What does it take to be an actor in an industry town?
There are volumes on what it means to be creative. Let me add two more metaphors to the canon.
To be an actor means to play in your own sandbox, on cue, under pressure, in front of a bunch of people who need to be reminded of their own, often misplaced sandboxes.
Buried by production, time, and personal pressures, the people sitting in many audition rooms usually look like they’ve just swallowed a half-pound of toxic waste. The air in the room can be stale with tension.
The paradox of the actor is to make a prepared moment seem fresh and spontaneous, lived for the first time. This special skill is complicated by yet another paradox—that the actor is being asked to do this in an atmosphere that is infused with corporate and production pressures.
How does a professional actor respond to these factors and remain loose and open to his own creative impulses?
Here comes the second metaphor: Be the host of the party, rather than the guest.
A guest at a party generally needs to ask his/her host for permission to dance, to turn on music, to pop the cork on the champagne, etc.. The host, on the other hand, sets the tone. If his arriving guest is a bit low, the host’s job is to leaven his mood with good company, food, a cocktail. The host sets the tone in the room.
Many actors walk into auditions and inhale the air that is in the room. A surprising number of them even presume that the mood has been caused by their arrival. Their narcissism, out of control, turns against them.
But there is liberation in the knowledge that the producers, directors, and casting directors have larger concerns than you at this moment. It can free the actor to enter the room with a simple assignment: I’m going to make your day. I’m going to solve your problem. I’m going to remind you why you guys didn’t become bankers. I’m going to locate your lost sandbox.
Be the host of the party. Ask the casting people how their day is going. You could even ask them if they need anything. They most likely will refuse your offer, but they’ll appreciate that you asked.
Change the air in the room when you sense it needs an infusion of playfulness and creativity. You’re there to play in your sandbox.