ONE night not long ago, with my three preteenage daughters already in bed, I texted a neighbor.

''My husband is away. You around to tape me tonight at 8:30?''
I got an instant reply : ''Sure.''

Filming scenes in one's home basement studio with the only single-man in Bronxville, N.Y., may sound like the back story back story to ''Deep Throat,'' but it was merely part of my job as an actress asked to produce an at-home audition - what's now called in my trade, a ''self tape'' - in this case for an important producer.

Simon, my text-mate, was a local photographer whom I had recently met at a middle-school chorus recital.

Whatever libidinal gleam might have glittered in his eye vanished, in a flash of disappointment, as Simon took in my appearance when he came to the door :

I was already costumed as a 17th-century Quebecois, innkeeper's wife, described in the audition materials as ''not a conventional beauty, not a beauty kind really, rugged, with no makeup'' and ''twice the size of her husband.''

We descended together to the basement studio to get to work.

The self-tape is the latest torturous incarnation of the ancient abusive art of the audition, the primal act of our craft.

And the rules of engagement, even in suburban basements, are formal and strict : You are expected to perform your lines in good lighting, framed horizontally, in medium- close-up with a microphone.

You are often asked to produce two extra pieces of audition material, the first, a ''slate'' in which you stand in front of the camera, showing your full body and introduce yourself by name, height and role you are auditioning for.

You may also be asked to sign a Trumpian nondisclosure agreement and pose with it, your face holding the paper contract just under your chin.

Millennials seemed to have mastered the home studio. Telly Leung, a star of ''Aladdin''  and  ''Godspell,'' has a tripod, a folding blue'green screen, a ring light on a stand and a lavalier microphone - all stored under the bed in his New York apartment.

He refers to it as ''BernieTellyStudio,'' after the famous casting director Bernie Telsey. ''I've gotten so good at the self-tape game that I can set all this up in less than five minutes and be ready to go!'' he told me recently.

I envy that speed. I sat on my floor for days, fitting tubes and poles into various holes, eventually building a structure with two large clips holding a fabric backdrop and a set of four professional television lights.

In my hands, the project became, and remains a terrific fire-hazard.


The classic theatrical audition - with Neil Simon or Jerry Robins invisible in a darkened theater as the actor confronts what one veteran calls ''the big black giant with eyes'' - vanished long ago.

But until very recently the audition was still at least an exchange between two sides, a living breathing embrace or rejection. Horrible, perhaps but human.

There were even legends of the form. David Kolodner, a talent agent, recalls Carol Lawrence [the first Maria in ''West Side Story''] as one of the greatest auditioners the world has ever seen.''

Even when she was directly offered a role, ''her agent would insist she go in, because he could always get more money and a better deal.''

Every actor has stories of auditions, good and horrid. My worst was for ''Cats,'' where I showed up dressed like a cat while every other singing actress in New York showed up in cocktail dress.

Kelly O''Hara remembers banging on a studio door and insisting to the anonymous man who answered it that she was perfect for the starring role in ''Sweet Smell of Success.''

''Our pianist is at lunch. I'll have to play for you,'' he told her. ''I said 'That's fine, you'll do.' '' This turned out to be the show's composer, Marwin Hamiusen

A brave knock, and a star was born.

Rachel Chavkin, the Tony Award-winning director of ''Hadestown,'' refers to the classic audition ringingly, as the ''social contract'' of the theater. Too often, though, actors mistakenly think there is some special skill or electric moment that will get them the part.

Mostly, the part gets them. 

The honor and serving of the latest global operational research on Students, Skills and Future,  continues, regularly and daily. The World Students Society thanks author Melissa Errico.


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