AUDITION DOs and DON’Ts
Audition season is in full swing for musical theatre programs throughout the country and as I watch audition after audition I keep seeing some of the same mistakes as well as some really well prepared auditions. So to help give you a better idea of what makes a good or a bad audition, here is a list of DOs and DON’Ts.
-Do not pick inappropriate material. Monologues about sex, suicide, rape, incest, rage, or loaded with numerous swear words are a really bad choice. We DO respect you as young mature adults. We will not deny that these monologues can be powerful pieces of literature BUT usually only in the middle of the play they were written for. It can make us really uncomfortable to have a young girl walk into our audition, with a panel of almost all men, and start talking to us about having sex with a stranger (using the F word) and then asking us rhetorical questions about it (like “wouldn’t you do the same thing”). In the context of a play, ok. But in a room full of strangers you don’t know, sometimes kind of creepy.
-Do not play a mentally challenged person. There are some monologues out there that feature a mentally challenged character who talks and uses body language consistent with a severe handicap. Trust me – DON’T do it. First of all, you never know who on that panel may have a handicapped son, daughter, spouse, parent, or friend. Second, it comes off as just plain bad taste. Third, it turns in to being comedic rather than serious as we all sit aghast trying to figure out why you made that choice. Again, its fine in a play, not an audition, unless you are auditioning for a play (i.e. Of Mice and Men) where that kind of character exists and you want to be considered for the role. Even then, be careful.
-Do not showcase your weakness. Look, you’re young, we expect that you have weaknesses. We assume that once we accept you, you will arrive and we will start to find little imperfections here and there. But don’t showcase them in your audition. If you are a belter and don’t have a head voice, then don’t sing a head voice song. Have one in your book in case we ask about it (there’s a very good chance we will), but walking in with a super belter number and then a weak legit head voice piece just disappoints us and makes us start to think in ways you don’t want us to. Impress us first, and then leave it in our hands whether or not we’ll ask for your weak point. It’s a gamble that you could easily win, if you blow us away with your controlled belting and awesome acting, we may see all we need and accept you based off of what we saw and liked.
-Do not try to figure out what we’re thinking or what we’re looking for. We don’t even know what we’re looking for. Yes, there is a certain talent level, a spark, a personal connection, but its not necessarily pre-defined in our head. I have often watched students in their dance audition, got excited about the spark they showed in their dancing, and then been disappointed as they walked into their audition and presented a finely tuned, almost technically perfect audition that left me impressed by their preparation but disappointed by the polish and lack of spontaneity and honesty in their performance. If we’re not way behind we will try to coach them through it, but it slows us down and gives us time to pick you apart instead of immediately buying into you. I have then seen other students completely unprepared but obviously coming to this with an honest love for the work, a strong connection to their inner story teller, and an eager urge to learn and be trained and we have accepted them. There is no perfect formula, just be who you are.
-Do not wear shoes you can’t walk in. We have had so many girls come in this year with high heels on, asking as soon as they come in if they can take them off. If you want to do your audition barefoot, fine. But half the time I think its more of an issue about trying to pick awesome shoes and not thinking about the fact that you are going to be dancing for an hour and a half before you sing, which swells your feet, and makes the shoes even more uncomfortable than they usually are. Sassy shoes are great, but they’re not going to make or break the audition, please wear something comfortable and something you can walk gracefully in. This is not a fashion show, its an audition for budding actresses.
-Do not cry in your audition interview. You travelled, prepared, and showed up for an audition in the hardest field to enter as an undergraduate student. Its usually a given that you want this really bad. If not, we can see it, the student doesn’t have to say a word, it will show in their appearance, dress, acting, dancing, and singing. So if we ask you why you want to do this, just be honest, we’re just trying to have a conversation. If you start crying because “you want it so bad”, it worries us. It makes us think “Is this person mentally stable? Can they handle the pressure?”
-Do pick age appropriate music. Mother and Father roles are bad choices. There are a lot of roles out there for teens and young adults, start there.
-Do pick something you can absolutely nail under any circumstances. Your hotel may be dry the night before your audition. You could end up in a hotel room underneath a room full of teens on a field trip jumping on their beds until 4am. You could end up sick that weekend. Pick rep that is a guaranteed attention getter. If you want to have a sick package and a well package – fine. Just remember, we don’t need you to absolutely blow us away with volume and range, we need you to show us who you are, and you need to convince us that we want to hear more. If you get us hooked, we’ll ask what else you have in your book, have you make an adjustment, or start asking questions about you.
-Do dress your age. You’re young adults by your senior year. Dress that way. Don’t dress like a “cougar”, don’t dress like a tween (unless that’s what your selling as an actress), and don’t dress like you’re going clubbing. Do dress like who you are as a person. If that is jeans, a cute top, slight heels, earrings, bracelets, and a head band, then do it. We are interested in who you are as a person, feel free to dress in a way that shows us that.
-Do be yourself in the audition room. Don’t try to impress us with the perfect answer to our questions. There often is no perfect answer, we just ask you questions to make conversation and open a line of communication to see how our personalities mesh. You don’t want to fake that part of the audition. If we don’t click, you’re going to probably be a very unhappy person for four years. If we do really click but you can’t make that connection with other university faculty at other schools, that’s something you really want to know.
At the end of the day you want to be accepted to schools where you will thrive and grow into a consummate artist. If we don’t accept you, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not talented. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel like the right fit. We may feel that your personality and ours may not mesh, we may feel the competition you’ll face will be too stiff for you and you won’t make it through the degree. You never know why we may say no, but unfortunately when literally seeing hundreds of people a year and only being able to take 24, schools have to say no to a lot of people. I’ll speak for myself on this, but I’ve been on the rejection side many times before and its not easy, I don’t take rejecting people as an easy task. But its what’s best for everyone involved. So if you get that dreaded “NO” letter, suck it up, get back in the game, and keep auditioning. You’ll find where you are meant to be and you will be much happier in the end.