Last Wednesday I auditioned at a reputable theater that shall remain nameless, and I am SO relieved I didn’t get cast that I could just squeal. The disquieting daymare unfolded thusly: Upon arrival at the audition space, I get paired to read with a seemingly over-trained younger fellow – so methodical that he teeters on a permanent state of awkward. We receive our side (portion of the script to audition with) and agree to read it over separately before rehearsing it together.
I sit and try to read while two of the nine other actors in the lobby have some sort of presentational (read: “aren’t we so cute and likeable and don’t you wish you were our friend?”) domestic dispute. Apparently the guy did something in the theater that “wasn’t right,” and when they reemerge he finds himself on the receiving end of a slap attack – the girl actually flails at him. “What’d I do?!” he screeches. Her answer is a power-play demonstrated by a cool turn in the other direction and an overly-composed walk to the other side of the lobby, followed by a fake-pouting, “you know what you did.”
I return my focus to the script: page two, the characters are physically flirtatious. Page three, they kiss. Wait, kiss? What kind of a director keeps a kissing scene in an audition side? And the attendant said we are to read the whole thing – that means the kiss happens. Damn.
So Mr. PSA and I go into a back room to rehearse, before which, may I note, he digs into his backpack and pops a mint. I can’t figure out if this is considerate or slimy. I later decide it’s both.
Mr. PSA: How comfortable are you with physical boundaries?
Me: Fine. How should we handle this kissing business?
Mr. PSA: I think we should go for it.
Me: [awkward pause] um, Okay.
Okay? Okay?! Why did I say that?! I’d really rather not kiss this kid. It’s not that he’s ugly or anything, it’s just so unnecessary to kiss at an audition. Then again, it’s ridiculous to mime it – neither of the options are ideal.
We get into the theater, and the director addresses me quizzically:
Director: [reading my name off of my headshot] Lee-ga?
Me: [polite, friendly] oh, it’s “Lee-ah”
Director: [long pause, more staring at my headshot] You know, when the ‘e’ comes before the ‘i’ like that, it’s pronounced ‘ay’ (like hay)].
Me: [attempting to be cute and clever] Yes, but if you take away the ‘a’ on the end, the name is pronounced “Lee,” not “Lay” – so it’s “Lee-ah”
Director: [disbelief] uhhhh….
Me: [acquiescing] Yeah, my mom got a little creative…
Director: Well, [pointedly] I guess you’ll pronounce your name however you like. [beat] So, Mr. PSA, it’s nice to see you again - what have you been working on lately?
In the movies, this is usually the kind of exchange between some old salt and a subordinate that’s followed by, “I like you, you’ve got spunk!,” and a promotion. But there was no light-hearted response; it looks like this was a test that I failed. There are few things worse in theater than a director who forces you to contradict him but then doesn’t acknowledge or care for you respectfully standing your ground.
We go on to perform the scene, and right as we are centimeters from kissing the director says, “thank you” (directorspeak for “you can stop now”) and I turn my head just in time to get kissed on the cheek. Yesss! But Mr. PSA doesn’t hear the director and continues. The director says louder, “oh, you’ve rehearsed this part – keep going.” Mr. PSA hears that, there's some floundering and then he backs up to the line before the kiss. Arrrrgh! The awkward kiss happens, I phone in the rest of the script, the director thanks us again, we walk out of the theater, I leave without saying goodbye to Mr. PSA.
On the drive home I felt like I needed to take a shower, not because of Mr. PSA, but because I felt compromised – I took things that are meaningful to me – my name, my kiss – and devalued them to impress someone who didn’t care. All for a stupid audition. Yes, sometimes failure is a good thing.