Once again hello and thank you to all creative advice-seekers. This week's column addresses the issues of "stretching" out of small roles, quitting your day job, and introduces the LORT lottery. 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!
I have been acting for about three and a half years now, and know that is really what I want to try to do with my life. However, I have found my training and progress somewhat difficult. For instance, on several occasions, I have been called back for large roles in plays, but instead been cast in very small roles, often the smallest in the show. Or, when I do musicals, no matter what the show is, I'm always put in a minimal number of songs, with very little to do besides move scenery. When people claim I am a hard worker, have a great voice, or do have talent (which happens somewhat often), it is very hard for me to accept, since no director for any show has ever really seemed to think so. It often seems like most of the roles I get come to me because I come to auditions, not because I'm really good enough. Is there any way to get over this, and perhaps find my way into something a little more visible and challenging? I know you can grow from whatever you do, but I feel like I need something that can stretch my abilities a little bit more--when I have a small role, no matter how much work I try to put into it, it's never really noticed or dealt with by the director, and having that kind of guidance, I feel, limits how much I can grow from the experience. Anything you could tell me to help me with this I would very much appreciate it. Thanks.
I also believe you can grow from whatever you do, until you do something enough times that you don't really grow from it anymore. In order to break out of the pattern, I recommend three things.
1) Change your attitude about your talent. You need to believe in the compliments people give you. Avoid defining your talent only by how you have been cast. You need to discover and feel how big your talent truly is, and feel deserving of the really big roles. When you start to experience yourself as a lead, there will be a shift.
2) As part of 1), you need to make a boundary about what roles you will and will not take. You actually need to decline roles that you feel will not serve you as an actor, or that undermine your talent in any way. You must be firm about this. This is hard because many actors are brainwashed into thinking that they must take any roles they are cast in because it's work, and because of the theory that "you can grow from whatever you do." 3) At your next audition, become aware of any signals you might be giving off that tell directors you are not ready or cut out for the leading roles. Are you speaking with enough volume? Notice if you are having an insecure inner dialogue with yourself, notice your body language, etc.
4) Be patient with yourself. Keep finding ways to stretch yourself --find a class or another forum for yourself that creates artistic challenges.
I live in Baltimore, MD and I have recently made the decision to "quit my day job". During the three years I have been here, I have consistently worked in the theater, done film, commercials, industrials and the like, on and off. During this time, I allowed my agency to find ALL of my work for me. My question is this: how do I market myself now that I have this much free time? Do I blanket the area with my headshot and resume, or is there a more efficient way to handle this? Your help is greatly appreciated.
Dear Unemployed in Baltimore,
Thanks for your question. Congrats on quitting the day job! I wish you the best, and that your free time opens you up to more and more lucrative performing work!
Blanketing the area with headshots is good. Sounds like you've got an impressive resume. I would also mail to theatres in or around your area and follow up with a phone call, finding out if they have general auditions and when they are.
I recently spoke with an actor in Los Angeles who was talking about marketing himself and getting an agent. He used this interesting expression in regards to the importance of "manufacturing your own heat." What he meant by this, is the various techniques he is using to get people interested in him--getting them to think he is "hot property;" creating a "buzz."
One of the things he does when he is trying to get a meeting with an agent or into a big audition, is he has people he knows in high places, or industry professionals he has worked with that respect him, place a call to the person he needs to contact, saying "This young actor's going to call you. I just saw him in such-and-such production, and he was terrific! You should talk to him. He's very talented." And so forth.
It might be a good time, if you haven't already, to have a meeting with your agent(s) to discuss your new commitment to your career, and let them know that you would like them to put their feet on the gas in order to help get things moving. Maybe they could make a few extra calls for you as well.
I am a 16 year old student who wants to be an actor. I do all sorts of musical theatre in Ohio and mostly have leads. As a result, this summer I traveled to New York to try out for The Sound of Music. I'm not eligible, but by some chance they let me audition anyway. The woman in the audition said my audition was terrific and thanked me for coming. Outside they told me they would be having open auditions for children in the fall so I probably would not hear for a while. Well, it is October. Should I stop waiting, or do I still have a chance. Do they not usually cast people who are not from New York? Please let me know what I should do? Give up hope or keep waiting???
Very Truly Yours
The first thing I would focus on is what you did. You came all the way from Ohio, without being Equity eligible, to audition for a Broadway show, and you got praise for your audition. This is great!
Do you remember the name of the lady who gave you the info about October and the name of the casting agency she was from? If you don't, let this be a lesson to always get names and write down correct spellings, and addresses. If you do remember her name, you should contact her. Write her a letter at the agency she works with, and/or try to call her. Remind her of who you are and ask her the status.
It is important to remind people in the biz that you've come in contact with, of who you are and that you're out there.
After you attempt to get in contact with her, you will be much clearer about what you need to do. If you can't get in contact with her, I suggest you move on--and next time make sure you get the information you need to follow up!
Good luck, Scott!
At school I recently heard talk of "Lottery" auditions for regional theatres. I'm in Georgia. How does one enter the lottery? Do you have to be Equity?
Thanks for the question--I wanted to share your answer with the rest of our readers who might be interested in taking advantage of this opportunity.
Resident theatres are classified as professional not-for-profit theatres around the country, and are often referred to as "regional theatres." Twice a year in New York, in fall and spring, the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) holds Lottery auditions, in which Equity and Equity eligible members get a chance at performing for a whole bunch of casting people from theatres across the country. It's a great way to be seen--if you get lucky.
Here's how it works:
The auditions are for eligible performers only (Equity members and those with "eligibility" cards that are still in effect). For more information about Actors' Equity (AEA) please refer to Ask Blair titled All About AEA. . .. The auditioners will be selected by lottery. If you are selected, you will attend a preliminary audition for three representatives of LORT theatres. This fall, the first set of auditions will be preliminary auditions, held Wed. Dec. 3, Thurs. Dec. 4, and Fri. Dec. 5. If you give an outstanding preliminary audition, you are invited to attend general auditions--for casting members from theatres all over the country. The general auditions are: Mon. Dec. 8 and Tues. Dec. 9.
Here are the rules and regulations for entry:
(1)All eligible performers may submit one entry. In the case of duplicate or multiple entries, your entry will be disqualified.
Also note: Performers who were previously granted active "audition eligibility" status under the former "eligible performer" system and who have current, active cards may submit entries into this lottery.
(2) You must be an Equity member, paid up through Nov. 1, or a current, active eligible performer (see (1) above).
(3) A verification of this will be made.
(4) You may not audition if you have auditioned in either of the last two LORT auditions (fall 1996 and spring 1997).
(5) All entries must be mailed or hand-delivered to: 1997 Fall LORT Lottery (New York), AEA Audition Department, 165 W. 46 St., NYC 10036, Attn: Tony Nicosia, Director.
Entry requirements are as follows: (A) Mail or bring in a 3x5 index card with the following information printed clearly: your name as it appears with Equity, your correct address including zip code, your home and service numbers including area code, your Social Security number, and, if applicable, your eligible performer card number. (B) A self addressed, stamped business-size envelope with the address of where you will be two weeks prior to the audition, so that you can be notified. (C) If you are mailing in your entry, include your 3x5 card and self-addressed stamped envelope in a business-size envelope. (D) Entries must be received at the New York Equity office during regular business hours, Wed. Oct. 1-Fri. Nov. 7 at 5 PM (Eastern Standard Time).
(6) Note: This is a lottery. Entry denotes your acceptance of the audition time drawn for the preliminary audition. The same applies, if chosen, for the general audition. Therefore, changes or conflicts will not be accepted.
(7) If your entry is drawn, you will be notified by letter of the time, date, and place of your audition. Lists of those performers chosen will be posted in all Equity offices approximately three business days after the drawing. It is recommended that you check these lists.
(8) If you cannot attend your audition, call to cancel your appointment as soon as possible. If New York Equity does not hear from you, it will assume that you are attending. If you fail to cancel your appointment and do not show up at the audition, you will be ineligible for the next two LORT auditions. To cancel your audition appointment, call any of the following offices: New York, (212) 869-8530, ext. 302; Chicago, (312) 641-0393; Los Angeles, (213) 462-2334.
(9) For the preliminary audition, you will have two minutes of actual audition time. Stage managers will have two minutes of interview time. Choice of material is yours, but be advised that an accompanist is not provided for musical auditions. However, the audition rooms are equipped with pianos.
(10) Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to your preliminary audition time and bring four pictures and resumes. If you are coming from out-of town, bring an extra 20 pictures and resumes, should you be asked to attend the General Auditions.
(11) If you are selected to participate in the general auditions, you will be notified by phone of the date and time of your audition.
(12) Should you choose to have an audition partner, said person must be an Equity member (see (1) above). Be advised that only your picture and resume will be submitted.
(13) For those of you who will be traveling to New York and need hotel accommodations, Equity advises you of the following hotels that offer a discount for Equity members: Hotel Edison, 228 W. 47 St., NYC (212-840 5000); Days Hotel, 8th Ave. and 48 St., NYC (212-581-7000); Ramada Milford Plaza, 270 W. 45 St., NYC (212-869-3600).