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TBA Online: News & Features: February 2012

The Audition, Part 2: A First-Timer's Day at the General Auditions

Wednesday, February 08, 2012   (0 Comments)
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By Julie Antti
Saturday, February 4, 7:15 a.m.: I woke up. Thankfully, I promptly went back to sleep, but unfortunately only until 7:30 a.m. I went back to sleep again, but this time only until 8:15 a.m. As I lay in bed, I assured myself that I was so much more ready that I'd been last week. After all, I'd performed my monologue at lunch for my coworkers in the office, and on Wednesday I'd finally had some direction from a director. The piece felt so much better after that, and after having practiced over and over in front of people, I finally knew the monologue. So I recited it in my head a few times, and tried to include the introduction correctly, which I had been having trouble with. Of course I chose a piece from a play with a difficult title, OY!  I wished my roommate's cat would wander in, as he often does in the morning, so I could pet him and distract myself from freaking out so early in the day. I hopped out of bed and considered calling my friend Stephanie, who wanted to meet me for coffee...but I looked at the clock and reconsidered. I realized it was too early, and she was unlikely to be coherent, much less ready for coffee. I decided to zone out and watch some of the old boob tube. A friend had loaned me the movie "The 1940s House," so I put it on and snuggled back into bed. I watched it for about 45 minutes before I became suddenly restless and anxious and just couldn't sit there any longer. I hopped out of bed again and did my monologue full out. Feeling a bit better, I called Stephanie, who just woke up. We met for coffee, and after what felt like an eternity, we finally sought out breakfast. I knew I needed to eat now, otherwise I might not be able to later. I ordered a yummy omelet, but I suddenly felt sick and couldn't eat. I drank my water and thought about how important the audition was to me. I took some deep breaths and forced myself to eat a bite of the omelet. I drank more water and breathed. I tried to focus on the energy I'd need the rest of the day. I was able to eat another bite, and then another, and eventually half of my breakfast was down my gullet. I couldn't stop looking at the clock. I was so afraid that I would lose track of time and not have time to get ready. Around 12:30 p.m., I couldn't take it anymore; I had to start preparing. I abruptly left my friend, who understood that I might have a nervous breakdown if I didn't go, and headed home. 

Actor Julie Antti. Photo: Martin Cooper

I tried to enjoy the warm sun and the fresh scent of the blooming cherry blossoms. I showered and washed and dried my hair. I was able to calm down a bit after picking my outfit, which was a big deal to me. The piece I'd chosen was pretty physical, so I couldn't wear any of the cute dresses I would have liked. Finally I picked an outfit that was different than what I originally planned; at the dress rehearsal I'd seen how dark everyone looked against the long black curtain backdrop, and I really wanted to be seen against it, especially for the video. So I chose a light blue shirt and grey pants. But when I tried them on, I felt way too stuffy and confined. So, I went with a darker blue shirt that, although dark, made me feel comfortable and sexy, but I still looked professional. I figured it was more important to feel good than look perfect. My makeup looked great, my hair was easy, and I was ready. 

Now I had an hour and a half to kill. I talked to my roommate who gave me tons of encouragement and I practiced my introduction over and over and over and over again. I briefly considered watching more "1940's House," but there was no way my nerves would let me concentrate on it. I posted on Facebook how stupidly nervous I was, and how I couldn't wait for the audition to be over. I was sweating, but felt cold and clammy. Truly I wondered, as I have time and time again, "Why do I do this?" I grabbed my mandolin and headed to my stoop to play some music. I was so surprised at how wonderfully soothing that was. Sitting on the stairs in the warm sun playing mandolin was the perfect thing to redirect my mind and calm me. My neighbors appreciated the music, which made me feel good about performing, at least to some degree. 

I kept looking at the clock every three or four minutes until about 3:00 p.m., when I decided to start my journey to the theatre. I did my monologue one more time, full out, on the stairs in front of my house, with my roommate as my last trial audience before the audition. I grabbed my nifty box of headshots, my purse, water, jacket and hat and strolled confidently to the bus stop. As I walked, my mind shifted to the awareness that I was on my way to an audition, and that I could be on the bus next to another person about to audition, or even someone from a theatre! I owned that sidewalk, and then I owned the bus stop. 

The streets were busy, and I waited. The bus came for the opposite direction and left. After about 15-20 minutes, I couldn't take the wait anymore, and I proceeded directly to my car. I found the theatre – and a parking garage! – quite quickly, and was super relieved to be at the theatre by about 3:50 p.m. I checked in, handed over my headshots and sat down at the top of the stairs. We were directed to sit on only one side of the lobby. I felt so much better just being at the theatre! I had about an hour to wait, but I preferred to sit in the lobby with the other performers than anywhere else. I watched the staff check people in and gather and distribute head shots...while I acted perfectly calm. It was very interesting. 

They called in the 4:15 p.m. group, and when the actors finished, the auditors came out for a break. I recognized the MC, Cassidy, but I stayed in my own little world on the stairs, just observing. I felt safe there and didn't want to move, even to go to the bathroom or say "Hi" to anyone. I imagined what it must be like to be an auditor, what a long day they had. It felt like a long day for me, but I bet it was much more exhausting for them. The auditors finally went back into the room and another group of actors were called in. 

At some point I realized that three other ladies were sitting on the stairs with me. One of them started chatting and we all introduced ourselves. One of them was just there to support her friend and was really confused about what was going on. I almost felt knowledgeable about the whole ordeal, since I was able to explain it all to her! The other two women were in the 4:45 p.m. grouping with me, and it was their first time as well. It seemed like most of the people in the last grouping were new. It was comforting to be surrounded by other newbies! They were all supportive and encouraging – they even helped me with my hair when I had some last-minute doubts. They encouraged me to focus on my breathing, which was so very necessary and helpful. When our group was called, we all quickly stood and were led through what seemed to be a maze, until we were stopped in a hallway. We were given instructions and our order of performing – I was third to last. We went back to the greenroom and put our things down, and I decided it was finally time to venture to the restroom. When I got back everyone was in line to perform, so I hurriedly jumped in. I hadn't realized it before then, but it turned out we were the last group of the day to audition. I could now feel my heart pounding in my stomach, even more than it had at the dress rehearsal I attended. I swear, it felt like it would push its way out of my abdomen with every beat. We waited in the wings and could watch most of the actors going before us. I couldn't see the first few people, but we could hear it when the auditors laughed. I felt some relief when I heard them roar, and I hoped that they would sound like that with me, though I would settle for a good guffaw here and there. My comic monologue hadn't really produced the healthy laughs from my friends that I'd thought it would, nor what I heard from it when I first read the piece. 

Everyone in our group seemed to be doing great--at least everyone I could see. But I really couldn't focus on anyone in front of me; I just wanted to be sure that I didn't forget my lines like I had at the dress rehearsal. Breathe, breathe, breathe!  I reassured myself that I knew my piece. I wanted to have fun and show them what I've got. 

Finally, the woman in front of me exited the stage. The chair was in its place. I waited for the pianist to stand. I put on my warmest smile, chest up, chin up, and walked to center stage. I smiled at the audience, taking them in for a second, and began my intro. I remembered to say everything that I needed to...and began the monologue. 

The first line of my speech: "Whoo!  Shake it out."  I heard a laugh, and found myself sinking into the monologue. I heard another laugh, and another. Man, I couldn't believe this piece that I bombed so badly was going so well! They seemed to laugh at almost every punch line, much more than I expected! I actually forgot to hold for laughing because it'd so rarely happened when I was rehearsing. I finished the piece, said "Thank you," and I meant it. I picked up my earring that had fallen out during the monologue and walked off stage feeling so elated that I could fly. I'd had so much fun. 

And I guess that's why I do this. I definitely didn't expect that reaction, and part of me doubts that it was as good as it felt – but I suppose the video will tell all. After the final two actors performed, we were all led back to the lobby through the house of the theatre. We congratulated each other and grabbed our remaining head shots. I was floating, but I somehow didn't want to leave yet. I wanted to enjoy the happy feeling of success. Unfortunately, I began to feel sick to my stomach. That was really unusual, but I guess it was just too much excitement for one day. 

Julie Antti is a Bay Area performer with a background in gymnastics, dance and comedy, and was recently the star of ShEvil Dead. She also loves playing music with her two bands: Bugs in Costumes and The HoneyBelles.