Friday, March 25, 2011

I Have An Addiction: A Novel

(Note: I wrote this post on March tenth, but kept it in the Blogger vaults because I am superstitious.)

It's true. I am completely addicted to auditions. And while I love being in London, when I see an audition, it's bittersweet. I'm starting to realise that, acting-wise, being here, in the world capitol of theatre, is almost as bad an idea as going to school in New York City would have been (most of which don't allow you to audition outside of school, so it's like torture.) The only thing that makes it less so is because I don't know how to find most of the professional auditions here.

But that doesn't matter- I can't audition for professional theatre here anyway, as it would be a violation of my visa. I will sacrifice a lot for an audition, but I'm not willing to risk being deported. I did, however, find a few community (or "amateur", as they call them) theatres and could audition for those. Could, past tense, because at this point, nothing I could audition for would open and close before I left.

I know this. But that doesn't stop me from feeling like I'm going crazy because I'm not auditioning. I've been auditioning steadily since I was about fourteen, and to have that brought to a screeching halt is not pleasant. Of course, the fact that I torture myself by reading casting sites from back home (or happening across one passed between two of my Arcadia friends on Facebook, as I did just a second ago. Let me just wait for the pang to pass)... none of this helps either.

But before I came to London- in fact, over a year before- I started putting together a list of amateur theatres in the city. About a month before I left, I started to contact some of them. Long explanation short, you almost can't stroll into even an amateur theatre and audition. You can, but if you get into the show, you have to become a member, which require a fee, even if it's as small as three pounds. So I figured I'd start trying to get my name into a few of them. I e-mailed, a Facebooked, and I followed on Twitter. It all proved worthwhile- I got audition invitations over Facebook; one of the roles I didn't get was a Facebook invite. Another came from good old searching on a website. And I fell into e-mail correspondence with a director from a third theatre.

This third theatre reentered my life recently; I had been planning to attend an audition there in mid-February, but I had to go see Frankenstein on the only night on which the auditions were held. I figured that was sadly it for that theatre, too, like all of the others ones whose doable audition dates had passed. Then I got an e-mail. A forward, really, with an attachment about a student film. They needed a girl aged 18-25 to play the younger sister of the main character.

I got that excited feeling that causes my audition submission reflex to kick in, and not five minutes later, I had created a new e-mail, written a cover letter, attached my headshot and resume, and sent it off to the contact for the film. I pretty much have this reaction to any part that I'm even vaguely suited for. You need a thirty year old who's 5'3"? Well... I may look like a teenager, but I'm 5'3"- are you interested? Because I am. And believe it or not, sometimes this works out.

Of course, this casting call wasn't extreme at all- I fit it perfectly. A few hours later, I got a response saying they'd love to have me and a copy of the script. Did a two p.m. audition time on Wednesday at the university work for me? OF COURSE IT DOES! IT'S AN AUDITION, AND THAT WORKS FOR ME IN ANY WAY, SHAPE AND FORM!

I said yes. I didn't have any classes on Wednesday. Easy to just hop on the tube, audition at the uni, and come back.

Then I looked up the place. It was in Derby (pronounced "Darby," as in "Derbyshire.") I didn't know it until I looked at a map, but Derby is in the middle of NOWHERE-it's almost four hours away from London by bus. I didn't know England was big enough to have a place in the nation that far away. After looking at many transportation options, I found out that with my audition ending at 2:30, there was absolutely no way I could catch a bus that would get me back to the city in time to get the tube to the show I had to see. So I asked the director if he could bump me up an hour, he agreed, and I went back to the transportation schedules. STILL the bus back wouldn't work. I ended up getting a very cheap bus ride there and a still fairly cheap, but too expensive to do it both ways speedy train ride back to London.

I got up too early on Wednesday morning (though later than I would have if I hadn't straightened my hair the night before- I'm so clever :p) and went to my and Megan's old haunt, Victoria train station. My bus was prompt, and save for the Indian man who would not get out of the aisle for a lot of the ride (which is technically illegal, but he refused to stay seated for too long), the trip was uneventful.

The excitement started when I reached Derby bus station. Everyone I asked for help was very amiable and I was able to figure out which bus I needed to take to the uni. I could have walked, but I only had exactly the time it was estimated to take, and I knew I'd get lost. So I got on a tiny (thankfully very cheap) bus and when the girl with the University of Derby sweatshirt got off, so did I.

I got off at the right stop. Unfortunately, it was the wrong campus. Yeah. Going to both a home and English college that have campuses you can completely walk across in five minutes makes me forget that some colleges are very large. UD was huge- like, spread all over the city. But I didn't know this yet. I hopped off the bus, didn't see the building I needed right off, and figured it would be fastest to go into the main building and ask. I did, and the woman behind the desk was helpful, but sad for me. She told me that not only was I only the wrong campus, but I had just missed the last bus before one o'clock that took people to the correct part. She was very nice and called the director for me (I wanted to do it, but she insisted) and told him that I was going to be twenty minutes late. TWENTY MINUTES.

I am never late, and my biggest pet peeve is when others are late, especially to important things like auditions. I actually whimpered when she said this, but there was nothing that could be done about it. So I got a sandwich, made myself presentable (I was New Yorker auditioner-styling it: leggings under the skirt I was wearing so I wouldn't freeze to death on the commute), and stood in line and waited for the on-campus bus.

Thankfully, they don't charge you to take the uni bus. A very nice guy helped me figure out which stop to get off at (after doing an internal double-take at my accent; I've noticed that happens a lot) and twenty minutes later, I got off right outside the building I needed. Finding the audition room was no problem, though I had to stop outside of it and catch my breath, as I had hurried into the building and up the four flights of stairs.

The auditers were all very nice. There were three- two guys, one girl- and they were very friendly as they talked to me about the plot and what "my" character was like (I had unwittingly dressed accurately), and then we went into the reading.

Something I haven't mentioned is that this audition, just like the last out of school audition I went on, required an accent. It was in the character description, so I knew it had to be done. In one of my e-mails, I asked if British RP (received pronunciation) was all right. He said yes. Okay, cool. I used to have a really good British RP, used to being the key phrase. I used to practice it all the time and therefore used to have no problem doing it. But it's been awhile. Too long, and I was nervous. Because besides being out of practice, which is intimidating enough at any audition, I would be trying out in front of English people, using their accent (or some version of it), and they wanted me to sound like (some version of) them. It was a lot of pressure, at least to me. I didn't want to offend anyone, or fall into the ridiculously posh accent that Americans tend to*, or, in general, be terrible.

In preparation to do the accent, I wrote out the lines in IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet.) I don't remember if I mentioned this before, but at Arcadia, acting majors have to take four semesters of IPA. I hated it, not because it's not interesting,but because I'm terrible at it. Really, really terrible. But I knew it was the only way I was going to be able to do the accent properly. I started writing out the lines in IPA, only to realise partway in that I was writing them for my own accent, like I would do in class. I had to start over and write it for British RP. In the end, my notes looked like this:

I guess I was all right. I tried to introduce my brain into the accent by slowly slipping into it as we got closer to the reading. While I introduced myself and chatted in my own accent, as soon as they mentioned beginning the readings, I started slipping into it, hoping not to really bring attention to the fact that I was doing so. They didn't throw up or anything when I read the lines with the accent, so I hope it wasn't cringe-worthy.

I got to do both scenes twice, getting direction between the readings, which is always a good sign. I was so nervous about the accent that my voice was shaking and much breathier than it normally is, but as the character is grieving, it passed (I hope.)

Once the reading had finished, we chatted some more. They asked if I was from America- this question always confuses me, because I forget that some Canadian accents sound very similar to mine, and so usually spend a brief pause thinking, 'As opposed to where?' We talked about that, where I was staying in England, how much it cost to get there (since, if I get cast, they will pay the transportation costs), etc. as I filled out a form and attached another copy of my headshot and resume.

It was a very enjoyable audition overall, despite all of the mix-ups. Through observations while I was on the local bus (yes, Mom and Dad, I noticed SIGNS! On the ROAD!), I knew that once I got back to the main campus, I could get a local bus directly to the train station. I got the bus and to the train station and then to London with no problems. Then I hung around St. Pancras for a few hours, had dinner there, then got to the tube to the theatre to see Company (which was very well sung, though the plot's not great.)

So, all in all, a successful day- I figured out three different, new forms of transportation, auditioned in a country with one of its accents, and had fun at the audition.

Since they're filming tomorrow, I am guessing that I did not get the part, but it wasn't a waste of a day. There could be many reasons that I didn't get the part- they might not have liked me for the character, or it also might have been just because it would be too expensive- they were going to have to put me up in a hotel overnight because I live so far away. But I will never know, and that's how it works sometimes.

*I mentioned doing this accent to some of my Adaptations classmates as we were hanging out in my kitchen before filming some stuff for a project. They immediately insisted I show them. I only agreed to when they said they'd do American accents afterwards. I read a bit of the newspaper to them with the accent. They pronounced it good (they may have just been being nice), but observed that it was quite posh. "But I suppose that's what most Americans fall into. That or Cockney," one girl said, which is very true.


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