Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Auditioning for a Film

"There's the great 'once upon a time,' which is a marker. It says this is not the here and now. You can let your imagination run wild. You can go in places that you'd be scared to go otherwise. You can say things that you're afraid to talk about." 
--Maria Tatar, On Being, The Great Cauldron of Story: Why Fairy Tales are for Adults Again


A friend asked me to audition for a role in her film. I dismissed it thinking that she could not possibly want me to do it. I had offered to help with some of the producing tidbits. Following up with a needed detail, she reminded me of the audition time. "I thought you were kidding," I stated. "No, I want you to read for the part, you'll be one of three." Click, suddenly it was real. I got off the phone and realized that panic was alive and well in my body. Why would she want me to do it? I felt sick. My husband comforted me with his usual nonchalance, "We all act," that both surprised me and made me wonder, about him. 

Last fall, I remember seeing a clip that Julian Doyle brought to the College Town Film Festival of a actress' first read, followed by subsequent readings, and then the final performance in the film. It was used as a reference for his lecture to film students. I'm not a film student, I brought the pizza. However, the evolution of a performer from a reading to the final take stuck with me. I have never been in a play, drama club, nor have I any secret longings to be onstage, but I am writing a screenplay which is going nowhere fast.

Moving the action past happy people doing happy things is difficult. Understanding how to break the story into subplots, dramatic action, using irony evade me. I was advised to kill off someone. I struggle to create hate and discontent on the page. I also keep changing themes and main characters and everything ends shortly after it begins. I waddle around the dialogue and then abandon it. I'm on concept fourteen. It is all very frustrating. I need to hogtie myself to a topic and wrestle with it for a several weeks. I also need to exercise daily, read nightly, and do more pilates and mediation, but I digress.

I went to the audition. I signed in and picked up the part I was asked to read. I figured I owed an artist the opportunity to turn me down instead of doing it for her. 

I sat down in the plastic chair in the hallway that faced the closed door. I stared at the dialogue and wished I had a highlighter so I could more easily note the parts where I was supposed to read.  Though I had read the entire screenplay and knew the story arc, memorizing lines is not something I do well. I get song lyrics wrong singing along to my iPod, all the time. I missed a few cues during the reading as other actors patiently waited for my lines.

Truth is, in the moment I am less terrified than just before and right after I do something uncomfortable. I went into the room to read for the part wanting to give it my best shot. Feelings flooded into me. I was angry at the man before me who had left drugs in our home which our kid had found and used. I was sick and fueled with anger as if a tapped were turned on. Suddenly, I knew I wanted the part. The director gave me some direction. I had loved this man since I was sixteen, we had built a good life together from nothing, and then he had messed with drugs and screwed up everything. I was engulfed with fear, love, hate, and it was all swirling about me. I didn't get the part, but in the moment, ooh. It might be time to dust off that screenplay idea again, there is a story teller waiting to get out.

Do something different that sets your senses off, you might like it.