And that's why we love the theatre.
I spent a good portion of yesterday reading over Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I read both Brick and Gooper felt I had a good handle on them both. I didn't see any portions of dialogue that I would have a problem with, nothing felt inconsistent with the characters and I thought I could deliver the material well. I arrived at the callback at 6:30 and found myself amid a small group of guys. Half were obviously there for the Big Daddy role and there were maybe four who could read Brick and Gooper.
The assistant, Victoria, told us what pages to prepare for our auditions and explained that we would be called in pairs to read Daddy/Brick scenes. And off they went. And I wasn't called in. The director came out to survey the attendance, looked at me, and said "I'm sorry. We won't be needing you for a while." I was confused. What had I said to suggest I didn't want to read for Brick? He commented that I had a good feel for the character in the first audition. So I waited a bit. I'm a new guy. I don't know how to ask about this with this new group. In the meantime, I was confused. Should I ignore the Brick pages and focus entirely on maximizing my Gooper script? Or should I keep practicing the Brick material in case I did get a shot?
After 15 minutes of going over both roles and making nonproductive eye contact with the stage manager, I approached Victoria. Maybe I said something to suggest I didn't want Brick, I offered. I don't know the protocol, I explained. She said she couldn't help me in this and that I should ask the director. I was afraid she'd say that, and I understood fully that I did not want to put her in the middle with any appearance of advocating any applicant. But I was concerned that by the time I got in there, it would be too late. And indeed, before I was called in for Gooper, the director called in all the Bricks and Big Daddies for some sort of final line-up.
By this time, some actresses were arriving for their callbacks. The men exited the audition room, and most of them left. I was soon called in for a Gooper scene. Victoria let me pass by as she chose a few gals to read Big Momma and the wives. As she did this, I snuck in to the audition room, greeted the director, and asked the question: Had I disqualified myself from a Brick callback. No, he explained simply, it was nothing I said. And that was the simple truth. I just wasn't in the running. Fair enough, I thought, and I thanked him.
Now I knew it was a longshot to get that role. I'm new. I'm fresh off the street with these people, and they have no idea how responsible I am. Also, I've got gray hair. Brick should be about 27. I'm physically closer in age to Gooper. And looking at the Bricks that auditioned, it's easy to see I don't have the classic leading man looks that Brick should have. He has to be a golden child of sorts, and I'm a naturally darker type of actor. The director did go out of his way to apologize and say the callback should have been clear on that point, that I was reading for Gooper only. He didn't have to say that. So, it was Gooper or bust.
And I did get to read the scene about three times with a mix of actresses. Some, as had been the case Sunday, didn't know the play much less the scene, and each had to be walked through it a little bit before we started reading aloud. I'm a married man who commutes two hours a day, and I have time to read the script weeks before the audition. I wonder what they're doing to keep them from cracking open the play before they show up. Maybe these are people holding down two or three jobs. Maybe they all have kids.
I thought I did pretty well. I was slower, and that helped hold my accent. I was clear in projection, and I was consistent in each reading. Sometimes I think of a famous, great actor auditioning for the role and imitate them. For this, I was thinking of Gene Hackman in Mississippi Burning. But more of a jerk. In fact, if one can ever somewhat imitate or channel Hackman, I think they'll deliver a good performance.
In the last read, the stage manager asked which form of my name I prefer. I say what I always say (I like Gregory, but I'm not picky), and she said she wanted to get into the habit of saying it right. I immediately was gladdened as this suggested I'll be around, and I joked for her to please let me be around enough for that to be necessary. Again, I enjoyed it. I got to read the prime dickish Gooper line a few times. As I was leaving, however, the director asked if I would be willing to play other roles in the play, and I said sure. And all would be well in my head and gut had he not asked me that. That suggests I auditioned myself out of the part. I don't know what I could have done to not make the lines work. I think I grasp the character. I thought I could communicate that. He's who I gravitated toward initially. I would feel worse seeing someone else play this part than any other role in the play. There's only two other roles in the play I could do: the preacher and the doctor. Much smaller roles. Certainly manageable, significantly less fun.
So I drove home, dissecting mentally the callback and trying to spot my weaknesses. Maybe he's asking just to allow himself as many options as possible, I argued. Maybe I hammed the accent too much. Maybe, I admit, I'm just not good anymore. I've been out of theatre for two years. Maybe my acting muscles have atrophied. And I'll confess, it got a little pouty in my head, but I reminded myself (eventually) that all I wanted was to be satisfied with my audition. That's distinct from them being satisfied with it. I know that I had a good reading of Brick and Gooper. That was my initial goal. And if they offer a smaller role, it will be an investment of time and effort to the next role I audition for with them or another local theatre.
I did notice though that the in-town theatre is gonna present Broadway Bound which was my first show with Spartanburg Little Theatre. If I don't get anything with Hot Tin Roof, I can throw myself at a rebound audition. But I want that Asheville show. And now I wait to hear back with some measure of anxiety and a scoash of hope that Gooper isn't out of my reach.
Tick tock, tick tock.