James Urbaniak (urbaniak) wrote,
James Urbaniak

Actor Emotions

Good times

Well, my intermuffins, I had an excellent audition today for a part that is perfect for me in a film directed by someone who has employed me twice before. In purely mathematical terms that should add up to a sure thing but this is show business, the ficklest of mistresses. Keep me in your prayers.

I also had a voiceover audition today for a radio commercial. It was a humorous scene between a man and a woman. One exchange in the script went like this (dialogue is paraphrased; original punctuation is exact):
WOMAN: Where were you? I was waiting all morning—
MAN: My car broke down. I had to walk here.
When we recorded the first take, the woman I was auditioning with did the following (dialogue is paraphrased):
WOMAN: Where were you? I was waiting all morning for you to arrive! You had me worried sick! Why didn't you call?!
ME (waiting a second to make sure she's finished): ...My car broke down. I had to walk here.
There is a certain school of actor that takes a dash at the end of a line to mean "make up more words." Anyone who has ever taken a college acting class has met the confident young thespian who riffs like crazy at the sight of a dash. When his scene partner is momentarily flummoxed into silence the Dash Riffer breathlessly tells him: "You better cut me off or I'll keep on talking!" (Dash Riffing is always very high energy for some reason.)

I tend to find Dash Riffing unnecessary. It compromises the rhythm of the dialogue. I recognize that dramatists employ the dash to indicate that the character speaking is cut off; I just prefer when the two actors work together to have the character get cut off at the dash. Just a taste thing, I suppose. Cleaner, more elegant. This is not to say, or course, that dashimprovisation is never desirable or effective. Where would Robert Altman be without it? But I say unto you, readers of this blog, Dash Riffing has no place at a 30-second radio voiceover audition. When I didn't immediately cut off the other actor today I got the feeling she was slightly thrown and/or annoyed. Well, maybe now she won't make up ad copy where my line goes on the next take, I thought. The tape rolled.
WOMAN: Where were you? I was waiting all morning and you never showed up! You didn't pick up your cellphone! Why are...you...always...late...
(Slight pause)
ME: My car broke down. I had to walk here.
In a radio ad audition each actor has only has a few lines and a few seconds to sell themselves. What doth it gain, I ask you, what doth gain a thespian to talk over the other actor's line and screw up his timing? (And because, as mentioned previously, dashimprovisers are almost always very loud and energetic, the first half of the other actor's compromised line is usually inaudible.) It is discourteous. It is selfish. 30-second radio ads should not reflect the messy overlap of real-life speech. This is a commercial, not a Cassavetes film. Just stop talking at the dash. I'm not saying treat it like a period. Act like you're going to keep talking, but stop talking. Thus allowing the other actor to maintain crisp timing and be clearly heard. Is that too much to ask?

I have no ill will for anyone involved in it. Indeed, I have a friend in the cast. But did I feel a pinch of schadenfreude today when the play I auditioned for but wasn't cast in was slammed by the Times? I cannot tell a lie.
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