AUDITIONS - a risky business

The lights were on, but nobody was home!

The other day three directors were viewing an audition tape.

While assessing one of the actors they all agreed that on this occasion this actor's contribution was disappointing. They made this assessment despite the fact that the actor was known to them and had on previous occasions been very capable. However in this instance they all agreed that the performance was internally focused, flat, inactive and not engaging. How can this be? How is it that a capable actor on one day can be engaging and the next very dull?

The directors all agreed that the "internally focused element" of the actor's choice was the reason for the problems. Often this leads the actor to overplaying 'emotions' - but on this occasion this was not the case. Simply nothing was happening. And this certainly meant that there was no drama in the scene.

What caused this?
As the actor in question was given a "re-call" and ultimately successfully played the character there was opportunity to discuss the circumstances of the first audition. The actor felt that the main difficulty to be confronted in the first audition was achieving a clear understanding of the story. After asking a number of questions there not only remained a degree of uncertainty but in addition the growing pressure of still not clearly comprehending.

What to do?
Is it the actor's understanding or the director's explanation which is the source of the problem? How many different ways can the same question be asked? Is the director simply unclear about the intent of the story? These questions can not easily be resolve. Unfortunately uncertainty breeds uncertainty.

On this occasion the actor's choice was to play safe and not commit to any point of view. The resulting assessment from these director's was that it was a lifeless and uninteresting audition.

The same old problem.
So are the circumstances of this audition unusual? Not really! At any time the communication process can break down. It is just something which has to be dealt with in the moment. So what of the actor's choice to stay safe and just say the lines? Well it is true that any decision made under stress is an achievement. But it is also plain that on this occasion this decision did not produce a satisfactory result.

But would a commitment to any version of the story have been a better choice? Perhaps! It may have generated further discussion and thus clarified some of the unanswered questions. However it is clear that the concept that "television requires a small performance and therefore doing nothing is a satisfactory alternative", is plainly invalid.

At least if some commitment to story had been made the actor would have been seen to be pro-active. Appearing active rather than inactive seems to be a far better gamble. And after all there is often an element of luck in any audition process. If auditioning is a gamble maybe it's better to make a choice and roll the dice rather than leaving them in your pocket

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