Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Auditionary Antics

I am finally spending substantive time at the New York Branch. The past month or so, it's been a week in NY, a week in DC, and so forth, as both cities are in the midst of lots of Auditionary Activity.
DC theatres plan ahead. Many are holding
auditions for shows beginning rehearsal
more than a year from now.
In DC, local theaters are auditioning for their upcoming season, waaaaaaaay too early, as everyone agrees. There is an audition on next week's schedule, I kid you not, for a show which does not begin rehearsal for 14 months! In New York, meanwhile, this is the time of Summer Stock auditions.

I am doing my best to make good use of my time in New York, by attending as many EPAs as possible. The EPA, for those of you mercifully out of the business, is the Equity Principle Audition. Such auditions are required of most theaters by the union, but they usually don't yield much. Oh, I suppose if a particular theatre is looking for an Asian dwarf who speaks Portuguese, and you happen to BE an Asian dwarf who speaks Portuguese, you might get lucky at one of these things. Still, I've been hitting these EPAs as often as possible, otherwise, what am I doing in New York? These things are called Cattle Calls for good reason, as they are always massively attended, even when the odds of snagging a job are so slim. 

NY Shakes performs at the Delacorte,
an amphitheatre in Central Park.
Last week, for example, I attended the call for the New York Shakespeare Festival, which is part of The Public Theatre, and used to be called simply "Joe Papp," after the guy who invented the place. They are famous for producing free Shakespeare in Central Park every summer, and their audition was hugely attended, even though they always cast their shows with named stars.
I nearly passed out from bovine breath
in this waiting area.
This particular audition sticks in my mind, as I was trapped in line for about half an hour between two guys who knew each other, and spent the entire time catching up. They both had bad breath. So here I was, stuck in line, as these guys excitedly talked over me, holding me hostage, as I attempted to dodge a hail of halitosis.

That same day, I attended an EPA at a well-regarded, but small, Off-Broadway house, for a Shaw piece which had a dynamite role for me. This one, of course, was also wildly over-attended, with the line of hopeful actors snaking down two flights of stairs and spilling into the lobby of the theatre.
Irish Repertory Theatre
These auditions can get pretty chaotic, and do not lend themselves to an actor's best work, but whatta ya gonna do?  This one, at least, was being viewed by the director of the play, and the artistic director of the theatre.  Usually, these EPAs are attended by a lowly administrative intern.
There is a rather new program happening in New York these days, called the Agent Access Audition. AEA invites agents to attend an evening audition, where they see about 50 people during a three hour session. 
Yet another waiting area at Equity.
I have no idea if this kind of thing ever garners any response, but I attended one last week, as an alternate.  Yes, even these things are over-attended in New York, and all the audition slots were full, so I spent about two and a half hours in the waiting room, hoping that actors who had lined up at the crack of dawn to snag an audition appointment would, 14 hours later, be too pooped to return to the Equity building to attend.  Sixteen such actors did just that, so I was eventually ushered in to meet the two agents who were graciously dignifying us with their presence.

I call this my Senior Discount Headshot.
One remained silent throughout, but the younger one offered some brusque (but good) advice for me. (And she liked the bearded headshot, which remains, for me, only temporary).

Sadly, she lost interest in me when she discovered that I do not have a "reel," which is a 2 minute compilation of all my film appearances.
My quickie scene in Pecker belongs
on my "reel", as it was included in
the film's trailer.
I've known for years that I need to put together such a thing, but have always put it off, perhaps that is the Next Big Thing on my To-Do List.

This is only a sampling of the audition experiences I've been having the last month or so.  My most promising NY audition was for a showcase production of Hamlet.  Showcase productions are those in which union actors are allowed to participate for free (under certain guidelines).
This one went swimmingly, and the callback was even better. I slayed them, they were putty in my hands. I was rewarded with a request from the producers that they be allowed to keep me in their files for future projects.

In New York, it's even hard to get a job for free.  I would have taken the gig, gladly, even as I roll my eyes at the whole concept of the showcase production.  I've heard that some of these things have such substantial budgets, they even hire casting directors.  They certainly hire designers, who don't work for free, and crew members, ditto, and spend money on rental space as well.  It's only the actor who is expected to donate his time and expertise, and is expected to be grateful for the opportunity.  I can't think of another professional who conducts his career in such a fashion.

Ah well, it's the New York way, I suppose.  I am lucky that I am able to remain part of the DC talent pool while this Manhattan Project unfolds.  As I said, it's audition time in DC as well, and I may have some promising news on that front in a few weeks.  Meanwhile, I remind myself, it's a fine life.