As an actor I have been through many auditions. Between colleges, regional theatre, and New York I have learned a lot about how to approach the process. I used to be scared out of my mind stepping into an audition room. What if I mess up or they don't like me or they throw things at me?! Thoughts almost everyone in the artistic community has pondered one time or another. Since then though I have shifted my mindset and perspective. I've had the opportunity to talk to many of the people I have auditioned for in the past and learned a lot about what they are thinking on the other side of the table. In addition to that, I have served as a member on that side of the table for many auditions and gotten a better grasp as to how the process works. With a clearer idea of what goes on I've been able to relax my anxiety and see auditioning for what it really is: a chance to do something you love for people who love it too! Here are my seven tips that you can take with you into your next audition.
1. Show them your sunshine!
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got about audition material was the phrase, "show them your sunshine." A first audition is like a first date; you want to dress nice, smile and most importantly get a second date! More often than not people think auditioning is all about showing off every trick they have. They sing really high, get as emotional as they can or worst of all try and show the auditors how hard they work. In most cases though that's the last thing they are looking for. The phrase "show them your sunshine" simply means to audition with something positive and upbeat for the auditors to associate you with. What you do in the audition room is how you are remembered (especially for a first audition). If you do a monologue about your dead parents or sing a depressing heart-broken ballad that's how the auditors will remember you. Now you might do that monologue or song very well but that's not the point. The auditors are looking to cast people not just talent. Everyone is talented; they want to work with someone who is pleasant to be around. So when picking material for your audition, do yourself a favor and find something that represents you in a positive way. "Show them your sunshine!"
2. Prepare, prepare, prepare
This may seem obvious but it is still worth mentioning. Preparation is one of the key factors in your success with an audition. I'm not saying if you forget your words that you won't get the job; auditors can see the difference between nervous jitters and lack of preparation. When you are not confident in your own material because you haven't prepared, there is no way you will be able focus on what you're trying to communicate as a performer and that makes for an unsuccessful audition. Preparation doesn't just mean knowing your words though; the entire audition should be polished. You want to know who you are talking to, what you want from them and any tactics you plan on using to achieve that objective. Also know who wrote the material, what it's from and the basics of the story and characters. The list can go on but you get the idea. Delve into your material as much as you can and I guarantee you will feel those nervous jitters turn to excitement.
In addition to preparing your selected audition material, make sure you always have something else ready to go as well. Take everything you might need (sheet music, dance shoes etc.) because you never know what they might ask for. Along with having your material make sure it is organized. Nothing slows down an auditors interest more than you fumbling through your material trying to find something else to show them. Have an idea of what might contrast with your initial piece. Have repertoire that covers different genres, styles and time periods so you can be ready to go at a moments notice. Preparation may not be the most glamorous part of the artistic world but it is without a doubt one of the largest determining factors in the outcome of your audition.
3. Know your audience
The artistic business is all about who you know. Someone with lots talent and no connections is less likely to get a job than someone with no talent and lots of connections. It may seem unfair but that's the way it works. As I said above, auditors are hiring people not just talent. If they have a previous connection with you or know you through someone else, you are already farther ahead than most. If we are talking about a first audition though it's most likely you won't know anyone in the room. That's okay. You can still make a connection if you know your audience. Prior to the audition try and find out the names of the people who will be in the room. If that's not possible ask the person in charge out in the hallway while you wait. Learn their names! Look them up and see what they have done. Try to find something you may be able to connect with them on. Maybe it's a theatre they worked at or a colleague you both know or simply a piece of their work that you really admire. (People love to be complimented!) Have that information ready to go and if the opportunity arises make the connection. Don't be pushy about it but if they engage you in conversation have your sound byte ready.
In many cases starting a dialogue with your auditors won't be possible. They are busy people and may not have the chance to stop and talk to everyone who walks in the room. That's okay though; you can still make a connection. If in your research you find that you both have a mutual colleague you've worked with, put that on your resume. Maybe move that show to the top of the list and in parentheses put that person's name next to it. Now they have a credible reference for you and an ice-breaking comment if they want to talk to you in the room. If you don't have a mutual colleague or any other information on your resume to make a connection, don't worry. One of the best ways to make a connection with an auditor is also one of the simplest. Get their email or mailing address and send them a thank you letter a few days after your audition. No matter how the audition itself went, this is a great way to connect with people on the other side of the table. It's another chance for them to see your name and you appear grateful and thoughtful at the same time. Find ways to connect with and know your audience. Names and faces are what the business is all about.
4. Be a waiter
Many people believe that in the audition room the auditors hold all the power. They are the ones who say whether or not you get the job; they're the ones who judge you. But in fact when you step into the room to audition, you hold all the power in the world (if you seize it). This tip is called "Be a waiter" because it accurately describes how you should handle yourself in the room. When you walk in you are there to take care and serve the auditors. You want to make them feel comfortable by taking care of everything for them. Treat them like they are at your high class restaurant. They can have anything want without hesitation. You should walk in with a smile and a warm greeting. Present your material to them with class and confidence; like it's a five star dinner. If they ask for anything else don't hesitate to give them some options (they don't know what's on the menu). When you're done say "thank you" and tell them to have a great day. It's as simple as that. You have the opportunity when auditioning to take control of the room and point your audition in any direction you want. Take the reins! Be bold and confident. Be friendly and calm. Be a waiter.
5. They want you to succeed
Your auditors are people just like you. They are working in the artistic industry and it's not any easier on them. Now they may be tired during your audition because they've been sitting there all day listening to people. They may be eating during your audition because they are skipping their lunch to watch you. They may even be writing something down so they can remember who you are or something about you. Don't read in to any of these things that may or may not happen in your audition. It's impossible to know what they are thinking in the room. Let go of that. What you do know though is that they want you to succeed. They want you to walk in and do your very best. Why? Because it makes their job easier. Their job is to cast a show with the best people they can find. Every great person that walks into the room is one less slot they have to fill later. So stop trying to figure out what they are thinking about you while you are auditioning. Walk in the room and know they are rooting for you. Focus on your material and pay no attention to what they are doing. Finish, smile and leave. If you are what they are looking for and you get the job, great! If not, you can know that you did your best and you'll be proud of yourself. They want you to succeed; leave all other notions at the door.
6. Everything is an opinion
Too many people take feedback to be the word of the gospel. If it's good feedback they think they are great and their head swells. If it's bad feedback they think they suck and they shrivel up. However in an artistic business there is no right or wrong answer; everything is an opinion. I've sung the same song for two different casting agents and one said it was a good choice and the other said it was a terrible choice. Were either of them right? Well yes and no. Each had their reasons as to why they took a certain stance on the song, but at the end of the day all their reasons were opinions. When you audition and or get feedback remember that. Take everything with a grain of salt. One person may hate how you do your material and another person may love. The same way some people like opera and others like heavy metal. It's all opinions. So if you get good feedback, great! It probably means you did a lovely job. But don't let it go to your head; remember that there is always something more you can work on to get better. If you get poor feedback, maybe you were having a bad day. It doesn't mean that you are terrible and will never amount to anything. It just means that what you did wasn't exactly what your auditor wanted to see. Take the criticism with a smile and think about how you could improve for next time. Don't let one bad comment get you down. Your mom still loves you. Everything is an opinion.
7. Each audition is for the next audition
There is no such thing as an isolated audition. There will never be one show that auditions once, plays once and utilizes an entire cast and crew one time. Almost everyone in the artistic industry has their hand in multiple pots. They work one place then another place, with this person then that person; the connected dots are endless. So when you step into an audition room know that you are not auditioning for a show, you are auditioning for people. People who cast or are involved in lots of different projects. So don't fixate on one show or one contract. Know that each audition, whether you get the job or not, gives you a stronger connection with the people behind the table. The better they know you the better chance you have of finding a job that is perfect for you. You may audition for show 'A' but then get a call from the auditors saying they would like to see you for show 'Z.' You never know what opportunity lies ahead. So broaden your scope and know that just because you may not have gotten one particular job, doesn't mean you're not one step closer to the next one around the corner.
I hope some of these tips and ideas can help you at your next audition. Just remember when you go in to have fun, do your best and leave everything else at the door. Then go out with your friends and have a great time no matter the outcome. Keep making art and think out of the box!