Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend auditions for a play opening in the fall. I had a vision of Michael Douglas in A Chorus Line (the gawdawful movie), sitting in the back of a dark theatre; a disinterested and disembodied voice shouting Next!
For starters, the auditions aren't held at a theatre. They're in what look like rehearsal rooms, about 300-400 square feet. In other words, we're front row center. The lighting is good, the paint is fresh and cheerful, there are benches outside the door for "next!" to wait.
We got started late of course, but the first actor through the door was totally calm ...or appeared that way. He had been asked to prepare a song, and two short scenes (sides) from the play. And when he started, he just owned the room. I couldn't take my eyes off him.
15 minutes later, the next actor arrived. And did the same thing.
For three hours, actor after actor, all good, all TERRIFIC came through the door. As the day progressed I could start to see where a few of the actors had made choices in the script; some of which I thought were good, some I thought could have been better.
The director gave notes to the actors. Giving notes is akin to making suggestions for revisions to a manuscript, except she did it out loud and immediately. While the notes were different every time, what she asked each actor to change was pretty similar. In other words she tailored her notes to the actor, and did it right then with no time to stop, think, change her mind.
It was like watching a ballerina on a highwire.Without a net.
And then came the really interesting part. The actors were terrific, but the ones I thought were the very best didn't rate callbacks. Cause in theatre you not only have to be terrific, you have to mesh with the OTHER actors. So if the leading lady is short, the leading man can't be 6'5". You can't cast a tenor for a role that is to be sung by a bass.
Which perfectly showcases the challenges writers face: a perfectly good and publishable book can be a bad fit for an agent's list so it gets a pass. Nothing wrong with it at all, in fact it's darn good. It's just not a good FIT.
The only thing actors have better than writers is all those guys only had to wait a couple of hours to find out if they were getting a callback instead of lingering for 30 days in the incoming queries.
It was a day drenched in awesome sauce, and for a bonus, I got home before it poured buckets.