Casting Director: “Be quirkier! QUIRKIER! Oh, come on! Did you not hear the directions? Just relax! Be Zooey Deschanel! Do you know who that is? Be her! QUIRKIER! Do you know who Zooey is? BE HER!”
Inner Monologue: “You are really freaking me out. I am shutting down. Shutting down. You are yelling at me and I’m in the middle of my audition. The camera is rolling. Relax! Ummm, yeah, I’m really trying to do that, actually. I totally own the fact that IT’S NOT WORKING.”
Casting Director (with a sour look of judgment, pity and disgust): “That’s all we need. Thanks.”
I walk out.
Wow. Well, that was a really bad audition. Everything about it was bad. I feel really small. And degraded. And stupid. Oh, and embarrassed since my reader was a student in my class. Tonight’s class.
I couldn’t figure out how to navigate the note “Be Zooey Deschanel.” How am I supposed to be myself, owning everything that I am, everything that I feel, when the direction being pummeled at me is “to be someone else”?
To be honest, three weeks later, I am still having a hard time with this piece of direction. “Being someone else” or “taking on a character” actually goes against everything that I believe. It goes against every fiber in my being to “put on” or be something that I am not. It’s just me in there, and if I “act” like Zooey Deschanel, I can promise you I will LOOK like I’m acting like Zooey Deschanel.
So, I think back about all the other auditions I have seen, or been a part of, recently. I don’t actually remember another time I got direction like this. “Be Lucille Ball!” “Be Lady GaGa!” “Be Dame Judy Dench!” I’ve never heard that before. So maybe this is a non-issue. At least for the kind of projects that I want to go in for.
But I can’t shake the feeling that I still let myself down. I let her direction get the best of me. I abandoned all the work that I had brought in. I totally shut down. And I couldn’t navigate that piece of direction, in the moment.
It doesn’t matter how much training you do. How much prep work you do. How well you know the director. You’re still going to have some botched auditions. For me, a bad audition reminds me of why it’s so important to practice, reflect, and to always be willing to learn. And to fail. Embrace your spirit of failure. If you were perfect all the time, no one would want to watch you on stage. It’s the flaws and failures that make you interesting and totally unique in a waiting room of look-a-like actors.
Maybe I should consider “life coach” as a back up career option.