Ten Audition Secrets From a Director

Previously, I blogged a list of ten audition secrets from a director.

You knew this subject was coming, didn’t you? It only seems natural to speak about how I make decisions about casting someone in a play.

Remember, these are only my opinions. Someone else will have a different viewpoint, obviously.
Here is my advice (and secrets) to landing the part:

1. Arrive on time for the auditions and stay until they are finished. If you arrive late or are in a rush to leave early, it implies that the production is not that important to you.

2. Dress appropriately for the audition. If you are auditioning for a musical and there are going to be dance auditions, either bring the right shoe wear or wear them. There is nothing more distracting to a director than observing someone flop around in the wrong shoes as they attempt to dance or move about the stage. And ladies, you hair needs to be swept back away from your face and controlled with a bobby pin or something.

3. Read the script prior to auditions. Now reading the script ahead of time does not guarantee you a part in the production, but most scripts are very well written (that’s why they are produced) and worth your time to read. Or at least watch a movie version of the play or musical if there is one available. My guess is some people don’t read the entire script before auditioning because they don’t want to commit their free time because if they aren’t cast, it feels like they have wasted their time. One hasn’t wasted their time. They have enriched it.

I try to be patient with people who haven’t read the script ahead of time, but secretly nothing is more frustrating than having someone say to me, “So, what’s this play about?” I don’t have the time to explain the story to them nor do I think it is my job to do so.

4. Pay attention during the auditions. If the auditions aren’t closed and you are able to observe them, watch other actors. You never know when a director might call you up to read with someone and if you pay attention you are ready to go.

Ten secrets to a great audition5. A director doesn’t need to know if you have a cold or don’t feel well, or whatever the excuse might be at the moment. So, don’tannounce your maladies–just audition confidently. A director will ask the actor to call backs if he thinks he needs to hear the actor once the cold or illness is over.

6. If you mark on your audition sheet that you will accept any role you are offered, please tell the truth. Nothing is more frustrating than taking the time to cast someone and afterward they announce they won’t accept the role you gave them (since the person wanted another one instead.) Tacky! And, if the accused auditions for another one of the director’s plays, chances are the actor won’t even be considered them based on their past actions.

7. If you mark on your audition sheet that you have no conflicts, then a director expects you to have no conflicts! Avoiding informing the director of a few conflicts and spinning that you have none then coming back later with a litany of conflicts does nothing for the actor’s relationship with the director. Better to tell the truth and let the director work around the conflicts if he thinks he can do so. An actor’s behavior gets around in a theater community very quickly, so just be honest and up front.

8. Sometimes a director will put out the word that they are looking for a particular age actor for a role. It is not wise to try and make yourself up to look half your age if you aren’t really able to convince your best friend of your age change. If your friend thinks you look silly trying to be twenty-five when you are fifty-five, then believe them. Audition for a play that suits your age range.

If you are an adult, you can usually appear ten years either direction of your age. Children and teen agers are a bit different in this regard. Personally, I am more likely to cast someone who is taller and thirteen to play a sixteen year old than a short thirteen year old to play a ten year old.

9. No matter what, always finish your audition with a thank you and get the heck off the stage. An actor trying to make conversation with the director can come across as a desperate attempt for attention. If the director initiates the conversation, then I think it is safe to chat a moment with him or her. But I wouldn’t begin the conversation. Directors are usually considering many things during auditions, so it’s best not to interrupt them.

10. Be confident in your audition. If you audition with others and someone does something that is comical (and the director reacts by laughing), it does not mean you must do the same thing if you read the same part. Be yourself. Be clever and memorable, but don’t behave in such a manner that you make others feel uncomfortable by your audition. In other words, keep your clothes on, keep your mouth clean and be polite.

10. The biggest secret to auditions? Listen to what the director asks of you. I am more likely to cast someone who honestly tries to do what I ask of him (such as lowering the pitch of his voice, trying an unusual laugh or reaction), than someone who has a preconceived vision of the character and can not or will not budge from that idea. Also, I really don’t like it when an actor just imitates someone else portraying the role–either someone else at the auditions or someone they have seen portray the role in the film version, for example. Generally, if I don’t think the inflexible person can adapt themselves to my needs, then I can’t cast them. Simple as that.

So, there you go—audition secrets from a director.  I hope this helps you. I would love to answer any other questions you might have about auditions, so send them on. P.S.  If you’d like to audition for Beauty and the Beast, go here for information http://www.theatrelawrence.com/index.html

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborrahBaldwin.net

Advice Concerning Double Casting in Youth Theatre

This is a subject near and dear to my heart. If you are looking for advice about double casting, its success and pitfalls, you have come to the right blog!

Willy Wonka, Jr. (Mr. Wonka with two Oompah Loompahs before they had their green wigs cut short!)

I have gobs of experience on this subject having directed mostly successful musicals and plays with adults and children for over thirty years. Trust me when I say, you too can double cast a production and come out of the experience as a sane human being. I really think that double casting youth theater productions is the way to go. So here’s some advice:

1. You should alert those auditioning that you are considering double casting. That doesn’t mean you are required to double cast, however. You are merely thinking about it. Actors don’t like to be surprised. They spend so much time thinking about the outcome of their audition, it is only polite to warn them. Some people won’t be involved in your production if they don’t know in advance that you are double casting.

2. After you have double cast the show, I strongly suggest you label the casts. This year, I am double casting three roles in Fiddler on the Roof, Jr. (Chava, Hodel and Tzeitel). In one of the schools in which I teach, we have so many talented young women, my co-teacher and I thought it was the best way to go this year. We have labeled them cast “A” and “B”–not the most creative labeling we could come up with, but you get the idea. Frankly, I enjoy labeling the cast with some word from the title of the musical such as “Guys” and “Dolls” or “Alice” and “White Rabbit”, etc. You get the idea.

3. Double casting keeps the egos out of the way, in my opinion. If you divide the strength of the cast between both casts, you are more likely to have a terrific outcome. I have seen many a talented student who lacks confidence who feels bolstered by the students around him with more experience and so forth. Sometimes that’s all the one who is a little more unsure needs–the other students’ confidence rubs off on him. Plus, when one of the double cast actors are absent from rehearsal, you have another person to fill in for them.

4. I don’t worry whether the two actors are the same size when it comes to costuming them. I think that’s costume designer’s problem and no one should be denied a part because she isn’t the same size as another person cast in the role. Some of us just can’t help that we are short or very tall. 🙂

5. Usually, I have the double cast actors observe each other’s rehearsals. Even if I have to review blocking solely for the second cast, that’s my choice. When I stage a musical number, the actors learn the parts at the same time, side by side. The same thing goes for vocal rehearsals. If all goes well, the two actors can rehearse with each other, checking their blocking, going over lines, etc.

Sometimes rehearsals get tricky what with two casts, two sets of notes, two sets of problem solving but I promise you it’s worth it. Several times in my career, I have been double cast myself! And look–I’m here to share my experiences with you.