Watch T. Schreiber Studio’s master teachers Peter Jensen, Page Clements, and Pamela Scott in their roundtable Zoom discussion about the performance mishaps and audition horror stories they’ve experienced in their long careers. Their stories, encompassing performance nerves, audition misunderstandings, outrageous wildlife, inappropriate fits of the giggles, and the pressure actors put on themselves will make you laugh, cringe, and be thankful we all face these horrors together.
Page: Probably the worst audition I ever gave; I was pushing, I was straining, I wasn’t connecting. I was indicating, and I knew I was indicating, but I was having an out-of-body experience. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. And I think they were asking me to leave. I mean, maybe, maybe not, but…I couldn’t get focused no matter what. And I had invested all this time and to this day, I don’t know why it crashed and failed. You know, I put all this pressure on myself, but it really came down to –in retrospect– that I didn’t focus on any kind of action. It was just like, “Oh, let me be here and feel,” and all the bad stuff. It was just the worst. But I lost a lot of time and money and embarrassed myself fully, thinking that it was going to just be a perfect situation.
Peter: I know that feeling so well. For me…when I was having those experiences, I thought, “Well, I started indicating, I started pushing; I have to keep doing that. If I make a sudden change It’s going to be weird.” And I remember for the first time doing something where I was so tense and then suddenly thought “relax your shoulders” while I was acting. And it was a revelation! I was like, “Oh wow. I can do something about this. I don’t have to just keep going.” I think that’s what used to kill me, is this putting so much pressure on thinking this is the one; it’s meant to be. And like, that’s never meant to be. It’s usually the ones that you never think you’re going to get, you get. But you just get so excited and you think this is the one, and then that’s put so much pressure on you.
Pamela: Well, I went to [an audition] for an industrial and they were so, so nice and I was reading from cue cards and it was for Pfizer. And [for some reason]…I would look at the cue cards and I would say, “the Eff-FICK-uh-see” and I’d start cracking up, because I knew it was efficacy. Everybody started laughing and they’d say “Pam, can you say efficacy three times?” “Efficacy, efficacy, efficacy”. And then [when the cameras were rolling] I’d go, “the Eff-FICK-uh-see” and start laughing. And this happened at least four times. And they all were trying to help me so much. And although I was laughing in the moment, I went home ready to, you know, open a vein. Terrible, I felt awful. I was miserable. And then weeks later I get a call and they said, “Oh my God, we meant to call you two weeks ago, you got the job!” And I said, “How could I get the job?” They said, “You’re not doing the one with efficacy; you’re playing a dumb salesperson.” So it worked out beautifully.
Peter: Wow. Perfect. Yes. I was telling you guys that towards my late twenties/early thirties, I was really struggling because auditions were like my self-worth was relying on it. So when I didn’t get something, I wasn’t just disappointed; I felt like I wasn’t a good person, that kind of thing. So that drove me out of acting for a while into therapy. But I remember one night–and this again involves Barbara–we had both auditioned at Soho Rep, which at the time was really kind of hot. They were doing all these avant-garde, really interesting plays. And we had both auditioned for callbacks and then we came home and we got into some big fight about something, I don’t remember what. And in the middle of the fight, the phone rang–this was back in landline days–and I picked it up and they said, “Can we speak with Barbara?” And I said, “Yeah, who is this?” And they said, “Soho Rep.” And I was like, “Oh, okay,” and I gave it to her. And basically she got a part and I didn’t, and I remember thinking God was punishing me and telling me, “First, you’re wrong in this fight. You just lost the fight and you didn’t get the part.” And then I said to Barbara, “You can be happy; go ahead.” And she said,” No, I’m not happy. Our relationship isn’t working,” or something like that. And I was like, “Who cares? You got the part!” I was thinking if I got the part, I wouldn’t care [about the fight]. It was just an eyeopener about, you know, what’s important in life.
Page: To think that all rejections were so personal back then. When I was in my twenties, I was devastated by every one of them. And now I’m like, “Please. They forgot about me 30 seconds after I left.” If you’re not right, you’re not right for it. Most of it is based on, you know, I’m not blonde enough or tall enough or whatever it is. I remember auditioning once, and this was for “Off-Off-Off-Way-the-Hell-Off-Broadway,” as they say, for a black box theater showcase putting together this evening of, I think it was Washington Irving stories. So we were to show up and be ready for Improv and all that. So whatever. Right? So I’m ready and the director says, “Okay, I’d like for you to tell us a folk tale in gibberish.” A folk tale in gibberish? So of course, you know, at that point I thought “This is going to be the end of my career today–what does that mean?” But I decided I was going to implement what I’d been learning in school, which is: make a choice and run with it. And I want you to know I started and it turned into something incredible. I didn’t even know what I was doing but I made up a tale about a duck, I think, and I started doing all this physical stuff and vocal stuff. They kept me at that audition for three hours and I got the role…and because I had just given so much (they were doing a lot of multiple casting), they cast me in like six different roles. But I remember thinking, “Just run with the idea.” I have to say, I certainly fell on my face–in a good way, I guess–because I just went with it. It was like, ‘What in the world am I going to do in gibberish?” No words, just stuff. And it was all about the training.
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Peter Jensen joined T. Schreiber Studio as Artistic Director in 2005 after serving as a Core Faculty Member of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Peter teaches actors at all levels in addition to overseeing the Studio’s selective conservatory and intensive programs, running the Theatre’s producing arm, and continuing to foster the community’s most advanced actors. Peter is also a sought-after director whose work has been celebrated in film festivals around the world and with numerous New York Innovative Theatre nominations and awards, including The Hot L Baltimore, NYIT Outstanding Production nominee, and Balm in Gilead, NYIT Outstanding Production Award winner.
Before becoming T. Schreiber Studio’s expert instructor in Voice, Dialects, and Shakespeare, Page Clements served as an Associate Professor of Voice and Speech at AADA for 10 years. Page is a Backstage Reader’s Choice Winner for her work as a vocal and dialect coach who expertly helps actors reduce their regional and foreign dialects. As an actor, Page has performed in over 60 productions in the New York City area, including shows at the Roundabout Theatre Co., the NY Shakespeare Exchange, the Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, and The Metropolitan Playhouse of New York, where she was one of its original members.
Pamela Scott joined the faculty of T. Schreiber Studio in 2003 after serving as a full-time guest director & teacher at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Stella Adler, and the N.Y. Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. In addition to directing with N.Y.U.’s Dramatic Writing Program and The Actors Studio Playwright & Directors Workshop, Pamela is a playwright whose 22 one-acts and 5 full-length plays were produced in NYC theatres. Pamela has been the Producing Artistic Director for Aching Dogs Theatre Co for over 2 decades, and keeps busy privately coaching actors like two-time Emmy Award Winner Julia Garner, who she works with regularly.