Chapter 03: Act-ditioning

Let go! Dammit, let go for once in your life!

Do not be alarmed, I am acting. Do you see? And so you know. But others may not know until they see. That is why there are auditions. However, to audition is to acquiesce to fail. When you know the role is yours before you set foot in the room, you have graduated to act-ditioning.

First, what are you wearing? That is, at the act-dition. I always dress formally, but not so formally that I look formal. Your formality should be invisible yet apparent. In a sense, it is not you who is dressing formally, but your acting that is dressing formally. Do that, and you are one step closer to act-ditioning.

Second, a headshot and resume are required at most auditions, but since we are act-ditioning, I propose a new method: Do NOT bring a headshot and resume. Remember, we are letting the Acting dress ourselves, so shall it be our headshot and resume as well. Besides, everyone lies on their resume. I once saw someone do it.

Third, walk into the room with confidence. Act-ditionees will have no problem with this, whereas auditionees will have difficulty remembering their names. If you believe yourself to be an act-ditionee but can’t seem to conjure the confidence, put a metal plate in your pants. Trade secret.

Now, the main event of the act-dition is the acting. And therein lies our challenge. If these people have not seen you before, you will need to prepare a monologue to recite before them. You will be alone, a killer. You will need to wear your game hen face. And you must be memorized. Yes, so much goes into acting that sometimes we forget to remember. And we must remember it all.

But sometimes we are called in to read a scene instead. Consider the following open scene:

A: I am sad.

B: I am also sad.

A: We cannot both be sad.

B: And yet, here we are.

A: Both of us…

B: Alone.

A: No, we are not alone. But sad.

B: Sad and alone.

What can we glean from this short scene? Let us use the Science of Deduction: We know there are two people, but do we know they are people? Could they be other creatures? Is the dialogue communicated in another way, perhaps? In this case, we know the lines will be spoken aloud, so we can deduce they are communicating via spoken language discernable to English speakers. That rules out mammals that are not humans, but what about robots? Well, we know that robots do not feel, so how could they feel sad? Therefore, we know that both of the characters in this scene are indeed humans!

How can we use this information in our act-dition? For starters, we know that the panel of professionals – be they directors, casting agents, or nobodies – will also be human, so they will understand the emotions inherent in the scene. Use that! Be human. Celebrate the human. That is acting.

You will need a scene partner, or, in my case, a reader who has been hired by the company to assess which role I should play. Adding another performer into the mix can be downright distracting, but do not let it throw off your act-dition. And remember that your scene partner was, at one point, part of the Chorus with you in the before-life of acting. You were teammates. So don’t let them pull you back into the Chorus. This is your game hen moment.

SHERLOCK: An Act-dition Story

Before I played Sherlock for the BBC and completely ruled it like a king, I modestly recall the story of my act-dition for the role. I remember it was a Saturday because I was recording myself performing every major Shakespearean monologue from memory into my iPhone, when I suddenly got a pang, and I knew that somewhere, something incredible was about to happen to me. I put down my iPhone, picked up my Android (my professional line), and headed for the gym. I worked out for 7 hours non-stop, then popped round Densleton’s to buy four new suits, two of which were purchased merely for ego. You see, I was pre-preparing for my act-dition in order to gain whatever role it was that I would get. I was confident, wardrobed, and ready. I had already watched 10 hours of Hawking, a BBC series in which I played Stephen Hawking, when my Android buzzed. About time. It was Steven Moffat, Sherlock’s co-creator, informing me that I had already won the title role. I told him angrily that I would think about it but not to call me again. I watched the rest of Hawking, moved by my performance. Three days later, I realized I forgot to call Mr. Moffat back, so I texted him the word ‘sure’ and the part was mine.

All of this was due to sheer confidence. I didn’t even go in and read. I had won a role simply by knowing I had won it. That is the power of the act-dition.