Part 2 of a series about Musical Auditions. (Click here to view Part 1: Preparation)
We all have our own little rituals when it comes to stressful situations. Some people do a little yoga, some meditate, others pray. Some people seem to be immune to audition nerves and bully for them. For me, I like to know absolutely as much as possible about what to expect. So, this post is sort of written to myself in the past in the hopes that a newbie musical theatre professional can get some sort of benefit from it. If you are a seasoned old salt, please add any helpful hints. Rather than focus too heavily on the nitty gritty details, I try to answer the question What is a musical audition like?
If it seems like the following is a lot of effort for all of 60 seconds of your life, well, it is. But it’s worth it, in the end. Preparation lessens the stress of a situation that is traditionally thought of as nerve-wracking. But, it can, and should be fun, for the most part. Why not? Auditioning is absolutely as much a part of the actor’s job as anything else. No need to look at it as a “necessary evil”. It’s like a 60 second cabaret starring you. This is a notion to keep in mind while selecting material, something I’ve blogged about here and here in reference to building your book. I will also discuss it in an upcoming post about selecting audition material for a particular audition and how the book itself should function.
There are basically two situations: Appointment or No Appointment.
Auditions by appointment are posted ahead of time. Sometimes you have to submit your headshot and resume in ordered to be offered an appointment. On the day of the audition you show up a little early, fill out the requisite paperwork, and do your thang. If there are no appointments available, ask if can be on the waitlist. They still may be able to squeeze you in.
These include Equity crashes, waitlists, open calls and cattle calls. (I loathe and detest open calls. But that really doesn’t matter. Cattle calls, however, are not as horrid as the name implies.) I recommend crashing Equity auditions every once in awhile. Particularly in Chicago. While the talent pool is big, it’s hardly overwhelming and to date I’ve never not been seen. Scare yourself every once in awhile. That’s my motto. (I know, I have like fifteen mottos.)
The purpose of this post isn’t to detail all the ins and outs of the different types of musical auditions because in the end, you are still busting out 16 bars or so and maybe a monologue.
So Audition day dawns. What to do? Well, whether the audition is at 10 in the morning, or 10 at night, find some time to warm up and rehearse and hydrate. Avoid caffeine and dairy if you can (makes you sound a little gurgly). Don’t let the audition be the first time that day you’ve sung.
Of course there is the age old question of what to wear. I am going to do a post about audition wear coming up, but whatever you choose should be pressed and professional. I like to wear a dress to musical auditions. It’s the most “me” thing. Lots of women wear dress pants. It doesn’t really matter. The important thing is to look a little dressy. Musicals, in particular, have a bit of a dressy feel to them. The makeup is a little more intense. You are often wigged. Even miked. The costumes are a little more ridiculous (if not patently a lot more ridiculous). Dressing up hints in that direction, and it’s a sign of respect. Remember, as I’ve said before, at it’s heart it’s a job interview. A creative one. Where you sing.
LOVE your material. Love it. Don’t get so caught up in finding obscure and interesting pieces that you forget to sing something you enjoy. I tell you this from experience. I have been guilty of this time and time again. You should really love your whole book. I sort of look at my book as a dream cabaret – with a few caveats.
I like to have a little checklist for myself that I keep in my audition binder to remind what to bring along:
1. Music – marked (I’ll talk about how to do this in the Audition Book post.)
2. Sides (if provided)
3. Monologue (for review, and if requested)
4. 5 headshots and resumes
5. Shoes (if I plan on changing shoes when I get there)
7. Audition/Rehearsal Kit (I will go over what is in this in a later post. But it’s basically a makeup bag full of safety pins, lozenges, mints, kleenexes and other stuff I usually wish I have. More important for long audition days.)
8. Pashmina or something in case the audition area isn’t heated…this happens. A lot.
11. Dance clothes and dance shoes. (I don’t think you need to carry around your dance shoe collection, but having your characters on hand is not a bad idea. Don’t do your initial audition in them, however. Frankly…it looks dorky.) You may be asked to come back and dance that day. This is fairly rare in Chicago, but it does happen. I am of the “Be Prepared” school of thought, so might well throw those trusty t-straps in your bag.
12. The details of the audition including location, directions, and hopefully a phone number in case you get lost or are running late.
13. Pens and a little notebook. You might be called back immediately and given information that you will want to write down. You might meet someone who’s name you need to remember. You never know.
The Audition Itself
When you arrive, you will usually be met by a table where an audition monitor will usually be seated. This person is your guide. They have the sheet with your appointment. They have the forms you need to fill out. They know if things are running as scheduled. They know who is in the room. Be nice to them. Follow their instructions, and ask them any questions you have.
Then sit back and relax, go over your stuff, observe. Sometimes I even knit. Pay attention to any announcements from the monitor. Don’t make them repeat things over and over.
When you are called into the audition room, you could see any number of people: The director, the music director, the accompanist, the choreographer, the producer, the artistic director, the assistant director, the stage manager, the managing director, casting director, interns…. Normally, there are usually 3-4 people in the room, and not the entire slew of production staff. I often ask whoever is monitoring the auditionwho is in the room just to have a general feel for what will greet me. I also like to know who is accompanying on the off chance I know them. If we’ve worked on a certain piece together, it might be a good choice for the audition.
So what do you do once you are in there? You are introduced by the monitor, typically, and then given a moment to speak with the accompanist. Don’t lollygag with the accompanist, but do take your time. They need the info to play to your specifications. Bring music in your key. Do not expect that the person at the piano can transpose on demand. Even if they can, they may not because it’s a pain in the ass. Also, make sure you bring actual sheet music. Not chord charts, and certainly not fake book entries. With the internet, libraries, and music stores are at your disposal, you’ve got absolutely no excuses other than laziness in this regard. The accompanist is your partner and there really, more than anyone else, for you. The director doesn’t need backup music, you do. However, the accompanist may also be the music director.
Once you’ve established your music with the accompanist, you walk to your spot, re-greet the people at the table, introduce yourself and your piece(s) and do your thang. Finish up. Say thank you, and wait for them to dismiss you. They might want to ask you questions. They might not. Don’t go running out of the room. They might even ask you to sing, gasp!, something else. (You should have several selections available in your book. I’ll talk about that in the Audition Book post.)
Then you’re done, you’ve thanked the monitor, and before you know it, you’re back at home and it’s all in the past. Except for that waiting part. For reference, I like to make a note of who I met at the audition, who was in the room, what I wore, what my hair was like, the material I did, my thoughts on the audition, and any comments or reaction. It’s just good info to have and info you’ll be glad you have the next time you audition for them. I used to keep this information in a notebook. But now I use an Excel spreadsheet. Oh yes. My dorkiness knows no bounds.
Coming soon I’ll talk callbacks, audition wear, your Book, the pieces themselves and how to approach their actual performance, rehearsals and all sorts of other fun stuff!