Tuesday, March 28, 2006

ON ACTING: "The Importance of Dialogue in Auditioning"

Actors often ask me "How important are the words (dialogue) in an audition?" I tell them (1) very, very important; and, at the same time (2) totally unimportant.

(1) The words written on the printed page are important in the sense that most TV shows' producers wrote the words (most of the producers on TV shows are the writers) and they will be sitting in on the audition. And they have a proprietary (read: ego) interest in the words: they spent a lot of time crafting them. And they like to hear their words spoken as written. When you change them, it is like you are saying: "I've got better words (i.e., better than yours)."

(2) Words are totally unimportant in the sense that when you audition, you must not rely on the words written on the page to carry your auditioning abilities. If words were so quintessential important to an actor's performance, they wouldn't have hired someone else to write them. An actor is not hired to be a word-crafter. Just like a tennis player is not required to make his own racquets--but rather wins or loses according to how well he plays using the given racquet--so an actor's performance is judged not by the words he uses but how well he plays the acting game with the words crafted by someone else and appearing on the printed page.

The words in the script have already been auditioned--by the judiciaries of scripts. By the time the words get to the actor, they are a given, literally, to the actor. That aspect of performance is a priori. If in an audition an actor relies merely on saying the words on the printed page as the essence of their audition, they are going to fail!

Every actor auditioning for the part is going to say the exact same words. The auditioner is looking for other aspects in the actor's audition, other non-verbal aspects: feelings, voice, face, body, etc...all things NOT on the printed page, things NOT given to the actor...But which underlay and surround and give impetus and meaning to the verbal parts of the performance...And it what the actor is being auditioned for.

IN SUMMARY: Words as words are set in granite by the time the actor gets there. Change words if you can't get a real performance with the words as given you (but remember...cost = threatened writer; SEE writer's 'ego' above). And always keep in mind: what sets one actor apart from another in an audition are not the words...It is the life force, the vitality, the emotional truth and exciting personality of the person delivering them.


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