5 Tips From a Pro: Eli and Ken On Your Audition

Audition sequence from 1988 “Hairspray” movie

It’s the week of auditions!  In ten days from now, we will switch from a project that has 5 people working on it, to a project that has over 40 people working on it.  We hope that anyone at auditions who isn’t offered an onstage role will consider a staff role such as Event Planning, Marketing, Costume Team, and more.  

I want to share with you one last set of tips for auditioning.  I stole these tips from Ken Davenport’s blog.  Ken is a young, smart and successful producer on and off Broadway, and his blog is always interesting even when it isn’t directly relevant.  Below you can find tips he wrote for auditioners, with my comments added in bold.

So whether you are looking to be onstage, singing, dancing, or working on our show’s staff, come down on Tuesday or Thursday to meet us and show how awesome you are.  Keep the following in mind:

  1. Be the 3 Cs.Be comfortable, charismatic and confident.  Actors have to command attention.  They have to be the most interesting people in a 1000 seat theater.  Be someone that we want to get to know.  If you can do that as yourself, I know you’ll also be able to do that in a character. I could not agree more.  Even though in our case, you will be performing for slightly less people, they all need to want to watch you. Your audition should give us a glimpse of that.
  2. Be a Boy Scout.  Be prepared. Remember, an audition for a show, isn’t just an audition for that show.  You’re making an impression on that Director, Casting Director, Producer, etc. that could apply to other projects that they are working on now or in the future.  So even if you’re not right for that part, you could find yourself getting a callback for something else down the line (on Godspell, I watched a whole bunch of people who weren’t right for our show get put in a Wicked pile.)  And that’s why you always have to be on your game . . . which means doing your homework. This doesn’t mean you have to be perfect.  It just means that you’ve got to treat that five minutes with respect, and be familiar with the material. There are lots of musicals going on in Jerusalem, and we will always be looking for talented performers (sadly, we don’t have a Wicked pile… Yet?)  Impress us, know the material (Hairspray.  In case that wasn’t clear) and we will remember you.
  3. Research who is in the room. Blind dates are nerve-racking . . . blind auditions are worse.  Always try to find out from your agent or the casting director, or even the monitor, who is in the room sitting behind the table.  Is the composer there?  The playwright?  The casting director?  Assistant?  You do this for two reasons . . . 1 – so you can tailor your material, your conversation, and your questions accordingly, and 2 – it’s totally appropriate to drop a personalized follow up note to the folks that you auditioned for . . . but you gotta know who they were. I will make this easy (so that you don’t have to call your agent to find out :-/  ) – you will be auditioning for me (Eli – the director); Jeff, who is our musical director, and Yaeli, our choreographer.  Also in the room might be Robert and Paul, who run Encore! our producing company, and one or two independent observers who will help bring an outside, neutral perspective to Eli, Jeff and Yaeli’s decisions.
  4. If I ask you to make a choice, make one. I commonly ask the people auditioning for me to choose between two monologues, or I ask them to give me three song choices from their book and then I say, “which would you like to do?”  I want to learn what YOU are attracted to, and I also want to see you make a choice.  Don’t say, “It doesn’t matter.  What do you want?”  Actors have to make strong clear choices when developing characters.  I want to see that side of you in everything you do. This is part of the confidence that Ken mentioned above.  We might ask you to do your dance combination again, differently.  Or to sing your song, or for actors to read lines, with a different feeling or action.  Don’t hesitate.  In the words of Sondheim, “The choice may have been mistaken / The choosing was not”.  In an audition we just want to see you choose – nothing is final.
  5. Always audition.The best way to master auditioning is just like everything else.  Do it over and over.  You’ll get numb to the nerves.  You’ll be able to be yourself.  And you’ll get free practice!  I used to go to dance calls, because learning a dance combination at an audition is a free dance class (and I needed them).  Actors who get to work on sides with directors at an audition get a free coaching. There are many more productions to come – and there won’t be a role for everyone in Hairspray, regardless of how good and impressive you all will be.  But come to auditions and start to become part of the Jerusalem theater community!

And something that Ken didn’t mention directly, which to me is by far the most important – absolutely do not apologize.  If you forget the words, if you have a cold, if you need to do the dance combination over again – no problem.  We don’t need to hear you talk about it, we just want to see you act/sing/dance and amaze us with your smile and talent!

See you later this week.