Nick von Schlippe was in our June and September 2017 showcases. He tells us about his success of securing an agent through our showcases and his experience of being a part of a Casting Days showcase:
by Nick von Schlippe
My experience of the Casting Days showcase was one of a lot of work, several reality checks, a lot of fear, even more fun, and a great journey of growth!
Getting back into the world of professional acting after a break of a few years, I found the industry had changed massively. The online digitization of the casting process has created great opportunities for actors to promote themselves; however, I had to start learning the ropes again from scratch.
On top of that, I had hardly done any acting for some time. As I started looking for agents the thought came to my mind: if I am lucky enough to get an audition, what makes me think I will be able to just walk in and give a good account of myself?
So when the Casting Days newsletter came through (sign up here) that the Casting Days auditions for the June showcase were taking place, I was delighted to apply. Whatever else happened, here was a guaranteed audition!
Unsure of my current casting type (if I’m typecast as anything, it’s as a Russian truck driver and they don’t write too many monologues for us) I chose a piece from the TV series Lost, playing an Anglicised John Lock. An agent had recently advised me to choose contemporary pieces and avoid anything that looks like classical theatre, so I thought this would fit the bill.
As with most auditions, my head was filled with all sorts of imaginary horrors on the way to the casting, still more so when waiting to be called in, but once past the dreaded door of the audition room, I found Joseph to be as friendly, welcoming and encouraging as I could have wanted. And a couple of days later: hooray! I got accepted for the showcase.
For our preliminary meeting with Felicity we had to prepare at least one monologue. Quite confused about my casting type and how best to showcase myself, I ended up bringing three: the familiar Lock from Lost, a highly emotional scene from a Peter Shaffer play and a comedy piece from When The Reaper Calls by Peter Colley. Reading them out in the room, it was the comedy piece that got the best reaction, so I chose it for the showcase.
Rehearsing with my duologue partner Roxy Faradahni was a great pleasure from start to finish. We very quickly found a scene we both liked, from The Kitchen Sink by Tom Wells, a subtle, emotional piece that contrasted very well with my comedy monologue.
As a large part of my motivation for signing up for the showcase was to shake off my rustiness and get back into the habit of acting again, it was great to be meeting up regularly and rehearsing the scene.
A different challenge entirely was posed by the need to invite agents and casting directors. Starting with people I know, then agents of actors I have worked with, I compiled a list of invitees, completed with agents I found who appealed to me because… well, their websites made them look good! It was certainly not easy to do this work and it involved several late nights getting a personal touch to everyone’s email, as well as making sure that I was ready to send them at the right time of day. But the effort was well worth it and it made me more aware of who is out there and what agents and actors are doing.
And it was a fantastic feeling whenever someone emailed me to confirm their attendance.
As the showcase day approached Roxy and I were very well helped by the session with director Alex Parsonage. It’s easy to forget when you’re rehearsing a scene, especially an extract from a play like we do in showcases, that the audience needs to get an idea of what’s going on and get a feeling for the essence of the scene right from the start, or they get confused and can’t understand, let alone assess, your performance.
Alex got us to cut a lot of inessential items from the scene and helped us score key moments better, so we went into the final few days with great confidence. I was particularly pleased with his decision to have me start the scene sitting in a chair, as we had been following the script with me under a table and it wasn’t especially comfortable!
At last the big day arrived and with it a heatwave. Would the lure of lunch in the park on a sunny day overcome agents’ desire to come and see us at the Jermyn Street Theatre? I was heartened by an email from one agent I had invited to say he was definitely coming.
It all seemed to go by so quickly. There was a general introduction, then a cue to cue, a dress rehearsal and it was “everybody backstage now, we’re opening the doors”.
It was simultaneously gratifying and nervousness inducing to hear through the intercom that people were beginning to arrive.
One thing I hadn’t prepared myself for mentally was that the audience was there to assess us, not to be entertained, so any reaction was hard won. Performing a funny monologue and seeing people make notes is pretty unnerving. However, I felt that I had done myself justice and got good feedback afterwards.
It’s very unusual to prepare for a performance in order for it to be over after one five minute public showing. What especially pleased me was that I felt, both in the monologue and in the two hander with Roxy, that we had created something onstage, and not just shown our preparation.
After the showcase I got interest from agents and, happily, an offer came through and a couple of weeks after the showcase I signed up with F&I Associates as an actor and director. Whereas my previous conversations with agents had left me feeling good but with a nagging feeling something was missing, with F&I Associates we really clicked.
It’s been a happy experience that I will look back on with great fondness. I got to drill my acting skills again and feel much more confident for it. Best of all, I have kept in touch with many of my fellow actors from the showcase and there have been a number of success stories from the group with getting agents and castings in shows: a just reward for being persistent and getting out there.
Nick von Schlippe