I get asked many times what makes me decide to try out for a specific show. What pulls me to it?
More often than not, I do so because I find a character to be interesting, and I think they would fit well with my style of acting. Almost as often, it is the play itself, and the story it is telling. I know many actors who would give one of these two answers to the same questions. Some go so far as to say that if you are not in love with the character, or at least the story arc, you should never try out for a production. I do not agree with this, however.
One must not hate a character one plays, that is true. You must not take on a role to which you can offer nothing. Misery and wasted time is sure to follow. But there are many other legitimate main reasons for trying out for any given show.
There is the director. Theatre is an actor’s medium, despite what some directors may insist. However, having to work with the wrong director for 6 to 8 weeks can make it a medium of tedium. Or worse. If you have worked well with a director before, enjoy his or her style, and feel totally at ease with them, and especially if you feel you are given the total freedom you need to explore your character with minimum interference, than audition for a show that director is staging. Even if it is a show you have not heard of, or do not care for as a whole, you may find that through a collaboration with someone you already admire, you will gain a new appreciation of the piece. I have more than once agreed to be part of a show simply because of the director involved, and have never regretted it. In more than one case I did in fact come away with a better opinion of the piece. Synergism and chemistry are a big part of community theatre.
On that same page, wanting to be in a show because of the rest of the cast also has its advantages. It is a bit more difficult to make such a decision, given that casting is usually unknown to everyone until all are informed by the director. There are occasions, though, when some parts are filled before others, and such actors become part of the audition process. Several people read with the already cast actor so the director can mark what sort of chemistry is present. If you already know you possess great on stage presence with someone who had earned a part, (or was pre-cast), by all means try out even for a mediocre show, or a show that doesn’t exactly knock you out. Like auditioning based on the director, the freedom you can find when you are already comfortable with cast mates at the start of a new production is very rewarding, and gives you a leg up.
Finally, I advocate trying out for shows that do not steal your heart when you have the chance to expose yourself to a new company, or theatre. Fair or unfair, companies and theatres tend to be at least somewhat clique oriented. Making yourself known, even in smaller roles, to the audiences and regulars of a theatre in which you have yet to perform is advantageous. So if your schedule allows, trying out for a show that does little for you otherwise, but could expose you to new people, will be of almost certain benefit down the road. (So long as you are fully dedicated if cast.)
Never do something you sense will make you miserable. If a production feels like it will annoy you, or you know you will get nothing out of it at all, by all means stay away. Just don’t adopt such tunnel vision that you feel only “perfect characters in perfect shows” should get you to go through the process of auditioning. If you do that, you decrease your stage time quite a bit.
(Originally appeared on showbizradio.net on September 2, 2009.)