This is me and Michael Kostroff, who is an actor/singer with many credits under his belt (both on stage and screen). However, he stresses that he is not any more talented than anyone else – he attributes his career to the psychology he applies to his auditioning process. Yesterday, I went to a free seminar he held at Actor’s Equity (the first one he’s done in New York, although he originated his career in New York and has been in Los Angeles for 18 years). This is/was a great seminar – he opens with the fact that he is incredibly qualified to talk about auditioning because he himself was the worst audition-er ever in the history of auditioning, and merely improved upon this to get work over the years. It also helps that he’s charming and funny, but that’s beyond the point.
I won’t go into everything he said (although email me if you want copies of the mp3’s of the seminar and a word doc of my notes if you want to read them – he did this seminar for free because he loves his fellow actors and would only want his advice to be seeded into the world.) However, for the family, friends and co-workers/acting peers in my life, I’m going to state the following regarding my new attitude about acting/auditioning, as well as a change that will be made in the content of my blog:
- Being talented or having great auditions does not mean an actor will necessarily be cast for a role. Plus, when it comes to the odds of getting a job, the math SUUUUCKS. Don’t ask me “Oh why aren’t you getting any work? You’re so talented!” There are too many factors for anyone to pinpoint why someone gets hired over another. Just support me and say “I hope you are having fun at your auditions.” Because that’s the only thing I have control of – having fun at auditions. Don’t ask me “whatever happened to the callback you had for such-and-such show? Didn’t they like you?” I’m liable to hang up on you or find an excuse to leave the room. Just wish me well…that’s it.
- Thus, I’ll tell you when I book something. If I don’t say anything, just assume all is going well for me and that I’m enjoying the process. If anything, encourage me to continue auditioning and growing creatively.
- Don’t describe me to your friends and co-workers as a “starving” or “struggling” actress in New York. I’m not starving. I’m not struggling at all in this biz – in fact, I’m relishing in the fact that I’m able to audition and meet talented, creative people here. I’m having fun! No struggle! (I’m claiming my dignity, here, if you haven’t noticed already…)
- I will discontinue describing “how things went” in auditions in my blog. And please don’t ask me about them, either. First of all, each experience is open to interpretation. So, a Casting Director who looks bored might actually be incredibly entranced in me, or vice-versa. I have no right to “write his story” through my own judgment, since I might be completely wrong on the matter. Secondly, who knows who reads this blog – I might give someone the wrong impression of me or worse, insult someone who might be a potential creative collaborator. I don’t want to do that; I’d rather insult them later, once I’ve made them into a friend 🙂
- I don’t want anyone to tell me or tell anyone else “your life as an actor must be sooooo difficult, what a hard life you have.” It’s difficult when I treat it as such or accept your statement as remotely true. An acting career is wonderful and fulfilling if I treat it like the wonderful, wild, crazy journey of discovery that it is.
- To reiterate, I’m not going to an audition to get a job (since that is completely out of my hands). I’m going to auditions for (as Tyne Daly put it) “the chance to act on a Tuesday,” the wonderful chance to play a role or sing a song (with a free accompanist!) for a room full of strangers – my own private audience – for 3 minutes at a time. The ultimate choice of going into an audition to have fun is the only option I have and frankly I enjoy the fact that the rest is up to the producing team.
If I seem as though I’m laying down a few rules/a few laws…ya got it! This is not to chastise anyone who might have said some things in the past, but to inform readers that there is a way to communicate with me about my craft in a way that does not insult it. Try it, and maybe apply it to aspects of your own life – it may work!
A few closing quotes that Michael was cool enough to give us:
Perhaps one has difficulty getting a credit card–but that’s not that kind of dignity that I’m talking about.
Each and every person that has ever attending any theatrical or movie adventure…has gotten some kind of information that they’ve been able to apply to their lives…And the actor is the source of that.
And therefore, when an actor goes on an interview, he doesn’t have to be a beggar…saying “I’ve got to have this,” no matter how broke he is. He must be willing to be himself at that interview: Not to fake, not to pretend, and not to try to sell a big thing, but to be himself, and to come with a certain dignity, and not to be talked out of that dignity…
…If the actor handles himself with dignity, and with presence…he cannot lose, because if it’s not this thing, then it will be something else…You have got to win — you cannot lose if you come that way.”
“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; not how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is ever pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”
What happens to actors is that they are treated as talking pieces of meat, with have no other privilege than to act…And the fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of actors are smarter than the overwhelming majority of the people who are interviewing.
So what happens is, after a while, you’re being talked to as if you’re not there. You’re just the body sitting in the chair. you have to say, “Excuse me. I’d rather not do this job if this is what I have to go through.’
And there’s a very specific reason why you do that. It’s not just because you want to be a bad guy or a rebel. But very simply: An actor’s instrument is himself. And the more you give away…the less you have as an actor. Because your soul, your body, is your instrument.
So you have to always take the risk…You are not giving yourself away, you are not letting yourself be abused, and you are protecting what you have…
…It doesn’t make sense to be humble and to be begging and pleading, because that means you are hurting your own work. And eventually, if you do get the part…you are not going to have enough resources to play the role.”
And finally, a plug for Michael’s book – “Letters From Backstage” – written while he was on tour with 2 Broadway tours -” The Producers” and “Les Miserables.”