An Actor Despairs

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Every actor has been there. One of those auditions where, for whatever reason – things crash and burn. I’m not talking about things within our control as actors; preparation, mental-readiness – I’m talking about an audition that just goes South. Call it fate, bad luck…what have you.

So why do we as actors enjoy talking about them? Is it the camaraderie of shared trauma? The understanding acknowledgment of a fellow warrior? Or just the sweet relief of sharing something so embarrassing with someone you know will fully understand?

Consider us that fellow warrior. We’ll be sharing your artistic tales of woe right here, on this blog, on a regular basis. Send it in, along with your pic– to blog@breakdownservices.com – the more embarrassing the better. And we’ll be more than happy to share your hilarious disaster with a global audience. After all, if we can’t laugh about it – what the hell are we doing in this business?

So while you run through your mental index of cringe-inducing auditions, allow me to share mine.

The world of industrials is a market in and of itself – fairly artistically bankrupt, but usually decent money. In 1988 as a 24 year-old actor in Chicago waiting tables with a severe Camel Lights habit – I wasn’t picky. If I could perform and keep my clothes on, I was a working actor and I considered it high art.

This mental artistic deception spread to my other senses as well, as I was sure I didn’t hear my agent correctly when they described the job.

“It’s an industrial film for an insecticide. You’re reading for the role of a worm, squirming up out of a diseased apple.”

“Hello, Mom? I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is: I’m in a movie!”

But I wasn’t in the movie. Not yet. And I wouldn’t be. I was two years out of college – I played MACBETH for chrissakes… OK, I didn’t play him well – but I did play him. This was not for me, and I let my agent know in no uncertain terms.

“I’m not doing it.”

“That’s a shame. It pays $800.”

“So, we talking Larvae, Pupae or Adult?”

The scenario was this: I was a smart-alecked, world-weary worm that was living in an apple quite obviously not sprayed with the client’s product.

I would squirm up out of the apple, deliver a smartass monologue about how the farmer didn’t know his apple from a hole in the ground, then I would be sprayed with insecticide… and die.

Oh, yes – there would be a death scene, if we ever got that far. Which we didn’t – because the only thing more humiliating than auditioning for the role of a worm that squirms up out of diseased apple is then NOT getting the job.

Correction: The only thing more humiliating than auditioning for the role of a worm that squirms up out of diseased apple and then NOT getting the job, is not getting the job after receiving very specific direction on how to better portray a worm that squirms up out of a diseased apple.

I like Casting Directors, and a good deal of them like me. This one didn’t – and as I wriggled up, doing my best worm impression and reciting industrial copy that tripped off the tongue like a rusty razor blade, I slipped.

I actually slipped and caught the toe of my shoe on the edge of the carpet, and would have fell flat on my face if I did not extend my hands to break my fall.

The casting director, slammed off the camera and uttered one of the most amazing things ever said to an adult, in a tone that would admonish a three year old.

“Ummmmm…  Paul?  Worms don’t have arms, *.”

Yes, she said that. And the asterisk above indicates the pregnant pause where the only word that could have been implied, was  a**hole.

Now what did I want to do? I think you know. I wanted to leap to my feet and say – “I bloody well KNOW that worms don’t have arms, you &5^$#!ing son of a…” You get the point.

But I didn’t. Not wanting to botch the chance at the job, I turned to a tactic that’s usually served me well. Levity.

“Oh, I’m sorry – I was thinking of the fabled, Costa Rican juggling worms.”

She looked at me like I just told her that her parents were dead.

Mortified is too small a word, but all alone on the train about a half an hour later, I burst out laughing at the sheer absurdity of it all.  So, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it like insecticide sticks to a Granny Smith.

What’s yours? Send your audition nightmare to blog@breakdownservices.com.  Pictures are good, too.

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