Most actors would agree that some of the toughest work you’ll do in pursuit of an acting career is “all of the business stuff.” Craft, you’ve got. But that dang (seemingly non-stop) energy you pour into hustling from CD workshop to showcase, from drop-off to audition, from agent meeting to networking event, from envelope-stuffing to postcard stamping… well, it’s the real work of it all, isn’t it? At least in a major market, that’s how it can feel. And unless you’re working out regularly with an amazing coach or a group of awesome fellow artists, your craft can feel “forgotten” back there when you’re not on set. (Heck, or even then. Do you really feel in-tune with your craft when in the midst of chaos on set? Is this how it felt in that cool lab class back in school, when every spare moment was spent getting in touch with your inner artist?)
Well, one of the best ways to remember that you really, truly do have an amazing take on the character, a brilliant interpretation of the dialogue to share is to see every read, every audition, every callback, every workshop performance as an opportunity to give a gift to the audience. An audience of one casting assistant, an audience of a half-dozen studio execs, an audience of a half-filled black box theatre, an audience of hundreds at a showcase, an audience of thousands at a film festival, an audience of millions during primetime network TV… treat them all the same. They’ve gathered to accept a gift you’re probably taking for granted. They’ve gathered to accept a gift you probably forget to notice, while you’re busy with the hustle of the “business” of this business.
And that right there should be enough to change the manner in which you approach every audition.
Everyone is there because they want to see what you’ve brought. They can’t wait to unwrap the goodies and take in the magic of it all. No, they may not behave as if they feel that way, but at their core they really do. Yes, even that casting director with her arms crossed, splitting her attention between a sandwich, text messages, and maybe your work actually feels somewhere deep inside GRATEFUL for the gift you are coming in to share with her.
Now, here’s where it gets complicated.
Story time: When I was young, I remember my mom telling me about her best friend. She, the single mother of five, had been cut back to part-time in her job just as things were finally looking up in my mom’s business. We weren’t far off from struggling, but for the first time since my parents’ divorce, my mom and I could finally breathe a little, financially. So, mom did what best friends do and gave $100 to Sally, knowing it could really make the difference in her ability to pay the bills that month, buy groceries, whatever.
Well, a couple of days later, Sally came over wearing a new pair of shoes and sporting a cute new hairdo — with highlights! (Remember, this was the ’70s and money went a little farther then than it does today.) So, my mom excitedly asked Sally if this meant perhaps she’d gotten her full-time position back or experienced some other windfall. “No,” explained Sally. She had used the money my mom gave her to get her hair done and buy a new pair of shoes. She felt great! And mom was pissed.
Being the “teaching moment” parent that she was, mom later explained to me that her anger was all her fault; she shouldn’t have put conditions (in her mind or out loud, the latter of which she hadn’t done of course) on how Sally would use the gift. She gave Sally the money because Sally needed it and mom wanted her to have it. Of course, mom wanted her to be responsible and use the money to pay bills or buy groceries for the kids, but the bottom line is that you can never force someone to receive and/or use a gift as your agenda would prefer.
You walk into an audition, you perform the sides. That’s you delivering a gift. What the casting director (or the small audience of a black box show or the large audience at a film festival or THE WORLD audience via this week’s #1 sitcom) does with that gift is not up to you. And that fact should not — cannot — diminish how gleefully you give it. It’s all the same. It’s you having something wonderful and sharing it.
Let the rest go.
Do you honor the gift you have to share with the world? How do you remind yourself not to attach meaning to how that gift is received? Share your tips below. I’d love to hear from you. 😀
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000944.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.