Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of substituting my usual role of actor to don the guise of both an audition monitor and reader. These positions are a free education people! Mostly viewed as pawns in the audition process, these are jobs that every actor should experience. There is an insight to be had inside “the room where it happens” (thanks, Lin-Manuel) if one only knows how to sneak a peek. Actors making bold, confident choices inspire me, yet also reveal some vital what-not-to-dos. I've gotten a whole new perspective on performers’ preparation before their turn. These experiences have given me a much better understanding and, more importantly, genuine appreciation for the casting process.
A former employer asked if I would be available to help with their upcoming auditions and, as I had never been a monitor, I jumped at the chance to experience something new. How hard could it be, right? Truth be told, not hard at all. If you’ve some organizational prowess and a flair for crowd control, you’re golden! The only actual difficulty is, well, us! Actors are a notoriously insecure bunch, and that can sometimes manifest itself as bad manners. Here are a few holding room suggestions:
1. DON’T BE RUDE TO YOUR MONITOR! Notice the caps lock? Don’t think that they don’t remember who was easy going and who was a right pain in the ass. Monitors will pass that information along.
2. Be well informed! Please read the audition notice before getting there. Know what you need and when you need it. In doing so, you will prevent a line of questioning guaranteed to aggravate everyone in your vicinity.
3. A stapler goes for $6 on Amazon, and that includes staples and a remover! Do yourself a favor and show up with your materials already stapled. It is not the monitor’s job to provide you with office tools because you didn’t do your homework.
Much of this comes with being a decent human being. The monitor is there to keep the audition flowing smoothly, not cater to your needs. Remember to treat them with the same level of respect you'd show the rest of the team.
Speaking as an actor, it feels quite taboo when the team starts talking about who just left the room. Surely I shouldn’t be listening; my presence has gone unnoticed. Being the reader, I was a part of the conversation! As it isn’t my place to divulge too much of what happens in the room (and for my ignorance), I would only say that due to its myriad intricacies, the casting process is quite like an elaborate jigsaw puzzle. When all is said and done, your booking the job or not is the result of many hours of work done by all teams to decide if you’d best serve the production as a whole.
Being in the room is like browsing a show tune database with live samples. It's prime poaching time! As we’re always looking to update our books, sampling song after song in the room is an excellent way to get new ideas! Reading has also helped me reach a level of comfort in my auditions. Cold reading requires its skill and by acting with numerous people over the course of the day, you learn right quick how to make choices on a dime. You’re giving just enough as a reader so as to highlight the auditioner’s performance, but each actor is unique and makes different choices. You’ve got to change tack quickly enough so as not to throw them (or yourself) off.
I've had the privilege of experiencing actors deliver, with talent and certainty, performances that seem to transport the very room. Catching a glimpse of that calibre of performer challenges me to step up my own game with the same verve. I’ve gained a new perspective which reminded me that monitors deserve our respect, not our attitudes. Both positions have deepened my appreciation and knowledge of the casting process, which has helped to make me a more well-rounded actor. It would behoove us all to expand our understanding of the business as these opportunities allow us to learn and thrive as artists.