Audition for community theatre or choir — again.
My wife didn’t approve my attempt at being an actor. She claimed it wasn’t good enough to mumble into a camera without anyone hearing, it didn’t matter if I put it on my blog afterwards, it just wasn’t enough of a challenge. So she found me a new one. An audition at Copenhagen Theatre Circle.
I have never been at an audition before. I have never tried to be part of a theatre group or choir which needed something else from me than wanting to be part of it. When I was a teacher, I played the main character in Peer Gynt once, but only because no-one else wanted to. All the other roles were played by pupils. 7-8 years ago I was an extra in a few TV commercials, but as far as I know, I could not be seen in the final cut. Once, I went to the Faeroe islands with Norsk Målungdom, and sang one song as part of a small choir the last night, when everyone had to perform something. (It wasn’t pretty.)
In short, no-one has ever judged my abilities as an actor before. Until yesterday.
I went there with my wife. She really wanted to see me make a fool of myself, I suppose (as well as do something else than just sit at home and wait for the baby to come). She sat down on a sofa while I and all the others got some lines from the piece. We were told to pair up with someone — I paired up with Kevin. Kevin and I read the few lines we had been given, over and over, untill we felt we knew them and we started talking about anything else. He turned out to be Cameroonian, so we started talking in French instead (I couldn’t say much, but it was fun anyway) while we waited for our turn.
After half an hour, my wife left. The auditions weren’t open: the director sat in a separate rom and the actors went in two and two, it wasn’t a big stage, it was in a school, and it didn’t seem like he wanted an audience. So my wife put on her jacket and went out the door, assuring me that it wasn’t a problem, she would manage to walk all the way back just fine, she wouldn’t plop one out in the street. Really.
Ten minutes later, it was our turn. Kevin walked in first, and I closed the door behind us and couldn’t help grinning the grin of someone who is nervous without accepting his nervousness. I didn’t think I was good enough, I knew I wasn’t an actor, not on the same level as the others here, I didn’t have time for this play anyway (rehearsals 3-4 time as week, and up to 7 times a week leading up the premiere), I had nothing to lose. I could just have fun. And yet there I was, sitting down in front of the director, feeling just as nervous as if this had been an oral exam. Even more nervous than I have been at any of my oral exams: they were about spewing facts. This, however, was about showing off a skill. For some reason, that is much worse.
Actors often claim to be shy, which seems to be a bad thing to be for an actor. But it often works the other way round: being shy is not wanting to show who you are, not wanting to be judged on basis of your personality. As an actor, you are not yourself, you are whichever character you play. How you behave, how you use you hands, how you talk, is suddenly transformed from something too revealing into something planned. When I am myself, I often don’t know where to put my hands (if I don’t have pockets, that is; I love pockets) — when I pretend to be someone else, my hands have a job to do, to mimic this person’s hands.
But to get to this level, you need to know how to act. And I don’t.
I read through my lines with Kevin. We read OK, I suppose, but we, at least I, didn’t act. As the father in the play, I lowered my voice half an octave (or something), but I didn’t become that father, I wasn’t someone else, I was still Jostein reading some words from a play.
That’s enough, the director said. I’ve heard enough. You may go.
Do you want us to wait outside, to read another part later?
No, there are lots of people waiting. It’s fine. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.
And that was all. Kevin walked out the door first, I went after him, not smirking anymore, we passed other hopefuls in the hall, we put on our jackets, said something about the director being very strict, and walked out into the night.
I was quite sure I would be one of the six people who will get to play in this piece. I had this sneaking feeling that there was a real possibility that they would call me and ask me, perhaps even beg me, to be part of the production, but that feeling vanished and I sit here with a wounded actor ego and try to think of reasons why they wouldn’t want me that has got nothing to do with my acting abilities.
You see, I am an actor too, I just need to find my role. I am a method actor, and I have never tried anything else than the role of myself, and so even if my repertoire is a bit narrow, it doesn’t mean I’m not a great actor. I mean, no-one plays me better than I do.
Too bad there are very few theatres where I am a character.
Hundred meters from home, I caught up with my wife. She was walking slowly. Something yet, I asked.
Nothing yet, she replied. He’s biding his time.
We walked slowly back to our house, the one place where I am the director, a main character, the producer — and where there are no auditions.