by Rori Nogee
|An actor never gets to rest. The summer months are spent preparing for audition season.|
The summer months have come and gone. While audition opportunities dwindled, many people used that time to lounge on the beach, work on their tans, and vacation at luxury resorts. I, however, stayed busy filling up the time in between show contracts with various odd jobs. I performed with a murder mystery dinner theater company, a comedic improv wedding brunch comedy, entertained a birthday party with show tunes and even served as a tour guide around the Broadway Theater District. And, of course, I spent time blogging.
Now that the leaves are turning crimson and the temperature is dropping, that means the season is upon us! Audition season, that is. September and October are the busiest times of year for actors vying to land gigs that will employ them throughout the holidays and winter months. The auditions will be especially crowded due to a new crop of eager college graduates. Before I jump in headfirst yet again, I would like to share some triumphs and tribulations of past audition experiences to provide inspiration and motivation.
THE WORST AUDITION:
I was very excited to audition for the Rock of Ages tour, for the coveted role of Regina, the granola girl protestor. I planned out what I thought was a comedic mock ’80s music video, complete with hair tossing, fist pumping and floor crawling. Satisfied with my performance, I waited for the expected, “Thank you.” Instead, the accompanist/Musical Director stood up, slammed his hands on the piano, and angrily exclaimed, “Why would you DO that?!”
|Lauren Molina originated the role of Regina on Broadway, belting out “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” –credit|
“Huh?” I replied, dumbfounded.
“Did you SEE the show?”
“Yes, three times.”
“Then you would KNOW that it’s not a spoof, it’s a VALENTINE to the period. What was THAT?”
“I’m sorry, I thought it was funny. I guess not.”
“You’re obviously very talented, so I don’t understand that choice. Can you do it again and do it RIGHT?”
My heart beat in my chest and I felt the pressure from hundreds of girls waiting on the other side of the door. With my nerves frazzled, I sang the song again, this time with a traditional delivery. The casting director was pleased enough with my adjustments to let me read some sides from the script.
I won’t soon forget being yelled at for not living up to my potential in the audition room, and I doubt they will soon forget me. Needless to say, I didn’t book that job. However, I will certainly incorporate the direction I was given for the next time the audition rolls around.
|I really thought that ’80s music videos were already spoofs of themselves, like the over the top, “Total Eclipse of the Heart”–credit|
THE BEST AUDITION:
It was 6 a.m. on a rainy Sunday morning. I strongly considered rolling over and going back to sleep. However, this audition was for a regional South Carolina production of Rent, so I forced my weary body out of bed. Over 200 people turned up for the call. It was required that we sing from the show.
Decked out in a dreadlock weave, bandana, and authentic Bohemian attire, I sang about 4 bars of “Take Me or Leave Me,” (the famous duet between Maureen and Joanne) before the producer abruptly said, “Stop. Come to the callback this afternoon.”
At the callback, the producer had a very no-nonsense attitude. If he called out a name and someone did not account for themselves, their headshot was tossed immediately into the trash can.
Those of us remaining gathered together in the audition room, joined our voices in harmony, and one by one sang the solo in “Seasons of Love.” I considered it a blessing simply to get to sing Jonathan Larson’s beautiful music in a group setting, regardless of the outcome. I made it through another cut, thus becoming one step closer to all the dreams of my 13-year-old self.
Next, I waited in line to be the third pair to sing “Take Me or Leave Me” with a potential “Joanne,” named Kendra. I was intimidated by the high belting and riffing that seeped through the door from the girls before me, nervous that I wouldn’t be as impressive. “Don’t worry about them. Just do what you do,” I said to myself.
|“Take Me or Leave Me” in Rent on Broadway –credit|
Kendra and I ended up singing the ENTIRE song in full out performance mode. I had seen the show 78 times over 14 years at this point. I knew every nuance, every objective, and how to make it my own. Kendra was just as fully engaged. We circled each other like vultures and sang right in each other’s faces. It was goose-bump inducing magic.
When the song ended, I stepped back and let another potential “Maureen” take my place. She sang barely one verse before the producer said, “Stop. Please step outside.” Then, in what seemed like slow motion, he turned to me and declared, “You’re my Maureen. I’ll call you on Monday with the contract details.”
“But…what about all those other people outside waiting to audition?” I stammered.
“I’m sending them home.”
“Just like that?”
“Sometimes it happens that way. Congratulations.”
Shocked, I wept in the bathroom for the next hour before calling everyone I had ever met to tell them the news. Incidentally, Kendra won the role opposite me. Every night on stage was the epitome of a dream come true.
Now, as I embark on another audition season with my heart on my sleeve, my dignity in my throat, and my dreams on the line, I have to remember that anything is possible.
Sometimes it happens that way.
|Divas needing their stage! Me as Maureen and Kendra Payne as Joanne in Rent.|