Now that I'm concentrating on film, it seems like a trickier prospect than it used to be. I was preparing for an audition recently, for a project I really wanted to do, so I asked my amazing acting coach Joel Asher to help me out, maybe give me some pointers for the sides I was given. He said something to me that really made me stop and think, and that I often think of when I'm working on a scene. He said "the acting is there, you just need more presence." Basically what he's talking about, as he explained, was that special X Factor (no, not like the show, but yeah kind of that), that "star" quality that people sometimes talk about, where you walk into a room and all eyes just naturally gravitate toward you. They HAVE to watch you.
This hasn't been a big problem for me in theater. I'm pretty good at owning a stage space. But I'm also more confident on stage, as opposed to in front of the camera, and so I think that even though I'm making good choices, being honest, and acting well, I'm not capturing the audience like I should. Confidence, of course, is really hard to learn. Especially when you get to the stage in your "career" where you must must must do a project soon or you think you'll never work again! At least, that's what I've been feeling like. I said to Joel, "I really want to do this project." He said, "good." Then I thought about how desperate I was feeling about getting something, anything, and I said it again. And he told me that the second time my face just lost everything. I suppose that was the difference between thinking how much fun I would have doing something I could really get behind, and thinking how shitty it feels to be out of work this long.
See, that's the real killer. That's the confidence sucking feeling that drains your presence. Part of getting it back is preparation. That's actually a huge part. The other part is trusting. I've always been better at trusting other people rather than myself. I work on feeling that "glowing" feeling whenever I think of it, so that one day I'll just embody it and it will be real and natural. Until then, I prepare as much as possible, give myself some affirmations, and dive in.
There's an anecdote in John Lithgow's book Drama: An Actor's Education, that describes an early audition at the Phoenix Theater in New York, in which Meryl Streep is auditioning. She comes into the room, introduces herself, and changes her shoes...and blows them away. His description of her charm and then her transformation is an excellent example of the kind of presence I'm looking to cultivate. And while for some that may be natural, and it may have even been natural for me at one time, it is also something I must now hone and develop. And I think I can. Lithgow describes the audition as the last she ever had to do, and I think I can believe it.
I mean just look at her...she always had that light!
By the way, the audition went really well. There were two roles I was reading for, and one was a sort of surly nurse. In my head, she had a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. I wasn't sure at first if I should use a prop, but when Joel saw me do the scene with the cigarette, he said "there she is!" I went ahead and used it for the audition (not lighting it of course!) and I had the casting directors laughing like crazy! I didn't get a call for the role, but later they re-posted it on actor's access and the age range was higher, so I think I just wasn't as old as what they were looking for. And that's okay, it's just really gratifying to know that I did my very best. Next time, I'll get it for sure!
Also, I finally got a haircut, and now my hair matches my headshot again!