Auditioning for musical theatre - what my corporate job taught me about landing the role

Performers either thrive or wilt under the pressure of auditioning. An audition is like any other job interview, and the more you view it that way the more pressure you'll be able to relieve from the situation. As someone who has paid the bills for many years by keeping a full time day job in addition to my musical theatre career, I've done my fair share of interviewing and I've also sat on the other side of the table as a member of several interview panels. Through those experiences I've come to see how similar auditioning is to the interview process in corporate America.

Don't assume that auditioning is "so much harder" than interviewing for an office job. It all depends on the situation of course, but I found that once you get past entry level positions, interviewing is an intense and sometimes outlandish process.

Interviewing lasts longer. In auditions, you might spend ten minutes in the room if you're lucky. With a job interview, you'll spend 30-60 minutes in the room. Sometimes quick and dirty is far less painful.

You might need to put on a show. In some of my interviews I was asked to "perform" by giving presentations, which is almost exactly like singing or speaking for an audition, and "improvise," which included coming up with intelligent sounding answers to all sorts of crazy questions.

Callbacks happen in corporate too. With the job market being as competitive as it is right now, it is unusual that you'd only have one interview for a position. I experienced anything from 2-4 interviews, which I found to be equally vexing and weird as callbacks in musical theatre. Sometimes months would pass in between interviews, or they would be rushed into one week, or there would be 4 interviews and then dead silence. ??

You might be in front of a group. In corporate speak they like to call this an interview panel. From sitting on both sides of that table I can tell you that many of the simple things people look for in business are the same things casting directors look for in auditions: they want to see a personable, genuine person that either demonstrates great skills or the potential to develop those skills.

It's about who you know. People complain that the most talented singers and actors often don't get roles because someone's daughter or nephew was cast. The same thing happens in corporate all the time.

You need to be well prepared. Everyone gets points for this, regardless of how talented you actually are. In auditions this shows you are dedicated and can handle the professionalism of the job, not just acting the role. When I showed up for my corporate job interviews, I brought a portfolio full of my related accomplishments plus a visual aid, neither of which the panel asked for, and they went bananas for my over-preparedness. The same holds true in auditions, if you come with a book full of alternative songs just in case, you're a step ahead of the crowd.

Be unique. Sing something not everyone else will be singing or wear something the group will remember. In my corporate interviews I threw a few unusual bullet points into my presentation, which at the time I felt was risky, but in hindsight it paid off. The panel didn't care so much what my bullet points were, but they cared that I made an effort to go the extra mile and put myself out there.

Be personable and connect with the group. This is common sense, but some people let their nerves get the better of them and forget this or become anxious and awkward. In corporate america, they hire based on cultural fit just as much as they do in theatre. Your essence is a large part of what casting teams are looking at, and this essence can be seen in every interaction you have from time you walk in the door being you, plus the character you become.

Be respectful of the help. When talking with your accompanist, be professional and don't treat them like servants or ramble. Your interactions with the accompanist will indicate what you'll be like in future collaborations with other actors and directors. In corporate, I made sure to be polite to the receptionist who was checking me in for my interview. My current boss asks our receptionist what she thought of each candidate, every time without fail.

For more helpful audition tips, check out our Musical Theatre Performer's Guide to Audition Success.

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