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“My worst audition”

8 May

In the second of our series of posts about nightmare auditions, actress Rachel Wilcock has written a guestpost about the time it all went wrong for her, and what she learnt from it.

Rachel Wilcock

“It’s a great feeling when your agent calls and says that you, yes you, have been selected to meet with someone regarding a job.

Like buses I went for a few weeks without one casting and then a string of mentally unstable characters in theatre and TV came along. I’ve had to surrender the possibility of ever playing pretty. Recently I waltzed up to an audition beaming as I was called for the pretty flirty wee thing…on arrival I was quickly corrected. ‘Today you’ll be auditioning for Ellen – older, plainer, bitter.’

It was with such delight and urgency that I received a call about five years ago for a musical going to the Edinburgh Fringe. A musical about mental illness. I had it in the bag. A director once told me he was sure I’d been a schizophrenic in a previous life so convincing was my portrayal on stage.

Even now I have to fight the demons of insecurity when you hear the person before you doing their thing

But could this musical really be serious? I hadn’t seen a script so had visions of choruses of “I’m mad, you’re mad, we’re all mad together” running through my head.

The audition – prepare one piece two minutes long and a song of your choice. Simple. I was quite inexperienced in the art of auditioning at the time. But even now I have to fight the demons of insecurity when you hear the person before you doing their thing.

I entered a room and was greeted by a young couple behind a table in front of the brightest light. Almost hidden from sight was a pianist. As a trio they were not terrifying ogres, in fact they were quite pleasant. But that didn’t stop the following 15 minutes going down in history as my worst ever audition.

Now perhaps I shouldn’t be so bold as to profess this yet. I am not yet dead, who knows what lies ahead but I pray I have learnt a lot from this experience.

I started my monologue, one I’d performed a fair few times before, and approximately 30 seconds in I completely forgot what I was doing, where I was, who I was

I started my monologue, one I’d performed a fair few times before, and approximately 30 seconds in I completely forgot what I was doing, where I was, who I was. Now this performance might have been perfect for a musical like this but no – the idea is to cast an actor who can portray mental illness, not someone suffering from a condition. I stuttered and staggered my way through the piece, my brain trying to grab any semblance of control. The audience looked shocked – and not with pleasant surprise.

Next, the song. Surely something could be regained. Except my brain had started to engage with what had just happened.

Singing my Irish ditty I started to focus on trying not to blush, which we all know works so well, and continued to get redder and redder and redder. By this stage the casting agents have signed me over to be committed. Song ended. Brief chat. And I ran out of that room. Back to my house and burst into uncontrollable tears. After finishing four years of training, performing professionally and countless times as a kid, I couldn’t even stand in front of three nice people.

But I could, I can, I will. Sometimes it’s just not your day.”

Have you had a similar experience to Rachel? Tell us about it below.

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Les Miserables – Musings of a resting actress

18 Nov

Our first guestpost comes from the brilliant Resting Actress on the problems that out of work actors face.

When I pluck up the courage to tell people what I do, it is normally met with gushing excitement. Trying not to seem like an ungrateful manic-depressive I smile, nod and try to get onto another subject as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately acting is a much more interesting career to say you do, rather than actually do, because for many struggling and desperate actors the reality is glum.

I have recently found a new agent and have been eagerly attending classes and singing lessons, reading plays and visiting the theatre, all to prepare for the fateful day when I get an audition.

When this rare occasion arises I am filled with hope, excitement and enthusiasm, but underlying this is a feeling of dread, self-doubt and a constant preparation for rejection. This whirlwind of emotions combined with the constant busyness (and expense) of preparing and rehearsing can be exhausting, and all with very little to show for it except an empty wallet and a few tears.

This brings me onto my main gripe about the life of a ‘Resting Actress’.

Everything that I have briefly outlined already is but ONE of our careers. Alongside all of this we are also reliant on the “Real Job”. The “Real Job” provides the income; it’s the 9 to 5 or the evening job. Working in a restaurant until 1am, slaving away in a pub for minimum wage or sitting in a discount ticket booth selling tickets to shows you should be IN, not trying to sell. This is our second career.

I myself keep busy with a mixture of work including waitressing and promotional jobs (handing out free samples of Babycham outside the local AA) in an attempt to avoid the boredom and relentlessness of just one job – one job that with every shift is a constant reminder of what I am NOT doing with my life!

I of course understand that this is the life we chose, enough people warned me how difficult it is and how poor I will always be (thanks Mum). I am not naïve, I did not think it was going to be a bowl of cherries and that I’d be bouncing from one job to the next like an ex Big Brother contestant, but what I and the other ‘Resters’ find difficult is the lack of understanding we encounter from the acting industry when it comes to auditioning.

Let me set the scene.

I receive an audition from my agent. Not only does this quash my theory that he is dead, but also reinstates my faith that he does know how to work Spotlight. It is tomorrow at 12pm, I need to prepare two scenes in Dutch and choose a song from the Swing era in C Minor, you know the type.

Great, but I now have to get out of my shift at work tomorrow. So, either I risk losing my job by pulling a sickie, or I find the nice manager at work and hope that flirting with him (he’s nice but has a face like the underside of the Phantom’s mask!) will get the shift covered. Either way, I lose a day’s wage for one audition. An audition I probably won’t get.

This aside, we do it, it’s our job and we are passionate/stupid enough to sacrifice making a living for that 90 seconds in front of a panel who already know who they are going to cast.
I am constantly reminded that, as an actress, it is my job to attend auditions. But, as I constantly remind the casting directors (silently of course), attending auditions does not pay a wage!

This said, we all know that we will carry on slogging our guts out learning seven songs, three scenes and attend nine recalls if we are lucky enough to be asked for. In return Pippa Ailion will not remember your name, David Grindrod will not give you feedback and Trevor Jackson will continue to play Space Invaders on his laptop.

So remember my fellow Thespians, when someone asks, “So, what do you?” do yourself a favour, tell them you’re a vet.

What do you think? Do you agree with Resting Actress?

Picture from sludgegulper, on Flickr, via a CC Licence.