The Business of Show Biz: Actor RSVP
Thursday, May 21, 2015
By Velina Brown
Q: I know you mostly answer questions from actors, often about complaints regarding how unfair or poorly they've been treated by a theatre company, casting director or director. Well, I have a question. As a person who runs a small theatre company, I am amazed at the number of times I have sent out email invitations to actors for auditions for a show and how many simply never respond. I don't understand it. I know I don't have a big LORT company, but what is the deal with blowing off audition invitations? When an actor doesn't respond to an audition, I hesitate to invite them again. If an actor's not available or not interested, then they definitely shouldn't waste everyone's time by coming in to audition if they know they aren't going to take the part. But they could at least respond. What's the deal with not even acknowledging the invitation?
A: My first response to your question was, "The deal is, they are rude!" However, upon calmer reflection I remembered that it's generally bad form to lump everyone of a certain characteristic into one group. There could be a variety of reasons why some actors aren't responding to your audition invitation. Here are some possibilities:
Some actors have changed their email addresses and didn't actually receive your announcement. Actors: if you change your address, inform not only family, friends and folks you've worked with, but also folks you'd like to work with so that you reduce the number of missed opportunities.
There's a glitch of some sort. I almost missed out on an opportunity because for some reason the director trying to contact me wasn't able to get through to me via my primary email address. I don't know why. To this day we haven't been able to solve it. So he uses a secondary email address for me or sends me a text message. Fortunately for both of us, he didn't jump to conclusions like I just did and assume I was rude. His casting person just made initial contact via Facebook, and then I was able to offer the alternative email address.
Your invitation looks more like a generic, impersonal announcement. For example, actors signed up with SF Casting often receive several audition announcements per day. These are big email blasts, and the casting folks want actors to respond only if they're applying for the audition; no need to take any action if they're not available for the project. It saves the casting people a lot of time and work to hear only from those who are actually available.
If, on the other hand, you are sure your mailing list is completely up to date, there are no glitches of any kind, you've personalized the invitation by using an email program that allows you to easily include the name of each actor you are inviting in your salutation, you've conveyed in the first line of the email that you are specially requesting to see them and you've asked them to RSVP either way and they still don't respond, then we just might be dealing with a bit of rudeness. Or perhaps they're too much on automatic pilot while scrolling through their email on the go, and if they receive something that they aren't available for, they just delete it without thinking. An actor who does this is sadly forgetting that the email represents more than an audition they can't attend. It represents a person who thought about them and reached out to them. A person who is interested in the possibility of working with them—if not now, then maybe in the future.
In any case, dear director, don't take it personally when some actors don't respond. Actors are constantly told not to take personally all the rejection and lack of communication we frequently experience. I would say the same applies to directors as well. Regardless of what hat we wear in the biz, we all need to do our best to treat each other with courtesy while at the same time refraining from taking others' lack of courtesy personally, because you just never know what's going on. It likely has little to do with whether or not you are a LORT theatre and more to do with what's going on with a given actor at the time.
Therefore, actors, respond to your audition invitations. If the email looks more like a personal invitation than a general announcement for an audition you can't attend, then warmly and sincerely thank them for thinking of you.
And in fairness, theatres, inform actors when casting is completed so that they aren't left hanging indefinitely. Nobody likes to be left wondering, "What's the deal?" Good communication goes both ways.
Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.