For me, auditions are the stuff of nightmares – right up there with the final exam for that class I never attended but forgot to drop, and that important presentation I showed up for in my pajamas – so I’ve always been impressed by the performers I know who put themselves through that horror regularly. When I first saw Venus in Fur, which is about an audition, I started to wonder what it was like for cast members Veronica Russell and Todd D’Amour to go through that experience every night – and how the play compares to real-life auditions. Yesterday, I got a chance to ask them. Here’s what they had to say.
What’s a real audition like? How do you prepare for it?
Todd: I don’t really audition a lot, and I’m sure that I’ve lost an edge. Auditioning is its own art form, and maybe more difficult than any other aspect of acting.
How can you tell during an audition whether it’s going well or poorly?
Veronica: I have never, ever been able to ascertain what I’m doing there. You just don’t know what they want. Except for the time when I inadvertently got in a fight with a film director over acting theory in an audition for a one-line part. I had done a great job with the line, but I knew I wasn’t getting that part.
Todd: If the director starts directing you during the audition, that’s a good sign, almost always. But if they direct you in the first set of sides for like 5 minutes, and then you do the next set and they stop and say they’ve seen enough, you just know they were looking for something specific and you didn’t get it.
Veronica: I’ve had it go both ways – I’ve had auditions where I walked out of the room thinking, “there is no way anyone could do that better than I just did!” and they never called me, and others where I thought I was awful and they called the same day to offer me the part.
In the play, Vanda’s audition doesn’t start out too smoothly – she arrives late, stressed, and drenched from the rain outside, and almost everyone has gone home. How would you cope with a situation like this?
Todd: I pride myself on being able to go into an audition and relax. You can prepare until the cows come home, but you have to be relaxed.
Veronica: Even if you don’t seem relaxed, like Vanda when she comes into the room, you have to relax.
Todd: But I had one audition where the director was extremely imposing, and I wanted to compete with that.
Veronica: Exactly! Sometimes I want to say, “It’s just an audition! $%@& you. My choices are valid.”
Todd: Even sitting in the waiting room is a poker game. Everyone wants to appear cool.
How long might you have to wait before you get seen?
Veronica: Well they’re not supposed to make you wait more than an hour, that’s the rule.
Would you be better off showing up late, like Vanda does in the play, and just walking right in?
Veronica: If you showed up that late, you probably wouldn’t get seen at all.
Todd: I once had an audition for a director who was a friend of mine, and I’d worked with her before. It was a terrible train day, and I got there five minutes late, and she looked at me like, “who do you think you are?” I think it kept me from getting the part, and she never called me in again.
How do you handle rejection?
Todd: I’ve had some heartbreakers, but without those experiences, it doesn’t make you who you are, if you don’t face that rejection.