What happens when the casting director gets called to audition? (for an Off-Broadway production)

Nike_Titus1What was it like to get ‘the  - unexpected -  call' from the most prestigious, to audition for something equally as prestigious?  How did I make the switch from film/tv casting director to stage actor? From doing the choosing to being the chosen (or not)? From doing the looking to “allowing the look”? ASAP, on tape, lead role, with a dozen pages of dialogue. GO! Did I practice what I preach? I’ve been preaching ‘screen acting’ for the past seven years and in  general I do very few live performances now, perhaps every 3-5 years. So for me getting 'the call' always demands a concerted shift in thinking; especially when one is planning to depart to the UK for an extended and much need break after 6 months of casting an episodic tv show about Zombies.

But to the audition!

I immediately contacted two of my  theatre gurus. One in the US and one in the UK. What did I say?  I think it sounded like:  “omgmamamamwhat!*&the???gloopwaaa!” Both gurus handled this side of me without sentiment and  with a sense of humor. (It's what gurus do!) They gave me coaching across  a number of emails and  they advised me by pointing me in certain directions, and  even pointing things out to me, but never telling me what to do. Ever! I hung on their every word wanting more, so much more; but they were done. And then they left me to it. Intuitively then, my first port of call was my gurus; or coaches.

Physically, I did A LOT of hiking. In my living room; which is to say I paced up and down incessantly, thinking, imagining, talking out loud.  My home rarely looked more organised. The bed neatly made with  corners nicely turned.  Cushions! Perfectly placed on sofa. Boom! Room must be PERFECT! Kitchen sink empty. Gleaming. Awaiting arrival of more spoils. Scenes highlighted, do not memorise.  No  "learn lines”. Script across room throw. Much energy, too. Incessant chatter in head, crowding out calm. Language, linearity, logic, state alters; naturally.

Intuitively, I knew that I would give equal weight to the written and the Nike_Titus2unwritten life that pulsates in between the lines; the unsaid, the unuttered and crucially the unutterable. These things fascinate me more than the lines. These 'invisibles' will find life in my body and being. Such moments cannot be memorised, they must be discovered, imagined, felt and then given breath. I wanted to delve in between each line and in between each word, with my ear to the silence, my breath held, as I felt for the pulse of  the character, lying there on the page.

My methodical self felt the urgency of a deadline looming - even though I had days - the deadline somehow had hold of my…my throat.  And the camera with it's one, unloving eye, imposed itself on my imagination. (i notice that  the kitchen floor needs sweeping. again)

Then desire awoke for some practice, thundered in and thrilled at the prospect of the impossible; knowing it is the impossible that permits the full and unfettered force of the  imagination.

I breath deep. (the kitchen floor can wait!)  The Imagination is sparked; the Impossible embraced; my process, crafted from decades of rigorous and persistent practice, knows itself and is already unfolding of it’s own accord.

Stillness.

I  look down quietly at the script. I read the character's first line.  I close my eyes, enter into the unknown, and mutter the first lines to myself; as though gently, incanting.

(Above: Nike Imoru as ‘Aaron’ in UpStart Crow's all-female production of Titus Andronicus, Dir: Rosa Joshi, Sept 2012. Ms Imoru was honoured with the following awards: Seattle Times Footlight Awards: Outstanding Acting (Classics); Gypsy Rose Lee Award: Excellence in Performance as a Supporting Actress; BroadwayWorld.com: Best Featured Actress in a Play. (Photography John Ulman)