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Try to Imagine I'm a Rodeo Clown...

Andrewsherman Like most actors, I want as many auditions as I can get in order to be in the running for as many parts as possible. I don't like auditions or auditioning; it's only a means to an end. Still, whenever my cell phone buzzes with news of a new audition, my heart buzzes with it because it means another opportunity to act.

But lately it seems commercial casting directors increasingly want you to wear exactly what the character will wear in the spot. I mean exactly. In the last two years, I have needed a chef's jacket three times, a lab coat four times, full and partial NASCAR wear, stranded-on-a-desert-island attire, and pajamas with bunny slippers, not to mention every type of office attire.

I happen to own a chef's jacket -- received as a costume to wear for my rock band -- and I shredded old shorts for the "desert island" look, but for the others I just did the best I could and came close to what I thought they wanted. I have bought clothes I thought I might need, like a delivery-guy shirt -- predictably, since I bought it, I haven't had any auditions for which I've needed it. My parents drilled it into my head to save all old clothes in case I need them for costumes. I'm glad I listened: I have a decent array of costumes, though not nearly as extensive as auditions have required.

Don't actors have enough pressure with the actual acting part of the process? Should we have to worry about how deep our closets are or how our makeup skills measure up?

One casting notice I got right before Thanksgiving, for the role of a rodeo clown in an Arby's commercial, took the cake. It said: "Jeans and flannel shirt. We may be putting some clown makeup on [the actors] and giving them makeup remover as well." When I got to the audition, there was no one putting makeup on us. The actors were responsible for putting it on themselves. I took a makeup class in college, but that was almost 15 years ago.

What I found when I arrived was a plastic bag filled with makeup; other actors were wandering around wearing various degrees of makeup. One guy did a cool Cirque du Soleil thing with white dots and lines. Another actor, the one I went into the audition with, had two red dots on his cheeks. I felt like that was the cheap way out and figured I would jump in headfirst. So I covered my face in white, drew big blue circles on my cheeks, made my lips big and red, and -- because I didn't have a clear rodeo-clown picture in my head -- I added a big Three Musketeers-style mustache and goatee. I looked more like a drag-show Johnny Depp from Pirates of the Caribbean than a rodeo clown.

Nonetheless, I went in and gave a very good audition, but I didn't get called back. I wondered: Was it my acting ability or my lack of makeup skills that cost me this job? I realize there is more to the casting process than that, but as an actor, all I have when I leave an audition is my gut feeling and my analytical mind. My question to the universe is this: What's more important, my acting abilities or the depth of my wardrobe?

Here's a novel idea for casting directors: If everyone at an audition needs to wear a lab coat, why not provide one at the audition? Is it that hard to imagine me in a lab coat if I'm not wearing one? Do I need to own bunny slippers to have a shot at this part, and can't I wait until the callback to put on the clown makeup?

-- Andrew Sherman

Andrew Sherman was recently named music director for the newly formed Fanatic Salon Theater in Culver City, Calif. Information on his band, Andrew Sherman Vehicle, can be found online at myspace.com/astroamericans. He is represented commercially by ABA Talent but is seeking theatrical representation.

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