Charity: Don't look at me. Don't look at me.
I taught an audition class this morning at Broadway Dance Center. It was for thirteen soon-to-be graduates from the theatre program at Rhode Island College. I wanted to impress upon them that, more than anything, the task, the goal, the objective of an audition is to tell a great story .
I brought in a side from Sweet Charity that I’d coached with an actor last week. It’s what I think of as the middle scene for Charity and Oscar, in the diner where they sit in separate booths back to back. I chose it because it’s got some interesting physical storytelling to figure out. It’s also a very balanced scene. It’s good for a Charity audition and it’s good for an Oscar audition. Plus it’s very well written. The scene all by itself, separate from the rest of the play, is a damn good story.
No one in this class knew Sweet Charity, so this was a good test to see what they could glean from the one scene I gave them.
I had the students read it through to themselves, silently, with the task of gathering as much information from the page as possible. Then I asked,
What’s the story here?
What literally/physically happens?
What story could we see if we turned off the volume of this scene?
Why does this story happen where it happens and in this weird physical arrangement?
The best part about us working our way through these and other questions, sitting in a circle on the floor of the studio, was watching the students’ interest catch and then grow. As we teased out and debated the details—the facts—of what was on the page, I could see not only their intellectual interest but—perhaps more importantly—their emotional interest grow; their investment in the story of what was happening between these two people, Charity and Oscar.
The story of shame in a repeated line.
The story of joy and relief in sobbing.
The story of wanting desperately to look but not looking.
This is the thing to go in search of when preparing material for an audition, your personal excitement about the story that will, in turn, drive you to share that story and that excitement with another person.
If that person happens to be behind a table in a casting session, so be it.
It’s the sharing of a really great story, from person to person, that’s the real event.
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Christopher Gurr is an American theatre artist and educator known for playing a wide range of roles on Broadway and across the U.S. as well as the more readily accessible reaches of Canada.
Native Southerner, Midwest educated, with chapters in Northern California and southern Appalachia he currently makes his home in New York City.