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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

How to Prepare for an Audition – Imperfect Notes for the Beginner Scribbled Quickly From My Own Experience


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How to Prepare for an Audition – Imperfect Notes for the Beginner Scribbled Quickly From My Own Experience

It is generally agreed by professionals like myself that Panic is the first step to a great audition. True, this is counter-intuitive. You do not want your high level of panic to show at the audition, but a high level of panic right up to the point that you get into the car on the way to the audition itself can be a most helpful motivator.

Note the importance of losing your panic before getting into a car on the way to the audition itself, in fact before driving any auto vehicle at any time prior to the audition. In fact, where available, taking public transportation to an audition can help relieve pre-audition stress. Call 836-7000 for directions in the Chicago Region for CTA, Pace and Metre. Beverly Art Center, for example is served by all three!

I have noted that severe auto accidents often undermine the confidence of those auditioning and directors alike with worries of self-termination prior to the actual performance date and quite talented people are sometimes over looked at auditions for this reason.

“Kumquats! I’d cast him, but in the Scottish play he almost got his arm cut off
and he didn’t even have a sword, in Sweeny Todd he managed to slide down the Barber Chair Head first and we’re doing Pirates of Penzance here, no, I can’t risk it. And he’s a great Tenor. If I could just suspend him in a box above the stage. Hmmn, Maybe….
From such maybes have come some of he stages greatest on stage fiascos.
Note: Gender and Facts changed above in the interests of fairness and to protect my life.

Getting the script is the next big step. Once you have it, often available from the producer for community theater productions for a deposit, you can figure out, within reason, if there are any parts in the show for you at all.

I am not going to try to define “within reason” here. So often directors are stuck in “Auditions" with the "this is all I get to work with?" situation such that you may get to play 40 years older or younger than your actual ace, especially in a musical, if you have the notes. More likely, the director will look for a ringer, but the bigger the cast, the better your chances, especially when multiple shows are casting at the same time. I still don’t know why production companies do this, but often in an area production companies will create chaos by holding auditions within days of each other. This always works to the actor’s advantage and never to the producer’s as this allows actors to pick and choose between offered parts and this messes up the "pretty pictures" producers made on the stage when casting.

Having a realistic idea of what you are really likely to be cast for will help you a lot. The best way to get this sense of reality is to work with a really good friend, an acting teacher of vocal coach who will be honest with you. Brital honest is critically important. Not the kind you see in the American Idol pre-shows.

All my friends say I'm really a great singer so I thought I would screech my way through The Facts of Life Theme Sng on National Television.

That kind of honesty you don't need unless its backed up by an agent.

Acting is a skill, practice and exposure to people who are really good at it will really help you, IF, you pay attention to them without being a pest. I have learned far more from the people I have worked with over the years than from any book.

If you are preparing for a musical, you need to prepare a song in your vocal range and be ready to sing it in time to the music. The music director may change the time of the music to see if you handle it well or poorly and can work with an orchestra that may get away from him.

But first things first, if you are a low alto, don’t audition for a high soprano part just because you have always wanted to play that part. The music director will strongly resist having the song done an octave lower except in very exceptional chances.

How do you find out your vocal range? The musical director at a community theater audition will help you a little. But for lead roles you usually need to have been working with a vocal coach.

Vocal coaches do not have to be hugely expensive. But $20-$30 a half hour, every week is not out of line on the south side. Ask the good singers who they use. They probably have the best coaches. Try to get an appointment. If you know nothing about sight reading music they may reject you, then ask for a reference for a real beginner who will tolerate this, or ask for “emergency help” for one audition and they may, may take pity on you.

Above all else a vocal coach should start by:

Teaching you how to protect your voice;

Teaching you how to breath correctly;

Teaching you about your range and what songs are in it;

If your vocal coach does not start with the first two immediatly, especially in winter, ask why not and be prepared to fire them right away if it is not a very good answer. Finding your range might come first, but protecting your voice is paramount, you can ruin it through improper vocal training and if your vocal coach does not know how to protect against this you need to move on, immediately.

Analyze the scrip to try to figure out what scenes the director might choose for auditions and learn these first, but try to become really familiar with as much of the script as possible. Look for scenes where a lot of the characters are on stage at once. The cast parades: the director needs to see how the whole cast looks together. If you are a shorter person in one of these, wear a hat and heels as you go up. If tall, flats and no hat. Little things help. Dpn't do dumb showy things to get attention, trust me, I've tried, they don't work.

Look for little intense scenes between the characters you think you want to play and the main characters they compete against, who is often but not always the same gender. To borrow from Michael Shurtlief’s excellent book “The Audition” (buy in paperback, its cheap) always ask in any scene, ask “What is your character fighting for?” Then fight for it. Hard. Even if you've gotten the what the character should be fighting for wrong, if nothing else it makes for a fiesty scene and proves you won’t be boring on stage if you get the part. Directors often like surprising and feisty interpretations of work that are seriously done. It means the actor has done some serious thinking about the work and might be fun to work with, a serious plus in most directors worth working with. Yes, Virgina, there are a very few directors not worth working with. If you are lucky and are in the scene with someone very good, your fighting for method will give them something to play off of. Listen to what they are sending you and build off it, incorporate it, the emotions, etc, and bring the level of tension and stakes of the scent up, not down.

Working really well with someone, anyone in a scene can help you get the part. Your goal is always to get some part, not a specific part. Besides, you never know who the director has really picked for the lead, it is often not obvious. I've been in shoes where the director picked a young woman as the lead but only read her in minor parts, but with every other potential member of the cast. He knew how good she was already, not everyone else. He learned a lot by how people worked with her compared to the "obvious" lead candidates and the resulting cast complely surprised everyonel. The director cast those who worked well with everyone, especially his lead. Of course, most directors are not this devious.

So don't agonise too much how you are doing in any one audition, or lie and die on any one audition. Its just not healthy. As time goes on, the right parts will come to you with experience. Especially as you build a reputation for reliability and stability from show to show which are very important.

That’s all I have time for now. OH. Ues.

Remember not to panic IN the audition. The producers want you to succeed and you to show yourself off at your most calm and professional best. They want to see what you can really do and are hoping that YOU will be the surprise star that they are looking for. And you just might be. And don’t forget to have a little fun, your audition audience may be larger than some of the real audiences you get, sorry to say. And, more receptive, because they are sweating as much as you are. That is, if the producers let the others see you. That's an issue in and of itself.

Break a leg!

Hope you liked this one!

Peter, Chief Editor and Spelling Wrecker
The Peter Files Blog of Comedy, Satire and Commentary

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