All actors have experienced a horrible audition or terrible performance at some point or another - and likely more than once. And while such incidents can be a nightmare at the time, they often make for a great story later. With Halloween approaching, I decided to put a request out on social media for actors to share their memorably horrible experiences, and they certainly delivered. Here are a few, starting with my own.
1. I was a kid in my first professional acting gig - a play at Stage One in Louisville, KY. I had just finished a scene and exited the stage, feeling SUPER good about the job I had done. I made my way to the dressing room and thought it was weird that no one else was in there. Where did everyone go? I thought. Through the speaker mounted to the wall I heard the next scene taking place - one that I was a huge part of - and I was not on stage. I froze. Had I ruined my entire career at the tender age of twelve? As the scene was already going on without me I felt it best to stay out of the way, and listened woefully as my fellow castmates made up for my mistake.
2. I was on stage in the middle of a performance when the actress I was on stage with looked directly at me and said aloud, “That’s not your line.” I was stunned. Aside from the fact that I couldn’t believe she said that in the middle of the show, I actually had said the correct line. I just pretended she hadn’t said anything and we awkwardly continued with the scene. - Mike P., Actor
3. This story from a casting assistant is a real doozy:
I was running a casting session for The Amityville Horror remake - that one with Ryan Reynolds. Auditions were going pretty well when an actress came in to read for a small, three-line role. As is typical, she set her shoulder bag and belongings on the floor by the wall. About halfway through the audition I noticed that the bag was moving. Then a small dog poked his little head out, wiggled free of the bag, and started to sniff around the corners of the room. We were almost done at that point so I figured the path of least resistance was to just let the tiny dog walk around while we filmed the scene (first mistake). Suddenly in the middle of recording I see this actress’s eyes dart to the floor and she screams “No no no no noooo!!!” I turn off the camera (second mistake), she picks up the dog and as she begins to move it towards her bag, the little fella gets a mean case of diarrhea. Volcanic, jet-propelled diarrhea. It hits the wall, the floor, and suddenly it’s everywhere - an impressive amount for such a small animal. Eventually the stream of diarrhea ends, the actress offers a weak apology and then just leaves. And I had to clean it all up.
4. I was doing an eight-week run of Assassins. There was a guy in the cast who was into me and after one terrible date with him I declined his advances. We had to do a scene together in the show in which we were in a tableau and supposed to be completely still. For the rest of the run, he would try to tickle me or pinch me during this scene. - Anonymous (*Thankfully this actor made it through okay, but it should be noted that harassment like this is intolerable)
5. I've never been known as what might colloquially be referred to as 'a singer'. At least not by my songbird musical theatre colleagues. I have other strong suits as a performer – anyone want to see me walk on my hands? And yet even after doing everything in my power to avoid musicals in college I've still landed a few singing roles during my professional career. I remember a particularly harrowing audition about a decade ago – I've found that the worst audition experiences are the ones where you feel things are going well and then... Anyway, owning my deficits in that department I had prepped extensively for the singing portion of this audition at this big regional theater. I worked with a vocal coach ahead of time and everything. I went in confidently, nodded at the accompanist, and sang my little heart out. I remember beaming at the end of the song not just from relief, but because I thought I had miraculously done a passable job. The music director finished the accompaniment, let out an exasperated breath, and took a moment to collect himself. He then calmly folded his hands on his lap and asked if I might be able to just sing "Happy Birthday" a cappella instead. I complied, then showed myself out, walking past the director who was already looking at someone else's headshot, and wishing, for that moment at least, that I could simply avoid future birthdays altogether. They ended up going in another direction. - Eric S., Actor
6. I was doing a highly publicized run of a show by William Finn (Falsettos, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee). He traveled from NYC to see us and there was to be a party for him after the show. The huge song I had in the middle of the show came up and I was center stage. This show was on a thrust stage and we were very close to the audience. When my spot went out and gave way to brighter stage lights, I accidentally looked directly at William Finn and promptly forgot the lyrics. Luckily the music director picked up on this and brought me around to the chorus, but I was so embarrassed. As the composer, there was no way he did not know! - Erin P., Actor
As harrowing as they might be in the moment, we love hearing your embarrassing, horrific or just downright insane audition and performance tales. Have one you'd like to share? Shoot us an email or reach out to us on social media at @shoptheatrik!