Friday, August 14, 2009

The Twitter Twat

New York casting director Daryl Eisenberg landed in some deep caca this week, and has only herself to blame. On Wednesday, she was handling an Open Equity Call for a new musical, Gay Bride of Frankenstein, to be presented as part of the annual New York Musical Theater Festival; during the auditions, she was issuing immediate critiques to her Twitter account.

By her own admission, when each actor left the audition chamber, she picked up her phone and typed out a comment on the audition for her followers to read. She did not mention names, but her comments were often snarky, and very indicative of her dismissive attitude toward the actors who make her job possible:

If we wanted to hear it a different way, don’t worry, we’ll ask

"If you are going to sing about getting on your knees, might as well do it and crawl towards us…right?”

Let's be clear about exactly what kind of audition this was. This was an EPA, an audition required by the union, which means that Eisenberg was hired, at least partially, to sit in this audition room all day and watch whoever walked through the door. In the firestorm which has erupted over her actions, there has been no mention of anyone else in the room with her; I can verify from experience that, in these kinds of auditions, the director of the show is almost never present; they hire casting directors such as Eisenberg to sit through these cattle calls so they don't have to. So, we have only Eisenberg's word that she was not in fact Twittering during these poor actors' auditions.

Her Twitter Feed is currently followed by over 1800 people, several hundred of whom alerted, a site which monitors theatrical Twitter accounts, that her critiques were showing up in real time. People began wondering at the appropriateness of Eisenberg's actions.

At the time, she did not feel her actions were at all out of line. One of her tweets reported, “There is NO rule/guideline against Twitter/Facebook/MySpace/Friendster. Freedom of speech. Ever heard of it?

Yes, Ms. Eisenberg, we've heard of Freedom of speech. But to quote my friend Scott, just because you CAN say something, doesn't mean you SHOULD. Can you wrap your brain around that?

Among the many people who feel her actions were demeaning toward the actors she was seeing is composer Marc Shaiman (Hairspray, the upcoming Catch Me If You Can), who contacted her directly to tell her he was appalled: "To undercut the confidence of actors at this most vulnerable moment is not just mean, but for a casting director, rather insane,” he wrote. “A casting director should nurture and build confidence. She did her employer no favors.”

Eisenberg's employer, by the way, is the producer, composer and co-writer of Gay Bride of Frankenstein, Billy Butler. An Equity actor himself, he does not condone her actions, and has scheduled additional Open Call auditions for Monday, which he will be running himself. He has even invited those poor schnooks who auditioned on Wednesday to re-audition, though Eisenberg will again be in the room.

Oh, somebody else who was displeased with Eisenberg's actions: Actors Equity Association. The union issued this statement: “the auditions are job interviews. It’s a very long road for an actor to get from seeing the casting notice to getting that audition. To have it mocked is unfair to the actors and to the other people who are working on the particular project. It’s very simply that there is an expected level of respect and professionalism, and these values were violated.”

Once AEA took notice, Eisenberg backpeddled furiously, issuing apologies but insisting that her comments were meant to be teaching tools to actors. To verify this unlikely statement, I attempted to read her entire Twitter Feed, which had been posted on Alas, the feed has been deleted; promises to restore it after callbacks for the show in question. But if Eisenberg never mentioned any names, what is the problem with reading what she wrote? This modesty after the fact seems disingenuous. And this is hardly an isolated case; this woman makes a habit of this behavior. Some of the comments she Twittered during past audition sessions have been published elsewhere. Take a look and see if you believe she Twitters for the actor's education. Her actual statements are in bold:

He. Is. So. Cute.7:40 AM Aug 7th from web

Seeing #70 right now. I'm tired.
My ears are bleeding. Only an hour left to this EPA!
2:06 PM Jul 22nd from web

I see London, I see France...12:58 PM Jul 22nd from web

Lunch break over. Back to wailing voices. 11:35 AM Jul 30th from web

All this screaming (I guess these kids call it belting) is giving me aheadache...2:22 PM Jul 22nd from web

Multi-tasking. Auditioning #50 of the day and sending out an e-mail blast!12:40 PM Jun 30th from web

Our pianist is concerned that I'm twittering about each person. I'm not. Just those that upset me. 3:45 PM Jun 29th from web

Actors are anxious and vulnerable when they walk into the audition chamber. Easy targets for twats like Eisenberg, who clearly has no respect for the actors who provide her with her livelihood.

Pardon my language. I know "twat" is not a nice word. But if it quacks like a duck, it's a duck. And if she acts like a twat, she's a twat.

Friday Dance Party: Wild and Crazy Tapper

I'm a sucker for tap dancing. I delude myself into thinking I might have been a fair one, had I started early enough. I did a bit of it as the Emcee in Cabaret, but I failed to redeem myself for the terrible mess I made of George M several years earlier. I was horrendous in the role, though I didn't think my tapping was too bad, considering I had never had a lesson.

In honor of this week's Dance Party, I yield my tap shoes to Steve Martin, who is pretty impressive in this clip. Martin is one of the elder statesmen of comedy these days, as well as being a respected playwright (and a crackerjack juggler and Oscar host).

In the midst of his career, he was known for his absurdist stand-up routines, his hosting of Saturday Night Live, and even his recordings: he cracked Billboard's Top Twenty with his novelty song, "King Tut." But he was best known for his physical shtick; his film performances usually showcased his superb physical talents (take a look at All of Me). I maintain that the great physical comedians are also swell dancers; the two techniques are more related than you might think. And Martin capitalized on his natural physical grace in this clip (in it, he admits to having only started dancing about 8 months earlier).

This sequence takes a bit to get going, but around the 2 minute mark, watch out.

Steve Martin turns 64 years old today.