Auditioning on Camera, Back to Class Blues

Auditioning on Camera, Back to Class Blues Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice seekers. This week's column addresses the issues of going "back" to class and auditioning on video; and offers some advice on pursuing theatre internships. I invite actors of all ages to continue write me with any problems encountered at auditions, in class, or anything you feel could be standing between you and your talent. Make sure to check the previous columns to see if your question, or one like it, has been answered already!

Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice seekers. This week's column addresses the issues of going "back" to class and auditioning on video; and offers some advice on pursuing theatre internships. I invite actors of all ages to continue write me with any problems encountered at auditions, in class, or anything you feel could be standing between you and your talent. Make sure to check the previous columns to see if your question, or one like it, has been answered already!

Question
Dear Blair,
I've been acting in New York for about eight years now, and I just started studying again with a new teacher. I've been in a few really decent productions, I have an agent. When I went to do my first scene in the class, it seemed as though I had never acted before. I felt like I let everyone, especially my partner, down. The teacher said I was in this habit of "performing," like I wanted to impress the class, and what really bites is that I thought I had already gotten over this in the last class I took. I feel like I can't face this class again. How can I get rid of this "habit?"
Greg

Dear Greg,
It's so funny that you asked this question this week. After years of training, and working a similar issue within myself, I just started a new performance class in movement and text, this old habit of mine peeked out again! I know exactly how you feel.

First off--old habits are hard to break, so let yourself off the hook. Your talent won't vanish because you screwed up one scene -- in fact, it could be the opposite. In the process of acting, it's those "I-want-to-crawl-behind- the-couch-and-stay-there-for-a-year" experiences that we can get so much out of.

Now, in my situation, this is a class where people know I am a teacher. So I think they really expect me to "deliver the goods," so on top of my natural nervousness, I added all this pressure to myself. Sounds like you did that with your resume--perhaps you wanted to prove you were worthy of your accomplishments. So my first advice would be to walk into the class as you, not as your resume.

In my recent experience, although I tried not to care what the class thought, I still did, and it got in my way. Denying this desire to impress was actually more harmful than the desire itself, because my creative energy was all tied up in covering it. Then I stopped trusting myself. One of the keys to unlocking creativity in that moment, would have been to let it be, and then ask, "What other choices can I make besides trying to impress the class right now?"

So, instead of trying to "get rid of the habit" turn the habit into a gem. Begin by looking in your life for ways that you try to impress or perform for people . What is it you hope to get from them? This information will enrich your character choices so much! You will have plenty of truthful (not to mention highly comic) ways to reveal how a character goes about getting what he or she wants.

Thanks for your question, Greg. I hope this gave you enough ammo to go back to class.

Question
Hello Blair,
[For an upcoming audition], I have a great monologue I did in class from Neil Simon's "God's Favorite". . . It has to be videotaped and I have very little...practically none...experience in acting in front of a camera. Should I ever stare into the camera or should this just be like someone is taping me perform on stage? Should I play to the camera, even though I don't know how to?
Nasli Heeramaneck

Dear Nasli, When auditioning in front of the camera, it is generally advised not to look into the camera or make the camera a character you are talking to. Instead, place the character you are talking to slightly to the side of the camera so that the camera has a good view of your face and your facial expressions.

In my opinion, the only time to talk to the camera is when you make a very specific choice that the audience is behind the camera, (a la Ferris Bueller, Ian McKellen's Richard III). I wish you all the best on your audition, Nasli.

Question
Dear Blair,
I am a senior in high school outside of Philadelphia. I have long been interested in musicals, especially ones on Broadway. I have two questions:
1) Is it possible to become an intern at a Broadway theatre? I'd really like to learn about what goes on behind-the-scenes.
2) How do people audition for Broadway musicals? Do you already have to be famous or have an incredible resume to even be considered?
Thanks.
~Margaret

Dear Margaret,
Thanks so much for your questions.

Unfortunately, there are no existing internships for Broadway musicals. The strict union rules on Broadway prevents this kind of employment. However you could possibly create an internship for yourself, by contacting the director of a show or if you know somebody in the business, and ask to sit in on rehearsals and help out during performances. Otherwise, to the best of my knowledge, internships do not exist in Broadway theatres.

However, regional theatres generally do accept interns, or apprentices, and you have some great local opportunities. I bet theatres like the Wilma, the Arden and Walnut (plus others) would consider having an intern for the summer or for a specific production. This would be a great way for you to get to know what goes on behind professional productions, which all Broadway productions are. I would write the theatres, or call the administrative offices to get more information about what is available to you.

To answer your second question about getting cast:
In order to be cast in a Broadway show, it does help if you are famous, and it is really useful to have a good agent. It also helps to be a very well trained actor, and a member of Equity (AEA), the actors union. For more information on AEA, please refer to the Sept. 20-26 column.

Each Broadway show is required to have open call auditions for all Equity members, however, the leads are generally cast with professionals who have a reputation in the business and were submitted to audition by an agent.

Sometimes, but less often, there are open call auditions for Broadway shows which include non-Equity actors. As you can imagine, the lines for Broadway auditions are huge and it can take all day before you are seen for a very short time. But there is always room for a lucky break!

Thanks for your questions, Margaret. Good luck.