Thank you thats all we need for today......
Thank you, that’s all we need for today..........
“Is that good?” You ask yourself as you head for the tube. Does that mean “I was perfect, the job is mine” or perhaps “You suck, get out of my audition room”? Aaaaaaaargh! Post audition your brain goes into overdrive.
But I tell you now that you’ll never know what they were thinking. You can never second guess the greatest enigma of the acting world.................The Audition Panel!
Auditioning is an essential part of being an actor. But my God......they aren’t half terrifying! It’s all consuming from the moment you get phoned until it is over. You eat, sleep and breathe “11.30 next Wednesday, take your tap shoes” and normal life goes out of the window. I yearn for the day that I get used to it or just receive a call offering me work without having to going through the rigmarole.
But until that day comes (I predict it’ll be about the same time as hell freezing over,) I, and fellow actors, will continue to put ourselves through them in the hope of securing our next job. So we may as well get good at them.
In my experience, Musical Theatre casting process usually goes something like this: -
Preliminary rounds with singing slots with your own material or a dance call en masse. If you’re successful, a “recall” follows. This includes more dance or script from the show and then numerous recalls ensue before a “final” audition or workshop. Sometimes you’re seen 9 times, sometimes only twice. And this process will differ as you have varied castings for television, plays or adverts.
It seems the key to a successful audition is a blend of preparation and mindset.
Preparation is vital to give yourself the best chance. You want to show the panel your best and truest self; not some insecure gabbling twit whom you’ve never met before. Audition Tip #1 – Don’t attempt to learn new material before an audition. I speak from experience – When I began on the audition circuit I always tried to match the criteria perfectly. I had an audition for a 1920s musical and they requested songs “in the style of the piece”. (Now there is a phrase you’ll come to know and loathe - specific yet vague!) I panicked thinking I didn’t have anything suitable and so by spending over 30 unemployed actress pounds on Cole Porter and Noel Coward Selection books, I chose a witty, wordy ditty. “Perfect,” I thought! I learnt it and was word perfect in the shower and on the tube. But in the audition room could I remember all those new lyrics? Could I heck! I re-started twice and eventually fudged my way to the end with lyrics I doubt Noel would recognise and a decidedly dodgy last note! Apologising for my audacity to call myself a professional, I headed for the door......Audition Tip #2 – Take note of the audition room entrances and exits because as we see my 22 year old self shrouded in shame saying a dejected goodbye, I walk into a cupboard! Yes, a cupboard! Scouts Honour I’m that pitiable cliché of loser-dom. And in case you’re wondering...... surprisingly, I didn’t get it.
Now I try to use pieces that are already in my repertoire and I can sing in my sleep. I have ballads I can “pop” up or sing with a classical sound, you get the idea! In the majority of first rounds the panel just want to hear your voice, check that you’re not tone deaf and perhaps have a suitable look. The specifics come later.
As well as preparing material it’s important to prepare yourself physically. I like to go to the gym or for a run to wake my muscles up and of course it’s crucial to warm up your voice. I prefer an afternoon audition, if only to avoid sounding like Deidre Barlow on 50 a day, but I often find myself stuck with the dreaded “10am slot!” As the panel mosey past with their morning muffin and latte you smile at them nonchalantly as if you haven’t been awake since 6am with cold tea bags on your eyes and doing scales with your head in the oven so not to wake your housemates!
In order to be in “best voice” some people avoid consuming dairy products or alcohol prior to an audition. A friend of mine recounted a tale of her first audition for Les Miserables. Intimidated by the prospect of auditioning for a musical renowned for its singing prowess she cut out all wheat, dairy, anything that could potentially cause phlegm. A great theory until she passed out mid-song because she was so famished! Audition Tip #3 – Eat breakfast, it’s not the milk that will prevent that Top C from coming out but your lack of fuel.
Sometimes the panel may have a blinkered view of what they’re looking for so it can be advisable to give them a visual helping hand. Dressing in the style of the show or adapting your look slightly can help make you look more suitable. I admit to donning black eye-liner and biker boots for We Will Rock You and a cheeky neck-a-chief for Grease but I often find myself surrounded by girls in basques, back-combed hair or full on authentic 1950s outfits so I may as well have worn a tracksuit! Audition Tip #4 – Dress appropriately but don’t hire a costume, you will look like a try-hard twit and it won’t improve your acting!
Dance auditions can be soul-destroying for an “actor/mover”. You’re in a room with amazing dancers and are expected to shine. It’s tough not to feel intimidated but I’ve discovered that fretting about how un-bendy, fat and rubbish I am in comparison to others is such a waste of energy. It is much more effective to direct your focus away from other people and onto yourself (although not so much that you lose all spatial awareness and bump into them!) I tried this in my High School Musical Dance-Call where wearing no make-up still couldn’t make me look 16 when surrounded by real-life teenagers. However I focused on the job in hand ignored my clicking hips and managed to pick up the dance adequately. It was going swimmingly until we were asked to do our “best tricks” individually from the corner. The flips, spins and jumps I witnessed were truly outstanding but no amount of positive mental attitude could disguise my free-styling looking like my Dad after too many beers at a wedding!
My approach to auditions has changed drastically. The nerves will never go; they fill you with adrenalin but you can’t let them take over. My nerves can make my body shake so much that I generate more vibrato in my voice than is natural but I take deep breaths, knowing that in 5 minutes I’ll be in Starbucks buying my “well done me for going” cookie!
When in work we’re lucky enough to meet professionals more experienced then ourselves. I’m fortunate enough to be currently working with one such actor who told me this; “What people forget is that casting directors have a problem and we potentially could be their solution. An audition is not a test to be tripped up on; the panel are genuinely dying to hire you. Creatives say that anyone could do a job, it is whether they want to work with that person or not......so it seems that how you conduct yourself is a critical part of auditioning......interestingly that is something we can control so it’s a good place to direct energy and nerves.” He expanded this with a wonderful analogy “ When your boiler is broken you are comforted by a man from British Gas arriving with his tools, saying he’ll look at the problem and try to find a solution, he doesn’t ring the bell and shout Ta Da! I’m here to save the day! But instead gives you a warm smile and confidently takes the boiler apart.”
I’m not so arrogant as to pretend that with a tiny 7 years of experience compared to a whole career that my little tips are definitive answers. I’m constantly amending my approach with the hope of finding that Holy Grail of a perfect audition technique. Therefore I think my final piece of advice shouldn’t come from me but from my inspiring colleague whom I intend to telephone for a pep-talk before any future auditions!
Final Audition Tip – Don’t be intimidated by those voices in the darkness – remember you are that guy from British Gas coming to solve their problem!