‘Audition face’ isn’t a syndrome, it’s a skill
But just try sitting in that chair behind the folding table that holds strategically-placed Coca-Cola glasses and smiling sweetly as yet another rock song is massacred. You might last through the first 10, but then they might have to pry your fingers from the plastic soda cup. Your teeth will hurt from the rough intake of air as your forced smile offers “encouragement” when you really wanted to say “keep your day job” before you run screaming from the room. Have you noticed that guest judges only last one show during the trials? That’s because their union protects them from cruel and unusual punishment. I’ve done my share of auditioning, mostly for community theater parts that involved singing. I’ve always wondered how directors or talent coordinators worked on their “audition faces.” Then I tried being a director myself, which involved auditioning several children and adults. Being a musical, there was singing. Oh, the humanity. You start out optimistically. “Oh, I’m so glad he/she/they are auditioning, they were so good in (fill-in-the-blank show).” You take a deep breath, hold up the rating sheet and look them right in the eyes and smile. The first few might go all right. But then the singer whose parents are excitedly waiting in the next room (after having sent several e-mails about how talented their prodigy is and how excited/prepared/nervous they were) steps up to the audition spot and opens their mouth. Halfway through their toneless version of “All That Jazz,” your brain is desperately scrambling for the diplomatic words to say. And you know whatever it is, it’s not going to be the right thing. Then someone who did a show with you a few years ago comes in. Have they spent their time away taking lessons? You begin to quietly pray, but your prayers soon prove unanswered. You weigh the alternative – cast these people in the show and have the rest of the talent mutiny two days into tech week. That’s not good. You rest your chin casually on your hand. It’s really there to make sure your jaw doesn’t hit the audition table. You consciously try not to squint as they meander through several keys. “Pick one, any one,” you plead silently. And you really, really try to smile sincerely. I’ve auditioned before directors that I’d had a beer with less than 24 hours before. It’s like suddenly your best friend becomes your boss and you’ve got four write-ups in your personnel file. It’s do or die. Did I pick the right song? Do they like interaction? Should I put in that move I thought up in the car on the way over? What the heck was I thinking? I guess the best thing for directors to do is avoid eye contact. That’s why there’s mirrors in the audition hall, so they can watch only if they want to. As to listening, 16 bars is long enough to know if the singer will either harm the audience or make your show. In the end, there’s always a decompression session – highly recommended to be taken in the tavern down the street – where the best and worst are reviewed just one more time. It’s a good idea for both the auditioning and the auditioners, but not at the same bar. But given the choice of being the picked or the picker, give me a CD and a top hat and I’ll give it all I’ve got. I can sing and I can act, too. Just not as well as those folks behind the table. To post your own stories and photos, log on to valleynews.com160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! I think it’s time to give Simon, Paula and Randy a break. The American Idol judges (yes, I’ve been sucked into the vortex) have been accused of being cruel and harsh when dealing with some of the most talent-free individuals who ever believed they could sing. To any of those critics, I issue this invitation: Be a judge yourself and see if it’s really easy to be kind. Now, I don’t mean yelling out “thank you” from the kitchen when you grab a yogurt as a dreamer from Surprise, Arizona, bumps and grinds their way through a rendition of “I Got My Sexy Back” that would put the ASPCA on alert. It’s easy when they can’t actually hear or see you.