Audition

Kellie Cooper, minutes before the audition.

Kellie Cooper, minutes before the audition.

Kellie Cooper’s preparation for the audition was complete—outfit chosen, lines learned, accents adopted. Leaving her apartment, Cooper felt confident in her preparation. She had created her sense of Vanda and was prepared to “strut it” for the audition. But time and travel and waiting have a way of undermining confidence…of causing us to reconsider our considerations. The mental certainty of being at home was challenged by the time she reached the audition space.

On entering the theater, Cooper says, “I love auditioning. Auditioning invigorates me and makes me thankful for the chance even to be considered. I walked in to the lobby of the theater—head shot, sides, and resume in hand—and took a look around. We had been told that we would be paired with an actor reading for Thomas, so I scanned the room imagining who I would be reading with. I started to compare myself to the other women in the waiting area; some were wearing leather and dog collars to match perfectly Vanda’s opening wardrobe; others were wearing low-cut dresses leaving little to the imagination. I took a moment to question myself: “What are they looking for?” Using a line from Venus in Fur, I thought they are most likely looking for, “Somebody who's not me. I'm too young. I'm too old. I’m too big, I’m too small. My résumé’s not long enough. Okay.” Then my name was called and I snapped out of it.”

Audition evaluations are a committee decision—a number of people watch the actor’s portrayal, her knowing her lines, her relating to the other actor(s), her use of and comfort in the space. Sometimes, questions about the actor’s understanding of the character and the play are raised. The audition is a living thing…not just a recitation. But in the end, the director holds the actor’s fate…the director looks to see the character in the actor…

About the director, Cooper says, “I actually did not know anything about the director before seeing her at the audition. I was surprised to see a female director…I’ve worked with a few female directors in the past, but most of my directors have been male. By the end of the audition, I was thrilled to be working with Christen (Mandracchia). She expressed her passion for the play, how she’d wanted to direct it since she saw in on Broadway years ago, the way she spoke about the relationship between Thomas and Vanda…it was evident that we shared such a strong connection to Venus in Fur.

The audition experience is compressed while it happens…the intensity of effort makes the time race. Cooper was prepared to risk everything she’d imagined and prepared, while at the same time trying to detect input and reactions from the observers and the other actor(s)…and then to reshape the character instantaneously in subtle ways. Cooper’s audition began as a slow elevator ride…the doors opened as if they were a curtain rising.

About the audition, Cooper says, “I took the elevator up to the stage space and my nerves were gone as soon as I stepped into the room. The director, a producer, and the dramaturge sat facing the stage. The audition reader was standing to the right. I was thrilled that I was auditioning with a reader and not a fellow auditioner. (The reader knew the script well and was extremely talented.)

“I had the one side memorized and we started there. I took a breath and immersed myself into Vanda as I knew her. Using the transatlantic accent I’d practiced, I finished the required monologue and they asked me to continue reading the scene. I read on until they asked me to read the second side with the reader. I was cut off two pages into the second side; the director thanked me and said they would be contacting everyone soon. At that moment, I felt successful.”

But even post-audition, time and travel and waiting have a way of undermining confidence…of causing Cooper to reconsider her audition and audition choices…but as a seasoned auditioner, Cooper also knows the risks of reconsidering.

About her trip home after the audition, Cooper says, “I was very happy with my audition. I’ve learned over the years—regardless of how I feel about my audition—to avoid disappointment I must congratulate myself for even trying. As long as I feel that I was completely prepared and confident…if they choose someone else it means that I was not who they had envisioned and another part will come my way. It may be cheesy to say, but it’s the only way around the rejection you receive as an actor. You cannot dwell on what has been…but you can check your email 500 times, keep your phone within inches all hours of the day, and pray that you land the role.”

Cooper got her call and got the role as Vanda, the actress becoming a character. Excitement and work and new disappointments and new successes lay ahead.


Next entry on Monday, June 6, where Cooper wrestles directly with the complex of emotions that give Vanda life.