Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Call Back? Great! For What?

© 2008 Leighann Lord

My commercial agent told me I had a call back for an audition that I only vaguely remember doing. My memory is hazy because I was under the influence of Benadryl Cold medicine and Tylenol, desperately fighting a flu that was kicking my ass.

I must have been in bad shape because my husband announced he was driving me into the city, instead of dropping me off at the subway. That was probably best. New Yorkers are well known for their compassionate reaction when a fellow rider takes ill on the train. I’ve never heard of a sick passenger being physically attacked, but if looks really can kill, I shouldn’t risk it in a weakened condition.

I slept the whole ride in and had to be shaken awake when we arrived at the audition. Mechanically I signed in, and had my Polaroid taken at the front desk. Most casting agents don’t ask for headshots anymore. They take your picture on site and while Polaroids are convenient they’re also quite ghastly. They make Department of Motor Vehicle photos look like glamour shots. I smiled in the photo, but it didn’t help. Instead I looked sick and somewhat delirious.

As I sat staring at the copy, a fellow comic and friend came out from the audition room. She walked over to hug me, but I waved her off. "No, I’m sick," I said. I didn’t know what I had, but I certainly didn’t want to pass it on, at least not to someone I like. She seemed concerned but grateful that I kept her at arms length. A lot of comics, actors and artists are among the 40 million plus Americans with no health insurance. We don’t get sick time, sick leave or sick pay. Keeping your germs to yourself is more than just polite, it’s our version of managed health care.

My announcement that I was ill prompted a chorus of "me too’s" from other women sitting in the waiting area; each one in turn describing her symptoms as if we were in a flu support group meeting. From the stories, New York City seems to be ground zero for a Stephen King like virus hell bent on destroying the human race.

One poor woman said she’d been sick for three months and eventually had to be put on steroids. This will probably ruin her professional baseball career, but won’t matter much at auditions. There’s no random drug testing in the arts. If there was a lot of people would have to give back their Oscars, Emmy’s, Tony’s, Grammy’s, Golden Globes and Razzies.

In the midst of this conversation the casting director calls my name and asks if I’m ready. I consider asking for another minute, but the quicker I get this done, the faster I can go home and back to bed. I remember slating (saying my name) and delivering my lines to camera but everything seemed really foggy and far away. The medication made me feel like I was moving in slow motion and my face was on a time delay. We taped it twice and the second time felt better than the first but that’s not saying much. I left hoping I wouldn’t end up on the casting director’s "What Not To Do at An Audition" reel.

That’s why the call back stunned me.

"Really?" I said to my agent. "But I was so sick. I don’t remember what I did."

"Well it worked,"
she said. "They want you back."

In classic neurotic fashion I began to worry I’d gotten the call back because I was sick. Were they going for the ashen delirious look? Could I recapture that now that I was well? But my Ego stepped in and reminded me that I’m a "show-must-go-on" kinda girl. Sick or well I get the job done because I’m that good. Wow, thank you, Ego. Remind me to get you something nice at the mall.

I was way more lucid at the call back and even had fun. I don’t know if I’ll actually book the commercial though. (Stop grumbling, Ego. Let me finish.) No one at the audition looked like me. On most auditions the people they bring in all have a similar look: skinny, blue-eyed blonds; short, stocky brunettes, hunch backs with an astigmatism. It’s hard to stand out when everybody looks like you. Ego isn’t particularly fond of these auditions. When everyone looks different the client isn’t yet set on one type. You feel like you have more a chance; like they see you instead of just a sea of people who look like you.

Ultimately, I may not be chosen for this particular job, but "they" like me and will want to see me again for something else. That makes Ego very happy.

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