Anyone seen that MTV dating show Room Raiders? Basically, they surprise 3 guys (sometimes girls) and take them out of their bedrooms, then they have a cute girl “explore” their rooms and pick which one she wants to date based on their rooms, before she can even meet the guys. What’s funny is that while she’s going through their stuff - - “room #2 is messy, which tells me boy 2 is disorganized” “Room 3 has a lot of porn in his cabinet, that’s kinda gross” - - The guys in the van are real competitive, trash-talking each other, etc. But the thing is, none of that will have any bearing on whether they get chosen - - the girl’s tastes in guys and what she’s looking for are pretty much constant, and from where they are sequestered, she can’t hear them anyway. The decision, in a way, has already been made - - it just needs to be announced. And the guys are always so bitter when they don’t get picked.
So I was thinking about it, and this is kind of like auditioning. Your skills and experience and look are there, or they’re not. And the producer/director already pretty much knows what they want, it’s just a matter of whether you’ll be the one they choose. So all the name-calling and the bitterness is just wasted energy. Just make sure that your room’s always clean, and that it says something about you that is real. If you’re a rocker, have metals posters up. If you are romantic, have candles and a sexy wardrobe.
Now for another little story.
My favorite playwright is Charles Mee. He is my inspiration as a writer. A couple months ago, right around WWRY time, I heard of a Mee play (“Summertime”) being cast at a very reputable small theater in town. I emailed the casting director (since he’d cast me before) and asked to be considered. He called a few hours later and told me he wanted me to audition. I said, “Oh, you got the email?” and he didn’t know what I was talking about. Pretty Cool!
So I get there, and I’m reading for Bob the Pizza Boy. A fun little part. I go in, and I nail it. They say, “Thanks Amir; that was fantastic. That’s all we need for today; we’ll let you know about callbacks.” I say, “Look, I don’t know what ‘direction’ you’re thinking, but I’d love to read for James, the romantic lead.” (I was emboldened by the fact that I was called back for the “appealing James Dean type” in WWRY.) They look at me quizzically, then say, “Yeah, sure! You should! Do you want to take a couple minutes outside to look over the material?” “Uh, no, I already have.” Honestly, I’m a pimp. So I do it, and I nail it. Not just because I know Mee and have a good sense of how his work needs to be done, but because I am very right for the part. “Charming, innocent, honest, new to love, wears his heart on his sleeve, handsome but a little awkward.”
2 days later, I get a callback, for James!! Problem is, callbacks are Friday/Saturday/Sunday, and here’s my schedule those days: Friday, 2nd callback for WWRY IN Vegas; Saturday, dress rehearsal for Groundlings show; Sunday, Groundlings show. I ask if there’s any way we can work it out, and they say we’ll see. Eventually, I end up flying to Vegas Friday AM, going straight to my callback, then going straight back to the airport and LA, and then straight to the Mee callback.
I get there, and there is no one left but me. No lead girls to match me up with, nothing. They’ve waited around for me. So cool. So I go in there, and before I even say hi, I just blurt out, “I don’t know if I get Mee, or if he gets people, but when I’m reading this script I often think ‘I’ve SAID that!’” They say that’s a little scary, but great. So as I get started to read, someone’s cell phone goes off and no one wants to take responsibility for it. While they’re figuring it out, I go right into another charming Amir anecdote:
One time I was doing a play about cancer, and I was playing a medical resident. I had clipped a fake pager to my lab coat. One show, someone’s cell phone went off in the audience, and even though I didn’t have any lines in the scene, I reached for my fake pager and sort of whispered to everyone on stage “Oh, sorry, my pager.” This happened twice that night. After the show, the Stage Manager came up to me and said, “Amir, I need to talk to you. You CAN NOT leave your pager on when you’re onstage. SO unprofessional.” I explained and she was impressed. I figure if I fooled the SM, I probably fooled some of the audience, a good thing.
OH! Charming Amir! How smart of you! Saved the day! Anyway, sorry about the cell phone, please go ahead.
So I do it, and I take the director’s adjustments, and I incorporate some awesome things I learned from Richard Seyd, and wouldn’t ya know it, 2 days later, they offer me the part! The best role I’ve ever been offered, possibly the best role I’ll ever be offered. A romantic lead in a play written by my favorite playwright, at a reputable theater with a respected director. And I had to turn. It. Down. (sigh). I was also offered WWRY, and I couldn’t pass up the money and Vegas for a show that hardly paid anything over 6 weeks, artistic fulfillment be damned. It has never been more difficult to turn something down in my life.
Tough choices, tough choices. But hey, it’s a sweet problem to have, I guess. Right now I’m procrastinating on my packing. I’ll be out of LA next week, and I’ll keep you posted about my goings-on in Vegas.
See ya there!