Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Look at me! Look at me!

Yesterday I had an audition at the Jekyll & Hyde Club in Manhattan. When I was living in Pennsylvania and came up to visit friends here in the city, they took us there to eat. I'd never heard of it before, and it was a blast. Even now when I mention it, I am surprised at how many people haven't heard of it. Don't be fooled. The website almost makes it look like a haunted house attraction like every other scary website you see at Halloween time. It's so much more than that.

If you've been to the Adventurer's Club on Pleasure Island at Disneyworld, then you will be familiar with the concept. The Jekyll & Hyde Club is a 4-story restaurant that, legend has it, was opened by the infamous Dr. Jekyll as a place for him and his friends to gather and share their adventures. In fact, your meal will often be interrupted by the appearance of some of Dr. Jekyll's more noted friends and acquaintances.

The club was holding auditions for improv actors, who spend much of their time lingering with the patrons, doing shows, and also working the animatronic puppets scattered all over the place. The concept is actually very similar to what I am already doing with Accomplice NY. I would be given a back story and a few bits of information to pass along, but most of the time is spent riffing and improvising with the diners.

I got there and the front door was locked. Hm. The guy on the phone didn't say what to do in that case. There was a guy hanging out in front of the building who told me he thought the side entrance was opened. I thought he was there for the audition as well, but it turns out he was just a guy hanging out. I made my way downstairs toward the kitchen area and saw some stairs that looked like they headed up into the main lounge. Can I just tell you how creepy it is to be walking through a place that has been designed to look creepy and you have no idea where you're supposed to go and it's totally quiet and deserted? I would be lying if I said a few chills didn't tickle my spine. And on Halloween no less.

I eventually made it up to the main floor and found the rest of them there in the dining area in front of the stage. There were about 15 or so people at the audition. Apparently the director of entertainment received more than 300 headshots from people who wanted to audition and he had it narrowed down to our group and another group of about 20 that is auditioning Thursday morning. He said he's looking to hire about 7 or 8 people.

We started out by doing a simple improv exercise and then played a game of "Freeze Tag." It was a little weird. Kind of like when you're playing volleyball and you realize that most of the people on your team don't really know how to play volleyball, and you end up getting slaughtered by the other team. I'm not trying to sound pompous, those of you who know me know that's really not my style, and there were some people there who were really good and made me laugh. But it was my suspicion that not everyone was as adept at improv as they may have indicated on their resume ("Hey, I took a class once, so sure I can do improv just as good as anyone else!" If you're new to improv and have indeed taken a class, you know it takes a bit of time to really get it down and be able to make the rest of the team look good).

When I auditioned for the National Comedy Theatre, the founder and Guy in Charge Gary said it best. As an actor, when you go to an audition your natural inclination is to want to get up on stage as much as possible and show off all of the crazy characters you can do and prove how funny you are. But that's not what improv is about. It's about making the whole bit work and giving the other people up there a chance to shine as well. So, as you can see, the concept of improv at an audition is an interesting dichotomy. The best way to look good is to make others look good. And sometimes the best thing to do is realize you shouldn't enter the scene at all. If a new character isn't called for, then hang back and wait for your chance, not unlike jumping rope Double Dutch style (like I've ever done that).

I realize this blog has taken a weird turn and has suddenly become a lesson on improv, but I'm just trying to explain that it's hard to have a good improv audition if the person you're up there with isn't right there with you. If I go to a basketball tryout, the 4 other schmucks who get stuck with me on their team are going to look bad because I don't know what the heck I am doing and it'll throw a monkey wrench into the whole thing.

So, I guess it's needless to say, I'm not sure how well the audition went. Maybe I'm making excuses, but that's not my intent. You know, I'm just saying. After doing a few rounds of Freeze Tag I wasn't feeling on top of the world.

Thankfully, the next phase of the audition had us go onto the stage individually where we commenced with "10 characters in a minute." You basically get up there and start doing a character. As soon as they got an idea as to the character you were doing, their traits, et cetera, they would yell CHANGE and you had to start doing a totally different character. The object was to see how many different characters you could create in a minute; the goal was to try to get to 10. I got six (most of us got 5 or 6...there were two people that got in 7). It was a lot tougher than I expected...even if you go up there with characters planned out that you want to do, when you're up there doing one of them, the others all magically escape out the back door. It was a fun exercise, though. My first time doing that one.

The final phase of the audition was character voices, and I was glad they had saved that for last, because I was feeling really confident (and those who know my radio background will understand why I was ready to get it on: I love doing voices!!).

We had to do read some lines as a Wolfman Jack-type voice, Peter Lorre, a guy from Jersey, and a crazy clown. I had a lot of fun doing those and think it went well.

So who knows. I felt like I killed at the voices and did pretty good with the characters (got some good laughs), but the improv is the main part of the job and that didn't go so well for me (or at least I didn't feel like it did...maybe that's just me. I was second-guessing my audition at the National Comedy Theatre as well, and here I am). They are having callbacks on Monday morning and then they will have a second round of callbacks from there. I'd like to at least make it to the first round of callbacks but again, who knows. I did what I did and that's about all I can do.

If I sounded at all egotistical in this post, that wasn't my intention, and I apologize. But if I still came across as a know-it-all, feel free to call me out on it. Gotta keep myself in check, right?

I am thinking, since the other audition is Thursday morning, that maybe I'll hear something on Friday about the Monday callbacks. I'll let you know. And, if Monday comes and goes and I haven't posted anything about getting called back, then we all know what that means, too.

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