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Auditioning

So. Your Humble Blogger went out on another audition yesterday, this time for Twelfth Night. When I saw the audition listed, I immediately thought that I want to play Malvolio—such a great part, and I think (in my arrogant way) that I could be good at getting the laughs, at being ridiculous in cross-gartered yellow stockings, while getting—if not a tear or two, at least a moment of shock and sympathy when he gets such a vicious come-uppance. And to say I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you! What a part.

Reading the play more carefully, and thinking carefully about the possibilities of staging, scene by scene and line by line, I became attracted to the part of Sir Toby Belch. A disgusting old drunk, he is the reverse of Malvolio—Sir Toby gets the audience’s love and Malvolio gets their ire, but of course it is Toby who is misbehaving. Malvolio is quite right to ask for quiet in the house of mourning, but we hate him for how he does it. We like that Malvolio gets his come-uppance, but (by the end) we hate Sir Toby for how he does it. I think. They are one of Shakespeare’s great doubles, anyway, and really I want to play them both at once.

At any rate, I went and auditioned, and it seemed to go moderately well. I did my monologue (the Seven Ages) and read a bit of a side (II,v). As I have become used to, the director asked me to do the side again in a different way—for this, he asked me to read it as a buttoned-down man who is conditioned to respond soberly to anything, but is unable to contain his glee at the letter completely. That’s not how I would choose to play the scene, honestly; I think I’d choose to play Malvolio as being as flighty as Sir Toby, just in the other direction. Still the point, I would think, is to see if the auditioner is amenable to direction, capable of change, and has enough imagination to go in the direction he is pushed. Also, I suppose, if the actor is quick to understand the director, or if this is someone who has to be walked through step by step. At least, I hope that’s the idea, because that’s what I tried to get across, and I think I am good at that sort of thing.

What was new to me, though, was the director doing the same thing with my monologue: in this case he asked me to do it again as an exasperated teacher of unruly children. That was more difficult—I honestly question whether it is perhaps a trifle unfair. Unlike a play, where we ought to know the script backwards, forwards and sideways, to the point of being about to roll with whatever happens on the night, we learn our monologues in a kind of bubble. The text, the pacing, the gestures—normally we control all of that. With only two minutes, we don’t expect to adjust much to the audience, and really, we are preparing for three guys at a table going through paperwork and not looking at us at all. Preparing to be as good as we can be under those circumstances. To ask us to change up the character… well, as it happens, having played Jaques in an actual production, I do know that monologue well enough to roll with it, but if I were doing the Coriolanus one, I might not.

Anyway. It seemed to go well, and while as far as I know the director has never seen me in anything, the three people in the room representing the board were the Director and Stage Manager of the production of Noises Off two years ago and a fellow with whom I was in a staged reading of Art the following autumn. So with luck they will tell him I’m a good guy to do a show with, and that I have range greater than it’s possible to show in such an audition. And if not Malvolio or Sir Toby, there’s Andrew Agueface and Orsino, or even Feste if they want him to sing badly, and Antonio isn’t a bad part, actually, with a lot of time to sit backstage and do crosswords betimes.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.