Friday, October 8, 2010

So, Yesterday Happened....

A very, very atrocious audition yesterday.

Fairly major company here, a well-known, beloved show that would've been a blast to do. High-energy comedic patter stuff from the 30's. Something that, I'd hazard to guess, I could've done pretty well with in a production situation. At least I could've at one point.

Of course, you have to get the job first, right?

I made a horrendous mistake right off the bat. I asked about the performance style they were looking for. I suppose that would be ok, except I had been going over the piece they'd given me with a very specific style in mind. A very stylized, 40's screwball comedy thing. Quick, rat-a-tat-tat stuff.

The response was something along the lines of, "well, no...not really."

My brain exploded. Everything stopped working. My mouth could not push the words out, my brain could not process the dialogue, and I'm fairly certain I looked like a complete knob with a Daffy Duck-like speech impediment.

Lesson to be learned? Just do what you've worked on. I hardly ever ask questions in auditions, I prefer to do what I do and let them offer direction after the fact, if they wish to. At least then, you've lived or died on what you felt was the correct attack on the material. I've found that directors and casting folks respect that, even if they think you're 100% wrong. Oh, come on, you remember "make strong choices" from acting class, right?

All I succeeded in doing was making myself look like an ass in front of some fairly important people. There are worse things, of course. I'm not gonna die from it. Yet, I'm feeling like this is happening uncomfortably often these days.

I dunno. We all know the phrase "use it or lose it," and it's probably one of the truisms I respect the most. The fact is, I haven't been "using" it. My acting calendar has been painfully empty the past two years. Prior to that, I was doing 3-4 shows a year, like clockwork, and when I took time off, it was because I wanted to. During 2009 and 2010 I have done 2 shows each year, and I'm afraid this is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. I'm not getting calls from the companies that used to invite me to audition all the time. My own company is not a place where I'll be able to do anything this year...

My good Friend Chris H. told me recently "Stop trying so hard." It's good advice, but it's also advice that I really don't know if I can heed. I try to calm myself, and just "be," but, sooner or later, that little voice sneaks in and starts whispering something like, "if you blow this, you're looking at another 9 months of being forced to watch other people do the things you wish you were doing."

And with every month that goes by, when I am not working, I feel less connected to myself as an actor. I do, truly, think I am "losing it." I was pretty happy with my work in Sound of a Yellow Flower, but there were moments, in almost every performance, when I knew that I could've done more, the hyper-confident me of 4 years ago could've done it better. Like there were parts of myself that had become locked off, that had just decided to check out, and go find someone else to play with.

I'm sure there's plenty of you out there who are rolling your eyes and thinking, "Christ, Mark's on the self-pity bus again." Maybe that's true, I can't deny it. Still, there comes a point when the pursuit of something you want becomes so difficult, painful and depressing the you honestly begin to question if the joy of actually getting that thing will offset the sacrifice. At that point, you really have to start looking at the idea of "retirement." Yes, quitting.

I am a creature of ownership and commitment. When I say I will do something, I do it. When I ally myself with a team or organization, I am all in. Thing is, there, again, what if what you're getting out of it isn't offsetting the effort you're putting into it? Well, first, you stop caring. Then you start resenting. I don't want to resent people, places in my life, or the time that I give to the theatre. I have put in time, lots of time, auditions, working behind the scenes, etc., and I actually have to stop and think about if my time on stage was worth all that, these days.

Plus, there's the very, very real fact that I will never make a living at this.

Oh, you can pull the "believe in yourself" card, but that is garbage. You can believe in yourself all you want, but in a business like this, you'll get nowhere until someone else believes in you. Someone in a position to help you, someone who isn't obligated to do so. My mother, my family, my wife believes in me, and that is something I cherish, but that didn't help me yesterday when I was metaphorically shitting my pants in that audition room.

I carry a lot of anger. A lot of it. It's lived in my gut for years, and I spent a lot of time learning to tamp it down in healthy, productive ways. Thing is, that job becomes more and more difficult when I find myself in positions where I feel helpless. (This is part of why I cannot stand roller coasters..the idea of being out of control.) Acting, as a vocation, and even more so as a profession, requires you to willingly let things be out of your control.

I can't control the auditions that are available. I can't control how a director or casting director will react to my audition. I can't control how I look (in a macro sense), or how said casting people will react to that look. I can't control if I get the part, or not.

What I can control is how I attack the audition. How I apply myself to it. Thing is, when you start to feel like you don't have those skills anymore, you control nothing.

And that scares me.

The question becomes, does it scare me enough to walk away? I do love being on stage, I can't deny that. I do, despite the feeling that I was much better at this in the past than I am now. I'm also terrified that I'll get to a point where I'm not any good at all, and people will be too nice to tell me to just stop. Yeah, paranoia, I know it well. I don't want to be that guy.

I'm no Paul Newman, not claiming to be at anywhere near his level, but I think about the quote from his retirement announcement:
"I'm not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to. You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention. So that's pretty much a closed book for me."
 I've blogged about the feeling that my memory is not what it used to be. Hell, this entire blog, when you come down to it, is about my fading confidence. I don't know that I was ever particularly inventive.

I have callbacks and auditions this weekend. Things I would, yes, dearly love to do. I will give them everything I can. I do yearn, if I am going to leave this business, to go out on a high note. Hopefully, they'll go better than yesterday. I write all this with the full knowledge that I do WANT to act. If I didn't, I wouldn't hear that insistent voice in my head during auditions, but I don't know that I want it enough to make a fool of myself, over and over again.

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