Common Casting, Uncommon Man

The midnight audition of D. Patrick Knowth

“The hardest part about Harvard is getting in.” False. From infected shoulder wounds at the women’s fencing tryouts, to considering getting cozy with a TF in order to nail the English 168d lottery, to that awkward, on-site liver transplant at the Sigma Chi (drinking) Olympics, hardly anything at Harvard happens without a bit of blood, tears, and competition.

Sadly, life for the wannabe starlets is no different. The process to be selected for Harvard’s fall dramatic productions is an intense commotion of tryouts, callbacks (or no callbacks), and more callbacks (or no more callbacks). To fully understand this phenomenon known as “Common Casting,” I posed as an ordinary thespian and sashayed to Agassiz Theatre late Thursday night, headshots in hand.

My acting experience is equivalent to the hook-up experience of most Harvardians: zero. Understandably, I needed a few vodka-tonics to get the liquid courage flowing. But while I may have gotten less inhibited, I never got the dress code. I’m not one for stereotypes, but seriously, theatre kids are asking for it. Donned in an obnoxiously bright red polo, I looked like an over-dyed Easter egg in the field of black pants, black shirts, and black makeup. But I resolved not to become discouraged—my preppy threads would merely aid me in standing out amongst this talented bunch... right?

As luck would have it, the Common Casting session I chose to attend was the musicals’ casting. I clearly didn’t get that memo either—everyone was poring over sheet music as I looked around in fear... I don’t sing. I don’t sing my alma mater. I don’t sing the Star-Spangled Banner. I don’t even sing “Happy Birthday.”

Fortunately, Harvard’s celebrated soap opera Ivory Tower also held auditions at Agassiz that night. I inquired about auditioning and was promptly handed a script to look over. The role chosen for me? Sam—the outspoken, snobbish New Yorker. Typecast much?

Anyway, I (flawlessly, might I add) recited my lines in front of the Ivory Tower execs and a daunting video camera. Despite my laudable delivery, they did ask for one additional take that would be “more confident.” And confidence is what I brought. Raucous applause, or something like it, ensued and I bashfully exited to sketchy Garden Street and its normal group of ruffians.

Alas, the final memo I didn’t receive concerned callbacks. Apparently, they were posted Friday night and the callbacks themselves were held Saturday afternoon. My bad. When I did look at the list, albeit tardily, I had, in fact, been called back. Unfortunately, I had missed the second round of auditions for a trip to, you guessed it, New York. My bad.

Producers of Ivory Tower, I apologize. But I know you need me. Call me. You have my number.