Four months ago, I saw a casting notice inviting actors to audition for a Mandarin gangster movie set in 1970s Singapore. I sent in my resume and photos and was shortlisted to audition for the role of the main female character.
That was good news, except that I was tasked to prepare a Mandarin monologue and dress up in 70s fashion.
I had never done a Mandarin monologue in my life. I had no idea where to look for a piece I could do. It should also be noted at this point that my Mandarin is as bad as my English is good.
(I can speak Mandarin very fluently and accurately if you give me the words to say. Otherwise, I’m a complete mess.)
It should also be noted that actors are supposed to spend months rehearsing monologue pieces to get good at them.
So, I had about two weeks to prepare for this scary audition and the butterflies in my stomach very obligingly kept me company throughout my ordeal.
I even contemplated calling it off, so stressed was I of not being able to live up to it. But I really wanted a chance at the role, so I rang up an actor friend for help.
I asked him where I could find Mandarin monologues. He said he’d lend me a book of short plays. At his earliest convenience, I went to pick up the book from him.
First challenge overcome. Next came the greater challenge.
I had to read the book in order to find a suitable monologue (or at least a dialogue I could modify into a monologue).
I figured that it would take me five minutes to read one page and 36 hours to read the entire book. It was written by some literary luminary in a level of language which I feel would be more suited to people studying advanced Chinese literature.
Well, I didn’t have 36 hours. At that time, I had just returned to Singapore after filming in Malaysia and was busy wrapping up filming in Singapore as well as preparing for X08, the biggest ever Xbox event.)
I had to quickly scan all the lines spoken by relevant characters to try to pick something out. Long story short, it took me about a week to find my monologue and try to read the whole play that the monologue came from to get an understanding of it.
After that, I only had a week left to rehearse. And to find a costume. All that during one of the busiest periods of my life.
I rehearsed it as much as I could (which wasn’t enough), did some Googling on 70’s fashion trends and managed to get my costume one day before, and finally arrived at the audition bright and early, as prepared as I could manage.
The dress cost me $65. I bought it the day before the audition. I wasn’t even sure if it was “correct” but it was the best I could find.
It’s now sitting in my wardrobe and I’m wondering what to do with it. I don’t think I will dare to wear it out on a normal day because it’s so loud.
The audition started off with a short chat (in Mandarin, no less) with director Kelvin Sng. He’s a very friendly and jovial guy, which made the process a lot easier to get through.
After the chat, I had to do my monologue. I think I did it really badly. I just can’t do monologues. They’re totally unnatural!
And then an improvisation session. I was put opposite actor Vincent Tee (who has appeared in several local movies) to act in a scene briefly described on the spot by the director.
I think I did that even worse because I had to improv in Mandarin and the words wouldn’t come out, so I basically came across in the scene as some half-mute person.
I knew what I wanted to say but I had no words for what I wanted to say. Haha. If only I could have done it in English. But that wasn’t the point of the session, I guess.
I think the audition was a total disaster, which was quite disappointing after all the effort I had put into it. But then this happens quite a lot to me so I’m used to it by now.
And, in fact, sometimes I get jobs out of disastrous auditions and sometimes I don’t get jobs out of auditions I think I did so well I would have hired myself on the spot.
So, you can never tell.
Three weeks after the audition, I received an e-mail informing me that I had been shortlisted again to attend a callback audition. (That’s like the second round of auditions.)
That was quite a shock, but a happy one, of course. I had a chance to redeem myself!
To be continued…