Monday, April 11, 2011

Getting Your Hopes Up

The first "Godot" review is in. Haven't seen anything on "The Bluest Eye" yet. I'm curious to read more reactions to both of these productions.

I have a lot of admiration for people who do theater. One of the reasons I enjoy writing theater criticism is because I find the talents of those involved so fascinating, particularly those of the actors. And I’m not just talking about singing, dancing and performing in general, but the whole process, from training to auditioning to rehearsing to closing.

A couple of years ago, I wrote about the emotional toll that a particular show closing had on me, a production I was only tangentially involved in. Lately, I’ve had a taste of one of the other ridiculously stressful processes that an actor goes through. My editors at Style nominated me for a Virginia Press Association award this year in the Critical Writing category. The process felt a lot like an audition. I knew that my work was being reviewed by a judge or panel of judges; that choosing my work to award could be based on all sorts of intangible factors that I couldn’t really control; and that, in the end, I’d have little real insight into why or why not I was chosen for an award.

As it turned out, I won a 3rd place recognition, which is fine. But there were many times in the past few weeks that, thinking about possibly winning the category, I had that “god, I hope I get it" feeling that must vex actors to no end. Frankly, I don’t know how they cope.

I’ve had some second-hand experience with this, too. Over the past year or two, my energetic eldest son has had dozens of auditions. He’s had a good deal of success and I can’t argue with that. But there have been a couple dozen or so movie or TV projects that he’s tried out for that, in my obviously biased eye, he seemed like he would have been perfect for. And I’ve indulged in thoughts of: imagine if he lands this one! And as the weeks went by with no follow-up from the casting folks, that little spark of hope faded. And, if I’m being honest, there were times that spark was pretty big and when it faded, it shrunk down to a bitter little pill.

Again, this was just my second-hand experience. I can’t imagine how actors themselves who do this regularly make it through it. There must be some complicated psychological coping mechanisms involved. If I personally had to go through the process more often, I think I would drink a lot more beer.


Jennifer Frank said...

Congratulations on your Virginia Press Award, and thank you for your empathy. I think it would be interesting to hear from readers about their coping mechanisms, or lack thereof on this issue. I was working on chiming in, but it's a little much - I've saved it in case I want to edit it tomorrow.

As for Godot, don't wait, go see it for some incredible physical performances!

Bill Brock said...

Hey, Dave-- Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that auditions and casting is a very strange process. I've always had the attitude that once the audition is over, I simply forget about it and move on. If the phone rings, great! If not, no big deal for there will be others coming up. Plus, I've always considered acting a business venture-- Just paid to do the job at hand. When you consider that type of mindset, it makes everything so much easier.

Frank Creasy said...

Dave - now you know why I drink a lot of beer! ;>)

Congrats on your award, well deserved!

Susie said...

Congrats on the recognition! Well deserved!

Andrew Hamm said...

As long as it's good beer.

A lot about the performing arts is like being a cornerback. Sometimes you get the big play, sometimes you don't, and you have to have a very short memory about the failures or you'll sabotage your successes.

And congrats!

Unknown said...

Congrats on the award, Dave. I would echo some of the comments about coping with "rejection." Though I strive to leave the audition behind, I do, sometimes "what-if" and over-analyze. So often, casting directors don't really know what thy want, and can't articulate it well enough to let you work toward it. Also, casting decisions are made for many reasons over which you have no control. Audition, forget about it, Next audition....Oh, and a beer or 2 every now and again doesn't hurt either..