Dos and don’ts of a solid audition
By Rebecca Peterson, Assistant Editor
Auditioning is easily one of the most stressful aspects of performance. It’s essentially a job interview, only a job interview where you’re asked to sing, dance, and act in front of a small panel of stone-faced judges. For those new to the process, there are certain pitfalls that you might not realize you’re stumbling into, as well as a few easy ways to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Here’s some quick and dirty advice for even the most intimidating of auditions.
Do: Research the company you’re auditioning for, as well as the show itself
If the company prides itself on modern interpretations of classic material, that’s something you’ll want to know. If the company holds to traditionalism, that is something you’ll want to know! Just as you’d research a job you’re interviewing for in the “real” world, you should know what you’re auditioning for and what the company might want to see from you. Imagine trying to audition for Kate Monster from Avenue Q with no idea of what the show’s about, or who Kate Monster is. Make sure to arm yourself with knowledge before you walk through that audition room door!
Don’t: Undersell yourself, or make excuses
This is, quite frankly, the most rookie of rookie mistakes, but it’s unfortunately common. The people auditioning you don’t want to hear about how nervous you are, or how you’re just getting over a cold, or how the material you were going to do was your absolute best but the dog ate your sheet music—no one cares! At best, you’re making the people you’re trying to impress wonder if you’re going to be able to carry yourself onstage at all; at worst, you’ll make them feel like you’re trying to manipulate them by setting them up for a bad performance when you’re obviously capable of doing well. Let your audition speak for itself, good or bad.
Do: Take risks!
One of my favourite audition stories comes from a friend of mine, who was once asked during an audition to act as if a tsunami was bearing down on him. Others going through the audition cowered, wept, or looked frozen in panic—my friend looked over his shoulder, screamed, and ran into a wall. He booked the role. The audition room is where you lay everything out for your audience—directors often would rather work with someone they have to dial back, rather than someone they have to work hard to drag a big performance out of.
Don’t: Take TOO many risks (when singing)
For theatre, even musical theatre, your audience’s main concern is how you emote and how you get the story across. Many mediocre singers have managed to carry their career on the back of how well they perform. Choose a song that shows off your acting abilities, rather than how technically well you can sing. If you choose a piece that’s wrapped up in vocal tricks and octave jumps, you’ll likely be more concerned with hitting the notes than showing character in the performance. Focus on a piece you’re comfortable with, and polish it until it shines.
Do: Be polite and friendly, and thank the auditioners for their time
A good rapport goes a long way. You don’t have to try to charm the auditioners—just be honest and polite, and demonstrate that you’re willing to take criticism. Often an auditioner will ask you to go through a line of dialogue again with a different tack, just to see how well you take direction. This is not a time to stick to your guns! Show them that you’re malleable and easy to work with. A good attitude can sometimes book the role over star talent.
Don’t: Hit on the auditioners, for the love of God
I wish I didn’t have to put this one on here. I volunteered as a casting assistant for an indie project several years ago. I was leading an actor back to the green room after a pretty decent audition when he turned to me, dialed up what I imagine he thought was his charm, and told me I was beautiful and that we should catch dinner sometime. I was so stunned I had to retreat back to the audition room before I could bring the next actor in, where I promptly collapsed into a fit of laughter. Needless to say, he didn’t get the part.
Overall, you can’t go wrong if you show off you’re honest, confident, and you know your material. Break a leg!