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May Diary Entry Written for BackStage

May 7, 2012

A month has passed and I have doubled the amount of auditions I have had since my last entry. Now I have had two. Two. Two auditions since the beginning of the year. These are the times that drive every actor crazy.

I called my manager and asked how things were going. I guess I was putting out the scent of desperation because he immediately cut to the chase and said, “Slow.” I said, “Slow. Or slow for me?” He laughed and said, “Slow for everyone!” (which in manager-speak means slow for me).

I try to tell myself that these times can also be an opportunity. It is a chance to focus on things that you can’t focus on when auditions are falling out of the trees. It just takes a while to remember what those things are.

Here is a quick list of some of mine that I have worked on recently.

It is a chance to read. Not just for pleasure but for research. I try to read a great piece of literature I missed in my misspent college years. In great writing, there are inspiring themes that have come in handy on auditions. Can the works of Seneca help on a sitcom audition? Can Charles Dickens help on the first day on a “Law & Order” set? The answers are yes and yes. It’s strange but true. You are what you eat, and George Eliot has almost zero calories.

It is a chance to review my teaching. I teach improv and comedy for Kalmenson & Kalmenson, the voice-casting agents. When I have downtime, I review the notes on past classes and think of things to try in upcoming classes. It keeps me fresh and hopefully enables me to bring something new to my students each session.

I try to take an honest look at my strengths and weaknesses. In the heat of battle, when you are auditioning and meeting producers and directors, it is not the best time to criticize yourself. You need all of your strength and confidence for the tasks at hand. A lull is a perfect time for gentle self-evaluation. I ask myself: What is easy for me to do? What is hard? Why is it hard? Is it hard because I am not working on something I should be working on? What used to be easy that has gotten more difficult? Why?

This month I realized I have changed in the way I approach an audition. It has been harder for me to get out of my writer-director head and just work on the script I have in front of me. I can’t think of a single producer who wants to hear script notes from an actor on a first audition. Things like that will get you put on the “naughty list” when pilot season comes around again.

I have focused a lot of energy this month on my book, “The Dangerous Animals Club.” Word of advice for future authors: Writing is hard. Rewriting is 
a killer.

The book will be out in August. That’s when I am supposed to start a book tour. I am accepting prayers from any and all denominations. Until we meet again …

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  1. Thanks for this great advice, Stephen! One thing that I do during “down time” is try to connect with friends I’ve neglected during busier seasons of work. For some reason, connecting with friends—especially outside the business—provides a sense of clarity and perspective that makes those seasons much less dire.

    Love your blog and podcast! Can’t wait to read your forthcoming book!! My prayers are with you (from a Presbyterian, incidentally).

    • Dear Christy
      What you say is so true. We tend to lose track of friends when we are busy. It is another good thing to do during the slow times.

  2. Jacki L. permalink

    Just wanted you to know that I received an advance of your new book and I will be delighted to read it and post a review on my blog! I started browsing and I can’t put it down.

    • Dear Jacki
      I am so happy you like the book. I would so appreciate a nice word on your blog. It would probably be important to contact my publishers so the review can be timed with the release of the book. If I could refer you to Kelly Welsh at Simon and Schuster who is helping co-ordinate the media. Please contact me at and I will connect you with Kelly.

  3. Hi, Stephen! Well, the review is posted on Book Hog; http://jacki-bookhog.blogspot I sent a note to Wendy Sheanin, the marketing director for S&S, and told her that I really loved the book. Not only have I reviewed it on my blog and Goodreads, but have ‘pinned’ it on Pinterest (or, as I like to call it, ‘Pintercrack’). Best of luck, and I hope you’ll be stopping in Oregon during your tour!

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