Friday afternoon, I left work early and headed out to an open call for some summer theatre. I was fitting it into a busy day, but managed to budget two and half hours for the audition. I expected the audition to be busy, but I figured because of the requirements (about 45 seconds of material) that 2.5 hours should be enough. I arrived at the audition 2 hours into the 7.5 hour call, walked up to the table and saw over 100 names on the list. I asked how far along they were in the process and they said "we're on 28". I turned around and walked out.
This is not the first time I've had this kind of experience at an open call.
This begs the question: Are open calls worth it? The big open calls for AEA shows (or even better the shows looking for union and non-union actors) are always, I find a mixed bag. More often than not I find them a total waste of time. I often spend 3 or more hours waiting, only to be seen for at most 2 minutes. I have yet to be cast from an open call. I'm not necessarily talking about a cattle call. That's a whole different kettle of fish, but just your run of the mill open call for a show. The kind of audition that is "come when you can" instead of "make an appointment".
I feel like I can always tell a lot about an organization from how their auditions are run. Are they timely and efficient? Are they scattered and disorganized? Are they friendly? Do they pay attention to you? etc. etc. Most open calls I find to be very chaotic and highly disorganized. There are effective ways to run these kind of auditions. I have been to a few very well run big call auditions and was in and out in very little time. Then there are the auditions that state up front "please plan on attending the entire call" in which case you know what you're in for, but often I find open calls frustrating and fruitless.
There is the argument to stick it out. I mean you never know what may happen. And if you can wait out the other people (people like me) who get impatient, or frustrated, or so bored they need to leave, it can work to your advantage. Great things can come from those auditions. I mean every audition is another opportunity to work, to get seen by new people, to expand your network. And open calls usually have big casting committees or multiple directors present. Even better. So just make sure you have all the time free for it, right?
But auditions are our job interviews. And we are scoping out whether or not that job will work for us, not just the other way around. Our time should be valued as highly as the other members of the production. We shouldn't be expected to give up an entire day to be given a fair shot. Yes there is a lot of competition. Yes we have less control over getting work than people in other professions. Yes the judgment of actors is more subjective than other kinds of work. But that shouldn't mean our standards are lower.
So for me, open calls just aren't worth it. I expect to be valued, not treated like just one in a crowd. I'm sure that means I'll never be rich or famous or particularly successful as an actor. But I do know it means that I am choosing the work I want to do. And I can be proud of that.