So as promised on my Facebook page, I am going to attempt to express the “interesting”-ness that was this Robert Wilson audition I had about two weeks ago… But first, quick update… Lombardi has been a really fun show to be a part of. It’s simple, quick, to the point, and I feel it’s been perfect for our market in Smithtown because most of the audience members were actually alive during that time period and the jokes are really resonating with them. Rehearsal for Charlie Brown started last week, which means that I’m now on the train for three hours total EVERY DAY. I’m getting real tired of it, but then I remember that my mom (and thousands of other Northern Virginians) make the trip from Woodbridge and beyond to DC everyday for decades, so then I stop complaining like a whiny actor, hahaha. Last but not least, I get to play Roberto Clemente in the upcoming workshop presentation of a new musical called “21” in November. This job has more potential than even In The Heights did, only because we’ll be presenting the show to new investors in NYC (as opposed to Heights where, yea we were on tour, but noone in NYC could’ve given a crap, lol). As long as I make sure to put my A game out there, it will lead to this being a wonderful marketing opportunity for me. This being my first workshop, I’ll share whatever I’m legally allowed to share to fill everyone in on how this process operates; it’ll be a learning experience for all of us!!
Ok, so this audition…
Robert Wilson is one of the most famous contemporary avant-garde theatre names in the business. He’s been around forever and tested just about every boundary within the definition of American theatre. Just look him up on youtube and you’ll find some very eclectic videos. This audition was for a show called Zinnias, and from the breakdown we received it will be about the life of African-American artist Clementine Hunter. (Breakdown – an information sheet given to the actors so they know what the hell is going on at the audition so the casting directors aren’t getting bombarded with questions during the audition)
The audition for African-American men was to start at Noon. Now, considering Robert Wilson’s history of being very strangely structured, I assumed I should have my butt there about half an hour early, just in case he went out on a tangent and demanded that the audition start early to see who was truly dedicated to the piece!!!… Nope, couldn’t have been more incorrect… The audition ended up starting an hour and 15 minutes late. Why you ask??… Well, because Mr. Wilson looks at things in patterns, he has a very specific order of how people enter the room and do their audition. A girl in the group before us got out of order, therefor throwing off his train of thought and apparently they had to re-do at least some entire portion of the audition… WAY TO GO rando girl, remember kindergarden when the teacher would line you up and you’d have to count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and remember what number you were… she failed that test. My favorite comment from one of the fellas I was waiting with was, “Damn, if I was that girl… I would’ve just excused myself. If we been in there an hour and I’m so lost I forgot where I was supposed to even stand, then it just ain’t my day. Thank you Mr. casting director, thank you Mr. Wilson… I’m just gonna get out of y’alls way.”… I couldn’t have agreed with him more; especially considering they lined us up to go in to the audition room 30 minutes before we ever got in, so we’re all just standing up against the wall doing absolutely nothing.
So then we finally get in to the room. All 30 of us – in a tiny audition room. We line up, and Mr. Wilson directs us to count of our number and then say our name… we have thusly become numbers in his pattern. I think they asked me what my name was probably about 6 or 7 times throughout the audition because I was only being looked at as a number until further notice, lol… First part to the audition. STAND STILL… “pretend you are a beam of light in the Arctic that extends to infinity. You’re body is free, but you’re balancing your bodies desire for tension.” He spoke to us so softly and carefully that i thought he was trying to hypnotize us… Step two. “Walk 3 feet, in 3 minutes”… GO!… This was the funniest one, watching thirty grown men try to decipher how fast that is. Some people took like 7 steps and definitely went like 6 or 7 feet and other people literally made half a step and went like a foot. I have no idea what I looked like, I focused most of my energy on trying to balance myself as I held myself on one leg for like 30 seconds in between steps; pretty tough.
At this point, it was time to sing. The two musical directors were an african-american mother-daughter duo, which was really cool to see. Except, everyone had to sing in front of each other… awkwaaard. These are the people you compete against every day, and you’re forced to put your singing chops on the table in front of every one. My favorite part was how almost every single black person in the room felt it necessary to sing either a negro spiritual or a gospel song… I was bored out of my mind… there’s only so many times anyone desires to hear “Swing Low” or “Jesus is my fortune” or “Wade in the Water” type songs in a row, especially when you’re doing them a cappella and all over the place in the key ranges; just depressing. No joke, after like the tenth one, I started to feel like we were at a slave auction. I know that is an absolutely awful thing to think… but since we were all black men, in a line, in front of a table of, technically, buyers, and singing negro spiritual/gospel – my imagination started to wander and I could see the wooden stage and the auctioneer and the whip cracking after each person sang. Therefor, when it was my turn, I sang Ain’t Too Proud To Beg by The Temptations in defiance of the depressing mood, hahaha.
Fourth.. we had to dance… but it wasn’t actually dancing. This is the hardest thing to describe without physical explanation. It was movement in a non-descript frame of time, with no expressly defined style.
Mr. Wilson would get up and say, “Watch me, and then recreate it.”… He would get in a pose, completely silent, and the casting director would CLAP!
Sudden movement of the arm………………………………………………………………………………….. slowly retracting the arm, while pivoting the feet…… eyes shift to looking up… arms swing around slowly and the finger points to the palm………………………….. finger rockets up to point to the sky, eyes follow it as it slowly retracts….. body turning around with back facing the table……………. sudden look back….. head turns………………………………………………and back to the original position.
Watching a group of people do it looked like the Mr. Gepetto’s Workshop in Pinocchio with a thousand clocks all moving in completely different directions…
Last but not least, we had to cold read. This was by far the easiest part. We all had to read the same three lines of dialogue about what the cotton fields looked like on a hot summer morning (only furthering my slave auction imagination, haha) Some people had great vivid readings, some people had no clue what was going on and just read it straight tone. Sometimes they’d let people read the whole thing, other times the second you opened your mouth, he’d cut you off and say, “thank you.”
The whole experience took about two hours. You, yourself, were only a part of about 15 minutes of it, the rest was just watching. So, when we were done they took us out to the hallway and they called 8 people back in to the room… I was one of them, yaaaaay!!!
But then we get in the room. The musical director sings a tune. I’ve never heard it before in my life. As soon as she’s done singing the tune once, she points to four of us and says, “Harmonize it… GO!”…………… She legitimately wanted us to harmonize the random tune she hummed, on the spot, with no delineation of who was singing which part. So we did it. It sounded like it should, a jumble of different notes somewhere in the realm of harmonization. She asked me to sing my part specifically. I sang it… nope, incorrect, I was singing it too loud and wasn’t blending to the dynamic of the group. Agreed. I definitely did do that. But I thought she wanted me to sing my part because she couldn’t hear what I was singing. Oops, my bad, lol. We did it a couple more times. She would sing a tune, point at a few people and then say GO. Sometimes it sounded AWESOME… sometimes it sounded like some hot poo, haha… Then we had to do the STAND STILL test again, as they all looked us over and made whatever decisions they needed to make and we were finally done.
All in all, definitely one of the most interesting things I’ve ever done.
Hope everyone’s having good day today!!! If not, stay patient and just make it til tomorrow, that’s what I’m doin, lol