Today I nearly reached my limit.
I wouldn’t exactly say that it’s my current aspiration to tour with a non-union musical throughout Asia this summer, but I nonetheless woke up early and dragged my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed self to the Legally Blonde audition this morning. I arrived around 7:45am, more than two hours before the audition was scheduled to begin, and yet… I was number 260 on the “unofficial list.” For those of you lucky enough to be unacquainted with audition procedures, non-equity actors (read: me and hundreds of other hopefuls) sign up maddeningly early at auditions (especially those set for equity members). The first to arrive starts a list of names, usually on a ripped out sheet of binder paper. The most infuriating thing, however, is that these horrendous, maniacal beasts of the dawn have somehow created conniving cliques reminiscent of high school. And not only do they occupy most of the physical space available with their rolling suitcases and caboodles of makeup, they sign up ALL of their friends on this aforementioned unofficial list.
Therefore, a torrential wave of prodding, crazy-eyed actors is able to descend upon EVERY audition available in New York City. The unofficial list is not usually honored at equity auditions, so it does require being present to actually sign up on the “official” list, but enough of these daft and loud-mouthed divas are usually commanding the lowly non-equity folk to remain IN ORDER OR ELSE.
Today somehow promised the dream of a non-stressful audition. A non-union tour. In Asia. So in theory, we should all be seen, yadayadayada. As I stated, 7:45am… and number 260. That’s ridiculous. By 9:00am, the list was nearly to 400, and the Ripley-Grier Studio staff was starting to complain about the noise level coming from the holding room. Or maybe the real problem was that the holding room was only about 300 square feet. FOR 400 PEOPLE? Jackets, suitcases, binders, headshots, heels, mirrors, lipsticks and droves of hopefuls spilled out to the hallway, down the staircase and into the elevator vestibule. It was absolute hell. I was lucky enough to be one of the first through the door when the studio space opened, so I snagged a nice spot in a chair and set to working on reviewing my script for The Ride (Sidenote: I am hosting this weekend!)
I maintained a cool composure the entire time I sat there – but in my head… well, what started as positive mantras started to morph into a murderous chant against any that so much as glanced at me. Sweet hellos like, “I really like your hair color!” translated through my brain as “I’M GONNA STEAL YOUR SONG BITCH” and observed smiles between reunited friends read to me as “LET’S FUCK UP ALL THESE OTHER WHORES BY SPILLING THEIR BARE ESCENTUALS POWDER ON THEIR NYLONS.” The number of bodies in the room became unmeasurable, and yet the radiator pumped steaming air into the crowded, airless room. A young woman with stringy hair and arm acne squeezed onto the floor beside my chair and next to her friend and I couldn’t help but be completely distracted by the dirty scent emanating from her presence. You know what I’m talking about, like she had been wearing the same outfit for the last week or so. Dirty. Oh god gag in my mouth. Another constant distraction for me was a pair of odd-looking identical twins that sat on the floor together, one was clearly the actress and the other was there for moral support. I say this because the ‘actress’ was wearing a hot-pink bejeweled dress that I’m nearly certain was from the 1999 Jessica McClintock collection and the other was pocked with acne scars and sat listening to music on a Walkman. Yes, a WALKMAN. But the disturbing thing was that they were holding hands the entire time and kept whispering into each others’ ears. It was seriously so creepy that I snuck a picture on my iPhone, but I decided against posting it in this blog. Do you think that identical twins that are obsessed with each other are narcissistic?
The other standard musical theater audition stereotypes were there… dozens of ditzy blonde young things, a handful of flamboyant gay black men, crews of mousy-haired and overweight men and women that haven’t yet gotten the message they NEED to purchase clothes in the correct size, three straight guys, and of course… a lot of people like me. The ones that were not running their mouth about AMDA or previous Summerstock gigs were silently fuming Teeth were starting to slightly bare and everyone firmly maintained control over their reserved physical space in the holding room.
Just after 10am, a message was passed down through the trenches similar to a children’s game of Telephone. “They’re typing!” Typing, for those of you lucky enough to be unaquainted with audition procedures, means a quick review of headshots and resumes to determine who will actually be given the chance to sing for the casting directors. “They’re lining everyone up in the room and you have to tell them what part you want!” shouted a bright-eyed young man who proclaimed he was a Taurus and ‘what did everyone expect’ shortly thereafter. (I didn’t understand that.) “Shit!” I thought, and quickly pulled out my mirror to apply eyeliner and mascara before I was to be judged on my appearance. And that’s what happened. About 100 of us at a time lined up in snaking line in the audition room and dropped our headshot in front of the casting director, quickly saying the name of the character we wanted to be. IMMEDIATE JUDGMENT. So that’s what happened… when I got to the table, I smiled, said “Vivian,” and the casting director resolutely placed my headshot in the much taller pile (clearly the ‘no’ pile). And moments later, they read the list of those that should remain. My name was not called.
Myself and the other rejects gathered our things and left the building. Part of me was so unbelievably glad I didn’t have to wait the rest of the day to audition, and yet part of me was just… bummed. But guess what? I’d rather stay in NYC this summer. Asia does not have Governor’s Island, lots of free concerts, summer biergartens, backyard grilling, and… The RIDE! 😉
Another day, another experience, another reminder that life is certainly interesting, to say the least.