So now that I have some free time and audition season is upon us, I think it is a perfect time for the next installment of "What NOT to do at an audition." This next true story might be my most embarrassing. If I believed in hell, and if I ever ended up there, it would involve the following events on an endless loop. Enjoy.
#2. DO NOT... PERFORM AN INTERPRETIVE SOLO DANCE, UNLESS YOU ARE MARTHA GRAHAM
A few years ago I was visiting a friend in the lovely Twin Cities. A well-known dinner theatre in the area happened to be holding auditions for a production of Oklahoma at the same time I was there, so I planned a little detour and popped in to audition. I went in, sang my face off, and wowed them. They went on and on about my voice and asked for a second song. They loved me! (Don't worry, I'm done bragging. It all goes downhill from here.)
After my fabulous songs and witty banter, they wanted to see more from me. (That's the goal, WooHoo!) They invited me to the dance call they were having in a few days. I explained I was only in town for a little while and I wished I could stay but I had other obligations. "Do you have any Youtube videos showing your ballet skills?" "No, unless you want to see me wearing a red and white striped unitard and a dunce cap when I was featured as a candy cane in The Nutcracker." (OK I didn't say that. And don't google it. You won't find it.) I was just about to leave the room knowing that while I might not get cast, I probably made a good enough impression for them to keep me in mind for future projects. It would have been a great audition. But this is where is gets sad.
As I was walking out of the room they stopped me and said "Wait! We really like you and want to gauge your dancing abilities." I really wish I would have thanked them and just kept walking toward the door. (I go back to that moment often.) But they had been so nice, and I do have dance experience, and my adrenaline was pumping, and my brain stopped working. They asked me if I would put together a "32 bar ballet combination." That sounded easy at the time. "Sure, I'll see what I can do." Next thing I know I was being led to a basement rehearsal space so I could choreograph a short ballet combo. No big deal, right? The monitor said he'd be back to get me in a half-hour. And suddenly I'm left alone in this dimly lit room with a mattress on the floor, old props and costumes in every corner, a mirror, and a ballet barre. And the panic sets in. They gave me my own rehearsal room. They must expect a lot from me. But I'm not even wearing dance clothes, and oh yeah, I'm not a choreographer! What am I doing?! I have many years of ballet training, but it has been years since I had to perform a ballet solo, especially at an audition, and especially one I had to make up myself. I am usually dancing in an ensemble, performing steps that were carefully crafted by professionals. As I sat alone in this dark room staring in the mirror, Cassie in Chorus Line style, I started to sweat. I considered sneaking out. But then I remembered I have no idea how I even got down here. I might get lost in the labyrinth of hallways. I had to come up with something. So I pieced together some basic ballet steps. Balancé, chassé, grande jeté (ooh, fancy!). Soon the monitor was back to collect me.
The monitor led me through the maze of hallways and through the holding room as other actors whispered about me and wondered why I was being led back into the room. It was like the green mile. If only they knew. Before I began, I stressed that I was not a choreographer and that I just put together your basic ballet class-style combo. They already looked disappointed. Oof. I stood before the team wearing my cute audition dress, shorts I happened to have in my bag, and bare feet. And so began my interpretive 32-bar ballet combo with NO MUSIC. Oh, did I not mention this piece of art was performed with no accompaniment? The only thing more awkward than performing a self-choreographed solo ballet for a team of judging eyes is performing a self-choreographed solo ballet for a team of judging eyes IN COMPLETE SILENCE. It was the longest 32 bars of interpretive silence. Ever.
Even you seasoned dancers out there- just picture yourself - performing a combo you just whipped together - in a panic - with only the sounds of your bare feet squeaking on the floor - while five strangers stare at you...
When I finished, the team was quiet. I couldn't tell if they were underwhelmed, or disappointed, or maybe time just stopped for a moment. It certainly felt like it. Or maybe they were speechless in the presence of greatness. (Sarcasm. Clearly.) The choreographer finally piped in and asked me to do some pirouettes. (Really, you didn't see everything you needed to see with my stellar routine?) I did some extra turns and a grande battement upon request. I am not as flexible in my more advanced age, so the look of sadness on her face after my grande battement was unmistakeable. So... everyone looked at each other with the "I think we've seen all we need to see" look, and my torture was over. They thanked me for staying and gave me the "nice meeting you" send off. My interpretive dance was obviously not what they were hoping for. I never heard from them again.
LESSON: Sometimes less is more. Don't be afraid to say no.
Please feel free to leave a comment if you have a good story!