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My First Audition

October 25, 2012

In some ways I had been preparing for my first audition for a scripted role for five years. I had taken a bunch of classes, met and networked with many people in the D.C. theater community through those classes and social media, and done a few improv shows on stage. But for the most part, I had no idea what I was doing.

After a career crisis early this year got me seriously thinking about what I wanted to really pursue in the next act of my life, and a three-week trip to southern Africa gave me time away from the buzz of daily Washington life to reflect on what truly mattered to me, I decided to finally give auditioning a try. I work nights and weekends, which I thought might be an impediment, but my twin sons were old enough that I could think about doing something for me again, and I decided it was time.

Being a left-brained chap, it came down to a very rational conclusion: If I did start auditioning, and did not get any parts, I would not be in plays. If I did not start auditioning, I would not be in plays. So auditioning could not leave me worse off, except for possible ego bruises. I also was able to set aside jitters about performing by telling myself that I wasn’t actually going get cast in anything soon, so I could put off confronting that next fear.

While I was in Africa, my improv director sent around an audition notice for a Capital Fringe Festival show. When I got back, I replied, “I’m going to audition for this, because, hey, why not?”

The audition was about a week later. It was a cold reading, with the sides not available in advance, so I did a bit of research about the plays, the director, and the company. I did not have a formal headshot yet, and I did not know what to wear. I went for nice-casual — not sloppy, but not formal — which turned out to be a bit fancier than the sweatshirts and jeans some of the more seasoned auditioners turned up in.

I wasn’t worried about not getting a part — I wasn’t even sure I really wanted one. I just needed to jump in the theatrical water at some point, and this opportunity was as good as any. What I was worried about was having the confidence I’d worked up deflated. Thankfully, the opposite proved true.

I have so far worked entirely in amateur theater. (I  did get a small stipend for one role, so I can technically claim to have acted professionally, but that was an outlier.) One positive thing I’ve discovered about amateur theater is that everybody is there for love of the craft, not to get rich and famous (at least not yet). It doesn’t mean everyone will be pleasant or likable or even decent, but it does lead to a greater sense of nurturing than I expect one might find at a professional audition.

I did not get a part, but I got something better. The director, a veteran of numerous professional and community theater shows, told me, “I would not have guessed this was your first audition.” I was told I comported myself with confidence and professionalism.

I went to my second audition a week later, and my third a few weeks after that. I got parts in both shows.

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