Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Dancing at the Liaison Auditions

I have been proud to have been an important part of the DC annual group auditions for Equity talent, sponsored by the AEA Liaison Committee. My own audition is usually the least important aspect of the event, as I also spend the two days of auditions funneling the attending actors through the process.

This kind of group audition, where about 200 actors appear before scores of theater companies and casting professionals, is not a favorite of the union in New York. They much prefer the hard-won requirement that theaters hold auditions independently, giving local actors the opportunity to be seen. But our Liaison Committee Auditions have been a big success in the ten years of their existence, and we have reportedly become a bit of a model for similar group auditions elsewhere.

What does all this have to do with Happy Dancing? Well, yesterday, I received concrete proof that attending our auditions yields results. We were deep into our second morning of auditions, and I was enjoying a rare few moments off my feet, seated with my dear friend and fellow committee member Barbara. Have I mentioned Barb before? I first met her years ago, when we were both appearing in the local satirical musical group, Mrs. Foggy Bottom and Friends. Over the years, she has become a great friend and fellow martini enthusiast.

Barbara and I were sitting with our friend Valerie, a striking actress who, if I played for the other team, would definitely be on my radar. As it is, it's always a pleasure running into her around town.

The three of us, then, were sitting in the hallway which acts as a sort of holding cell for the actors waiting to audition, when one of the Powers That Be at Olney Theatre hurried up the hall. Brad is a theater leader who consistently brings me in for auditions throughout his season. He stopped a few feet away from our group and said, "I've been looking for you." Frankly, I thought he was talking to Valerie, who has appeared many times on the Olney stage (while I've appeared there only once), but no, Brad was pointing straight at me.

The upshot of the encounter: Olney had just lost one of the actors slated to appear in their upcoming production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The show was already in rehearsal, and Brad had, just a few moments earlier, been interrupted during the auditions, and been told that the actor had dropped out of the show. He wanted to know if I was available to step in as a replacement.

Now this is surprising for one reason: I had auditioned for this production back in September, and David the director, whom I knew very slightly from years ago, didn't display much interest in me. We had a nice little chat at my audition, but I could tell this one was going nowhere. I did not receive a callback (nor did I deserve one; I am not the best auditioner on the planet, or even on the block). So when Brad put the wheels in motion so that an actual job offer could be generated, I asked him tentatively, "Does David know about this?" That was a stupid question, of course David knew about this, he is the director. Brad confirmed, "He was the one who mentioned you on the phone. He asked if R. Scott might be available, and I said, well, I'll walk across the hall and ask him."

And he did, and I said yes to the offer, and less than 20 minutes after being approached by Brad, I had a new gig. One that had already started. In fact, Brad wanted me at rehearsal that same day at 2. "Just be sure to get your Equity ass in my theater this afternoon," were his last words before he returned to the audition chamber to watch more actors.

I know I'll be reporting on my newest adventure in future pages, but for now, I'm still in a bit of pleasant shock that this opportunity popped up so unexpectedly. I have not had any time to get really excited about the gig, I've been playing a bit of catch-up. But I, for one, will never question the value of the group audition. Not only can you be hired from one, you can actually be hired DURING one.