Standing Up For My Self
“I was at the Academy of Motion Pictures HQ the other day and…
... and Juliet Taylor CSA, casting director extraordinaire was being interviewed about her illustrious career as a casting director. Ms Taylor has cast 40 of Woody Allen’s film alone! A sprightly delightful ‘young thing’ she was regaling us with casting tales, such as giving Meryl Streep her feature in Julia (1977). I listened …. transfixed by the reverent, plush and rarified location, The Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Two idol-sized gold sculptures of ‘Oscar’ book-ended the stage; like a temple it was all hallowed and hushed as Juliet spoke.
The interviewer asked her what it was like to hold auditions for Woody Allen back in the day. We were agog! People often ask me what it is like to be with the Actor (perhaps because the Actor is my first love) but few ask what it is like to run the studio for a Director. Ms Taylor paused. She started to speak. She stuttered. “Well, he was very … shy”, she said hesitantly. “He would sit ... at the back of the room and ... and not talk to the actors, he… he …didn’t know what to say to them (laughter). "What was that like?" the interviewer asked. She faltered as though wondering whether to reveal more about 'Woody'. She paused for many seconds. And then her energy shifted from hesitant to confident, she threw caution to the wind and started giggling with delightful abandon before saying through giggles: “I had to go into therapy to learn how to run the room for him”!
1000 film-makers erupted into gales of laughter.How often have I thrilled at the prospect of hosting Directors and Producers in my casting studio. And yet there are those occasions when the prospect of a casting session with a Director or Producer gives rise to a sense of morbid anxiety! I observed Juliet's relief at finally sharing with the world that being "Woody's CD" sent her into therapy. I felt a sense of connection with her vulnerability in that moment.
I am in a place of allowing vulnerability anew. Firstly recognizing it in myself and then allowing it to be a part of who I am. I realized just a few months ago, that the next stage of my life's journey was about being vulnerable, which for me also means being visible. Being visible means allowing my obsessively-guarded interior world to unfurl gently and radiate outwards into the world. To allow this practice of vulnerability is daily work. Make no mistake,
It is DAILY&
It is WORK.
It is as much a process as any kind of committed practice. It is also sublime. It promises openness and renewal with each moment. It is a gift to the world, to the self and it yields the return of trillions of tiny filaments, called feelings. Of course as actors we are always challenged to be vulnerable, to “let go” to “just be”, as we hustle through life, burrowing into introverted selves that engage in silent dialogues many of which should have ended decades ago, yes.
For Juliet Taylor being vulnerable was acknowledging, some 40 years after the fact and in public, the emotional challenge of running a casting session for the preternaturally awkward Woody Allen skulking in the back of the room; watching. The casting director's art (rather than her power) is delicately poised between serving two titans: The Actor and The Director/Producer. She aims to ‘match’ them. It has been called a ‘dark art’ perhaps because multiple variables (some incalculable) collide at the same time (or not) and voila! an actor is cast ... or not.
That evening, at the Academy, I did something that made me feel unspeakably vulnerable. When host David Rubin, (Governor of the Casting Directors, on the Academy's Board of Governors) asked the casting directors to stand, I stood up.
It sounds ridiculous I know but I have lived with a lifetime of visibility-blues, so standing up as myself felt very uncomfortable. I enjoy my customary suit of invisibility; I also prefer to stand for others. Yet having just witnessed the vulnerability of Ms Taylor, I wanted to experience a significant breakthrough or a breakout, here, now, at The Academy; only one chance. There were no friends to urge me to feet, to prod me in the ribs. I faltered. I hesitated. I panicked for a second and then ...I felt myself gently rising from my 2nd row seat. I heard the applause as my casting colleagues also stood. I turned around to look at the packed auditorium that included past Academy Awards winners and nominees, and I allowed myself to be seen and applauded for our casting contributions to the motion picture industry. Juliet Taylor CSA, has worked with Woody Allen, James L Brooks, Nora Ephron, Lous Malle, Mike Nichols, Martin Scorcese and Steven Spielberg. Among her credits are The Exorcist, (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Terms of Endearment (1983) The Killing Fields (1984) Dangerous Liaisons (1988) Working Girl (1988)Mississippi Burning(1988) Schindlers List (1993) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993)