From The Director’s Desk: Auditions From Another Angle

The song “I Hope I Get It” from A Chorus Line is the inner workings of the mind of actors as they approach an audition. Though the characters in that story are hoping to get roles as dancers on Broadway, their thoughts, about how badly they each want the part, and their fears about whether or not they will be good enough for it, are things that flit through any actor’s head as they go into an audition.

The show doesn’t really deal much with what’s going on in the director’s head, however. Perhaps it’s because there are a lot more actors than directors, or because the director is presumed to be coming to an audition from a place of power. After all, they’re the ones who get to decide on the casting. But as we’re getting ready for auditions for Mankind in a few days, I wanted to share some thoughts from the other side of the desk. If you’re thinking about auditioning (and I really hope some of you are!), maybe it will help to know some of the things that might go through a director’s head during the process.

There’s a very fine line between excited and nervous, and I’m probably walking it just as much as you are. I absolutely love seeing the way that different people approach a part, and a lot of ideas get generated in seeing what actors bring to different roles. But I’m also nervous because I want to make sure that the right people end up in the right parts, that the cast will work well together as a group and complement one another’s talents, and that each actor will be challenged throughout the production. It’s possible to get it wrong, and that fact is always in the back of my mind.

I really do want to see every actor who auditions do well. I’m rooting for each one of you. I know that audition nerves can really trip you up, and I know that just because maybe you stumble on a part on that particular day, it’s not necessarily something that will be a problem in the long run. It’s my job to try to see the bigger picture, and the little bobble that you’ll beat yourself up about on the way home is probably not the most important moment of your audition ‘performance’.

I know that auditions are, in many respects, a flawed way of testing people’s acting skills and suitability. There are actors who are horrible in auditions routinely but fantastic throughout rehearsals and performance; there are those in the reverse. It’s one day- one moment- of your life, it’s only a tiny sliver of your abilities on display, and it’s only what you can do at that exact moment. It’s a mirror, but an imperfect one.

There are a couple of things that I hope I get to see from actors. One is a genuine enjoyment of performing. Whether it’s a serious play or part or not, there is an energy to creating a role that makes a difference. Creating theatre is hard work, but it should also have an element of fun, too. I look for creativity, for people who are willing to stretch themselves, rather than being locked into a specific idea of a character or part. I want to know if actors can take a suggestion, run with it, and mold it into something uniquely their own.

The best part of auditions is that it’s our first chance to work with actors in the roles, and seeing the play start to come alive beyond the ideas in our own heads. It’s the first baby steps towards what the full production will become.

So if you’ve had thoughts of getting involved, know that we will be really thrilled to have you along, and that we’ll do everything we can to make it a chance for you to shine. And know that if you’re nervous and excited, you’re not alone.