Had auditions this past week for a one act I’m directing for Manhattan Rep’s Summerfest. It’s called IN THE OPEN and centers around a chinese mother coming to terms with her daughter’s new boyfriend. Our auditions were held at Champion Studios on 39th and 8th ave. The studios were tiny and our little desk that me and Angela (playwright) sat behind bowed in the middle. Nice. Amy helped out as an audition monitor, shuffling people in and out of the room, and reading sides with them. Most of the auditioners had monologues but some did not. They all ranged from great to needing more preparation. There were, as to be expected, some interesting moments.
There were many Asian actresses who could barely speak a lick of English. Too bad, because some of them had great personality.
There was one lady who had done lots of film, and she wanted to audition for the role of Grace (the daughter). I wanted to read her for the mother. She wasn’t very happy with that. She had a very strong personality. She asked to read for Grace first and then read for the mother. I said that was fine. After she read for Grace, I thanked her and said that was all I needed to see and I would be making my decision by Friday. She looked at me like “what? I’m not reading anymore or being called back?” she thanked everyone and left. I turned to Angela and said “she scares me.” Angela agreed. It’s a shame, becuase I think she has talent, but I just could not see myself working with that kind of personality for a whole month.
One guy came in, did his monologue and then I asked him to read from the sides. As he started, he put his sides down and just started doing it from memory. That was fine I guess…until he forgot his line. Again…and again. Here’s a tip to auditioners. Don’t memorize your sides. Only George C. Scott can get away with it.
I think the most surreal moment had to have been this cute, bubbly girl who came in to audition. I asked her if she had a monologue. She said she did and that she wrote it herself and had never performed it before. I said great, it will be a premiere. I tell her to go whenever she’s ready, I look down at her headshot and resume, saw that she was doing a piece called “White Wannabe” and when I looked up, she was reading from a piece of paper. I honestly don’t know what her monologue was about, but it had something to do with her not wanting to be Korean anymore and getting blue colored contact lenses. I did everything I could to not laugh out loud.
During the callbacks on the second night, there was an actor and actress that I called back and felt they just weren’t right. Angela felt the same way and wanted me to let them go early. I asked Amy to tell those actors that that was all I need to see from them and to thank them for coming in. Amy looked at me for a second. I could see the dread filling up in her eyes. I think as an actress herself, Amy knows just how painful hearing those words can be. She went out and did it, although she was not happy about doing it. She deserves a gold star for that.
The rest of the callbacks was tough. Really great groups of people with a lot of taltent. In the end I asked the people I called back to all come into the room and let them know how great they all were and for the ones who would not be cast this time around, I would definitely keep them in mind for projects down the road. I shook all their hands. I think it’s important to let actors know how much they are appreciated and how respected they are. Some of these people had MFAs and have had some great training. I think the least you can do is just let them know how much you appreciate their time. Think of it. They do this day in and day out, and they put up with a lot of rejection. A note to actors. From a directors perspective, at least from my perspective…I want them all to succeed. The last thing I want to see is an actor fail. I will do everything I can to make them feel comfortable. If I give an actor some direction, I’m doing it becuase I want to help them to show me what I think I want. Even if what I want may not be right for the final product, I’m still trying to help them. The actors that I really love to see are the ones who are confident (not cocky) but who believe in themselves. The ones who don’t come in with this desperate look on their face, like if I don’t cast them on the spot their going to go home and shoot themselves. Directors don’t want to worry about fragile actors.
All in all, I think we auditioned 22 actors the first night and 15 the second night. That’s pretty great, considering we were casting 2 Asian characters and one African American character, for a 15 min one act that doesn’t pay. New York is definitely full of very good actors all scraping to do any kind of theatre.
The show is now cast, with exactly the people that I wanted and am really looking forward to working with all of them. Will keep everyone posted on how rehearsals go.