Deb Barnes Personal Audition Stories - Lessons Learned - Product Mayvret
Seems every booking I land, comes from auditions where I'm not afraid to play the fool!
Here's how the story goes. The part I was called in for, was for a black woman 55-65 to play the owner of a hairdressing salon.
It had been a LONG time since I’d auditioned and the most important thing for me was to feel fabulous and Comfortable! (hey, we all have our audition priorities, and this is what has always worked for me!) I’d been enjoying adult beverages and food quite liberally that summer & had packed on a few, so I needed to find clothes that would look great on, be appropriate for a hair salon owner, as well as give me a bit of oomph in the room. (Anything to make me feel confident!) I chose a long black casual skirt with an easy waistline, a loose vibrant fuchsia blouse, and a single statement silver cuff. On my feet, easy black flats – so I could move about with confidence and feel grounded. Hoop earrings, natural makeup, Koolaid colored lip gloss, a good pick out of my massive hair, and I was good to go. I felt pretty good. A little nervous to be auditioning again, but Good! When I arrived at the audition it was to a room filled with every kind of beautiful brown.
A gorgeous array of skin tones. And the hair! Braids, Fro’s, Blowouts and ponytails, silver, kinky, rainbow, naturals, and wigs. Let's just say that the vibe there was Fierce and Powerful! I was super glad I'd brought my A-Game. NOTE: If you find yourself in a unique demographic, this may happen to you as well. You'll find yourself in a space filled with many more 'like you'. Could be twins, redheads, one ethnicity, people of a certain age, tall folks, disabled people, and the ever-popular ethnically ambiguous. This is the only social situation for me that this happens and I've always found it interesting. Casting for commercials can be such an odd beast.
I live and breathe casting, so it was fascinating approaching the process from the other side, as an actor.
I was surprised at the little things that slipped my mind! Something I stress in our workshops, is to make sure you fill out your head sheet fully, legibly, and to know your measurements. I hadn't measured my body for years! (A beneficial choice for my peace of mind!) Luckily my sister who was auditioning with me had a tape measure in her purse. I know, right?! Not your average thing to carry. But she is a clothing designer and is always at the ready. Lesson? I now Always have my current measurements with me on my phone, and I update them as my body adjusts to whatever lifestyle I'm enjoying. ;) The casting assistant handed me the script and there were Lines! Insert pounding heart here. I didn't know there were going to be lines. I was only told it would be a simple audition! Here's a truth I'll share. At this point in my life, my memory is $#!+! Memorizing lines is a huge challenge for me. So much so, that if there are more than 2 or 3 easy lines, I have often turned down an opportunity. I don't want to hold everyone up on set! I've tried many things over the years to grasp this skill, but it has illuded me and I've accepted that it's just not gonna be in my bag of tricks. Knowing this has saved me SO much anxiety. I know what I AM good at though, and those are the roles I try and get called out for!
Into the room I go. It's just the casting director, the video tech and 3 more actors in the group – one of which was my sister. She was new to auditioning and I was doing my best to help calm her nerves.
They had the scene blocked out. I was to play the owner of the salon, say some lines and then ‘style’ my client’s hair, who was played by my sister. Now, you need to know that her hair is down to the wood! Gorgeous salt and pepper with a fab silver streak…but like ½” long! So…not having much to work with, I pretended to hairspray the heck out of it and smooth it down all pretty. I ad-libbed with her, all the while remembering to be mindful of where the camera was. (A tough one when you're rusty and doing busy work) It was Fun! I played the same scene with the other actors, switching roles and trying out new blocking and ideas with the director. Then it was my turn to face my biggest fear. It was time for me to work those lines. I had to say them straight to camera. Having only gotten the lines 30 minutes before the audition, I was shocked and thrilled that I was able to rise to the occasion. Truth is, they were very generous and threw my lines out to me when I stumbled. (Casting will often do this for you, or have them written out for you to follow) Once I'd solidly delivered my last line and breathed a sigh of relief, I thought I was all done and I'm expecting to hear, "Great job everyone, thank you, you can go!"
Of course that is Not what happened.
The casting director, relishing the moment, looked at me stone-faced and asked if I would sing a song!! For a brief second or two, I was like a deer in the headlights. Sing? Right now? All eyes are on me and my mind is actually stuttering! Ha! To stall for time, I asked if there were any specific songs or requests. Nope. Just sing something for us Deb, like you're in the salon having a good time with your clients. (cuz that's what I Always do with my hairdresser! Sing! hahaha!) I knew I was gonna take the plunge like I always do. Just take a deep breath and Jump!
I am not a great singer, but I LOVE to sing…and at this stage in my life, I just don’t care anymore if I look like a fool, so I blasted them a big powerful version of “I’m gonna wash that man right outta your hair!” (A 1983 classic by the Weather Girls) I finished the song with a powerful extended Hallelujahhhhhhhh! (The angels must have been with me to put that song into my head right when I needed it. What a perfect song for a hairdresser to sing to her client!) There was surprise and laughter from the casting director and camera tech. In that moment I felt wonderful. I'd jumped into the deep end and I had swum to shore! Halelujah! A week later, I was thrilled to learn I was to have a callback with the director and agency all in tow. I was ready for it and weirdly excited to ride that edge again in front of strangers! I'd learned my few lines and I sang my heart out! I had a blast. 4 years later, the spot is still running, and I've received over $20K to date. Not bad for a tortured rendition of an old classic song! ;) Here's the spot. (I did get a chance to sing! It didn't make the final edit, but the experience was phenomenal!)
Moral of the story? When you are asked to do something crazy in an audition, please take a chance and just say yes. Give it a try. Quite often there's magic brewing inside you yearning to get out. Take a chance and release it to the gods. The results will often pleasantly surprise you...and those you are auditioning for!
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