I am an ensemble member of the Jobsite Theater, and have been since the program came into existence in 2005. What this means, in a nutshell, is that I do not have to attend the annual general auditions that they hold for the public. They are aware of what I am capable of doing and when it comes time to cast the shows for an upcoming season they do not need to see a monologue from me to determine whether or not I have any talent. I do, however, have to go to the call backs for specific shows if a director feels that I might fit for a role.
If you’ve never been through an audition process I can honestly say you aren’t missing much. In all the experiences I’ve had in my life, I can honestly say that the emotional roller coaster that happens during the casting process is right up there as being one of the most grueling. You may perhaps think I’m exaggerating, but consider the following – If you’re working with a company that you’ve worked with in the past chances are that you know most of the competition. In my case, this means I end up reading against a bunch of men who I think are insanely talented AND who I happen to like quite a bit. You want to talk about conflicted emotions? You may want a part really badly, but chances are that your peers want that same part. In order for you to get it you have to beat out those folks. They have to “fail” where you succeed. You stand there, smiling and chatting like friends should but inside you’re wondering if this is the person who the director is going to choose over you. It’s gut wrenching.
Along the same vein, you usually know and (again) consider the director to be a friend. Do you have any idea how hard it is NOT to take it personally when you’re “rejected” for a part by someone you consider to be a friend? You can sit there and rationalize and say that you just weren’t what they were looking for all you want, but in the end it still feels like a kick to the gut.
It’s even worse when someone at the audition is considered a favorite by the local media. An actor who has won a “Best of the Bay” award or who is frequently cited as being someone to catch in the area before they move on to “bigger and better” things. When you see someone like this at an audition and they are reading for a part that you want the temptation to just pack it in is insanely powerful.
So, ok. You make it through that night. As soon as you get in the car to head home you start trying to figure out who got a part. Sometimes it’s pretty obvious, to be honest. Generally speaking you can bank that if one actor reads for the same part multiple times and hardly anyone else reads it said actor has the part. This is by no means a hard and fast rule, of course, but I’ve seen it play out this way more often than not. If you have any doubt, though, you start watching your email or checking your phone constantly waiting for some kind of word as to how you fared in the process. Depending on the director or size of the cast this process can take weeks. The longer you wait the more time you spend convincing yourself that you didn’t get the part and the more you dread the email you know is coming. The “Thank you so much for you’re time. You’re wonderfully talented but we have our cast” email. There have been a few occasions when I’ve convinced myself so thoroughly that I was getting one of those emails that I’ve been literally shocked to get one in which I was offered a part.
If you do get that rejection notice, though, it begins yet another period of emotional trauma. If you’re anything like me it does, anyway. You flagellate yourself with self-depreciating comments like “I’m not talented enough,” “I’m too fat,” “I’m too ugly,” and other teenage level emotional suicide bombs. You being to wonder if you’re really all that good or if, in the shows you’ve been cast in, you’re just the only person they could get. This usually lasts all the way until you actually see the production, at which point you generally have to admit that the person who was cast was really the person who was right for the job.
Which, in the end, is the only truth there is in this. As an actor, you are not perfect for every role. You may think you are (…may? who the hell am I kidding? Actors are some seriously egotistical bastards…generally speaking it’s why we act in the first place), and you may even be right, but you’re never going to get every part you go out for. It’s a hard, depressing reality to face but there it is. It sucks, and every year we put ourselves through it. Not because we’re gluttons for punishment, but because it’s something we’re driven to do.
And because, frankly, we’re a little bit crazy.
Wouldn’t you have to be to go through something like this?