Monday, July 07, 2008

Subjectivity

It has been pointed out to me that a recent anonymous comment in response to my “Semi-relevance” post is such a thinly disguised reference to a specific audition that it essentially ‘disses a specific director and calls into question the casting of a specific actor under the guise of anonymity. As such, I have two responses to the comment.

--> If you are going to go after someone specifically, I think you should have the guts to say who you are. I don’t know which director you are accusing of being disingenuous, Anon, but I’m sure someone does. To throw a potshot like this without standing behind it is cowardly. I continue to allow anonymous posting on this blog but it’s comments like these that make me reconsider that policy.

--> In your comment you say, “There was a woman from out of town who got up to read for one of the leads. She was without a doubt the person that captured the role.” “Without a doubt?” As I’m sure you are aware, Anon, a role is not like a high score in a video game or a prisoner of war. It cannot be “captured” in any objective sense. What a director is looking for is completely subjective and based on dozens of factors. What look is he/she going for? How does one actor interact with another? How well do they take direction? Etc. etc. etc.

For a director to make the kind of speech you refer to, Anon, seems like a fairly forthright and proactive thing to do. Just because the resulting choice did not meet with your approval, I don’t think you have any basis for criticizing the sincerity of the director who made the speech. You can certainly question the wisdom of the choice that was made – but that will be borne out with the success or failure of the resulting production, not in the announcement of the cast list.

21 comments:

debra said...

yes, I read that post...and unfortunately I knew EXACTLY what it was all about,as do several people in the community. The end result is probably the hurt feelings of some very decent people. I'm not sure what that accomplishes.

I think the thing missing in all of this is perspective. How much does all of this really matter?

Life is frustrating. Careers are frustrating. We vent. Perfectly understandable. But it used to be about venting to trusted friends, or a loved one. With the blog world....all of sudden....it's just out there for anyone to see. This isn't promoting any kind of healthy discussion...it's just about making digs at a director and downright insulting the actor cast in the role. Again, what does this accomplish? What does hurting people ever accomplish?

Joy W. said...

Hey Dave,

I, like Debra, know what audition anon was talking about. I also know which actor anon was referring to that "captured" the role. That particular actor read great, but, I hasten to point out, so did a number of other actors. And to give a role of that size to an unknown person is VERY risky business. I'm sure that actor will have many opportunities in this town.
And, I also hasten to point out, that the actor who will be performing in the show will, no doubt, be spectaclar. That's been that actor's track record so far.

I believe the "director's" intent was to let those auditioning know that no roles had been precast, and that everyone there would be considered. I believe the "director" also wanted those auditioning to know that it's not impossible to get your foot in the door at that theatre...that they do use new people. In my experience with that theatre, that is, indeed, the case. Just because they didn't use someone new this time doesn't mean it doesn't ever happen. It just means it didn't happen THIS time.

Anonymous said...

I do not know the situation or parties involved, and I am sure the auditionees were very good. I do NOT intend to diss whoever was cast in this case. Hey, if Joy (and Debra? Not clear) were there, they must have been great!

I just wanted to chime in that out of town actors, though also probably great, up the logistics factor for a production, and it's possible that if said actor was being considered, from the theatre's business end, or the actor's out of town life end, it may have proved unworkable this time around.

Jennifer Frank

Dave T said...

Jennifer makes a good point that I hadn't even considered. Perhaps the call-back was going to involve the actor who anon says "captured" the role and the actor who was eventually cast. Perhaps the former was not able to accept the role due to logistical concerns and so the role was offered to the other actor.

I think the more likely scenario is that, in the eyes of the director, the actor who was eventually cast totally "captured" the role and so they were cast. But second-guessing the intentions of said director without the complete story is pretty futile and doing so with the negative slant that Anon gave smacks of sour grapes.

Flying Buttress said...

Art's power is in its ability to provoke (I guess both onstage and offstage).

If theatre were about absolutes like casting or other artistic choices, we would sit around a petrie dish watching something far less engaging than live theatre.

I wonder if Anon feels the same about the business world when she/he may not get a job over someone else with a different resume and a different interview experience. The only difference is that Anon had the opportunity to see the auditions and make a judgement call for her/himself.

The best revenge, Anon, to this slight you feel is to produce your own one-person show or become a director.

Andrew Hamm said...

If I'd waited a little while, I could have posted on this much more appropriate thread.

Anonymous said...

I disagree that anonymity is cowardly. It just allows for more frank discussion on topics such as this. If you're not the sweetheart of theatres in town, how can you expect to be able to voice opinions without fear of retaliation in the form of not getting work?

Just sayin'...

Anonymous said...

I was watching "The World According to Garp" the other day, and there was a line in it that made me think of this blog and giggle. A teacher (who I believe was Garp's wife) was looking for honest feedback from her students and she had them fill out some paper and told them they couldn't use their names, saying "Anonymity breeds honesty."

Is there something there? Take a look at the blogs in town that do not permit anonymous posts. They may be more civil, but they also are, for the most part, relatively boring and lack any true dissension in the comments. Of course, maybe that is not their goal, and that is fine. But if you do want people's true opinions (even if sometimes they're mean), I would continue to permit anonymous posts.

Amy B.

Anonymous said...

I woke up thinking about this. First, I should have stressed the "if" in my first comment about if out of towner was being considered.

I am so very very glad that I work as a director from time to time. When you sit on the other side of that table, you see how little control an actor can have over being cast or not. 92% of the time, casting is easy. After the audition process, the right thing to do just becomes clear. And it has to do with how an actor looks, the energy they carry, and how they gel with other actors. These things are pretty set. As Andrew said, take pride in your appearance, be prepared, and confident in your abilities. Then mentally treat an audition like a speed date. Have fun. It's not you, it's me. Really.

What about the other 8%? The first complication is an actor being unable to accept a part, and having to find someone else - or, not having an appropriate auditioner for a given part and having to look. The second is having a great talent come out for a large show, and figuring out how best to use them, which complicates casting the roles they could have played, but aren't. The last is work ethic reputation. So when you do get cast, act right, and get along as best you can with your peers.

All that said, I can still get really invested in an audition, and be upset when not cast. Not often. I remember missing out on a show, and a person on the production team who is close to me told me that the director really thought I read well (and I knew I did), but couldn't use me because of the way I look. "HOW DO I LOOK!!!" I wailed. My informant looked at me like I was crazy. We are unknowable to ourselves.

Last thought - wouldn't someone be complaining that the role in question went to an out of town actor if said actor was cast?

- Jennifer Frank

Anonymous said...

Last thought - wouldn't someone be complaining that the role in question went to an out of town actor if said actor was cast?

What's all the hootin' and hollerin' about out of town actors for? If they're good, cast 'em. Dang. Makes sense to me.

Andrew Hamm said...

Amy B.,

Fair point. In my experience with internet message boards, however, the ones with both the most civil and highest-quality conversation are the ones like the Home Theater Forum that require some variation on your actual name to register.

I would suggest that Garp is quite pre-internet, and flames, grenades, and trolls abound where anonymous posting reigns.

Angelika HausFrauSki said...

Let's face it. We actors are all a bunch of whiners. Someone said something hilarious to me at a commercial shoot I was doing the other day: "Actors only complain in two situations- when they're working, and when they're not."

:)

Me, personally? Whenever I don't get cast in something even though I felt I had a great audition, I tell myself it's because I reminded the director of his b*&@h ex-wife. Nothing I can do about that! :)

Robinitaface said...

Angie - THANK YOU for saying that. As actors, we really aren't happy unless we have something to b*tch about. Because, really, if their isn't a conflict, we're sort of out of a job.

As i don't live there anymore, I don't know nuthin about that audition. But I do know this: Ms. Frank is right - someone would be upset about either casting choice. I might have even been one of them (we know how the "buzz" is). I've had my share of tantrums to friends and family when casting didn't go my way. I couldn't complain *too* much, though. I always had a job.

I think Richmonders should be pleased and proud that out-of-town talent thinks enough of that "big small town" talent to join in our (your? *pout*) reindeer games. I'm certainly not saying that they would be "gracing" anyone with their presence by any means - don't get me wrong. Hell, a lot of times they're just thinking "Damn, I need a gig." But don't you want them coming away thinking about what a great town it is, and what talented and professional performers there are? Richmond having a reputation for quality and professionalism certainly wouldn't hurt the people who choose to leave either - and healthy actor turnover leaves more room for new faces in RVA to come up.

Anonymous said...

In the midst of all the related discussion, here's to wishing the ladies (and all others involved, of course) behind "Shirley Valentine" all the best as they open at Hanover Tavern this week.

With director Amy Berlin at the helm off-stage, and JB Steinberg at the helm on-stage...this is sure to be one of the summer's most rewarding productions.

These two "grand dames" of the Richmond theatre have never failed to deliver the goods, and this will be no exception. Let's hear it for Girl Power in the arts, locally and otherwise. ;)

Check out the show, and support two of the area's most dedicated artists. Best wishes to all!

joepabst said...

I have to chime in here. (You knew I would sooner or later...)

So much to agree with, I hardly know where to start.

1. Amen, Debra! Vent to your friends, not to the world.

2. Anonymous posting can provide freedom to express oneself openly & honestly. The problem is, some use that anonymity as a cloak to hide behind while they launch hurtful and downright vicious attacks. If you are protecting your identity in order to speak truth, to dissent, to express an unpopular opinion, I say go for it. If you are only interested in being mean... I have to ask, why waste the energy?

3. I agree with Jennifer on the view from both sides of the table. It's quite eye-opening. As a director, I want everyone to do well, to go away feeling that they gave a solid audition. And I end up wanting to cast everyone as well! (I also want world peace, a commitment to renewable energy sources, and votes for a candidate’s ideas rather than the “R” or “D” after his/her name. Oh well...)

As an actor, I learned something a long time ago that has served me well ever since. I thought I gave a great audition for a role, one that I’ve always wanted to play. The director read me over and over, and I thought I was a shoe-in. I was sorely disappointed when another actor was cast. But then I told myself something that has stayed with me throughout my career.

“Whether I got cast or not, at least this time – this one time – I got to perform that role. And I was good!”

It’s an approach I often continue to use in auditions. I tell myself, whether or not I get the part, at least I have this one chance to perform it! It won’t be in front of a sold-out crowd; it may only be for the director (and the 20 other hungry actors in the room who all hope I fall on my face). But I may not get another chance at it, so I’ve got to give it everything I’ve got! I usually end up feeling really good after the audition, having just had my shot at the role.

And here’s a strange audition story for you: I auditioned for the role of Boolie in “Driving Miss Daisy”, and ended up getting the Director’s job instead. Now that’s what I call one heck of an audition!! :-)

Frank Creasy said...

Well, 13 comments...now that just won't do for a bunch of superstitious theatre types, will it? Even though the dead horse has been thoroughly beaten!

Okay, I wasn't at "that audition", but I've got a pretty good sense of the whole scenario. I think all actors have felt a bit of injustice - perhaps even outrage - when it seems the deck has been stacked against them, whether fair or not. But then again, it's disingenuous of us to pretend we'd call "foul" if we were the ones handed the loaded dice (yes, I DID recently see "Guys and Dolls"!) I mean, REALLY...most of us have had a "wink-wink, nudge-nudge, know what I mean" conversation at some point with a casting director or someone connected to them letting us know we're in like Flynn. And we've seen evidence of same when we've auditioned well but turned up odd man (or woman) out.

I've read well and been cast, and other times bypassed (many, many, MANY times). I've been offered a role, only to have to turn it down...then see another actor play the role (don't ya HATE that?) I've been offered roles when I KNOW very well I'm second (or third) choice. Didn't matter...when the curtain rose, I was the MAN (now borrowing quotes from "Twelfth Night"!)

It's often unfair, that's a given. I do trust that no matter how they go about it, though, directors casting a show have one thing in common: They want a GREAT production. I can control exactly one thing: How well I audition. To that end, I try to both read well and have FUN at the same time (all while appearing completely relaxed - HAH!), and ready to turn on a dime and take direction, often completely abandoning my choices in favor of some ridiculous idea of the director's. But hey, HE (or SHE) is the director, not me, and if they want me to go with a stupid choice - I'll do the best reading of the stupid choice I can possibly muster. And have FUN doing it, because while I'm serious about it, I'm also there to PLAY. Seriously PLAY. If that's not enough to win the role - hey, there's another audition coming along soon enough, and good luck to that director. Besides, if I read really well but didn't get cast...doesn't mean they won't remember me for another production, right? (Isn't that how Dustin Hoffman got "The Graduate"?)

Okay. Number 14. Irrelevant, perhaps - but not unlucky! ;>)

Haley and Cameron Roberts said...

I do think there is a lot to be said for all comments made, and I mostly agree with Debra, keep the mean comments to yourself, and keep pushing forward and your time will come. That being said I do think like every other town in the world, the same people do get cast all the time. Now we could argue about the reasons but the fact of the matter is Richmond can be that way. I am not bitter, I have been extremely blessed to be in shows like Urinetown and Little Shop but I know when I go to audition a swift creek Audra and Brett (both of which i think are EXTREMELY TALENTed and a BLAST to work with)will more than likely be cast as a larger role. Why? because they are talented fun and look at the tracked reccord. It is what it is. My advise would be that if you feel certain theatres play favorites whether justly or unjustly and it bothers you don't audition for them. Richmond is blessed with many different theatres to work in... however...if you give up on the mill because you can't be the lead... you will miss out working with awesome Tom and Paul

Haley and Cameron Roberts said...

Oh one more thing I thought about this morning is how I would guess it is true that directors usually have someone in mind for the roles when they hold auditions. When they go to pick their seasons, I would think they would have to make sure they had someone who could pull off the role if not several someones. If they didn't do that...what a potential nightmare and a huge risk to take.
It would be kinda fun to read an interview with a director (maybe on the blog...) and get their take on it and how they go about casting...Maybe they can share an actual experience...one unrelated to richmond so no ones feelings get hurt... I would find that very interesting.

Angelika HausFrauSki said...

Regarding what Haley said about directors having someone in mind...

It's so true that directors think about who they could see cast in the shows they want to do before/while choosing a season. It would be foolish not to, when you look at it from a business perspective. And professional theatre is a BUSINESS, kids!

That being said, I find it a thoroughly delicious challenge to go into an audish knowing full well that the director could have someone in mind who's not me and then giving them every reason to change their mind. :)

Aspire to greatness, believe in your product, and keep showing up. It will come to you. People have favorites in markets all over the country, and it's your job to shake that up and carve out your own niche so that YOU become they one they call on when they need someone they know will rock it out.

That's what it's all about, man.





God, I love my job.

Anonymous said...

I have really enjoyed reading all of these posts on a subject that frequently comes up in my area. I'm not a Richmond theater person; I'm a director of theater in the Hampton Roads area, but we have the same issue come up time and time again. From my perspective, I have been burned too many times by casting people that I have never worked with before. I've cast "unknowns" who, once they were cast, came up with a ton of conflicts that weren't there before. I've cast people who had a heck of a time learning lines, blocking or choreography, thus making me regret casting them. I've been hit with unbelievably large egos and attitudes that I never saw coming, and have even been left high and dry by casting an unkown that quit the show. So, as a director, I offer to direct shows that I know I can cast with reliable and competent performers.

All of you are great...have seen more Richmond shows than Hampton Roads shows these year....wish I lived closer!

Your friend from Hampton Roads!

taylor b said...

wow i love coming onto a thread 'after the fact' and having no clue whats going on, lol. (so naturally, i must offer my two cents)

sheesh. casting is a two way street and i think there are lots of sucky things on both sides. as much as it sucks to get told 'no' its got to suck equally, if not worse, to tell people that you like and have worked with before 'no.' i do not envy the people that make those decisions.