In many ways, auditions are a "necessary evil" in the life of an actor. Auditioning is a lot like going to a job interview, if you went to multiple job interviews each week and had to show all of your skills on the spot in less than about 2 minutes. It is a nerve-wracking and subjective process that can really mess with your mind over time if you aren't careful to approach each experience with the right attitude and mindset.
In addition to holding auditions in both New York and Los Angeles, TUTS looks for actors here in Houston through their once-a-year open call auditions. The auditions are broken into two days-a singer's call and a dancer's call. Since it is a personal goal of mine to be in a TUTS show, I participated in both days of auditions when TUTS had its open call a few weeks ago, and told Thea I'd be happy to share the experience with you.
THE SINGER'S CALL
The singer's call is for actors who feel that they are stronger singers than they are dancers. Eventually you will have to demonstrate ability in both singing and dancing, but at a singer's call, you are doing just that-singing. Typically the audition notice will tell you what type of song to prepare and how much of the song you will get to sing. In this case, we were to prepare two contrasting pieces-an up-tempo song and a ballad. TUTS provided an accompanist and the audition panel was usually comprised of the artistic director, Bruce Lumpkin, and the directors of the shows for which I was auditioning.
When I arrived that day, I signed in and handed a copy of my headshot and resume to the audition monitor. Those actors who were Equity members (the actor's union) were seen first, while the rest of us waited, rehearsed, and caught up with friends. One of the great things about auditions is that you have the opportunity to reconnect with people that you have performed with previously, but if you aren't careful you can spend so much time visiting that you lose focus of what you are there to do.
While I am a strong singer, I was very disappointed with my experience that day. By the time it was my turn to audition, I had been waiting for four hours. Additionally, by the time my turn came, we had been asked to cut our song down to 16 measures, which I wasn't prepared to do. Mentally, I was exhausted from the waiting and frustrated that I wouldn't have the opportunity to sing the longer selection that I had prepared and that I felt best showed off my range. Trying to decide the best 16 measures at the last minute threw me for a loop and I second guessed my choice before, during and after my audition.
I don't remember much of what I did in the audition itself-which is pretty typical for me. But I left discouraged and the adrenaline rush combined with disappointment left me crying in my car on the way home.
THE DANCER'S CALL
The dancer's call is for those actors who feel that they are stronger dancers than they are singers. It is typical that following a dance call, some dancers will be asked to stay and sing so that the audition panel can evaluate them in that way. After my less than stellar experience the night before, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go to the dancer's call. But through the encouragement of my theater mentor Amanda, and my ever-supportive husband Sean, I was able to give myself a mental pep talk, don my dance clothes and go. One plus to attending the dance call was that there was no waiting! All the auditionees gathered together in the large studio to learn a combination from the choreographer for Camelot. Though the combination was very much based on modern dance (which is so not my forte), the choreographer broke it down, took questions, and gave us plenty of time to practice before we were placed in small groups for the formal audition. While my background in dance was certainly not as deep some others in the room, I felt like I was given the same opportunity to excel, which put me at ease and allowed me to learn the combination without nerves. So even though I anticipated this audition to be more difficult, I actually enjoyed it the most. While I didn't get a callback, I was able to evaluate my dance skill against my peers and see that I was a stronger dancer than I thought. I was able to pick up the choreography quickly and execute it consistently. And most of all, I was able to, in some way, redeem the audition weekend and end on a positive note for myself.
WHAT I LEARNED
I think that an audition is only a waste of time if you fail to learn from it. Whether it is a positive experience or a negative one, you should always be able to take something from it that informs your goal-setting and performances in future auditions. Here's a few of my "aha" moments:
- Be prepared for anything! Practice your pieces all the way through, but also rehearse singing a 16 and 32 bar cut of each. Be prepared to sit and wait…bring snacks, a book, music…whatever you need to keep yourself calm and focused.
- Auditions are just as much about mental preparation as anything else. How do you respond to the unpredictable? Are you confident in what you have prepared? What are you saying to yourself while you are waiting to go in the room?
- Do it for yourself. If you only measure the success of an audition by whether you book the gig or not, you are going to feel like a failure much of the time. You have to measure your success based on personal goals: Was I more comfortable in front of the audition panel? Did I lose myself in the character? Did I remember to breathe and enjoy myself?
- Every audition is a learning experience. You may learn what you need to improve on for the future, or you may learn that your skills are right where they should be.
- The only way to get better at auditioning is to keep doing it! So if initially it may feel like you are walking to your doom, know that preparation and practice will lessen that feeling and result in a better audition every time.
If you've ever thought about auditioning for a show, take the leap! It is an exhilarating and challenging experience that will grow you in ways you can't imagine.
- Katie Curry
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