We’re approaching the Milwaukee Generals once again, so I’m reposting some of my thoughts about that process.  Do with it what you will.

Fletcher

Having sat through the Milwaukee Generals for the last several years, I’ve come across all sorts of things that auditioners do which sabotage the work at hand.  While many of these gaffes seem obvious to me, that may not be the case with the often unseasoned auditioner.  To be fair, how does one know unless they are told?  I understand just how hard and awful the process of auditioning is having been an actor for the last few decades.  To that end I’ve decided to share some of the dos and don’ts of auditioning.  I throw in the caveat that these are strictly from my own viewpoint and that while they deal with auditioning in general, they are specific to the peculiarities of myself and the Milwaukee Generals.

 

I’m dividing this “tutorial” into three parts: The Introduction, The Headshot and Resume, and The Audition.

 

The Introduction

 

If you have the chance (and that’s a big if) take a peek at the room you are going to walk into ahead of time.  Auditioning is an intimidating thing and walking into a room blind is hateful.  Find out where the auditors are going to be sitting and figure out where you are going to sit or stand.  Find out if there is a chair available and what kind it is.  Nothing worse then preparing a piece that requires you to spin a chair around and sit on it backwards only to find that the only chair available has arms.  And for those of you new to the Milwaukee Generals, you are walking into a room to face a group of auditors in a horseshoe configuration.

 

If you walk into the room and you find that there are auditors behind you, you’ve come in too far.  Back up so that we can see your face.

 

Take your time introducing yourself and your pieces.  Know that we are furiously passing your headshots around as quickly as we can, flipping them over and pouring over your resume, and then trying to catch what pieces you are going to do and in many cases trying to jot that information down.  We see a great many auditions during the course of the day and it’s extremely difficult to keep them straight.  Give us a chance to remember you.  I’ll never fault an auditioner for taking his time introducing his pieces.  When in doubt, wait until the majority of us have finished and are looking back up at you before you begin your first piece.

 

Don’t undress in the room.  This is a rather new phenomenon that has started happening lately.  When you walk into the room, be prepared to go.  I don’t want to see you come in, and then slowly take off a coat, scarf, shirt or any other thing as you are introducing yourself.  That’s weird and distracting.  Leave that stuff outside.

 

This is for both your intro and exit; don’t apologize for your audition.  Look, you only get one shot at this, so no matter how poorly you’ve prepared or think you’ve done during the audition, do it boldly and with a smile on your face.  I can’t tell you how many people come into the room with the attitude of, “Uh, hi.  I don’t really know why I’m here and I’m sorry to waste your time.”  Conversely I’ve seen a lot of people who have finished a perfectly fine audition and then ruin it by sheepishly excusing themselves on the way out.  Don’t do it!  It sucks all of the energy out of your audition.

 

Generally speaking, goofy introductions and/or exits will fall flat and have a good chance of being irritating.  I know it’s a defensive thing, but just don’t do it.  Come in, smile and introduce yourself.  When you are finished, say thank you.  Resist the urge to ask us if we have any questions or if there’s anything else we’d like to see.  Trust me; if we have those questions we won’t let you leave the room until we know the answers.

 

Give us the info we need.  It has become fashionable of late to name the play your audition is from, but not the part; or worse yet, not tell us anything at all.  This seems particularly true of Shakespeare.  Don’t make it a guessing game.  Conversely, don’t give us too much information.  In most cases I don’t need to know the author and I certainly don’t need to be told that Hamlet was written by Shakespeare.  And I absolutely don’t need to know the specific scene or get a recap of what’s been going on leading into this scene.  While we are on the subject of introducing your pieces, proceed to do your pieces in the order in which they were introduced.  Different auditors are there for different reasons.  Shakespeare companies have less interest in your modern/comic piece and are waiting for the Macbeth you are going to do.  If you say you are going to do your classical piece second, do so.  They may use that brief period of time to scan your resume and see what other classical pieces you have done and where.

 

The one thing most people come up short on is the intro.  I spend a whole day with my students having them do nothing but walking into a room and introducing themselves.  This is surprisingly difficult and few people spend any time on that part of their audition.  People actually stumble over their names, forget what pieces they are doing, mispronounce the playwright’s name (which is just one more reason that info is unnecessary), mumble their info in such a way that we don’t get it or turn their back and drag a chair across the room while making their intro.  Enter the room.  If you are going to use a chair make a decision; either get the chair, pick it up and set it where you want it and then introduce yourself, or introduce yourself and then get set.  Trust me; we will welcome the extra time to look at your resume.

 

Unless we stand up and stick our hands out, no need to come over and shake our hands.  We’re going to see about a hundred people that day.  There are also upwards of twenty people in that room and you won’t want to shake all of our hands.

 

The Headshot and Resume

 

Look like your headshot.  It’s bothersome when you don’t.  You’re a little heavier than you’d like to be?  So what.  Maybe we’re looking for just that heavy person.  It’s going to be very difficult to remember you later if you don’t look like your headshot.

 

Staple or glue your resume to your headshot.  I can’t tell you how irritating it is to get a loose resume.  Or one that is paper-clipped to the headshot actually covering the headshot.  That might just make me hate you right then and there.  And take the time to trim it to fit.  I file these away and those odd sized ones just might not make it into my filing cabinet.

 

While we’re on the subject of attaching your resume, don’t attach anything else.  I’m really happy you’re currently employed with your one-man show, but I don’t want a flyer or postcard attached advertising said show.

 

Leave whitespace on your resume.  We’re doing everything we can to remember the interesting things about you in case we should want to cast you.  If you jamb-pack your resume from margin to margin we have no room for such notes.  It also makes them hard to read and smacks of desperation.  “Look how much I’ve done!”  We don’t need to know everything you’ve done and if you have stuff on there from twenty years ago you might think about some judicial editing.

 

Use a decent sized font.  We’re at this all day and  in my case, my eyes get tired.  If you give me an 8 point font I’ll want to throw your resume in the discard pile then and there.  Also, weird or funny fonts piss me off.  It just adds an extra hurdle where I don’t need one.

 

There is a somewhat uniform way of setting up your resume.  Feel free to diverge, but just know that doing so will increase the likelihood that I won’t be able to find the info I’m looking for.  At the top should be your name and under that your vitals.  Height, weight, eye color, hair color, telephone and email address.  If you are a singer you may want to put your vocal range.  Do not give us your address.  In this day and age that simply isn’t safe and every now and then you send your resume to an unscrupulous person who turns around and sells your resume to other places.  Don’t include your age or tell us what your age range is.  That’s our job and why would you want to limit yourself that way?  Likewise, don’t include the dates of your productions.

 

Below your name and vitals should come the body of your resume which is your stage experience.  There are four things I want to know here: the theatre you worked at, the show you did, the part you played and who directed you.  Set them up in neat columns so that I can easily scan through them.  Don’t be afraid to list multiple shows with one theatre, that’s a good thing; that says that you worked at that theatre and they liked you enough to ask you back.  I am very leery of the auditionee that has 30 theatres listed and has only one show at each of them.

 

Below the stage experience section should be your education and special skills.  Still in high school?  It’s okay, we won’t hold it against you so don’t be ashamed of it.  Tell us where you went to school and who some of your teachers were (those names may open a conversation), but leave your GPA off.    I’m not really interested if you took a weekend class here or there.  Special skills should be special.  I don’t know how special having a driver’s license is.  Fire eating is more impressive (although at this last audition every other person had that listed) and I certainly want to know if you can speak a foreign language fluently.  I assume a good actor can learn dialects, so for me I don’t really care.

 

You may have a lot of film and/or TV credits; you may have a lot of directing credits.  I don’t care.  In this day and age you should be able to have several different resumes at your disposal.  If you are coming to the Milwaukee Generals, cater your resume to your clients, which are almost exclusively theatres.

 

Have enough resumes.  We don’t like sharing.

 

Don’t lie on your resume.  You will be busted and then you lose all credibility.  If you took a weekend class don’t make it sound like you received a degree.  If you took a beginning improv class don’t say you are part of the troope.  We know, we always know.

 

The Audition

 

So now we come to the heart of the matter.  First know that within the first ten or fifteen seconds we know if we like you or not.  Sometimes we’ve already made up our minds during the intro.  That’s just the way it goes.  Knowing that, limit the length of your pieces.  They really should be no longer than a minute a piece.  I spent one whole afternoon timing auditions.  I would look down at my watch when I started to lose interest and it was always between 55 and 65 seconds.  Even if you’re great, going beyond that is too much.  This past year many people were going over three minutes and that was just for one of their pieces.  Leave us wanting more.

 

Pick pieces that are superb.  Good is not good enough.  Good will be forgotten.  Knock our socks off!

 

In picking your pieces be very selective.  If you choose something offensive it is likely to offend and turn off at least a few people in the room.  Have a really good reason for picking a piece.

 

Don’t do stand up.  I’ve never seen it work and theatre is not stand up.  I’ve also never seen a piece that someone has written for himself work.

 

Contrast your pieces.  That doesn’t mean that one has to be modern comic and the other classical dramatic.  You can contrast two modern funny pieces and I will be quite delighted.  But standing during one and sitting during the other is not contrast.  Show us two different sides of yourself and hopefully those are different than your introduction.  Remember that your intro is a chance to show us a different side of yourself that will be contrasted by your two pieces.  Prove that you can act.

 

Don’t do serial killer monologues.  They are overdone and not usually all that interesting.

 

Don’t find a monologue in a monologue book.  They generally aren’t very good and they are overused.  Nothing like seeing the same bad monologue four times in the same day.  Read plays, lots of them, and find something that speaks to you.

 

People bend over backwards trying to find the obscure Shakespeare piece that no one has ever seen.  In doing so they generally pick something from one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays.  You know why they are lesser known?  Because they’re not as good.  You know what I’ve never seen?  Someone audition with “To be or not to be.”

 

Don’t try to memorize pieces the week of.  You should constantly be working on monologues and finding new pieces and the only way to do that is to constantly be searching for them.  Actors constantly seem surprised when an audition is coming up and they have no material prepared.

 

Don’t wear anything that is more disturbing or more interesting than you.  I’ll spend the whole audition wondering, “Why did he wear that?” instead of watching your audition.  Look nice, but make sure you are comfortable and can move around.

 

Your pieces should actually be scenes in which you are engaged in some kind of action as opposed to telling us a funny story.  I want to see your struggle, not you charming me with a funny anecdote.

 

Fell free to use me as your point of focus.  Not everyone is okay with that, but I generally am.  However, if you stand two feet in front of me and confront me, you’re going to lose me.  I’ll still stare straight at you and be the best audience I can, but I’m no longer really watching you.  I’m beginning to wonder if you’re crazy enough to jump the table, and others in the room are concentrating on the same thing.

 

After you are done with a piece do not say scene.  Worse yet, do not wave your hand in front of your face and say scene.

 

Do make your transitions clear and clean.  Do something, usually a physical move, to let us know one piece has ended and the next has begun.  Of course if they are highly contrastable pieces, that shouldn’t be a problem.

 

If you have an emotional piece and are able to go to that place, good for you.  If you end that piece and take a long time coming out of it and composing yourself, showing us just how hard that was, I will no longer love you.

 

If you get off to a bad start ask if you can start over.  We will always say yes.

 

No props.  We’ll see the letter in your hand if you are invested in your scene.  And never, ever, ever…NEVER! bring a gun into the room.  Especially not one loaded with a half-charge blank which you then hold to your head and pull the trigger.  Sigh.  It now needs to be said.

 

 

 

And that’s my spiel.  I’m sure other things will come to mind and I’ll update this from time to time.  I also welcome observations from other auditors whether they agree with me or not.  Know that during the course of my stumbling career I have made many of these mistakes myself, and it was only because some kind person took me in hand that I got past them.  Be bold and good luck.

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