Tuesday, December 16, 2008


you never know what to expect when going to auditions in new york city.  although i've only been at it for three months, there are a few things that are somewhat standard.  when you show up, you have to sign up on a list.  usually this is so the order is set.  those who show up early get to do their thing and then leave.  many an actor gets up early in the morning to be first on the list when the doors open at 10:00 a.m., myself included.  

another commonality is the holding room.  this is a space where everyone waits til their number is called.  usually some of those metal folding chairs are around the edges of the room so everyone can stare at their competition.  sometimes there are hushed conversations.  sometimes there is one or two boisterous personalities who want everyone to know that they are there and they know someone.  i believe this is an attempt at intimidation so that those of us who don't know anyone feel that we're at some kind of disadvantage...which, who are we kidding, we are. knowing people makes all the difference.  

along with the sign in sheet and the holding room, there's the monitor.  this person keeps order, makes sure people are going where they need to go, and answers whatever questions there might be.  these are usually very kind people who love the industry and appreciate actors and all their woes.  they are also important for giving you a little information about the mood of the casting directors and other insider information that is meant to make you a little more comfortable before baring yourself to these strangers in the small room.  

today had all those things as i went in the stage door of the metropolitan opera just off west 65 th street, and moved past the security guard.  i signed in on the little sheet and looked for a place to sit around the edges of the room.  because the call was specifically for men, that's what the room was full of.  because it was also a call for gypsy/fighters who had combat experience, these were a certain sort of men.  and because the call was for those who had a percussion background, beating on stretched skin, there were a few fun long hair types, as well.  it was already looking slightly different than other auditions.

there were lots of guys in tank tops with muscles to show off.  one guy was clearly a body builder...and a good one.  when i came in he was polishing off three hard boiled eggs and some fruit while bulging through his polo shirt that could never have been meant to stretch that way.  he would certainly be interesting to look at on stage.  but there was more to this audition than appearance.  

i was led with 16 other met supernumerary potentials down into the bowels of the metropolitan opera theater.  we walked past huge and ornate set pieces in warehouse size rooms that were under the stage.  finally we arrived in what appeared to be a rehearsal room.  it was huge.  easily 25 foot ceilings and probably 50 by 60 feet on the floor.  we didn't know what was going to happen in here.  we handed our headshots to a guy as we came in and stood around looking at four long metal tubes about four inches in diameter and three feet long, sitting on benches.  there were large hammers laying next to them.  things were getting interesting.

i, of course, was never a percussionist growing up, nor did i ever do any combat, stage or otherwise, so i was feeling a little out of my element but one should go to every audition and let the casting director cut you.  don't cut yourself before even trying.  

the audition had two parts: a musical component which was really a timing issue, and the combat part.  four at a time, we approached the benches with the long metal tubes and heavy hammers, and lifted them.  some did practice swings, loosening up their shoulders.  others weren't sure what was about to happen.  too bad for them.  we were auditioning for the great "anvil chorus" from verdi's opera, "il travatore".  this was going to take timing, strength, acting, and some good old testosterone!  here's a link to the scene from a past performance.  you know the tune.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1YsHzTv7mg&feature=related  

two of each four were to play on beats 1 and 3, and the other two on 2 and 4 and to hit the anvil as hard as we could, or as the casting guy said, "beat the crap out of it!"  we were playing like we were beating out swords on the anvils.  how complicated could that be?  right.  not very.  but, as the director began to count in the piano player and bring in the anvils, there were a lot of timing issues which were somewhat painful for the rest of us.  not just because people were off the beat (it's important to think about the time it takes to swing your arm around so that the hammer hits the anvil on the beat...a few didn't seem to think about that), but because these were very loud pieces of metal being struck with blunt instruments...and we weren't given ear plugs.  

my love for gospel music and the ensuing rhythm that it seems to have instilled in my body was a big advantage for this audition.  probably unfair, but...everyone should be listening to kirk franklin.  i can't help it if they don't.  so i passed the first part of the audition just fine.  but next was hand to hand combat.  the next several minutes were spent learning and doing several hand to hand, choreographed fight moves complete with grunts and shouts...just like good gypsies would do.  i think i did alright.  it was nice to get some aggression out on the metal tubes and at least pretend to hit somebody.  

this would be a great gig.  a couple months of beating the crap out of some anvils at the metropolitan opera and getting paid for it.  but either way, this was the coolest audition i've been to yet!  :)


Lainey said...

I hope, I hope, I hope you get this gig!!

Brian said...

and you'd get to hone your fighting skills. scary.

good blog, i'm gonna keep reading.

mark said...

thanks, brian. good to hear from you. i've been needing some fighting skills for some time now. :)


ha ha that's hilarious! Great writing, too :) Good luck with this!!

mark said...

Thanks Wendee. Maybe I could write something like, "The Struggling Actor's guide to New York." eh? anyone? anyone? :)