Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Perp Walk

I've entered a period of life (reentered, I should say) which I have often had to endure. It is the period of time which actors optimistically call "Between Engagements." It's the common industry euphemism for Out Of Work. And in my case, it's optimistic because "between" usually means something has ended, and soon something else will begin. I can only claim the former part of that equation: I have no idea when my next job will be, or even if there ever will be one.

These are the thoughts which fog the brain of all but the most foolish of actors.

So, the new year has begun with these surrounding clouds. I suppose I should feel lucky that, even this early in 2008, I have already had the chance to be rejected by two theatres! I'm on a roll...

A week or so ago, I returned to the scene of my most recent crime to audition for their Christmas 2008 musical, "Peter Pan." Olney holds group auditions for their musical productions. A dozen or so actors are called for an hour. One by one, the Actron Unit is ushered into the Jury Room to sing a song and perhaps read a side for the character in question. Once all that is done, the entire group is taught a dance combination and then required to strut their stuff.

I don't like group auditions, but I see the necessity of them for large scale musicals. But here's the hard part. After everyone has sung, danced, acted, and schmoozed, everyone is led back out into the lobby to await their Final Judgement. In a few minutes, the casting director steps out and announces who is called back for further auditions the next day.

See the problem? This is pretty embarrassing for those people not called back, to have that fact announced to the world. I have not noticed this problem before, because I have always been called back for Olney musicals. Until now.

It's tough enough if you are surrounded by strangers; you can try to slink away with your tail between your legs relatively unnoticed. But if you are surrounded by people you know, people you have been laughing with and carrying on with for an hour, it is pretty humiliating to have the theatre announce that you are not talented enough to warrant further attention.

As I slunk away with my Brave Face on, I started to feel like a perp being led in handcuffs through a mob of press after being arrested. I know that Olney handles these auditions this way in order to reduce the manpower necessary to call or email people individually, but they could take some lessons in Actor Handling from tiny Bay Theatre's routine. I suppose they think, "Hey, you (the actor) will get up onstage and do the weirdest, wildest, most outrageous things, so why would you care what other people think of you?"

So, I won't be visiting Never-Neverland next Christmas.

This week, I was summoned to New York to audition for "The Elephant Man" for a Vermont theatre. At least they did not require a perp walk. In fact, my reading went quite well, and the director responded with, "that was a good choice." This is AuditionSpeak for "You appear to be a good actor, but I have no interest in you." At least they did not communicate their disinterest to everyone in the lobby.

Well, the week has not been a total failure. I was invited to perform in the first of a series of staged readings for the Washington Stage Guild. I am playing the all-important role of the butler. It's a pivotal role. I get to announce people. And every once in a while, I get to arch my eyebrow.

It's actually fun to be back with the Guild Gang, if only for a few days. It's a fun bunch, and we eat well. We'll be reading the play, "The Return of the Prodigal," Friday night and Saturday matinee, before what we hope will be appreciative and forgiving audiences.

So, after a banner year in 2007, the new year has seen a return to the regular ups and downs of my Actor's Life. So far, one kind invitation, one harmless rejection, and one outright humiliation.

Hi-Ho, the glamorous life...