Recently, my sister-in-law, New York playwright Laura Bray, made a short film with two collaborators about what it’s like to audition as a woman. In Casting Call, The Project, actors read aloud the character breakdowns posted on casting call notices, exposing the stereotypes and clichés that pollute female film roles – it’s all about gender, sexuality, race, age and body type. Intended as a conversation among performing artists about the need to be their own storytellers, the project has taken off — several hundred thousand views within 24 hours of being posted on social media.
I remember hammering it out with an actor friend a few years ago in my studio. At the time, I was living in a 6-floor walk-up in the Village. The linoleum had been duct-taped to the floorboards by a previous tenant, the ceiling was cracked and flaking onto the piano keys like angel dandruff, and the bed was collapsible — not so comfy but good for easel work. My friend was equally threadbare, juggling restaurant shifts with casting calls and navigating the psychological hang-ups of a haircut — her current style was “too glamorous” to sell washing soap, they said. Once, during a simulated on-screen food fight, she became temporarily blinded by an eyeful of hot sauce. “How to be an artist?” she mused.
We supposed she’d fallen in love with a seductive and beautiful art form, but to practice apparently required the operation of a big, disempowering machine. “A painter,” I riffed, “can set up alone in her room and, with hard work, become an artist.”
“I love acting because I believe in telling stories,” said my friend. She attended classes and workshops and readings to develop her craft — grinding, triumphing and floundering through the earning process of her industry. After a particularly exasperating series of auditions for tropes and bite-and-smiles, she decided to make a change. Today, she writes her own script.
PS: “Art! Who comprehends her? With whom can one consult concerning this great goddess?” (Ludwig van Beethoven)
Esoterica: Casting Call has now been viewed over 2.5 million times while Laura and her collaborators continue the conversation offline — on panels, in interviews and in their other creative work. “It got to a point where something more than sharing and talking about it among ourselves had to happen. It felt like more was required,” says Laura. You can see Casting Call here and connect with Laura Bray, Julie Asriyan and Jenna Ciralli here.
“What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications.” (Nora Ephron)
If you find these letters beneficial, please share and encourage your friends to subscribe. The Painter’s Keys is published primarily by a team of volunteers, with a goal to reach as many creative people as possible. Thanks for your friendship. Subscribe here!
“I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: ‘No good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.’ (Eleanor Roosevelt)