The Long-Delated Audition Post (Part 2)
In 2023, The Knack Theatre is producing “The Jasmine Suite” by Michael Olsen. For transparency, education, and mostly entertainment, the director is keeping a diary of all the excitement, pain, and embarrassment that goes on behind the scenes. Join our mailing list to follow along, as well as find out what other exciting shows lie ahead.
So Why Them?
Previously I discussed the weird, frustrating, and ultimately highly successful audition process for The Jasmine Suite. I do want to take a chance to explain why we ended up with the two brilliant actors, both to help some actors know how they might improve and also to help some actors realise that they didn’t need to improve anything.
For my audition process, I had those interested in playing Richard read a monologue from “Love” by Patricia Cornelius. This is a powerhouse monologue, but I was most interested in an actor who could create meaning that goes a little against the grain of the words. Richard is in love with someone he thinks is wrong about how they look at the world.
What set apart the great actors from the merely good was the ability to say, “You’re a slag, an old rag,” with zero venom in their voice. Many of the actors we auditioned were able to pull this off.
Kathryn is a woman who goes through a considerable arc during The Jasmine Suite, and I didn’t want to put the actors through too long a process. So I concentrated on one of the most challenging sections of the play - one in which Kathryn is severely hurt but trying to push forward. She is trying to hide her vulnerabilities and put forward an optimistic view.
For auditions, I intentionally picked a well-known Chekhovian monologue and asked for it to be played with a hidden context. It is the story of a woman in love with a man, but can it be played by someone who is far from in love, someone who is in pain?
I found it a little amusing that almost every actor made an almost cliched choice of representing their gut shot by holding their side as they gave their monologue. Yet, so many didn’t think about how that same pain might show on their face in fleeting moments or what that pain might do to how they walked. My short-list all treated the pain with their entire body, one even making the bold choice to avoid touching that area as much as possible (as if to hide the reality).
I mentioned this in the previous blog, but it is a big one and worth repeating. We were auditioning for theatre. That means movement. Unfortunately, too many actors had “cement feet” during the audition process, and some were just as uncomfortable using their arms and hands. This is a big red flag for a theatrical director. The short-list of actors, however, used the stage creatively, with one showing a mature understanding of it as a three-dimensional space. Even the actor who decided to sit for their monologue still provided a quite dynamic performance.
An Unfortunate Reality
This will be hard for some to read, but in the end, part of my decision came from something no actor can control - my original vision of the characters. When picturing Kathryn and Richard, I already had images in my mind. What my perfect actors might look like, with everything from height differences to hair colour and preferred appearance of age. Sometimes, it comes down to the imagined chemistry between two actors.
One of the most challenging decisions I faced was choosing between two actors who would have both been perfect for the role, but one more naturally fit that original vision while the other would require some minor re-interpretations.
Sometimes, you can be just as good an actor as the one who ended up on stage, and something completely unrelated is what made the difference. I encourage all actors reading this to be confident - if you gave your absolute best and still didn’t get a role, it doesn’t necessarily mean your best wasn’t good enough.