As many of you have probably heard, we are launching the CoLab's "Audition Workshop Circle" with our first official event on January 9th. I would like to take some time to explain where this idea came from and why we prefer to think of this as a networking event and not a class.
In the fall of 2007, I enrolled in a class on audition technique with Janet Morrison. She devised a studio style approach to audition technique that combined the fundamentals of an acting class with the practical circumstances that one would encounter auditioning for professional work in the New York scene. Every week we gathered for three hours and "auditioned" for the group. Each session, a different theme. The general audition, the cold reading, the callback, the classical audition, we covered all sorts of scenarios.
Now I must say, that Janet has always been very warm and welcoming to me, without sacrificing the necessary sharpness of her criticism. This was the most emotionally draining experience in all my training. There were a few classes where I felt like a failure, as if I'd disappointed myself, my classmates and Janet. And yet, I left every class energized, with a newfound sense of maturity. This made sense of course, as we were preparing ourselves for the most painful part of our work as actors. The only way to grow is to embrace the growing pains. And the brilliant part of our work was that while one couldn't learn what it was like to rehearse and perform an entire show in a classroom context, one could recreate the entire process of auditioning in the classroom. Janet provided us with a venue for failure. And through those failures, I was prepared for the success I've experienced as an actor in Boston ever since. I am forever grateful for her simultaneous discipline and kindness.
We read Audition by Michael Shurtleff, Auditioning by Joanna Merlin and (wait for it) Callback by Ginger Howard Friedman. These texts were put to the test in the practical venue of the audition class. Given the freedom and license to fail miserably, we all learned invaluable skills.
Janet encouraged us to continue to meet together for the purpose of experimenting, polishing and preparing new material as we evolved as artists. I decided to take advantage of this advice.
Before my first StageSource audition, I called up Erika and we decided to get together a few friends and audition for each other. It was a small group of four, in an unfurnished living room in the midst of an early June heatwave. After we finished, we sat there on that hardwood floor, sweaty and tired. It was then that our friend Becky, a very talented local actress, uttered the simple but profound words: "Guys...this is what we do." Still, one of my more fond memories.
In April 2009, Erika and I had a fateful meeting. We'd discussed in the past the desire to produce theatre together again, as we'd been the co-coordinators of Brandeis Ensemble Theatre during our undergraduate years. Two hours later, after a brainstorming session and a few drinks, we resolved to form a company and produce, among other things, a practical venue for audition technique with the equally important purpose of bringing the various theatrical circles of Boston closer together. We realized that we all have those memories of auditioning for friends in the living room. Why not take it a step further and formalize the process, such that we can have a studio space for risk taking, as well as an opportunity for side to side networking.
In June of 2009, we had our first audition workshop at Boston Playwrights' Theatre. 15 actors, many of whom did not know each other, gathered in the front theatre and prepared to bare themselves to peers with material many were unsure of. I feared that since we all came from different circles, perhaps the process of sharing our observation and discussing each presentation would be stifled by shyness or a fear of offending strangers.
We could not have been more pleased. It never ceases to amaze me to see the way that artists are able to take a risk with each other when given the right venue. Too often we feel the need to posture, the need to "be funny" or "be interesting". Everyone embraced the opportunity to throw caution to the wind and let it all hang out.
The CoLab was born out of this experiment gone right. We hope that the Audition Workshop Circle will grow into an institution. We want artists to cross pollinate, as we come from such different backgrounds, with different experiences and skill sets. Too often, we as artists keep to our own circles. We want to unite the Boston theatre scene as we grow together and strengthen as a center of theatrical activity.
Most of all, speaking for myself, I want to learn from YOU. The chance to collaborate and experiment with artists, both those I know and those I am just meeting, is what this project is all about. Looking back at my experience working with Janet, I am thankful for the venue she provided us with. I hope that we can provide the same opportunities to others, while at the same time making new friends.