One thing I forget when I step away from acting is the courage it takes to be a really good actor.
Beginning with the audition process. Committing a 2-3 minute chunk of text to memory, picking what you hope are appropriate physical and emotional choices to go with it, then running it over again and again in your head as you get to the audition hall.
A bunch of actors sitting around on chairs, mumbling to themselves while you do the same. Everyone secretly sneaking glances at everyone else. Female, 20-28, yeah, she could be competition. Depends which of the two parts she got called in for. Wasn’t she on that cheese commercial? How’s my hair? Frank, I’m going…no, shit, I’m leaving you! Frank, I’m leaving you.
Finally, you get called in. You are on one side of a long table. The casting people are on the other side. In between you is a huge vacuum you have to fill up with your personal magic. They might be pleasant, they might be tired and distant. But no matter what, you have to begin quickly.
If you are reading against someone, the person they chose to read will be of varying quality as an actor. No matter what they are giving you, you have to give your all and more back, based on what you gleaned from the audition side you were given. And then it’s over, like some sort of dream, and you are packing up and heading out the street door.
The wait. Ah, the wait. Maybe a callback, in which case you get to do it again, maybe a bit more relaxed, and possibly with another actor to read against. A bit less pressure. But if this is a dream role, one that will pay the bills for a while, maybe more pressure.
After repeating all that a lot, you finally get the golden sentence. “We’d like to offer you the part of Robin.” Great!! A part! Work! You are a real artist, after all!
Then the production starts. A table read. The production might be nice and relaxed, or the producers and the director might be control freaks. The other actors might be mostly nice, or they might be mostly prima donnas. Or any mix in between. But the table read is your first sense of what is going on with the soul of the production.
Rehearsals. A bunch of unfamiliar words you have to memorize as quickly as possible. A space that will almost certainly be too cold, too hot, too dark, too bright, or too small. But at least you are getting into the skin of the piece as you discover things about the world you are in, yourself, and the other characters. Unless you have a director who decides their interpretation of all that is what matters, and your job is to cry on syllable two of en-ough.
Breaking down and rearranging what is you into a new character that fits the work. Being honest. Trusting your instincts and going with them. Things that don’t sound difficult when you read them on a screen or page.
Performance. Live or recorded, nerve-wracking. Will you be heard? Intelligible? Will you drop a line? Will you make a fool of yourself in front of the audience? Will that son of a bitch actor try to upstage you again?
The performance is over, followed by tears of joy or tears of pain. And then you go back to square one and do it all over again.
That’s what I forgot as a director. So, to all the actors I’ve worked with, or will work with in the future, I promise to retain that close to my heart, and not to treat you like a piece of furniture. And to remember the cliff you always are dangling from.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have lines to learn.