Third time’s not a charm.
Today I went to the “La Cage Aux Folles” ECC (Equity Chorus Call) for dancers today. Last September and this past March I made it through all three rounds at this call and got to sing my 16 bars at the end. Here’s a show I feel I’m great for, and that premonition was being acknowledged in my two prior times having been put all the way through to sing.
I was super excited to be able to go back in again today. The tour goes out in September, and I would do anything to get on that band-wagon. But today just didn’t pan out; I was cut after the first ballet combo this time, the simple few eight counts that I had done twice before.
But that’s how it goes. They self-professed to be looking for something VERY specific when it comes to the Cagelles in this version of the show. So as much as I think of myself as Hannah, that doesn’t mean that they see the same thing. That’s just how the cookie crumbles when it comes to this career, this business, this art.
These auditions with Duncan Stewart and Benton Whitley (Southgate Productions) have been amazing. They have an ability to make such a warm and positive environment unlike many others that is so nice to audition within. Even in these large open calls, mixed with Equity and Non-Equity actors, they are truly paying attention to each and everyone of us, giving us our chance, our opportunity to shine. I hope they have more auditions in the future that I will be able to attend. More than anything, they are great guys who have been so nice to me in this brand new chapter I’ve just stepped into.
This past Monday, I had a great opportunity to go in for Lt. Cable for the Non-Equity tour of “South Pacific”. I was fortunate enough to get this appointment through a Middlebury alum who contacted my professor Cheryl, asking if she had any recent graduates who would be interested in auditioning for them. I immediately responded as Lt. Cable has been a dream role for such a long time. I sing his song, “Younger than Springtime” for a lot of my auditions as it sits very well in my voice.
My audition on Monday went really well. I sang 16 bars from “Younger than Springtime” and read some sides from one of his first scenes. I got a lot of great direction from the director about needing to ground myself, feeling the weight through my heels to in turn relax and lower my speaking voice. Aka, be more butch. I did my best, trying to not have my sides shake uncontrollably in my hands as I read. At the end though, they asked me to come back the next day for a callback! The director asked me to really work on the whole grounding sense, which I totally agreed with. I was so excited!
The callback was pretty good. I read the scene into the song, which is difficult in an audition because a lot of how it works is through the direction of the physicality and who moves when to trigger what verbal response. But when I got to sing, I felt great. I almost forgot the trick ending, but quickly got back on the bandwagon and used it the adrenaline rush that came with the realization that i had to keep singing. I really focused on having the weight in my heels throughout the audition and relaxing more than anything.
It went over pretty well I feel, but I have no idea. At this point it’s in their hands. I have a feeling I didn’t get it, but I was proud to get the callback. I was up against three other guys the monitor said, and two out of those three got the same note as I did about “being more butch”, so at least I wasn’t the only one.
This whole notion of “being butch” definitely put me into a funk right after my callback. I had gotten there early to prepare and the whole creative team was in the room, chatting about the people to come. I could hear almost everything as they didn’t close the door.
They come to me...
“He has such a beautiful voice!”
“I wish someone would just shake him and tell him what to do!”
“BUT, he can actually hit the notes...”
So great, I have a pretty voice but I’m too gay to play a macho straight guy. I know I can play those characters, but when it comes to the audition room I’m having difficulty finding and using the tools in which to change my pulled-up dancer body into a lower-weighted butch guy.
“Well, next time when you have to come in for a role like this, maybe you shouldn’t look so put together... When you look all groomed and pristine as well as having nice posture and a fun attitude, generalizations are made. I mean, it’s just how it happens. Judgments and ideas of who you are happen immediately as you walk in the room.” Notes from the 24-year-old monitor...
I was wearing nice khakis that were slightly fitted, a blue button-down, brown belt, my boots, and show specific period-looking hair. It’s not like I came in with a razor tank-top, short-shorts and eye-liner on. But maybe because my pants were tighter I was seen as “gay”, leaving the creative team unable to look past my sexuality while I performed.
Yes, I know I would need to work on my “butch-ness” for the show, and that would come with rehearsal, it always does. But because I may have not been butch enough in the auditions, or because my clothes were too put together, I could have missed out on an amazing opportunity. Gay men can play those parts. I can play those parts. But being who I am can work against me in the audition room. That’s probably why I love performing my cabaret. I can be me in a performance and just let loose however I want to. Personally, I find it sad that when you work with a director in the audition room, and he or she sees that you, the actor, is competent and can take direction (during my first time in, I was doing the scene a second time after receiving some notes, and on the second line in the director goes, “YES! That’s it right there! Start with that!), but the director is still focusing on this fact that you may be too gay to play the role convincingly.
Frankly, it hurts on a different level than the usual one of rejection that we as actors deal with in this business on a regular basis. When it comes down to an aspect of my sexuality possibly interfering with me simply playing the scene, a feeling that I couldn’t perform well enough because of my being gay, I just can’t help but take the rejection a little more personally.
Now, don’t get me wrong, my audition experience with Clemmons and Dewing casting was great! They, like Southgate Productions, made such a wonderful audition space and were so nice and supportive throughout my times in the room with them. They all took the time to make me feel so welcome, wanting me to do well. I was so grateful to even be considered for a call-back and to be in the top four for such a great role.
It’s really time to get an audition workshop under my belt; both Southgate and Clemmons/Dewing do audition workshops, so I’m totally looking into them. Now that I feel I have a positive relationship with each and admire the work they do in the casting world, I would love to continue working with them to get some tips on how to be a better auditioning machine. It’s a skill we didn’t touched on up at Middlebury, so I feel behind when it comes down to it all. Hopefully some of this work will provide me the tools to be more confident in the audition room and not fall into my dancer, super gleeful personality that can pull across the “gay curtain” in front of me.
Unfortunately, that’s where we are now in our world when it comes to gay men in theatre looking to play straight characters. There is a perception that we can’t change. But why don’t straight men go through all of this questioning when asked to play a gay character? I don’t know if this will ever change, but that’s how it will be for now. So if I want to get a job, I have to conform.
I am an actor. I happen to also be a gay man. When it comes to my art, I come and play the scene: find the basic workings of the scene as well as of the character, and play. Yes, I use some of my experiences as a gay man to ground my artistic choices. However, that doesn’t mean that my art all of a sudden becomes gay, that the scene becomes gay. All I do is use the over-arcing lessons learned from my own trials, errors, joys and pains in life to help create the scene, whatever it may be about and whomever it involves. Just play the scene. That’s all I should do.
On a completely different note, the CD my former a cappella group recently finished is now available on iTunes! Be sure to check it out; it’s an awesome CD. I also have a couple solos on there (“I’ll Make Love to You” and “Showdown”).
Follow this link to order it on iTunes! It’s totally worth the $10!
I miss the Bobolinks so much, but I am looking forward to a summer with many of them here in New York City: Hannah, Raina, Gregg, Catherine, Meghan, and Todd! I can’t wait!