Updated: Dec 22, 2018
You’ve secured your audition dates, prepped your material to the highest degree, found a great audition outfit…now what? As the peak of college audition season draws nigh, a few words seem appropriate to address what some might call “hidden” audition elements. These are the things that go beyond the actual 90 seconds proving your talent. In today’s competitive theatre audition environment, succeeding in these areas can have a significant impact on results.
Upon check-in, you may encounter any manner of audition structure or personnel, from a singular staff member, to groups of current students, the entire tenured faculty or anything in-between. Consider how you’ll treat everyone. Including the person checking you in who might be a college work-study student and may not seem very important. If you are rude to them, it WILL reflect poorly on you. Treat everyone respectfully, and use these opportunities to make a positive impact by sharing your most patient, genuine, and warm self. This is especially difficult, and even more important, when the traffic, subway, weather or any other variable prior to the audition takes its toll--because it probably took its toll on the audition staff as well.
How you use your time while waiting could also bear some weight. Do you choose to Facetime a friend and hold a conversation for all to hear? If you chat with other auditionees, which is a fine and collegial thing to do, is your language, conversation and volume appropriate? Are you posing or posturing? How do you treat your parents while you're waiting? Do your words and actions reflect positively on you? Making thoughtful choices about how you represent yourself can be a very smart move. Thoughtless choices can mean disaster for your future.
Again, you will encounter the whole gamut with regard to warming-up. Many schools hold a group warm-up for all of the students auditioning on an assigned day, or during an assigned block. It’s their way of providing a warm-up, but yet another opportunity for the staff and faculty to get to know you, observe how you work in a group setting and keep an eye-out for red flags. I’ve heard instances of a soprano saying, “Could you go higher? I hit an E in my song (insert self-satisfied smirk here)”; intentional out-singing of others or unnecessary talking. The same is true in dance warm-ups or calls where sometimes the least qualified take over the front row, talk or show poor studio etiquette. Posing and posturing are both very obvious to adults, especially those within the industry. Some schools don't provide a warm-up or space to warm-up. I've seen auditionees take it upon themselves to belt their faces off in front of everyone waiting. If no warm-up or space is provided, you’ll need to do so before arriving, or devise a way to do so without disturbing others. Treat any vocal warm-up, acting exercise or dance-call as an opportunity to show your most professional self.
Entering the Room
Though you’ve been observed this entire time, the stakes increase once you enter the audition room for your individual audition. Auditors at every level from children’s theatre to professional casting agents will tell you that they know if they are interested in a candidate from the moment they walk into the room. Have you rehearsed this critical moment? Keep in mind it doesn’t mean making a production of it, but the important factors include entering with confidence, enthusiasm for the task ahead and “owning” the room. Oh, and don’t obsess over, “What if I trip? What if I start my piece wrong?”, or the like. Laughing-it-off and being human goes a long way. They are expecting honesty, and how one reacts when things go wrong is an excellent indicator of one's true self.
Introducing yourself is something you'll do in every job interview you’ll ever have. In the world of theatre auditioning, we call this introduction a “slate”. I know this is an awful note to give a performer, but “act natural”, is the best way to describe your goal as opposed to the constant performing we often do. Be YOU. Genuinely say, “Hello” in your own way, share your warm smile, make eye contact with the auditors, speak your name and any other information such as titles proudly and clearly. Yes, it’s worth practicing. I’ve watched far too many performers who turn their slate into another performance piece and each time I felt I never met the actual actor.
Whether it’s a single question, or several, the auditors usually ask questions. Don’t be thrown-off by this and be prepared for it. My last blog entry, 10 Questions to Ask a Musical Theatre Program, is a great starting point if they ask if you have questions. It’s a good thing that they want to know more about you, so don’t shy away from having a nice chat. Once again, this isn’t a time to perform. Listen, thoughtfully respond and be YOU. They may ask for more material, so be ready with the rest of the song or more prepared material. They may have you re-perform something to see how you apply notes or take direction. These are all good things, so enjoy and make the most of the time they are willing to spend with you.
Once again, how you depart is another step in the process. Always say thank you to the auditors and accompanist for giving you their time and attention. What do you do next? Do you leave the room and gripe to your parent in the hallway on how poorly it went? Or, do you brag about how amazing you were to the next person in line? Neither one is flattering or reflects well on you. There is a time and a place for verbal processing and I fear this generation has missed-the-boat on refining this skill. Save it for back at your hotel room or quietly over dinner with a friend or parent. And DON’T resort to using social media to proclaim your success or failure in the audition room. Good or bad, it will only come back to haunt you.
Boasting, griping or tagging the college you’re auditioning-for isn’t a great idea, whether before or after the audition. I understand the world of social media has created ample opportunity for self-promotion and the fact that you auditioned or are auditioning somewhere may feel like a post-worthy proclamation. However, that sort of thinking requires some pretty huge assumptions. The fact that you think you “#nailedit at #fillintheblankcollege” doesn’t necessarily mean THEY think you did. Anything that is hashtagged or directed @thecollege is searchable, so use good judgment when making these choices. Once again, it’s not the place or time to vent. Offer to buy a friend some coffee, and vent or brag to them.
A Note for Parents
These guidelines apply to you as well and choosing to ignore them can ruin your student’s opportunities. I watched as many parents moved just outside the studio door when their child was auditioning at Unifieds. As an auditor who has run out of an audition room between performances for a quick restroom break, it’s quite embarrassing for the parent and student when I run into a parent listening-in on their child’s audition. How you address your student, others in the waiting area and the staff are all worth thoughtful consideration. The same goes for social media. You may think you are many degrees separated from your student during your social media rant, or brag, but the performing arts world is very small one, and in many cases, a very tightly-knit community. There will be an appropriate time to celebrate your student’s success, and, once again, finding healthy outlets for frustration is a smart choice.
Temperance, sincerity, honesty and professionalism are some of the recurring themes that are part of the hidden factors within the audition process. Get these wrong, and your talent may not be able to overcome the shadow that is cast over your audition. Nail them, and your attitude and professionalism will shine like your talent.