I auditioned for a children’s summer show, which involves a lot of audience interaction and strong improvisation skills, something I have been working on through workshops and sketch nights for the past year. The audition was workshop style, and I got through to the callback where I and a number of other actors were asked to play improv games.
If there is anything I have learned from my training, it is that improv games work through cooperation. There was one other actor there who didn’t get that memo. Unfortunately, I was paired with him for most of the afternoon. He was constantly trying to ‘one up’ and upstage me and while I managed to cope with most of the curveballs I was thrown, I found it hard to remain professional and not step out of character and have a go at him. I didn’t, and the producer seemed positive about my work (which is another reason I didn’t want to make a scene).
Annoyed as I’ll be if this insecure actor loses me the gig, an almost as unattractive scenario would be getting the job and then finding I’m stuck working with him all summer.
You can view an audition as either a test to be passed, or an opportunity to shine. I would certainly recommend the latter option because in any situation where the level of talent among candidates is roughly equal (in whatever sense talent can be accurately quantified) confidence can sometimes be the extra quality that carries you over the finish line.
There are other factors that ultimately decide casting outcomes but many of them are completely outside the actor’s control. For this reason, it is always worth bearing in mind one yardstick of a successful audition, which does lie squarely within an actor’s own ability to deliver: professionalism.
The chance to demonstrate this quality happens not just in the audition itself but from the moment you walk in the door to the moment you leave the building. Whether you turn up on time or late, how politely you treat the receptionist or the casting assistant and whether your interaction with other actors, in and out of the casting room, demonstrates that you are a diva or a team player are all things that can get you noticed for both the right and the wrong reasons.
It seems that you have done all the right things to pass that professionalism test, which is more than can be said for the other actor involved. If improv requires an actor to think on their feet in less than ideal circumstances, you certainly had the opportunity to demonstrate your ability. Knowing you did your best, my advice now would be to let it go. Focus on what’s happening in your career, not the insecurities that are manifesting in somebody else’s.
In a perfect world (or a feel-good script) the outcome from this audition would be that you get the job offer and the villain of the piece is kicked to the kerb. In the real world, I can’t guarantee that fairytale ending. But I can remind you that performing well in an audition is always a potential pathway to more work, even if that specific job doesn’t come through.
If you do get offered the part, and find yourself working with the other actor, the goalposts change and it then becomes worth addressing the issue further. Whether as a result of jealousy, insecurity or whatever, any further misbehaviour should be pushed back calmly but firmly the first time it occurs. Hopefully nipping it in the bud sooner rather than later will clear the air but if the other party doesn’t start behaving professionally, at that point you will be well within your rights to ask your agent, the producers or both to step in.
Contact careers adviser John Byrne at email@example.com or @dearjohnbyrne
John Byrne is also a writer, cartoonist, performer and broadcaster. Read his advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/john-byrne