Audition Ennui

Auditioning stinks.

No matter which side of the table you’re sitting on, auditioning is one of the most brutal pieces of the theatre puzzle.

As an actor, I came to dread going to auditions, not because I was scared, or anything having to do with the time I would spend singing or reading. Rather, my distaste for auditioning warn born in the holding room. A New York City holding room is a hotbed of ego and nerves. How can anyone do his or her best in an audition, if they’ve just spent hours packed in an airless room, listening to the cacophony of warm ups, gossip, and tales of the latest children’s theatre tour that the girl sitting next to you just closed? Talk about a head game! How can anyone possibly maintain focus on the task at hand? Somehow, though, you get used to it. You must eventually learn how to tune all of the nonsense out in order to have a successful audition.

New York actors are audition pros. When you’re a young, non-equity actor, you quickly become accustomed to seeing the same people every day. These are the other professional auditioners out there. Getting up before dawn, taking the subway to midtown, being among the first 30 names on the unofficial list, moving into the holding room, getting dressed and curling your hair in the bathroom at Chelsea Studios, learning a monologue in the noisy hallway, running between calls at Chelsea, Ripley, Nola, and Actors Equity – all this becomes part of the daily routine.

Lately, I find myself missing some of that diehard energy. When I first moved to the Bay Area, I was refreshed by the more casual audition process. Almost every theatre gives appointment slots, regardless of your union status. Actors are legitimately friendly with each other in the waiting area. Companies allot huge amounts of time to each person auditioning. There are no decrees to cut your selection down to 8 bars because they’re running behind schedule. As a music director who now works behind the table, this took a little getting used to. Coming from that New York state of mind (sic), I can usually make a judgement about someone in the first minute. I sometimes yearn for the environment where it would be acceptable to cut someone off early. It’s not about not wanting to give people a chance. Anyone who as ever worked with me knows that I believe deeply in the value of educating and nurturing artists. But if someone has clearly not prepared for his or her audition, there is no saving them.

Too often, lately, I have seen people come to their auditions in gym clothes. I’m sorry. Unless it’s a dance call, there is no reason not to be dressed for success. The folks behind the table are forming opinions of you before you ever open your mouth. You owe it to yourself to look fabulous when you walk into the room. It shows that you take both yourself and the audition seriously.

Organize your music. This goes well beyond making the accompanist’s job easier. Loose leaf paper could fly off the music stand, disrupting you in the middle of your song. Similarly, it is hard to make a large paperback anthology of music lie flat. The last thing you want is the pianist holding your music up with one hand, while trying to play with the other. Do yourself a favor and put your music in a binder. Neatly copied, double sided, and clearly cut. Don’t make the audition any more complicated than it needs to be. And, please, have more than one song prepared. You never know when people are going to want to hear more. (But also be sure that you don’t have songs in your book that you aren’t prepared to sing that day. You might get someone sneaky like me at the piano who will flip through your book to see what else you have and then ask to hear it.)

Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. The beauty of having all these auditions by appointment here in the Bay Area, is that there is usually ample time to prepare. If the company sends you material to prepare ahead of time, make sure that you do. In this age of Facebook, Google, and YouTube, there is no excuse not to do the research and prepare. No excuses of work, vacation, or illness. If you’re not prepared for the audition, don’t come in. Send a polite request to reschedule. Companies here are unbelievably accommodating. Rarely will you get the response of “too bad, so sad.” A request to reschedule is going to go over a lot better than a sloppy audition for which you clearly have not prepared.

New York auditions may be a bit intense, but they are also very clear. The cream quickly rises to the top. I think we could use a little bit more of that fire in our souls here in the Bay Area.

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About rachelrobinsonmusic

Rachel Robinson is a teaching artist, director, music director and performer based in San Francisco. She is a graduate of New York University’s Steinhardt School, and holds a degree in Vocal Performance. In addition to her work as a singer/actress, Rachel maintains a very busy schedule directing, music directing, and teaching. Rachel grew up in the Washington, D.C. area where she became an active performer at a very early age. She appeared many times with The Washington Opera, and she also played roles at the Adventure Theatre and with the Washington Savoyards. In 2003, Rachel moved to New York City to begin her degree at New York University. During the next four years Rachel appeared in many cabarets and productions, both at NYU and in the city. After graduating in May 2007, Rachel became the resident Music Director at Stage Left Children’s Theater in Tappan, NY. She was in residence there for three seasons. At the same time, she founded a private voice and piano studio. In September 2010, Rachel relocated to San Francisco. She began working as a music instructor at ViBO Music, Village Music School, and the San Francisco Friends School. She also was brought on as a music director at the Willows Theatre Company. In 2011-2012, Rachel spent a year as the Conservatory Director at the Willows, where she worked on developing opportunities for youth and up-and-coming theatre artists. No matter what level of student she is working with, Rachel believes in finding the student's "natural voice." Playing any instrument is a process, not an event, and her goal is to make that process as fun, productive, and insightful as possible.
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