I met Mikaela Kafka, director of my play Dragon's Breath, some years ago. Her husband and I were fellow Nazis in a production of The Sound of Music at Paper Mill Playhouse; we had a great time working on the show, he introduced me to his wife, we all hit it off, I helped decorate their Christmas tree that year, and we've stayed in touch ever since. And that's how we met.
Or so I thought.
One day, Mikaela mentioned that she had in fact met me some years prior, although I didn't remember it. I was auditioning for a Fringe children's production, and she was one of the people on the other side of the audition table. Evidently I was good, because she remembered me, but due to the vicissitudes of Fortune or the whims of the producers, I wasn't cast.
I don't even recall auditioning for this production, so it's not as if I've brooded over this rejection for years or anything. But Mikaela made a point to tell me that she remembered the work I did, and recognized every time she'd pass me outside the Actor's Equity lounge. I was a lowly non-union performer at the time, you see, and as such I'd have to wait outside the union hall on the off chance that there'd be a free moment to see me after all interested Equity actors had been seen for whatever production I might want to audition for. And unbeknownst to me, she'd see me waiting outside as she'd enter the lounge, recall who I was, and shake her head at the unfairness of me still having to wait my turn, the good work she'd seen me do seeming to go for naught.
I mention this because this week, Mikaela and I will both be in the Actors' Equity audition center, on the other side of the table, watching people audition for Dragon's Breath. There will be accomplished professionals; there will be young non-union performers who've waited hours with no guarantee of being seen. There will be extremely talented actors, many of whom are personal friends of mine.
And with seven exceptions, they will not be cast.
And it sucks. And it's not fair. Because good work is supposed to be rewarded. And you're supposed to be able to help your friends, and you're supposed to be able to give extraordinary newcomers a shot.
And all I can say is this; it pays off in the long run. Talent, diligence, good-humored professionalism - these are truly valued. And at some point, although the form it takes may be completely unexpected and hard to even imagine, a reward for these will come. And to anybody who comes to audition for us this week, even though the odds indicate that I likely won't be able to cast you, I tell you truly that I'm genuinely excited to see what you can do, and how these values manifest in you, and I look forward to seeing the ways in which you will one day be rewarded for them.
Because you'll be auditioning for Mikaela. And that woman REMEMBERS stuff.