Hello! I am Eliya Smith, the directing intern for An Ideal Husband, the last show of the summer, directed by Philip Hickman. Back in March, they held auditions for their 2016 season, and I, along with the other directors, assistant directors, stage managers, and some other random people, got to sit in. I’ve assistant directed once before on a smaller scale, but most of my experience with auditioning is from the other side of the table. The opportunity to watch rather than audition provided for some interesting insights.
More than anything else, I was struck by how true the cliché is about how “the director wants you to have a good audition just as much as you do.” I learned that that sentiment is in fact absolutely genuine as I found myself cheering internally (and sometimes externally) for the person auditioning. Selfishly, I wanted the auditions to be good so that we could create the best possible show. But even when people auditioned who weren’t eligible for our show, their passion was so evident, despite the painful vulnerability that auditions require, that it was impossible not to wish for such earnest desire to lead to success. I enthusiastically hoped that each person had a good audition, and I saw this attitude reciprocated among everyone else watching. When the door closed after a particularly good audition, the room positively buzzed with excitement.
And it wasn’t just after incredible auditions that people perked up. There were a few yawns and desperate games of “stuff hockey” when things got particularly dry, but in general, the audition room was full of cheerful, friendly humans, even as the days became long and sometimes tedious. The other directors were genial toward each other, and I found them incredibly generous when I had questions about the process. Possibly this mood was engendered by the constant supply of free food provided by a number of generous donors. (Really, the food was so delicious. And plentiful. Even if the other directors had been mean and the actors terrible, it would have been worth sitting through auditions just for the food.) Frankly, though, I think the positive atmosphere could have weathered far inferior food or—God forbid—no food at all. The beautiful thing about theater, and this company in particular, is that everyone showed up because they love what they do. Of course, standards of professionalism required that we all take the work seriously, but everyone in that room wanted to be there and relished the opportunity to take the first step in creating really great shows. It was exciting to watch the combination of intensity and joy that went into the audition process, both from those auditioning and those casting.