Audition and Career Management
Interview with Rich Swingle
Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview Rich Swingle and ask him a few questions concerning acting, auditioning, and finding jobs. Rich is an actor and performance teacher predominantly known for his one-man shows, including “Beyond the Chariots” in which he depicts the life of runner Eric Liddell. He has been invited to perform and lead drama workshops in 21 nations all over the world. Back in the United States, Mr. Swingle is the Director of Theatre at the Masterworks Festival – a Christian music and theatre summer intensive program.
The first question that I asked Mr. Swingle was, “What all is a part of your job description?” He explained, “I write my own one-man plays, perform them and other work for stage, film, etc, direct others in performances, teach acting and presentation skills. I also wrote the first draft of a documentary on Eric Liddell and am working on a screen play that tells the rest of the Chariots of Fire story.”
It is evident that Mr. Swingle has a very full schedule. It made me curious to how he first got into the “business”. He answered this question by saying, “In 1994 I was asked to move someone's belongings across country and I set up performances along the way with a friend. The next summer another friend asked if I wanted to travel with him when he moved to Seattle to work as managing director of Taproot Theatre Co. We set up performances along the way and the first friend joined me for performances on the return trip. When I came back I decided that I'd do it full-time since my room and board was covered by work I did where I was living.” I asked him how he went about getting jobs when he was first beginning. He wrote, “I made a lot of cold calls in those early days, calling up churches in denominations in which I had and was currently involved or I thought would benefit from my performances.”
Mr. Swingle also wrote about some of the parts of his job that he enjoys the most. He explained that he enjoys everything that he does, particularly performing his one-man shows, but that he is not able to make money consistently by performing. He is thankful for the related work, such as teaching and directing, to provide a living.
One question I asked him was how he personally prepared for auditions. His answer is as follows: “I've landed 4 out of 4 films for which I've auditioned this year. I brought Bev Holloway out to the MasterWorks Festival, where I direct the theatre program. (Beverly Holloway has been working as an independent Casting Director for over 15 years) I listened intensely to her advice and put it into practice. I think that one of the things that has helped me land the jobs is that I really put my all into each audition and I auditioned for every role that I thought I could do. That way, they were able to see that I have range.”
While Mr. Swingle did not give specific examples of how he prepared for auditions, his philosophy of being completely dedicated to every audition was a great piece of advice for me. I also learned that I should not limit myself to only auditioning for a specific type of character, but I should try out for any role that I believe is in my power to play.
I am often curious about working with secular companies and how to deal with conflict if any arises. I questioned Mr. Swingle about this. His answer challenged me. He wrote, “All of my work coaching presentation skills is with secular organizations. Also, many projects that I've worked on have been secular. I've had to walk away from some auditions, but in the long run I believe that I've earned the respect of each of those that were involved.”
I was inspired by his witness to step out of my comfort zone and to go wherever God leads me. I am also learning that I must stand up for my beliefs in the face of adversity, just like Mr. Swingle did when he had to walk away from the audition for whatever reason. He further explained that he wrote a letter of apology to the casting directors for wasting their time by not asking more questions about the audition beforehand. Mr. Swingle informed me that there are different ways to deal with uncomfortable situations or conflicts like that. He told me about his friend, “a fellow Christian actor said that his strategy is to just give the audition his best and, if he gets a call back, just says he isn't available. I think that's a personal call that may need to be made for each situation”. This was great advice and I trust that God will give me the wisdom to deal with conflict in a way that is respectful, professional, and most importantly, pleasing to Him.
I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Rich Swingle on two occasions when I was in high school. He was a very dynamic and engaging performer and also a very wise teacher. At that time, I had a lot of uncertainty about what I wanted to do with my life. It was very inspirational to see Mr. Swingle, a great man of faith, working professionally with theatre all over the world! He was one of the main factors in my decision to study theatre. I could see his passion for the theatre and his determination to reach the lost and I wanted to be a part of it as well.
(Thanks again for your help, Rich. I look forward to seeing you again next semester! - Addi)
Student Paper on Rich Swingle
Addi Musen, a student at North Greenville University interviewed me for this paper, which she's agreed to share.