AYT USA: Audition etiquette – last one there is a rotten egg!

I have now been living and auditioning in New York for two months and I have to say, I find the whole thing simultaneously wildly hilarious and horribly depressing. More than anything though, the New York audition circuit is simply bizarre.

Dozens of girls crawl out of bed at 5am or earlier, grab their pre-packed audition bags, and head to Midtown. Once they take the two or three trains needed to get to the audition studios from their “transitioning” neighborhoods 100 or so blocks north or south of central Manhattan, they wait outside in the bitter cold or blistering heat until the building opens and then go into the “holding room”. Yes, a “holding room”. As if you didn’t already feel like one in a herd of cattle.

They then put their names on the unofficial list and set up camp, unloading their makeup, curling irons, and simple chic dresses they cannot really afford. One of my favorite audition pastimes is watching a room full of schlumpy looking nobodies turn into a bevy of supermodels. It’s like the transformation from Beauty and the Beast, complete with fog courtesy of the thick cloud of hairspray and powder pervading the air.

Once the audition monitor arrives, everyone eagerly waits to hear whether the unofficial audition list will be honored. At this stage in the game, there may be up to a hundred names already on the list… and only seventy actors in the room? How can that be?

At every New York audition, you will find actors sleepily staggering up to the unofficial list and adding their name to the dozens already there… and then adding the names of their ten closest friends who aren’t actually in line yet.

Now, there are about a million and one reasons why these other performers haven’t yet gotten to the studio. The frantic text messages they sent all of their actor friends begging to be added to the list run the gamut from: “The F train is experiencing delays!” to  “I’m coming all the way from Philly!” and “There’s another open call I have to get to today. If you sign me up there, I’ll sign you up here! Then we can switch!”

We have all felt the pain of early morning auditions. But on the popular and extremely useful website Auditionupdate.com, one reader who lives outside of the city points out that they can suck more for some than for others. Sometimes, the first train into the city on New Jersey Transit or Metro North may not leave until 5:00 am or later. So, it is important to note that these absent actors are not necessarily lazy bums.

On the other hand, I don’t think most actors, myself included, really consider the ramifications of adding their friends to the audition list, though that’s not to say there is no discussion surrounding the topic: the aforementioned “Bitching Post” on Audition Update shows that there is debate surging.

Every name that you add to the list that is not your own may mean one more actor who does not get seen that day. Five minutes can mean the difference between getting seen and getting a job, and not even getting to sing or read because you had to go pick up your charge, Billy, from school or get to a temp job before they reach your number on the list. And if you can’t get in the room, you simply aren’t going to get hired.

I don’t think it’s fair to advise readers to never sign up their friends or vice versa.  After all, this new, more ethical system will open up work if everyone buys into it. It would be like telling everyone they should just arrive at auditions when they actually start, rather then getting there at 6am. Wouldn’t that be nice? Then we could all sleep in! But it’s simply not going to happen and it’s not a crusade you can win on your own. However, as the genius folk-rap duo Flight of the Conchords would say, “You gotta think about it. Think, think about it.”  By helping out your friend, are you simultaneously ruining someone else’s day?

If you are an American reader of A Younger Theatre and would like to contribute to the AYT USA blog series, please contact blogs[at]ayoungertheatre.com.