Auditions – the word that simultaneously evokes excitement and anxiety in actors of all ages. For non-performing arts activities, auditions are analogous to try-outs. These are generally not events where everyone gets a trophy so to speak. This blog post is not about professional auditions, although there are similarities in the process; rather, I am going to share personal thoughts and experiences as a theatre mom and sometimes community actor.
As an adult who has been involved in community theatre since sixth grade, I’ve had some experience with the audition process. Of course, back when I was in high school, our local theatre wasn’t as popular as some of the other activities in town, so when it came to casting a play, directors were happy if they had as many people show up as roles available. It seems like children today are much more involved in performing arts, at least outside of school, than when I was younger. Just looking at my Facebook friends and status updates, we have a plethora of talented kids! I have three friends whose kids just graduated from college theatrical programs, one whose daughter recently attended a week-long invitational voice workshop, one who directs summer programs, a drum major, and many involved in local productions in lead and ensemble roles. So with all this talent and interest, how does that impact the audition process?
Obviously, it has become more competitive. Therefore, we need to prepare more effectively physically and emotionally to handle the challenges. As an adult auditioning, it is important to acknowledge any time constraints upfront. For example, many of the Springer shows involve professional actors with some amateurs involved as well, which is great because of the opportunity to learn and interact with a diverse group of people from all over the country. Be aware, though, that some of the productions and/or roles require daytime and extended rehearsals. Since many people work, that is something to consider. Always be honest about your commitments wherever you audition. Directors will often tell you that listing commitments won’t eliminate you from consideration, but not listing them and being cast without being forthright, could cause you to lose the role, or to be put on the “do not cast list” in the future. I’ve only directed one show, but I will tell you that if you aren’t reliable in one show, it is unlikely you will be offered a prime spot in another.
Another piece of advice as a former director, watching prospective cast members at auditions gives us clues about your personality and work ethic. Producing a play is a collaborative effort. Even though theatre folks are known to be dramatic, diva attitudes at auditions are a turn off. After rehearsals begin, these tactics may be tolerated a bit more, think: “I’m not wearing that costume because it doesn’t look good on me.” Or when an actor constantly tries to be in front of her colleagues, “This is really my best side.” Anyway, directors will tolerate some of this behavior once a show has been cast, but don’t push it. I once told a middle-schooler that she could be replaced. She was extremely upset, but I had to tell her that none of us are irreplaceable, including the director. Be a team player! To that end and back to the above commitment conversation, I have also made adjustments in my cast when an actor missed too many rehearsals, moving people out of better roles and into the ensemble. Again, as an actor you are not only responsible for yourself, but also accountable to your fellow thespians and to the production as a whole.
For children and teens, auditions can be frustrating, angst-ridden experiences. My daughter, Cydney, will tell you that it’s not easy to get through the feeling of disappointment over roles and casting. As she will admit, she has cried over numerous casting decisions that didn’t go exactly her way. To make the process more bearable, she tries not to get her hopes up (not easy), and has realized over the last few years that casting decisions are not usually a reflection on you personally, or even your talent most times. Her brother, Jackson, has a slightly easier time of it at auditions because boys are always needed! As they have gotten more involved in theatre, they have realized that the competition increases. Kids who stick with theatre are competing against other kids who have done the same creating a more talented pool. Directors will tell potential cast members that decisions sometimes come down to age, height, chemistry, even at times hair color. Some roles demand that siblings may look similar for example, or that one character is noticeably shorter than another.
So what’s a hopeful actor to do? Maintain a healthy perspective and put your best foot forward. Try not to get discouraged, and consider other roles, especially if you are just starting out. Each role will give an aspiring actor experience that will help him or her in the future. Yes, the adage, “There are no small parts, only small actors,” often rings true. At the same time, if you are not committed to the production, don’t accept a role. Better to decline upfront than to decide it’s not worth your time halfway through rehearsals. Prior to auditions, always be prepared by reading about the plot of the show, memorizing a monologue (if required or suggested), talking to others if possible about the director’s expectations. Finally, chalk each audition up to experience, and remember you are making contacts each time. While this director may not have a spot for you now, there may be another show down the road you would be perfect for!
Interested in auditioning for a local show? Keep up with local audition opportunities on our audition link above or by following Chattahoochee Valley Performing Arts on Facebook. Then, get ready for the dreaded CAST LIST DAY! In my family, this is even more drama-filled than audition preparation! Above all, anyone who has been involved in community theatre can tell you, the theatre experience is really about the camaraderie, that feeling of team and belonging, knowing you are part of something creative that brings other people enjoyment. And if all this audition talk makes you cringe, don’t fret. You can still be part of the team by working backstage, or helping with sound, lights, or set design. There’s something for everyone in the theatre, and that’s why we love it so much!
Curtain Up Columbus!