At the end of this initial process you will no doubt have narrowed the list of possibles considerably. Advancing to the next step, usually designated as the call-back, should include selecting one or two additional scenes to be read, again always informing the actor ahead of time so you can see the results of the actor's preparation. Once again, you must have someone ready to read with the actors. At this point you might consider matching actors. If you are looking at actors for the role of the mother, for example, you might want to bring in candidates for the role of the father to read with them. Some directors like to wait for the final few to do this matching, but scheduling actors in pairs at callbacks can sometimes help both time and budget.
During the callback reading there are specific clues to identify:
1. Does the actor seem more relaxed in your company?
2. Does the actor respond to the reading partner? React to differences in the prior reading?
3. Has the actor brought any new ideas for this reading? Has the character grown since the first reading?
4. Can the actor's physical and vocal traits fulfill your vision of the character? Be careful here. Remember that makeup, wigs, and prosthetics can do miracles so don't reject a marvelous actor without careful consideration even though he/she doesn't quite fill the bill physically.
And, of course, above all, if you are really interested, work a bit with the actor. Although I don't go into throughline or specific needs and actions choices even at this point, it is useful to try out a directorial idea or two just to see and evaluate the response. However, take care that any discussion or direction is not so extensive as to be perceived as picking the actor's brain for new ideas. That should only happen after the actor is hired!
For example, let us say you are auditioning for the role of Conrad in Ordinary People and you have chosen the first scene between Conrad and the Psychiatrist. After hearing a first read to get the actor's ideas—remember, this is a callback—you might suggest to the actor that he try it again and include the adjustment that he really doesn't want to be in this office with this man. If, however, the actor has already brought that element into his reading initially, you might suggest adding the sense of guilt he has about his brother or some other adjustment that wasn't present in the first reading. In other words, use a little more time to find out how flexible and responsive the actor is, because no matter how talented, this is your project and you need the actor's collaboration with your vision.
On occasion you may run into a special consideration or specific problem with an actor. Older character actors might resist taking direction from a younger or first-time director. Some actors also have directing background and may reflexively add their two cents to the mix, particularly if they feel the director is less than totally prepared. Some men resist taking direction from a woman. Some actors work very slowly and have to gradually process a direction so the immediate response might be misleading.
In regard to this consideration of the way in which actors work and respond, I'm reminded of an experience I had on a project that starred the legendary Maureen Stapleton. Watching this gifted actor was not only a privilege, it was a class in itself. At the first rehearsal she listened and responded to others but the character was almost a blank page. With each ensuing rehearsal a new layer appeared. Gradually the character became fuller and more complex until finally we were all dazzled with what she had created. It was like watching one of those fast-action films of a bud growing through stages to become a rose. Of course in such an instance, where there is a history of fine performance, one doesn't need to worry when the first reading seems flat. Suffice it to say that, in general, a director's response to the actor's audition must be tempered with patience, intuition, insight, and wisdom. In some cases, what you see is not always what you get.
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