Going For the Part You Want; Going Bald

Going For the Part You Want; Going Bald Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice-seekers. This week's column addresses going for the part you want, how do deal with auditioners who know you personally, altering your looks for auditions, and life in the theatre after going bald. 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 going for the part you want, how do deal with auditioners who know you personally, altering your looks for auditions, and life in the theatre after going bald. 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,
Thank you so much for your wonderful advice throughout [last week's (July 24-31)] column. I was especially interested in the letter about the girl who seems to be in competition with the other girl who, apparently, can't act. I am in a similar situation with the program at my high school.

Next year, we are doing "The Wizard of Oz". I would love to be Dorothy, and I know I would do a great job. The only problem is this "cute" girl. She is very petite; I am tall. She is a good actress, but her singing is terrible. I'm not the only one who thinks so. Although I like her as a person, I really want that part. I have a feeling that since this isn't professional theater they may overlook her [vocal] shortcomings because she can act. (It's a small school, so they know everyone personally.)

I have definitely taken into consideration your advice for "About To Burst". I don't know if you ever give such specific advice, but I would really appreciate any advice you can give me on auditioning for this part. I have posted a message asking for pointers on the Playbill message board, but I'm still waiting. Thank you for such an informative service. I haven't seen anything else like it on the web!

Sincerely,
Denise Dear Denise,

While it's important to assess who your competition is and what their strengths and weaknesses are, don't dwell in the comparisons. Instead of focusing on how much better or worse Miss Cute is, or how much more likely it is that she will get cast, be competitive by beginning your homework, now.

I suggest you do this by allowing yourself to become Dorothy. Imagine yourself as the most perfect Dorothy, the tallest and most "Dorothy" Dorothy there ever was. To do this, you must first ask yourself who is Dorothy? Avoid imitating your idea of Dorothy, (you know, the idea that Judy Garland planted in everyone's head almost 60 years ago). Instead, find your own answers, and look for the yearning and wonder that Dorothy has, in yourself. What are the circumstances in your life that make you want to fly "over the rainbow?"

Then spend a certain amount of time rehearsing songs, making them your own. After all, as you said, you are the singer.

I believe if you truly commit to this process, you will knock 'em dead. And if you don't get cast, think of how much you will have benefitted from focusing your energy in this way! You will have learned so much about preparation. In fact, it would behoove you to forget entirely about getting cast (a suggestion I'm not sure is actually possible) and let the whole journey be a lesson in preparation.

Let me know if you get the part, Denise!

Question

I am 24. When I was 2, I boldly announced to anyone who would listen that I was going to be an actress. Now, after having two kids and being a happily married woman, and having gone through three major career changes, I know this about myself: I will never love anything as I love acting. I am planning to go to college to get my M.F.A. in theater, and I realize I will be older than most there and probably the only one who has to go home to her kids, I can handle that, but what can I do in the meantime to get my career and my passion off to the right start? Also, am I too old to be attempting this feat? And, what should I read, subscribe to, etc.? Please, write-me-a-book. ha ha.
Sincerely and Gratefully,
Cheyenne Black

Dear Cheyenne,

Thanks for your e-mail, but I'm sorry to say, it doesn't look good for you. You are definitely too old to follow your dreams. At the old age of 24, your time has come and gone.

In addition, your e-mail does not reflect much passion. If you REALLY wanted to be an actress, you would have been focused only on acting up until now--instead of taking a huge risk and changing your life at this point when it makes sense. There are just certain times when pursuing what you love to do isn't worth it anymore.

On the other hand, you may have a shot at being okay if you read ALL the books written on acting, describing all the different methods, and trying to thoroughly absorb them before you start school. But don't quote me on that.

Cheyenne..I hope you're laughing.

I totally understand your insecurity, but you don't need me to write you a book. Nor would I prescribe that you read one at this time. For many people, committing oneself to a career in acting is naturally a scary thing to do. Feel free to trust yourself and give yourself fully to your pursuits.

Best of luck.

Question
I am 15 years old and have been doing community theatre in my home town of Lincoln, NE since I was 10. I've had some pretty good parts and others... Anyways, my favorite part of the whole experience has been auditioning. Well, by now I am on pretty good terms with most of the directors around the area and even consider them friends (for being older people they're friends). When I go to audition for them how should I behave-- they know my talent and everything but do I chat and be cool with them or what? Also, I change my look (haircolor) all the time for auditions to make me look older or younger or meaner or whatever. Is it a good idea to try and look like the character you want or should you be yourself and hope the director sees where you belong in the cast?

Dear Young'un From NE,
Sounds like you've done a lot for your age!

As for chatting in auditions, it's up to the individual. If you feel that it relaxes you to chat with auditioners, and /or it makes you feel special - great. Some people find chatting distracting. It disturbs their focus or makes it harder for them to slip into character after they've chit-chatted as themselves. If you are one of these people, until the audition is over, avoid being friendly with auditioners and just do your work .

I think changing your hair, clothes, make-up, etc. are all GREAT tools, provided that you a) have read the script and know the character you want to play and b) feel that these adjustments help you feel more in character. When it's appropriate to use costume in auditions, it can really make you stand out as an actor who is willing to take a risk and who is doing their homework.

You have to use your discretion. You can never guess what the directors or the agents or the producers want. Now would be a good time for you to avoid thinking about what THEY want. Actors need to know what makes them feel good about themselves and their talent, and this comes from experience.

Good luck!

Question
Unfortunately, beginning near the end of my first semester in college, I noticed that my hair was not too attached to me, and have been suffering under the lingering threat of baldness ever since. I am worried primarily because, in my study of the chosen area of concentration--musical theatre--I am afraid that I haven't seen a whole lot of male performers (stars or otherwise) with either receding hairlines or no hair at all. Is this an issue? Is this something I should be worried about? Should I just ride with it and let my talent carry me, or should I look into other options? I would really appreciate some information on this. Thanks a lot.
Matthew H.

Dear Matthew,

From my third row orchestra seat of this year's Tony Award-winning musical Titanic, I don't recall seeing a single strand of hair on lead actor Michael Cerveris' head. In fact, the top of his head reflected the stage lights beautifully. And his voice and presence were lovely.

And Patrick Stewart, although not a musical actor, is one of my favorite performers. I don't recall him having much hair.

Looks are important in this business, but not so important that one should even consider abandoning their dreams on account of their appearance.

Keep going. Your hairline could be something that saves you one day....who knows--there may be a musical about a young bald guy--and you'll get the lead! OR...you could write that musical and star in it. Keep going. Keep finding ways to feel good about yourself with your hair (or lack of it) exactly the way it is.

P.S. And what about this new trend where everyone is shaving their heads?...I say "bald is power."