The audition: for many it’s the most terrifying part of the acting experience.
Even after weeks or months of preparation, studying the play, perfecting a monologue, an actor worries that his or her nerves will ruin the audition.
“I tend to lose confidence right before or right in the middle of the monologue,” senior Isaac Miller said. Most actors agree that getting nervous before an audition is inevitable, but some use the extra adrenaline to give a better performance.
“You should get nervous, but your nerves can help you,” freshman Sam Auch said.
After the audition is over, actors have the additional anxiety of finding out whether or not they were cast. For Miller, “It’s probably the best part of theatre, getting cast. [I feel] elated.”
However, for senior Jack Dryden, it is a mixed experience. “Getting cast is affirming, but it creates a sense of dread at the undertaking. On the other hand, not being cast is a disappointment, but it’s also a relief.”
But actors might not realize that during the auditions, the directors are at least as stressed as the actors are, although the hazards they face are different. Sometimes, a director’s difficulty is the sheer number of actors to choose from.
“I find something I like in almost everyone who auditions. And I really don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings,” freshman Maddie Mondeaux said.
“Casting ‘The Marriage Proposal,’ there were so, so many people who auditioned. There’s just so much talent here at this school. It’s ridiculous,” freshman Emily Antoff said.
The director may also have the opposite problem. “It’s harder to decide when you only have three actors show up,” sophomore October Santerelli said.
Another dilemma is how to get the actors to show their talents. For most auditions, the director will print out “sides,” excerpts from the script, and have the actors read from them. This method helps the director to imagine different people in a role, although it has its drawbacks.
“For a drama, auditions tend to get the same. So the way I work it is I ask them to perform it and then I stop it and ask them to change something. And that also helps me see their flexibility and how well they can take direction,” Antoff said.
For some plays, having actors read from a script is not enough. “When [Professor and Chair of Theatre] Liz Carlin-Metz held auditions for ‘A Lie of the Mind,’ there wasn’t a lot of text work. She wanted to see how we moved. She had us say over and over again, ‘So you think you had me buffaloed,’ using different choices, different actions,” Miller said.
When Santerelli was casting “Zoo Story,” he had to use unconventional methods to see what his actors could do.
“I knew which two actors I wanted, but I didn’t know which for which role. I spent two hours having them do the same thing. One of them [mimed eating] hamburger meat. One of them shouted ‘Oh, my God!’”
For devised shows, where the play is created by the actors themselves during the rehearsal process, the director probably won’t want the actor to read from a script. Instead, he or she might want the actors to show their personalities.
“Freshman year, I auditioned for the devised show, ‘Bombom Bole’” senior Spencer Graham said. “I remember we had to fill out a form with a lot of personal questions on it. The director looked at my form. At the top of it was, ‘Write about something you do every day,’ so I wrote about masturbating. He looked at me with a straight face and said, ‘Tell me about masturbating.’ That’s when I knew that this was the show for me.”
When the audition is over, the director faces the most difficult part: making a decision. For Santerelli, the greatest challenge is “reconciling your version of the character with the people who show up. Every director reads the script with an ideal in mind, and whether or not that ideal shows up, you have to put a person in the role.”
For directors and actors at Knox, an added stress is that everyone who is cast or not cast is someone you’ll have to see again. “You know all the people. Well, if you’re a senior in the theatre department, you do. It’s hard knowing that you’ll have to see them. If you didn’t get in, they’ll be consoling you. If you did get in, you’ll be the one consoling,” Miller said.
But for new students at Knox, not knowing everyone can be even harder. For freshman directors, the difficulty is choosing actors without knowing a lot about them.
“I directed in high school, so I knew everyone who auditioned. But here I don’t know the people as well, so it’s hard for me to judge responsibility level and commitment level,” Antoff said.
For an actor, the challenge is building a good reputation within the department. Auch said, “When you go to a new theatre where you don’t know people, it’s hard. Theatre is a clique. It takes a lot of persistence to get into that clique. A lot of pluck. The sad thing is theatre shouldn’t be a clique. It’s a collaborative process, and that takes all people.”