Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Verbal Tip

When I lived in Los Angeles, I worked for a long time as a waiter. Just about every actor in LA or NY does so. I actually liked it, so for more than 13 years, I served the public in the food service industry.

When the cheque was being prepared or presented, occasionally the customer would become very very effusive, complimenting my service, my attentiveness, my everything. Nine times out of ten, this customer, who had gone on and on about the great service, would tip less than 15 percent. I was not the only waiter in history to notice this phenomenon, which is known as the "verbal tip." Somehow, people think that if they compliment you enough, you won't care that you are being cheated.

I don't wait tables anymore, but I am still assaulted with the Verbal Tip.

A couple of weeks ago, I drove up to New York to attend an audition for a theatre in Vermont. This was not an open call, mind you, but an audition to which I had been invited. The reading went fairly well, I thought, and at the time, it looked like the Powers That Be agreed. "Very nice work this afternoon," proclaimed the show's director.

Translation: "You will not be hearing from us again." I had received a Verbal Tip.

This past week, I spent a couple of days auditioning for a show which, at least at first, I didn't really care about. I was invited to attend the audition by the theater's artistic director, with whom I had worked years ago at another venue. I have noticed another phenomenon in my career: even if I attend an audition for a show which does not matter much to me, if I end up with a callback and a discernible interest on the part of the Powers, I start to care about the show very much. This experience was more proof of the point. My initial audition was mediocre, in my mind, but it secured a callback the next day. This next audition included a dance call, which seemed to go fairly well for me, and a reading of a short scene, which impressed the director enough that he asked that I hang around to learn the character's big number.

So, this callback, for a kids' show about an hour in length, stretched to 3 full hours (not including the hour drive each way to get to this outlying theater) but I didn't care, I suddenly very much wanted to get the gig. I was the last actor to be released (the stage manager was even putting away the folding chairs while I waited for my final moment), and after my singing audition, the director thanked me profusely for driving out and spending the evening at the audition. "Thank you SOOO much for coming out," he effused, "We REALLY appreciate it!!"

Another Verbal Tip.
Now don't get me wrong, I appreciate being thanked at an audition. But when a director becomes OVERLY gracious, it is as good as saying, "I have already decided not to use you," which, frankly, I would prefer, as it is a more professional way of handling the rejection.
All in all, I'd rather forgo the Tip, and get the gig instead...