You Could Drive a Person Crazy

Years ago, I wrote a blog post about the various types of people who show up at auditions. It was a fairly hostile post, when I look back at it, but my intent was to write a funny, cautionary post -- in other words, don't be these people. And that post is now my most visited post ever, with about 7,300 hits so far. I hope it spares me, Dowdy, and other directors some abuse, unintentional though it may be...

Now, as a sequel to that list, here's a top ten list of the kinds of people we encounter during the rehearsal process. Just as annoying. Don't be these people either.

The Screaming Meanie -- they think screaming is dramatic, and that actors show anger onstage by screaming. Good actors and directors know that anger has dozens of colors. Loud is only one of them. Find another!

The Beige Skeptic -- no matter how many notes you give, no matter how much you try to help, this actor does not believe they're as bland as they are, so being any bigger is out of the question. Every time I ask them to get bigger stylistically, they change nothing, but to them I think it feels drastically different. Many actors feel much the same way, but they learn to trust the director more than their own insecurities...

The Sweet Nothing -- this is the actor who is clueless, oblivious, and happy to be that way. They don't understand the show, they don't understand their role, their acting isn't very good, and yet they're also a really sweet, warm, charming, friendly human being. You want to be friends with them, but you wish you hadn't cast them in the show.

The Meltdown -- this is the actor who doesn't understand a section of text or music or staging, feels stupid because they don't understand it, gets angry because they feel stupid, and then argues long and loud over that section. Usually in front of the entire cast. This kind of person is incapable of saying to themselves, I don't totally get this, but I'll trust the director for now, and I'm sure it will make sense later. Too much insecurity.

The Stand-Up -- every comment, every response is designed to get a laugh -- and I don't mean only on stage. These people are really fun to have around at first. At first. After a while, it's dreadfully obnoxious. And it tends to make giving notes after a long run-through go on forever...

The Mugger -- they think all comedy is the same (it's not), and no matter the material, they indulge in mugging to the audience, "funny" voices, "funny" walks, sight gags (Broadway director Casey Nicholaw is serially guilty of this). The truth is, nothing is less funny than being able to see the effort behind it. The harder you try, the more money you obviously spend on the gag, the less funny it gets. Plus, if the show is good, even the craziest of shows, it doesn't need "help;" it just needs honesty.

The Skimmer -- this is the director, actor, designer, or choreographer who has no interest in looking under the surface of the script and score, who will happily reproduce the most famous production of the show they're working on, who will go through the entire process of creating and opening a show without ever once asking the question Why?

Captain Concept -- this is the director who approaches every show with one question -- what Concept can I impose on this story? Wrong question. The right question is How do I tell this story as clearly as possible? Step away from the steampunk.

The Resumé -- this is the actor (or designer, director, music director, etc.) who is constantly reminding you of their past glories. Anytime any show title is mentioned -- any show -- they leap into the conversation to tell you about the production they worked on, which was astoundingly good and/or ground-breaking and/or steampunk.

The Ecstatic -- they love every show they see, no mater the quality. These are the folks who see a decent amateur production and declare in all sincerity that it's better than the original production on Broadway. But it's not that they're just being kind to less interesting or less entertaining shows -- they genuinely believe every show is wonderful. There is something nice about that, but there's also something unfortunate about it. If you can't recognize what's bad, how do you learn? And if you think all shows are wonderful, you'll never get the supersonic thrill of seeing something that is truly extraordinary. After all, if everything is wonderful, there's no such thing as extraordinary...

(On a brief side note, we have a local reviewer who's a stealth Ecstatic, who gives 90% of the shows he sees a rating of 4.5 out of 5. If a show really sucks, he gives it a 3. Although, now that I think about it, on a scale of 3 to 5, I guess 4.5 isn't as high a rating, is it?)

Making fun of these people is good therapy for me (and maybe for you!). Anytime you create a piece of art with a whole bunch of creative people, you're going to have weird personalities and interpersonal fires to put out. It's the nature of the beast. Musical theatre is the most collaborative of all art forms. That's what makes it difficult and it's also what makes it so magical.

And the process of an actor creating and developing a performance is delicate, unusually emotionally precarious, and incredibly complex. So the more we directors understand that process and what our actors go through, the better we can serve their needs. That's why I think almost all good directors were actors first.

Finally, remember this -- if you are one (or more) of the types on my list, realizing you have a problem is the first step...

Long Live the Musical!

P.S. BTW, here's that post about the types of people at auditions -- click here.


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