Musical theatre audition tips part 1: professionalism is key

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As the most frequently requested blog topic by far, here we go: let's talk about auditioning for musical theatre. Since auditioning is a robust topic of utmost importance, we'll break it into a series of blogs in order to cover each topic in depth. This first blog will speak to general audition preparation and professionalism, and subsequent posts will dive deeper into song, dance, and monolouges. Stay tuned by checking back to our site or subscribing via email to make sure you don't miss upcoming posts. Because our field requires singing, acting and dancing for most auditions, whereas most straight plays only require reading for the part, musical theatre auditioners must be triple prepared and triple skilled.

General audition advice: presenting yourself as a professional

Approach the audition like a business project. We are actors, and our work is auditioning. If we were software engineers, project managers, or salespeople who were given a new project, you would naturally break down the project into goals and tactics: what is your objective for this audition? Usually, it's to convince the people you are auditioning for that you are exactly the right person they need for a particular role. How do you achieve your objective? What tactics will you use? Why are you choosing this audition, what specific things make you right for the role? Get clear on these things before spending any more time on audition prep, because you might find that your time is better spent preparing for a different audition instead.

Get to know the producing organization. Spend some time on the theatre’s website, get to know who their audience is, their mission, and the types of shows they like to produce. Know the requirements for the audition and specify which role you are auditioning for, and make sure you are a good fit. If you are unsure, ask by email or phone for clarification.

Do your dramaturgical research. Read or watch the show in its entirety (yes, take the time! It pays off), look up actors who have played the role and how they’ve interpreted it, watch/listen to various recordings of your character’s songs, and read up on the history of the show as far as where it originated, what theatres it has played in, when it was written and the socio-political climate of the era, and any honors the show has been awarded. Why do all this, you may ask? Yes, all of this does take considerable time, but the layers of understanding will show through in your audition performance and will inform your character. If you don’t have 2 hours to devote to this research, then you don’t deserve the role! Wikipedia, Netflix, iTunes, YouTube and Spotify are all excellent resources for digging up this material. *Note: I'll be honest here, when I was in college I had zero interest in doing the research for auditions.....I was too busy working on my technique, which I thought was all-important. Turns out it didn't matter how great my technique was, since my lack of show knowledge never got me past the first round of call backs :(

Dress appropriately. For the dance audition you should have dance clothes or fitness clothes that are clean, simple, and form fitting without being too sexy or tight. Bring a variety of footwear, including dance shoes for ballet, jazz, tap and character shoes. For the singing and acting portion, you should change into street clothes that are simple, clean and professional that flatter your figure and shows a bit of who you are. Think business-casual with a twist: a button down shirt with black slacks, or a classic shift dress, with a favorite scarf, leather jacket, or accessory item that adds a touch of fun. You need to be confident and wear things that you feel “yourself” in. For more tips on audition clothing, pick up our eBook, The Musical Theatre Performer's Guide to Audition Success.

Keep an audition log. Keep a written document that notes where you auditioned (the producing organization), the role you auditioned for, names of anyone in the audition room you met, what you sang, what monologue you performed, what you wore, the dates and times, and any other pertinent details. In the beginning this might seem like overkill, but as you get out more often you’ll be thankful you can look back and remind yourself of the details, as many weeks or months may pass between call backs.

Be yourself and be confident. This seems basic, but can be extremely difficult to pull off once your adrenaline kicks in. Relax, be as genuine as you can under the circumstances, and show who you really are. You’ll want to appear confident, friendly, competent at answering any questions, respectful of audition panel members and accompanists, and easy to work with while not overly passive. Remember that you deserve to be there - they wouldn’t have called you into the room if they weren’t interested in seeing what you have to offer.

It all (mostly) comes down to your "look." Remember that in the end, no matter how prepared you are and how well you ace an audition, most casting choices will be strongly influenced by the physical attributes that the creative team wants for a character. It is a sometimes unfortunate fact of our business, but one that you must accept early into your career and learn to play to your strengths. As long as you've given 100% at your audition, the rest is out of your hands.

For more audition tips, see "musical theatre audition tips part 2," and – subscribe to receive updates via email.

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