These days, I seem a little more hesitant to risk. I have built a life on risk, but these days I am a little more scared of taking the same leaps. It is on days like this that I try to remember the scary risks I've taken in the past and remind myself that I survived. Success or fail, most of them make for good party stories in the end and I always learn something.
One of the most vulnerable risks I used to take all the time was going on auditions. I remember my first one being the most terrifying.
As I walked in to Talent Entertainment Network for my first agent audition I took a unoccupied seat next to one of the dime a dozen blonde beauties so prevalent in LA. Even though barely over 18, not much about her was real. And yet, I was incredibly intimidated by her "Hollywoodness." I scanned the autographed pictures lining the walls. Some looked vaguely familiar, but I only fully recognized Claudia Schiffer and Jake Lloyd. (The young Anakin Skywalker) If this place was good enough to represent a Guess? girl and Darth Vadar then they were good enough to represent me.
They called in my friend who would float in a flood for her audition first. She opened by mentioning that she brought in a prepared monologue, but couldn’t remember all of it since she was a little hung over. Her chosen audition piece, the example of the fullness of her potential, happened to be from the opening scene in Pulp Fiction. Let’s just say that her interpretation involved throwing a few chairs and standing on another screaming the classic lines, “Nobody F—-ing move you mother f—ers!!” To which the agent simply replied, “Thank you, now let’s read this Revlon commercial.”
When Little Miss Bottled Sunshine departed, I was left sitting for a bit while the agents in the other room tried to keep their laughter and comments to hushed whispers before they were to call me in.
In that moment I thought about bolting. They hadn't seen my face yet. I could leave and my life would not change at all. After all, I wasn't prepared for this. I didn't want to embarrass myself in an audition and have them laughing at me after I left. Why in the world did I think I would have what it takes to be represented by a Hollywood agency? I'm no Guess? girl. I had a decision to make. Risk possibly being embarrassed and rejected or walk out now.
Claudia Schiffer stayed. So would I.
After introducing myself I sat down across a table from Rena and Paul and handed them my packet. We all sat in silence for a few seconds while they looked at my headshots and resume.
Paul said, “I see here you were a comedian.”
“Ya.” I replied. “I traveled for a few years in an improv group around the country.”
“Cool. Then be funny.”
“Go ahead, just be funny”
This is quite possibly the worst thing you could say to me. I started to feel a little like I too had a hangover. “It doesn’t really work that way with improv. You play off other people, get suggestions from the audience, you know, stuff like that.”
Paul was not impressed. “Well, are you funny?”
“My mom thinks so.” I said with a giggle. That didn’t impress him either.
“Well… then make me laugh.”
I quickly jogged my memory for any and all fart jokes, but I was blank. “I do have a monologue prepared. I could do that?”
“Is it from Talladega Nights?”
“No” I had chosen to take a little bit of a higher approach to comedy and picked a piece from Mark Twain’s Exracts from Adam’s Diary. The journal entry about Adam being upset at Eve for wanting to keep a brontosaurus as a pet no longer seemed funny or ideal. Why didn't I just do a Chris Farley bit like everyone else?!?!
Rena chimed in, “Don’t worry. You won’t be able to make me laugh. I don’t laugh at anything.”
With that bit of encouragement I stood to my feet, shaking, and sweaty to begin what could make or break my chance of being represented by this agency.
“She has no discrimination. She takes to all the animals–all of them!” I started with my hands over my mouth just the way I had practiced in the mirror and then threw in the classic wrinkled nose followed by sweeping my hands downward. Perfect execution.
“When the brontosaurus came striding into camp, she regarded it as an acquisition, I considered it a calamity; that is a good example of the lack of harmony in our views of things.” That’s when I lost it. I accidently said “example” instead of “sample.” How could I have been so absent minded? I suddenly couldn’t remember any of the lines that I had worked so hard to imbed in my memory. I started saying things like “You know what I mean” and “I’m totally serious, not even kidding.” When did Mark Twain ever say, “I’m totally serious?” I felt like taking a cue from my audition buddy and breaking into Pulp Fiction and hoping for the best.
I struggled through the next 90 seconds of babble, sweating as I got more animated to try and cover up the fact that I was doing A MARK TWAIN MONOLOGUE WRITTEN FROM ADAM'S PERSPECTIVE ABOUT HIS WIFE TAKING IN A DINOSAUR for an audition that I didn't even know well enough to do justice. After a few more winks, smiles and oddly placed dance moves, I dropped my head to signify that the torture was over. Rena, as promised, didn’t even break a grin through the whole thing, but Paul snickered a couple times before saying, “Thank you, now let’s read this Kodak commercial.”
Evidently my reading of the Kodak, and subsequent Safeway, commercial must have blown them away because they offered to represent me.
Having the courage to go on that first audition and risk looking like an idiot opened a whole new world to me. I danced in music videos, appeared in television and film projects, met amazing people and gave me even more stories to tell. As scary and as difficult as that audition was in the moment, I survived and my life is better for it. On days when I am having a hard time risking I hope I can remember those moments and get up the courage to be willing to risk again. I survived and you will too.