out about the test and she texted back that I shouldn’t be because it was her, and just before I went in for my screen tests, I told her where I was and she wished me broken limbs. So I was sitting on a stool in the market, waiting for Beth to arrive, when I got a response to my last text to her: “Contact Jane.” Jane is our talent manager, and I had no idea why I had suddenly gotten such a terse message when her last to me had been friendly and normal. Of course, being me, 5% of me was logically saying, “She probably had to lead an emergency tour. There has to be some reason for the message,” while 95% of me was going, “Yes, there is a reason and it’s that she hates you” (not that I could find any reason why she would.)

I sat on the stool for over half an hour, a little annoyed that I could have stayed for my last screen test, but mostly getting more and more nervous for my test. Reciting 30 pages verbatim is stressful enough without it starting late, and I was freaking out. Finally, I saw Beth coming… with a tour in tow, as well as Jane, another tour guide, a camera crew, and the founder of the company. As it turns out, the founder of the company, Victoria, had had an interview before the tour and when they asked if they could come on the tour, she said yes and then let everyone know. When the tour guide that was originally supposed to lead found out that a camera crew was coming, she refused to lead the tour and so Beth got roped into it because she is awesome and is comfortable being on camera.

But Beth was not feeling awesome. As the guests were enjoying the samples, Beth hurried over to me. She gestured to the water bottle I was holding (I drink things when I’m nervous, reason number 56464 why I don’t drink). “Could I have some of that? I’m about to pass out.” I gave it to her and she drank a little. When it was time for her to go talk again, she was still looking a little pale. I asked, “Do you want to keep-” “Yes.” Later, when the other tour guide took over because the cameras were turned off, Beth passed me. “I need to sit down,” she said. I followed her and gave her some almonds I had in my bag. Victoria was sitting with her and in the end, she sent Beth in a cab to lie down at Jane’s apartment. “How about I come with you to your test?” she said to me.

I should describe Victoria to you: she is about five foot and weighs maybe ninety pounds. She’s pretty and has a laugh that bubbles like champagne. She smiles all the time and doles out compliments constantly. But underneath all of that, you can tell that she is an Ivy League-trained lawyer-cum-business owner who doesn’t take any crap, and it’s mildly terrifying. And she was sitting in on my memorization test. She wasn’t there for the first few minutes while Jane was quizzing me and the test was going very well. Then Victoria sat down and everything went downhill. While partly it was me getting flustered at her presence, it was also that she stopped me every few seconds with corrections to say things like, “Can I just say, you have such a wonderful speaking voice? I can tell you’re a trained performer. It’s just that… with that wonderful voice, you said ‘um’ five times. We try not to say that here” and “Can you just take a minute to put your lipstick on?” (when I said I didn’t have lipstick on me, she requested I get some.) I had only gotten about two paragraphs into the script when she stopped me and said I should schedule a date with Jane next week to be tested again. Apparently, my test was over and I had failed. (Failing the test and getting fired had been my worst fear of the day. At least I wasn’t fired?) I was humiliated.

But my time with Victoria and co. was not over. No. I still had a rehearsal to go through. We went to the final stop of the tour to meet up with Jane and a recovered Beth where we squeezed around a tiny table in a tiny room filled with people and were made to rehearse the script loudly. Victoria is very very much a perfectionist and very very much wants us to be her while rehearsing the script, which is really hard when she’s sitting right at your elbow. I was really anxious and frustrated and kept crumbling and uncrumbling my napkin in my fist to keep myself from freaking out. I was so relieved when I had to leave early to get to my second audition.

That audition took place just a few blocks away from the cafe, and I was let into the building by the writer/director, who was super nice. I was brought upstairs to a big room that contained two stools, a camera, a table, and the director of photography, as well as my acting partner. I was introduced to both and after I handed over my headshot and resume, they mentioned they had my sides. “Oh, I have them,” I said, and got them out of my audition binder, at which point I was informed that they were the wrong ones. I was not actually trying out for the fourteen year-old aspiring YouTube singer, but an older, foul-mouthed partygoer, which meant that my bright outfit and youthful hairdo that I had prepared especially for this audition, were all wrong. But whatever. So they gave me the proper sides and a few seconds to look them over. The first scene involved my character sobbing, which is pretty hard to do in a split second when you’re trying to seem normal before the camera rolls. I didn’t sob, but I managed to get a little teary, and that reading went all right. The two people behind the camera seemed to like it; they had told me before the reading that they would give me direction the second time around, but after the first reading, said that it was exactly how they had pictured it and they didn’t need to see it again. “You can definitely tell you’re theatre trained,” the d.o.p said regarding the fact that I had shouted the lines that needed to be shouted, and suggested for the next scene, I keep the volume down a little, because I was sending the register off the charts.

The second scene was one that involved a lot of movement, which I’m always unsure about on film. Compared to my theatre experience, I’ve done very little film, and I always feel very restricted by the camera frame. But I figured if my scene partner was all over the floor by our “dying friend” (a stool lying turned on its side), I could be too. The first reading of the scene was good, and very intense. It’s always a treat when you get a scene partner that’s really into it at an audition; a lot of times, the person’s behind the camera or, in the case of theatre auditions, the table, reading without emotion and you’re still expected to act with them. So to have someone who was actually acting full-out and with commitment was great. Once we had finished, the d.o.p and the director started talking about the direction they wanted to give us. They really seemed to like the first reading, so I wasn’t sure what we were being told to do, but as it happens, they just wanted to give us verbs/objectives and see what happened. The one they gave me was “to amuse.” “To amuse?” I repeated, trying to hide my incredulity. I couldn’t imagine doing the scene with that objective- most of my lines involved shouting things like, “He’s fucking dying!” and  “We need help. I’m calling 911!” But you just have to take what you get at auditions, so I tried my best. It was really, really hard, and though I kept trying to do what they asked, I wasn’t sure what they would think. Shockingly, they loved it. “I had no idea what to expect,” to d.o.p said. “That was really awesome- it was like you knew how serious the situation was, but you were too drunk to respond correctly. Or maybe high.” “I had no idea what was going to happen at any moment,”  the director concurred. So that was good, I guess. It’s always nice to know that you went beyond someone’s expectations.

I thought I would be done after that, but they did a sort of interview thing. I sat on a stool in front of the camera as they asked me questions. I actually love when this happens at auditions; they actually get to see your personality and get to know you a little as opposed to seeing a nervous (or polished) actor recite some words. The d.o.p asked me about my film work, from my extra work on things like The Sopranos and Law and Order: SVU to my bigger roles in student films, and then was like, “I’m interested… you have ‘Cockney accent’  listed in your special skills section. Could I hear it?” Now, I’m pretty sure that this film does not include a Cockney accent. Sometimes, I suspect that casting directors just like to press random buttons on actors, like, “I wonder what this does?” And the funniest part is… we will do whatever we’re asked, for the most part. So I laughed and said “sure” and spoke for a few sentences like pre-Higgins Eliza Dootlittle. (This is also the #1 reason why actors should never, ever lie on their resume. This is the fifth time in three months I have been asked to do some variation of an English accent just because it was listed and they wanted to hear me do it.)

After that, I was done. I’m really happy with how that audition went, and thankfully, that good feeling made the rest of the stress of the day go away. I went to work to do the dinner shift and was just fine and all was good. Now we’ll see if I hear back from any of the films and if I pass my next memorization test. I will surely blog about both cases.

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