A week ago I had my first audition. Not for a part in anything, but in an attempt to get on the City Lit drama foundation course — a one-day-per-week, one year affair. I’ve enjoyed the termly classes I’ve taken, but just when the group is beginning to gel, term finishes and you have to start all over again with a new class. It’d also be good to have some longer-term structure if I’m going to take this acting stuff any further (although I’ve no idea how near or far I’ll end up taking it).
Auditions were running all last week, with one group of auditionees(?) per day. There were, I think, 17 there on Wednesday although I heard it reached the mid-20s on the Friday. The day was run by two teachers, Rodney and Brian, and we began in the morning with physical and vocal warm up. Much of that stuff does feel like an old-fashioned gym class and whenever I find myself in a hall jumping up and down and shaking my limbs with a load of strangers I wonder what on earth I’m doing. I’m 34, I hated PE at school… why am I here doing star jumps?
Once suitably sweaty we split into groups for a quick game involving throwing tennis balls around, to work on concentration and team work. This is usually nice, simple fun. But in every class there are a few people who have huge problems understanding the simplest instructions and this time they were all in my group. Hopefully, group ball-catching skills aren’t high on the list of requirements for the course.
Then we split into new groups to perform improvisations. We had to come up with a situation around “a crisis in the family”, and take turns performing on the stage from the moment after the great revelation had been made. As with the ball-catching trial, you can look a complete klutz if the rest of your group is lacking. This time I was lucky, and Isabelle (playing my wife) and Alan (playing my father) were alright and between us I think we did an OK job of coping with Isabelle going off with my father. Having three people in the group, rather than four like the rest of the class, was an extra bonus — a trio seems much more suited to a simple dramatic plot and improvisation without tripping over each other.
After lunch (during which I tried to sleep and shake off my weekly headache) it was on to our monologues. Although the atmosphere was still friendly, this was the real nerve-wracking bit, the bit most like a real audition — taking turns to stand on stage, alone, performing to everyone else for a couple of minutes.
The first difficulty, weeks beforehand, was choosing an audition piece. I sat in Foyle’s for a while leafing through books of audition pieces, choosing a few interesting ones featuring white, thirtysomething, southern English men and bought the plays. I settled on the first appearance by Ralph in Frozen by Bryony Lavery, which I hadn’t heard of before. He recounts one of the several times he’s abducted (and later killed) young girls. Yes, a cheery little number.
Plenty of brute force repetition (the process kept reminding me of Charles Rosen on mechanically learning piano passages) eventually made the whole speech stick in time for me to give it a go, a couple of days before the audition, in my voice production class, where we had to do a piece to camera. It went smoothly and I got some good tips, leaving feeling that the audition wouldn’t be a complete disaster. And the eeriness of the role seemed to keep peoples’ attention…
I had to sit through most of the auditionees’ monologues before it was my turn, and there was good and bad. Anything funny seemed a good way to keep people listening, although I imagine it could go horribly wrong if you don’t have the timing or the audience simply doesn’t find it funny. My piece went OK and afterwards I couldn’t remember much of it… had I said this phrase how I’d meant to? had I been facing in the correct direction at that point? We were given notes afterwards and Brian seemed to like it, the only criticism being that while there were loud and quiet parts, there could have been more at a normal volume. I’m guessing that when I thought I was speaking at a normal volume, I was too quiet.
Anyway, apart from the nerves and the headache, it was a fun day and now I’m finally up to date with writing all this stuff up. Just got to watch the letter box now…