Limbo?

They are not giving me anything!’

 

How often have we heard this state­ment? The actor oppos­ite you appears to be doing noth­ing, leav­ing you grasp­ing at pro­ver­bi­al straws for some sort of real rela­tion­ship. You are acting your littles socks off and your scene part­ner is stuck in mono­tone, not moving and seem­ingly non respons­ive to any­thing that you throw in their direction.

 

This really is a common com­plaint and what’s worse, that scene part­ner can be the cast­ing dir­ect­or or assist­ant at an audi­tion, leav­ing you flail­ing and des­per­ate when there might be a job on the table.

 

The frus­tra­tion that builds in a scen­ario like this can begin to turn your atten­tion inward when the thing you want to do is pay atten­tion out­ward. An intern­al  wrest­ling match begins where you are fight­ing to remain ‘in the moment’ and out­wardly attent­ive but are having a con­ver­sa­tion with your­self about how annoy­ing this whole thing is.

 

This res­ults in self cri­ti­cism, bit­ter­ness toward the other reader and a break­down in con­nec­tion. None of it good.

 

So, how do we deal with such a thing. I sug­gest that there are sev­er­al responses:

 

  1. It’s not their fault 

 

In an audi­tion set­ting we may need to demon­strate enorm­ous grace and patience. The plain fact is that who­ever is read­ing oppos­ite you may very well not be an actor. They are likely to be a cast­ing assist­ant or pro­fes­sion­al who is there on an admin­is­trat­ive level but has been asked to read for con­veni­ence sake. 

This may be the last thing that they have trained for or are inter­ested in but they have to do it anyway. Read­ing freely off the page, espe­cially with very con­fid­ent actors in front of them may ter­rify them and they cling onto the paper for dear life giving you next to no eye contact.

By remem­ber­ing that in the moment, you will likely find your­self much less annoyed by being empath­et­ic to their situ­ation. Try not to make your frus­tra­tion obvi­ous and def­in­itely do not complain.

If you are lucky, the cast­ing team may draft an actor in to read for the day, giving the audi­tion­ee as much chance to play well as pos­sible. I was once asked to do this for a Disney film and read all day long with some won­der­ful actors, it was amaz­ing prac­tice – and very tiring.

I will never forget a par­tic­u­lar actor whose name I will not dis­close. She was very famous and was as nice as pie when she came in while she worked out who every­one was. She then said good­bye to every­one except me at the end having real­ised I was but a minion. Still makes me laugh when she pops up on my screen to this day.

 

  1. It’s not your prob­lem 

 

Ulti­mately, you’re the one being audi­tioned, not the other reader. It is easy to think that we are only as good as our scene part­ner but that is not neces­sar­ily so. If we know what we want from the other char­ac­ter we should be able to ‘lock on’ and be open to whatever little thing comes your way. Even the smal­lest  change in rhythm can offer you some­thing to work with. The cast­ing team are pro­fes­sion­als and it is lit­er­ally their job to know what a qual­ity per­former is. You must trust that they will be more than aware of what you are work­ing with and will give you the bene­fit of the doubt.

Equally, it’s worth remem­ber­ing that you have been invited to the audi­tion because you are good enough, so let that settle in your head and heart and play hon­estly with whatever you have in front of you. It’s not your problem.

 

 

  • Chal­lenge it 

 

I have been brave enough once or twice in my career to chal­lenge the situ­ation when I am not get­ting any life from my scene part­ner at audi­tion (again, usu­ally a cast­ing assist­ant). Before I explain, please know that this is not about making them uncom­fort­able or belittling them in any way, it’s more about invit­ing them into rela­tion­ship. If I feel that I am get­ting no eye con­tact or any con­tact for that matter, I might stop speak­ing and look to them until they notice that some­thing isn’t quite right. They nor­mally look up from the page to check that I have not lost my place, then real­ise that I am look­ing at them, prompt­ing them to con­tin­ue with great­er connection.

When I have done this I have been cau­tious not to stare aggress­ively but encour­age them with my eyes. This is essen­tial, the last thing you want is for the other cast­ing pro­fes­sion­als to think you are bul­ly­ing their staff member. The best out­come is that sud­denly, life fills the room and the scene comes to life, pos­sibly for the first time that day.

 

 

  • Change it 

 

The obvi­ous, but some­times most frus­trat­ing choice is to use tac­tics in the scene to change your scene part­ner. John Wright, the bril­liant prac­ti­tion­er and author of WHY IS THAT SO FUNNY? talks about having a dif­fi­cult scene part­ner and ‘drop­ping them in the sh%t!’. What he means is, if your fellow actor appears to be ignor­ing any sense of play in the room, do some­thing bold that they can’t pos­sibly ignore. Force them into a pos­i­tion where they have no choice but to engage. You can do this by play­ing some­thing sur­pris­ing (but rel­ev­ant!) tac­tic­ally that they may never have seen before. Again, please do this in the spirit of play and not out of blatant frus­tra­tion. We have a duty of care over our cast­mates and any kind of dis­cord between ensemble mem­bers can be hugely destruct­ive to the morale of a company. 

 

  1. Accept it  –

At the end of the day, if you feel that you were given noth­ing by the other person and no matter what you did there was no change, you can only rest assured that you brought what you needed to bring. No more and no less. 

It is the same when you do a per­form­ance and you don’t have the ‘emo­tion­al response’ that you hoped for. If you have told the story clearly, played truth­fully with the other actors and been heard by the audi­ence. You have done your job and can go home proud.

 

Any one of these sug­ges­tions may get you out of a frus­trat­ing and tight spot. We must always remem­ber that none of us are per­fect and on any given day, we may be the ones not offer­ing any­thing to someone else, though we may feel like we are.

 

The beauty of our craft is that it is impuls­ive, raw and very often, live. Even a film can only cap­ture what is hap­pen­ing in one moment of time. Allow that ele­ment of danger to excite you. The fact that whatever may happen between you and your cast­mates could be thrilling…or life­less. Therein lies the joy. The moment by moment new­ness of possibility.

 

To you, the artists.