Just having one felt good. Nice to be back in the swing of things, and doubly nice to actually have an audition on a day when I was completely flexible to go to it - next week I'm freelancing onsite, standard 8-to-5 hours. In Pasadena. It makes getting to that thing in West Hollywood during my lunch hour a little tricky.
It was for being a personable host of a TV show. Not even the kind of show I watch, but they wanted someone with comedy chops and I knew I could do it, and sweet jumping catfish would a job like that free me up for other things. So yeah, I was in. And who knows? Maybe it would be fun. You hear actors say that a lot when they are on their way to auditions for shows they probably won't like.
Since it was my first since I've been back and with the shiny new agent, I wanted to prep extra-carefully. It was going to be a cold reading so I didn't have sides to practice with, but I chose my outfit carefully, thought about what I'd say when they asked me if I liked these sorts of shows, and even canceled lunch with a friend in the valley - the audition, though it wasn't until 3:00, was way the hell down in Manhattan Beach and I wanted to be there responsibly early.
So I got all clean and tidy and sassy and whatever the hell else they might want me to be, carefully doubled the time the Trip Estimator thought it might take me to get there, and walked out my front door. And into the worst traffic karma of my life. Construction projects sprang fully-formed out of the asphalt. Ghost traffic jams, with no apparent cause or resolution appeared, one after the other, and faded away as mysteriously as they'd come. And minivans converged on the city from states away, just to swing into my path and then drive, every last one of them, like they were on the phone and looking for an address.
The end result was that Little Miss Early got to the audition twenty-five minutes late. I almost took an extra five to call someone just for the release of swearing into my cell phone, but ended up taking a pass.
Which is just as well, because as it turned out, no one gave a damn. Auditions often run a bit late, but this one was hilariously casual. It was not, to be honest, one of your better classes of audition. I got it through a casting Web site and had been wondering why my agent hadn't sent me out on it himself. "Oh," I thought over and over as the afternoon went on, "This is why."
It was in a hotel, for one thing, though not in a creepy way - they'd rented out a meeting room. They had also, I learned, put a notice in the hotel's morning newsletter saying that, hey, if any guests wanted to audition, they should come on by.
The sign-in sheet had no spaces for the time we'd arrived or (thank goodness) our actual audition slots. It was just a plain paper notepad with a pencil by it, with "Please sign in" written across the top. And, in fact, the 11-year-old girl who was "running" the audition didn't even look at that. She'd just come out every now and then, look at who was new, and ask who'd gotten there first. "OK," she'd say, "So after this girl is done, it's you, then you, then you, then you. OK?"
We said OK.
I picked up my copy and looked at it. It was pretty standard who-writes-this? copy. They said it didn't have to be word-for-word, so I gave it a quick copy edit. Then I launched into the dilemma that all of us were facing, which was that we had less than a minute of fairly standard, sort of silly copy to read, but probably twenty minutes apiece to wait between reading the copy and actually going in to the audition. And we wanted to look like we were Taking Our Careers Seriously and Taking This Job Seriously. So some stood and some paced, but we all kept the copy in our hands as though we were just putting a few last touches on that Lady Macbeth soliloquy. One woman kept delivering her speech to a section of the wall, while another stared thoughtfully - almost wistfully - out a window in between dips into the paragraph that let the viewers know that they could send in their own videos to compete for exciting prizes.
Me, I sat on the couch. I looked at the copy, I went over it in my head, and got comfortable enough with it that I could do the full paragraph naturally, and with only a tiny occasional dip of the eyes to make sure I was hitting everything. And I checked out the competition. The other women were all model-beautiful, and all about six inches taller than me. I'd been brought in as The Funny One. OK, I could deal. And if they decided to go with something other than spokesmodel, my odds were apparently going to go way up.
"The tea is really good," said the beautiful woman on the couch next to me. I managed to say the one thing that could make us both feel stupid at the same time, which was "Sorry, what?"
"They put tea out," she said. "They're really making sure we have refreshments. It's good." Then, worried that she'd maybe oversold it, she added "Of course, I got the last Earl Grey..." and trailed off, lest that seemed mean. I looked at her. She was a little older - or maybe just had a longer history of tanning - than the others who had been called in. Maybe she was feeling like In Case We Go with Something Else too.
I couldn't figure out much how much she really wanted to talk, so I just smiled at her. I never know how much chatting to do at auditions. They're always portrayed as snake pits, with actors using every psychological trick in the book to undermine each other, but I've never really seen that. Maybe one or two people who are trying too hard. Mostly everyone's friendly and even helpful.
But again, I don't know how much talking people really want to do, so I tend to err on the side of giving space. I feel bad about it in this case - I think I erred too far with her and hurt her feelings or made her feel silly. And in her defense, it is pretty rare to have such a nice selection of teas put out.
But we kept quiet after that, and kept waiting.
The 11-year-old girl wandered in and out, and did as good a job as anyone would have at checking in on us. One of the actresses, upon learning that she was the producer's daughter, decided her best strategy was to very publicly make friends with her. "Isn't she AMAZING?" she'd say every time the girl came out to point at us in order, "Isn't she a TREASURE?!"
I think we were all pretty glad when that actress finally went in for her audition.
Shortly before my turn, four or five more kids, all younger, arrived. A woman shooed them into the room. "You're all going to do your homework and BE QUIET," she admonished. The rest of us were going to be auditioning in front of the kids. I tried to make eye contact with the woman who'd tried to talked to me earlier, but she wasn't having it. My own fault.
Finally, I was the next you. The girl very professionally took my head shot and showed me where I could drop my bag, and boom, ready to go. Just me, the producer with his video camera, his wife, and several children eating snacks. ("Remember guys, NO CRUNCHING CHIPS while she's reading, OK?")
So he had me slate and then gave me my prop and off we went. And I did my best to make the show sound, well, not like the best thing ever, but like something fun that you should definitely stay tuned in for. And hey, did you know you can win cash prizes? Pretty cool, huh?
"Perfect!" He said when I was done. "That was just perfect!"
And because I am a pro, I said "Thank you" and not "Yes, but I've seen the other women trying out for this and we all know I'm not getting this job."
And then his wife confirmed my contact numbers and I said goodbye and thanked our 11-year-old audition boss and went on my way.
At the very least, I was back in the swing of things. Not your better class of audition, no, and not a job I will be getting. But they had excellent tea and I know I nailed it.
And sometimes that's all you need.