Thank You, Next

It’s audition season where I am. Colleges, regional generals, conservatory, etc. It’s an exciting time of digestive distress and dreams crushed underfoot.

It even has a smell, and it’s rarely a pleasant one.

Back when I was auditioning regularly, my searing question was “What are the auditors thinking?”  Just like the number from Chorus Line – how many people does he need? – but also, do they need my type, what sort of material do they like, or hate, and do I stand any chance at all?

But the answer mostly came down to:  “You’ll go batshit trying to figure that out.”

Today, as a coach and director, I can tell you there are many things I was terrified that auditors were thinking about me when I was auditioning — things that now, as an auditor, I’m not thinking at all.

I’m not thinking:

  • Ugh, this song again (or the variant: ugh, this monologue again)

As an actor, I used to search all over to find audition pieces that were unusual. No old chestnuts for me, I thought!   Well, it was a waste of my energy.  A director who’s been in the field for a while can read your skills, whether you’re skating your freestyle or the figure 8’s in your compulsory exercises. If you can totally nail something from the overdone monologues list, it’s like you just served up the best cheeseburger in the world. Okay, so it’s a cheeseburger.  But you NAILED it, right?

Something else I’m not thinking:

  • This fool doesn’t even know he’s out of his league.

One of the crucial virtues for actors and artists is the ability to punch up, that is, to compete above your weight class. So, when someone comes in completely under-prepared for the level of gig at hand, I think “The bawls on this guy!  Good for him.”  I won’t actually hire him, unless there are truly no better options, but I try to be as respectful as possible, because this guy could turn up again later – better, bigger, networked, and he may remember me.

Another thing I’m not thinking:

  • NO one would ever cast this guy.

Oh yeah they would. Time teaches you that. The guy might not make a living as an actor downtown, but there’s someone, someplace, in some tiny theatre in Yelm or wherever, who’s going to be grateful for him. He may actually draw standing ovations for their Christmas production, bringing their budget into the black and saving the theatre from closure. So be respectful.


Now.  Just because I’m not thinking snotty 7th grade mean-girl thoughts about auditioners, that doesn’t mean other auditors aren’t.

I had a student last week come back from a college audition where the auditor had whined, “I only asked for 32 bars, but you sang me the whole song…”   My student had done 28 bars, precisely.

That auditor was a dick.*

Some really are. Some are playing Nero, relishing the thumbs down, because they’re dented inside. Some are marking time, sneaking some Candy Crush, just meeting a union requirement and not really listening at all. And some are normal people, but forgetting to be kind, forgetting that they are the stewards of an entire community.

So this is what I’m thinking now, thoughts not pointed towards the actors and singers, but toward the directors and gatekeepers on the other side of the table:

When we sit as auditors, we do more than cast this show or fill that class roster.  We create the storyline of a whole industry.  Is it humane?  Is it sustainable and healthy?  Is it worth caring about?

Or is it a gladiatorial arena, where we pitch our own citizens into the fire to make us feel warm… for a minute, or two minutes, or 32 bars?


* Either he was a dick, or he can’t count to 32.   Or both.

thumbs down


What’s Wrong With This Picture?

It says “Blessed are the weird people, the poets and misfits, the artists, the writers, and music makers, the dreamers and the outsiders for they force us to see the world differently.”

blessed are the
Wait, were you trying to be nice?  Because I’m not a misfit.

I drive a minivan.  When I pick up my kids from soccer, I’m not an outsider.

I’m not weird for blogging, or writing songs, or performing.

But what I can see clearly from this graphic is that whoever made this oppressive little meme thinks that art-making is “other”.    See where it says THEY force US?  Who’s US?   What kind of sad, sterile world does Us come from?

This graphic isn’t just back-handed.   It’s a freakin’ hot mess of unproductive bias, posing in quaint fonts and biblical sentence construction.

What if I said:

“Blessed are the powerless, the women and the children, the victimized, the weak and suffering, the unheard and unheeded, for they remind us to use power gently, and to listen.”   Who’s the Us, there?   What’s normal there?

Try this one:

“Blessed are the pole dancers, the whores, harlots, and hussies, the girls in high heels, the women who wear lipstick and work that walk, the sluts and showgirls, for they remind the rest of us that life can be fun.”   Who’s the Us, in that one?   And how does that Us think the world works?

Or maybe:

“Blessed are the hillbillies, the farmers, the country folk, the sons of the soil, the rednecks, the field workers, hay balers and fruit pickers, for they toil beneath us and keep us fed.”  Who’s the Us there?

How about this one:

“Blessed are the under-privileged, the black and brown people, the criminals, the drop-outs, for they – “  blah blah blah I don’t even want to hear the rest of whatever you’re saying.

But I bet you meant well.  Right?


I’ll try not to believe that the person who made the “Blessed are the Weird” graphic was turbo-patronizing me as an artist in order to consciously squish me down.

Maybe the graphic-maker just yearns to do something artistic, but doesn’t feel able, because he or she thinks art is only for very special people.  (…those dirty, stinky, weirdos, but nevertheless…)

Let me help with that.

In my workshops we start by saying Art is a Human Birthright.  It’s not something that only a few people do; it’s basic to human nature.  Human groups on isolated islands will invent it without being taught, along with other basic human activities like sex, politics, cuisine, construction, athletics, haircare, spirituality, play, and plenty of other behaviors.

Art is normal.  Like throwing a ball to your dog is normal, yelling at the quarterback is normal, trying out new recipes and building your back deck – all normal.

“Blessed are the people who cook food –”  Because you DON’T ?

Grow up and learn to cook.  Sure, some people do it so well they get paid for it, but cooking is part of being a normal adult, male or female, rich or poor.  I will gladly help you learn, I’ll eat your first attempts and make encouraging yummy yummy noises.  And I’ll try hard not to make you feel bad for having thought it wasn’t your job.

That’s the point: don’t leave these activities for other people to take care of, and certainly don’t justify it with some condescending stereotype that probably derives from rich white guys in the 1800’s.

If you’re human, you’re an artist.   If you’re a misfit, don’t blame art.