“To me, auditioning is, ‘I get to meet somebody new, they get to meet me, and then we get to play,’ ” says Stephanie J. Block. “We’re paying big money for acting classes. This is something that’s free, I know exactly when it’s happening, you’re giving me a time and a place. All you have to do is be ready and show up. No one is forcing you to be there. I want something at the end of it, but I’m not expecting anything. Do the work, do it truthfully, show up, and then leave it in the room.”
Block, currently touting her third Tony nomination for her turn as the titular diva in Broadway’s “The Cher Show,” clearly knows of what she speaks. However, that holistic approach to auditioning did not happen overnight and in fact took conscious effort. But once it did click, it changed her outlook on booking and the broader business entirely.
“I’m not saying walk into a room and be nonchalant or ‘Who gives a fuck?’ But you certainly need to have a confidence without a cockiness. That’s what changed for me,” she told Backstage earlier this year. “Now that I’ve been on the other side of the table, I know that if you lean too far forward, people are bound to step back. It’s about saying, ‘Please recognize my spirit and what makes me special.’ People can sense that.”
Block also urges actors to focus as much on their humanity as their craft—it could make all the difference.
“Your audition begins as soon as you walk through the door,” she insists. “The way you talk to the pianist is really when they’re looking at you. And that’s the person they want to see, in addition to what you do when you step in the center of the room and begin singing your song. This business is about being you and being able to tell the story through your person.”
Having secured her leading lady status, Block is now in that rarefied air wherein she doesn’t always have to audition. But her approach, one of openness and truth, has remained precisely the same—which all goes back to a certain singer-songwriter.
“I now have the luxury of some opportunities that don’t necessarily come through auditions and my thing is always,‘Will I surprise them?’ ” she explains. “I want to be challenged as well but I always think, Is this gonna surprise people? That was another thing with Cher that my husband brought to my attention: He said, ‘I understand why you’re a little hesitant—you would surprise the shit out of people. If you pull this off, it will feel so great to know you surprised them again.’ ”
If this Tony nomination is any indication, it is safe to say Block pulled off that surprise with aplomb.