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Friday, March 13, 2009

Auditioning for a Season of Shows


We are in the season of summer stock, festivals, and general season auditions which forces actors to communicate several different facets of their skill set, often using only one audition piece (be it a monologue or song.) This can leave actors perplexed as the best way to present themselves, particularly if they are right for more than one show but the shows are completely different in style.

For example, here is the season from a theater currently auditioning in New York:

My Fair Lady
Little Shop of Horrors
High School Musical
Doubt
The Wedding Singer
Fiddler on the Roof


Um, so whatcha gonna do for this audition?

Take me as an example: I am a youthful leading lady with pop/legit soprano range, which means I am perfect for shows like My Fair Lady and The Wedding Singer. But with these shows having such different scores, how do I choose a song that can show that I am right for both roles?

Or, how about plays? What if a theater company is doing:

The Glass Menagerie
Tartuffe
As You Like It
Fat Pig
“Untitled”- an experimental movement play based using Suzuki and puppetry

If auditioning is simply the MARKETING of ones skills/ambitions to the acting community, how in the world can you communicate in one monologue that you are perfect for both Tennessee Williams and Neil Labute material?

The magic answer is that you tailor your audition pieces to fit your storytelling strengths, as opposed to fitting them to the season of shows. I’ll say that again, in another way:

Do what you do best and the appropriate project will draw itself to you.

So, how do you do this? Well, start by asking yourself this question: What is it about you that makes YOU perfect for the projects listed? Most likely, there is something they have in common which resonates with you, and THAT is what you should be expressing in the audition room. Using me as an example again: I am someone who is constantly on a quest to better myself and the world around me. “Idealistic” is one of the main words I used to describe me. So, I took this information and looked at the season of shows. The roles of Eliza in My Fair Lady, Julia in The Wedding Singer and Audrey in “Little Shop of Horrors” have a similarity of spirit. All three girls dream of a better life but find themselves in circumstances difficult to overcome. But that doesn’t stop them from trying, and in the end they not only find what they were looking for, but they find it in the least likely of places.

So, you know what your unique point of view is, and you have found that kind of spirit in several of the season’s shows. The next step is to go back to your repertoire of audition pieces, and find something that allows you to express your viewpoint in the audition room. To continue the example: perhaps I would sing something like, “Part of Your World” or “The Sound of Music” which are both about wanting and loving things that are bigger than yourself. Sure, by choosing one song you only get to express your vocals in one style (legit or pop) but you are expressing your own viewpoint, which is perfect for both roles and will ultimately allow you to be seen for all relevant roles, regardless of show format.

By using this example, hopefully you can see that you’d be going into the audition room AS YOURSELF and letting the shows/characters attach themselves to YOU instead of you changing yourself to fit THEM. It’s a subtle distinction, but a powerful one!

The same goes for plays/monologues. Make sure you have monologues in your repertoire that accurately reflect the kind of stories you like to tell, and that you are able to blend pieces of yourself with the material. Now, once you get a role, you’ll use whatever acting technique you’ve chosen to build that character. But for audition purposes (and especially general auditions) the goal is simpler than that. All you need to do is to show your auditors that you are, a) a good storyteller, b) that you would be fun to work with, and c) that you are not crazy. The best way to do this is to choose audition materials that closely match who you are, and who you feel comfortable being an a day to day basis. Then come in and deliver the piece truthfully and believably, with the words rolling off your tongue like it happened to you just outside the room.

Hopefully this is useful- I invite you to leave your comments and thoughts about this blog post and general auditions, and if you have any questions I can address them in a future blog.

There are so many other hints and pointers for preparing for season auditions, but they require getting to know each person individually and working closely to develop a personal, targeted plan. For those of you who live in New York City, I offer one-on-one coaching in this exact area, and it would be an honor to meet with you to see if we would be a good fit. Email me at erin@theactorsenterprise.org and we can set up your free consultation.

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