Getting Schooled

I was lurking around The Callboard, an online discussion forum for Twin Cities actors, the week before last and stumbled upon a conversation about auditioning techniques. Someone suggested that everyone should read Michael Shurtleff’s Audition. Then roughly 20 more people responded that they too had read it and found its advice invaluable.

This lead me to two questions, 1) where the hell did everyone hear about this; and 2) what rock have I been living under? This just reinforced that I received a phenomenal liberal arts education in college, yet a highly uninformative (on a practical, business-level) theater education. I can tell you all about plays by early American women, but I can’t tell you why you’re supposed to wear the exact same clothes to callbacks as you did to the initial audition. Here I am, many, many thousands of dollars later, learning practical, business-level stuff on chat boards. Great. Somewhere I hear someone’s mother singing a hollow, yet loving, “I told you so.”

Anyway, reading the conversation on The Callboard made me feel embarrassed and a little ashamed… if I am to take myself seriously as an actor, it is my responsibility to be not only professional, but informed. It had immediately become apparent that I was not as informed as I had previously thought. And it had immediately become apparent that I have some work to do. So I hit the pavement. Last Sunday I walked into Uptown to scout out Audition at some of our wonderful independent and second-hand bookshops and found a lightly-used copy for three dollars. I also discovered a copy of Robert Cohen’s Acting Professionally: Raw Facts About Careers in Acting (had it in college, didn’t find it immediately useful, got rid of it…or so I thought. I came home to discover the college copy on my top shelf - oops.), Richard Brestoff’s The Camera Smart Actor, and a reference book entitled The Independent Film Producer’s Survival Guide. All for under $25.

I immediately sat down when I got home and read the first 25 pages of Audition. Thankfully, there was plenty that I already knew or had learned (the hard way, of course) over the last several years; but I also learned a handful of new tips and tricks that I had never before encountered. Those three dollars were the best that I have ever spent. Not bad for reigniting my practical performing arts education.