Years ago I was taught when doing a monologue for an audition to always have another one ready if they should want to see more of your work. If the auditors requested one piece, have a second ready. If two were requested, have a third.
This practice proved to be true years ago at an audition for a large regional theater. They had requested two contrasting pieces. This was a big opportunity for me, my first for this company. I knew I needed to be more prepared than I’d ever been, so I had five ready. The two contrasting pieces went well. She asked if I had something else I could show her. After that she asked for another. When we were done I’d shown her four of the five pieces I’d prepared. A rapport had been established, which lead to a relationship with the theater and the auditor, who I would work with as a director in a few years time.
This week the practice played out in a different way. This company asked to see one contemporary piece. I had a second ready. After beginning my piece I got to a point about a third of the way through when I experienced every actor’s nightmare - I went up. This hasn’t happened in years. I can’t remember the words. For me, in times like this, I start to function on two different levels. I continue to do the piece trying to redirect where it needs to go; find a way or the words to get to the next moment. So, part of me is still in the piece experiencing the moment, doing the work, while the actor inside begins to work incredibly quickly trying to find the thought, the words that will compel the piece to move in the direction it needs to. The image that came to mind was me (in my head) taking a series of hard drives, one at a time from a shelf and putting them in the slot to discover, “That’s not it.” Take it out. Try the next one. “That’s not it.” Repeat. This of course happens in a flash yet feels like an eternity. I could not find it. I knew if I continued it was going to look like an actor riffing, go way off course, and result in me crashing and burning. This is of course bad, but I’m also auditioning for two directors, one of whom I worked with years ago. I also knew if I restarted the piece I was not certain I would be able to remember the line, and I'd end up in the same place. I very quickly and professionally stopped and said, “I’m going to do another one.” I efficiently turned, took a chair, placed it and sat down to begin the other piece I’d prepared. This one went well, so well I was shocked considering what I’d experienced seconds before.
This had never happened to me before. No class or words of wisdom ever prepared me for that moment. I hope I, or any other actor never experiences it. I know having years of auditioning experience, having to respond quickly to the unexpected helped. But what saved me was being able to quickly go to the other piece I had ready.