Auditions bring out the Idiot in us. Whether we’re actors dealing with nerves, creatives listening to the same audition song 100 times over or company management directing nervous auditionees front of house, the process can be trying.
In governance, how you manage your audition process reflects on your company. If you’re a director, how you respond to your auditionees determines how well they show you what they are really capable of. As a performer, how you present your audition displays your skills and what you are like to work with.
The purpose of auditions is to cast a show however there is one very important thing to remember.
Community theatre does not exist to give actors work. It exists to give individuals in your community the opportunity to participate.
This means that your approach has to be about bringing out the best from people who generally don’t have audition skills. To put it bluntly, we can suck at auditioning but be fantastic in rehearsal and performance.
You’ll never be able to remove nerves completely. Auditions for performers will always feel like running with the bulls at Pamplona but here are some ways you can improve the process for everybody involved.
This team should consist of the Director, Musical Director and Choreographer and a representative of the theatre company (This representative should ensure that company audition policies are observed. They should have not input into the casting process!)
The audition process is where you, as a director/musical director, can use your skills to delve deeper with an actor to get beyond the nerves. Let a performer present what they have prepared then, if you see potential, get out of your chair and work with them. Make some suggestions for technicque, delivery, both in acting and/or song and see if they can effect those changes. Working with an auditionee, one on one, can relax them and release what is hidden behind the nerves.
Don’t expect performance level at auditions – look for potential. Of course, you have to measure how much work that potential will take and whether you have time and resources to work with it.
REMEMBER: We’re not professional performers. We generally aren’t trained in how to audition well.
Help yourself by being prepared. If you’re auditioning for a musical, choose a song (32 bars) that really shows off your vocal ability and perform it. Don’t just sing it. If you’re working with a script excerpt, learn it and be able to be script down. You cannot show acting ability with your face covered by a piece of A4. If you are asked to change something in your presentation, you will have a better chance of doing it if know your words.
I recommend taking the script into the audition space with you. Hold it for confidence but don’t plan to use it. If something happens and you throw up on your shoes at least you can refer to your script and get back on track.
Finally, follow instructions. If you are told not to present a piece from the show, don’t be the person that does. It makes you look arrogant and subconsciously it will be a tick against you in the teams minds because they now wonder if you are going to be that actor who can’t take direction.
Have you ever noticed that you can’t hear properly in an audition, or is that just me? It’s like a guaze curtain in front of your face. The director asks you to alter something and before you can process it you have to fight your way back through the gauze to your brain, which seems to be working in slow motion, to tell it what you want it to do. I love this phrase:
An amateur learns something until they know it; a professional learns something until they can’t forget it.
If your script and/or song are second nature to you, you’re going to have better recall and be able to implement the directors requests.
Govern! I CAN’T YELL THIS LOUD ENOUGH! Your job is to provide a professional framework for the creatives to do their stuff. Audition management is not the job of the director. Develop a simple audition process that represents your company’s mission and gives consistency to every performers audition experience.
It’s your job to develop and manage the where, when, how, who and what of audition logistics. That includes things like the registration process, organising a pianist or playback equipment and managing audition forms and front of house. Please don’t make your director responsible for notifying cast and unsuccessful auditionees of the audition results. Someone representing the company should be doing this. Some unsuccessful auditionees tend to project their disappointment onto the director in a way they wouldn’t with a person not involved in the casting process.
Audition packs. Create one. You can use it to market your auditions but its primary purpose is to give performers every chance to prepare a great audition. Used consistently, and making it part of your registration process, an audition pack can make the management of auditions much easier because performers know what to expect. I’ve been using them for a few years now and I’ve created a template for you to download from the Idiot’s website to give you a starting point.
Finally, think about why you do auditions the way you do. Have you ever questioned your process? Does your process work for you? If not, shake things up, try something new and develop a better way to do things.
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