Auditioning bears almost no resemblance to performing, and can often be nerve-wracking, disappointing and even horrifying!
In my 40 years in the business I have had to audition many times, especially when I was doing theater. I have known a few performers who really enjoyed the auditioning process, but the overwhelming majority of us hate it! It is an unnatural situation, where you - the roman slave - are willingly walking into the arena containing hungry lions. (Who are actually a few weary, overstimulated casting people, who have seen too many auditions already, and are really just thinking about where they are going to get lunch.) Your main acting challenge becomes imagining that these zombies are a large, welcoming crowd of theater lovers who have come to see you perform.
And now it’s time for “Audition Horror Theater”. Tonight’s episode - “The Time I Said No”
On a dark and rainy day in New York City, in 1979, I arrived at one of the rare auditions for which I actually had an appointment time. (Most others were open call.) Arriving 15 minutes early, I sat in the waiting room for over an hour, staring at the other 10 guys who were also sitting there wondering why no one was coming out to fetch us. Finally, the door swung open and a man came out and announced that he was going to be “typing” people out. That means that this assistant casting person was going to ask all of those men who didn’t fall in the general physical type that they were looking for, to leave. We all stood up and he looked us over, disapprovingly, and said, “You, you and you can stay. The rest of you can go. I had made the first cut! Soon I would be in there, showing them my stuff. Instead, we waited for another hour, as more men trickled in and sat to wait. The next time the Ass. Casting Director (I know that’s not the correct abbreviation) came in he repeated the visual thinning-of-the-herd. Once again, I was typed IN! Hooray!
Another hour – another five men joining us - and Ass Man finally stormed in. But this time he typed me… wait for it… OUT! As Ass Man was slinking back to his lair, I managed to work up the courage to mention to him that he had typed me IN two hours ago, and then again, an hour ago. He said, and I will never forget this, “Really? OK, stand up!” After looking me up and down for a moment, he very reluctantly said, “OK”. From deep inside me I heard a voice bubble up, and the voice, my voice, said “No, thanks. I think I’ll just leave.” The A-Man’s face was priceless, and the other guys auditioning looked happy to see one less guy to compete with. As I walked down the hall and out of the building, I shuddered with fear; I ached with disappointment; and strangely enough I swelled with pride.
I am off on vacation for a few weeks, but when I return I will tell you of how I once manipulated and audition and got one of the best paying magic gigs I ever had.