Last year, a theatre I’ll call “Open Door” was auditioning for actresses in my age range for the role of a mother, “Annie”, in the world premiere of a new play I’ll call “Crossroads”. I submitted my head shot and resume to Open Door, and they emailed me back with an audition time and sides for Annie (sides are the selections from the script the theatre asks the actors to prepare for the audition). Open Door didn’t send the script, but that wasn’t a big deal. Usually, but not always, a theatre sends a PDF of a new play with the sides to give the actor as much information as possible. When I read the sides, I still couldn’t deduce the entire storyline, but I could find some humor and some warmth between Annie and her family.
The audition date arrived, and I made sure I had my sides with my notes on them, several extra head shots and resumes (just in case, a good thing to take to any audition), my monologues ready (ditto), and some warm-and-friendly-mom-looking attire (T-shirt, cardigan, longer skirt, flats, simple jewelry). When I arrived at the theatre, I saw probably 15-20 actors in the lobby in various states of warm-up and audition preparedness, but only one or two other actresses in my age range. I signed in and began warming up (warm-up to be described in another post). Before I was called in, I heard someone ask the monitor when callbacks would be held. The monitor replied that due to time constraints, Open Door would be casting directly from these auditions and that they wouldn’t be holding callbacks.
Jane, the casting director for Open Door, came out from the theatre and told me that I’d be reading the first side with two other actors who I’ll call Jerry and Sam. We introduced ourselves, then started rehearsing our scene. After a few minutes, Jerry, Sam and I were called in to audition. Steve, Open Door’s artistic director; Jane, the casting director; and Lee, the director of Crossroads, introduced themselves, and asked us to begin whenever we were ready. In retrospect, we did a really good reading of the scene, and the three auditors clearly felt the same way. They laughed, and reacted very positively to our performances. Lee then gave us a bit of direction, we performed the scene a second time, and again, the auditors loved what we did. The three of us went back to the actors’ holding area, and each of us were called in to read several more times.
When you nail an audition, you feel it, literally. It feels like accomplishment plus artistic expression plus connection plus great communication. You walk out of the theatre happy, exhilarated, and a little bit high. No matter what the final casting decisions are, you know that you left your best work on the stage, and really, that’s the best you can hope to do at an audition. This was how I felt after the Crossroads audition. Not only did I feel like I performed really well, but during the audition when I had a brief conversation with Lee about the scene and the overall play, I could tell we really connected and that Lee really liked me. I left the theatre feeling terrific.
About a week later, I received a personal email from Jane thanking me for my audition, but that they were going in a different direction as far as casting the role of the mom. Jane said that they really liked my work, and would definitely keep me in mind for future projects (this last bit is pretty much standard as far as casting “thanks, but no thanks” emails go). My initial response was disappointment; after all, I did really well, and I would have cast me (ha). But then I reminded myself of all the reasons a perfectly fine audition doesn’t get you the job: chemistry, availability, looks, personal debts, plus any other reason imaginable. Fast forward a few months, and my friend, Stephanie, emails me to come see her in a play. As I read the email, I realize she’s performing the role of Annie in Crossroads. While I was happy for her, I was surprised. Stephanie is a terrific actress, but completely different from me in age, looks, and energy. I guess Open Door wanted a very different sort to play Annie. I hoped to see Stephanie in the show, but my schedule didn’t allow it. That was the last, at that point, that I heard about Crossroads.
A few months later, I ran into my friend John, a well-respected theatre director. He mentioned that he had recently seen Crossroads, not knowing I had auditioned for it. I asked him what he thought of it. He had one word to describe it: Awful. Stunned, I asked him to explain. He said that among its many problems, the script had no idea whether it wanted to be a zany comedy, a family drama with secrets waiting to be exposed, or an examination of terminal illnesses. John said it was so bad, he left at intermission, and it was a labor to have stayed that long. While I realize directors can be some of the hardest to please as audience members, the fact that John didn’t see the play through to its end says something about how bad it was. The critics, unfortunately for Open Door, fell in line with John’s opinion, and savaged Crossroads in the press.
Then it dawned on me: Perhaps the reason that Open Door didn’t initially email the script for my audition was that it they knew the script was…not very good. Maybe someone at Open Door was doing a favor for someone else by selecting this play. Maybe, through some series of negotiations and promises, Open Door was committed to doing the show, no matter what. Maybe it was ultimately a good thing that I wasn’t cast in what was, by and large, a terrible show. I’ll never know the truth, but for now, I have to go prepare for another audition.