Friday, January 16, 2009

Room Tone

"Quiet on the set!" It's one of the first phrases they teach you in acting school. Before there is sound, speed and a rolling camera, there must first be silence. Not so much the case at auditions.

Typically, the audition process consists of actors sitting or standing in a small room or narrow hallway, side-by-side with their immediate competition. Some are silently mouthing the words to their monologues or pacing the floor feverishly as they study their sides. Acts like these have become common practice and tolerable in the audition setting. But then you have the talkers. The actors who use the waiting room as a social playground for catching up with their long lost thespians.

Jacob Sanchez, a stage actor in New York City, is guilty of being a waiting room chatterbox.

"I'm constantly running into old classmates and other actors I've worked with at auditions and I can't help but to use that opportunity to catch up with them" says Sanchez. "So many times, we change our phone numbers, move away and lose contact with one another. So, when I see an old friend, I want to catch up with them right then and there."

Everyone doesn't appreciate Sanchez's friendly banter. Jasmine Miles, a veteran stage actor, wishes she could give these newbies a lesson in audition etiquette.

"It's God-awful the way some of these kids conduct themselves in the waiting room" complains Miles. "I'm forced to hear about their problems, summer vacations and previous auditions all while I'm trying to prepare for my reading. They have no consideration."

Alana Cass, a casting intern at a mid-level, bi-coastal casting agency in New York City, has seen and heard it all.

"I get complaints from actors everyday who are upset about the noise other actors are making while they are waiting to audition" Cass says. "I try my hardest to accommodate everyone, but that's never easy, and always hard to do."

Once, Cass had to play mediator between two feuding actors. One was fuming because the other showed up to the audition with a crying child in a stroller.

"That was a rough day," recalls Cass. "It was an all-out screaming match. I politely asked the woman with the baby if she could step outside and return back once she quieted down her child. She walked out in a huff and never came back."

Cass understands that "common folk" tend to be fascinated by the whole process. But she suggests actors leave their Aunt Sally visiting from Arkansas at the Starbucks around the corner until they are done with their appointment.

"I always urge my actor-friends to go to their auditions alone," says Cass. "Sometimes the noisemakers are not the actors, but the company they drag along with them."

Cass has even begun to take things into her own hands.

"I got the okay from one of the senior associates to put up a sign that reminds the talent to keep their cell phones on silent and chatter to a minimum," says Cass.

In the meantime, Sanchez has become cognizant of his actions in front of the casting director - and in the waiting room as well.

"I have gotten quite a few ugly looks," recalls Sanchez. "I'm getting better. When I run into old buddies, I whisper for them to meet me down in the lobby so we can talk there."

He'd better, or Miles will certainly teach him a thing or two about manners.

"I'm ready to pluck these twerps upside the head if I have to," quips Miles.


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