The Audition by Gary Beck

“Next,” the stage manager called. I looked around to be sure it was my turn, and she repeated impatiently: “Next.” I took a deep breath, put on my combat face, stood up and walked to center stage, struggling each step of the way to control my nervous trembling. Only the work lights were on, so I could clearly see the people running the cattle call. There were five of them. Why did they need five? Could this be one of those democratic collectives, where everyone argued instead of working? The stage manager handed what I assumed was my resume and head shot to who I assumed was the director. He briefly scanned it, then passed it onto the others.

I waited until the last person was finished reading and comparing me to the picture, trying to appear cool and confident. The director had been looking me up and down, lingering a moment too long on my breasts, which I resented, even though I should have been used to the unwanted attention by now. “Sing,” he said. I looked at him in surprise. “I was told that I only had to prepare a monologue,” I said. He ignored my feeble protest and said: “Sing.” “What kind of song would you like?” “Anything.” I took a deep breath and sang the first two lines of ‘Greensleeves’. I thought I was pretty clever, since I was auditioning for a Shakespeare play and it might impress the inquisition panel. A lot of good it did. They stared at me blankly.

“Dance a beautiful dance,” he ordered. “I’m not a dancer. I’m an actress.” Once again he ignored my objection. “Dance a beautiful dance.” I briefly considered telling him to shove it, but I hadn’t done Shakespeare since college and I had learned that there were very few opportunities. So I did a beautiful dance. At least I thought so. It was some kind of cross between a waltz and a fox trot. It was the best I could do. There was no reaction from the inquisitors and I was beginning to get pissed off. If they wanted a prima ballerina they should have said so in the actor’s call in the trade papers. Part of me wanted to walk out without saying a word, but another part wanted to do the show. Besides, I didn’t want to give the assholes the satisfaction of watching me slink off, tail in the traditional place, another defeated actor.

By now I knew that something unexpected would be next on the menu, so I smiled pleasantly at the inquisitors. I got a quick rush of pleasure when some of them looked surprised. After all, it was obvious by now that they were trying to freak out the auditioners. They probably assumed by this time that the auditioners would be agitated and in the process of losing their stage persona. I had no idea why they devised this torture session. It was different from any audition process I had been through. Maybe they had already cast the show and were getting their rocks off by torturing some needy actors. Stranger things happened in theater. Whatever. I was here and I certainly wasn’t going to break down for their viewing pleasure.

The director gestured to the stage manager, who handed me a sheet of paper. It was in French. The director said: “Read.” I knew what he would say if I told him I couldn’t read French, so I read. Maybe Charles Baudelaire would have objected strenuously about my pronunciation, if he was there, but I was beginning to enjoy myself. “That’s enough,” the director said, staring at me expectantly. I guess he was waiting for me to ask how I did. I just stood there silently. He looked me up and down, again lingering too long on my breasts. “We’ll call you.” I just nodded and left. I knew they would call. I had seen that lecherous look before. Now it would be up to me to decide whether or not to do the show. Part of me was hungry for Shakespeare, but these were weird people. I wasn’t sure if I was up for any more bullshit in my life. Then I laughed. I didn’t have to worry about it until I got the call.

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Crisis in the Classics by Gary Beck

There is a great theatrical need for readable and performable drama for students, scholars and theatergoers. The standard translations of the classics, first read in Classics 101, were derived from great Victorian and Edwardian scholars, who represented a very different audience and language from post-Vietnam America. Their scholarship was vast and may have intimidated subsequent scholars, some of whom were eager to present American styles. But they were uncertain how to disassemble the Homeric but ponderous literary forms that were beginning to alienate modern readers.

Translators concerned with the theatre reacted to the traditional sonorous renderings of Aeschylus and Sophocles with enthusiastic updatings, that frequently located gods and heroes in the Okefenokee swamps, a bar, or an inner city ghetto. This patronizing innovation of arbitrarily updating for modern audiences reduced the soaring greatness of the Greek drama. Fewer and fewer people were moved by the works that had thrilled western man, from the 5th century B.C., until 21st century ‘easy access’. Since it is much more demanding to attend a theater performance than to read the book, theater must make greater efforts to reach audiences already disillusioned with the classics.

Today, by its very nature, there is an elitism inherent in the classics, since the normal venues are the classroom and theater. This will expose the privileged class to the great ethical, intellectual and cultural issues of the classics, but not make them readily available to the vast majority of highly intelligent, but not so well educated American audiences. The classics should never be exclusionary. They can light creative fires in anyone. They should be available to everyone who can appreciate the scope of their grandeur, passion, nobility, arrogance, stubbornness and pettiness. Continue reading