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I’ve observed the Milwaukee Generals for the better part of twenty years now. The one aspect I’ve never opined on is the musical theatre auditions. I’m not of that world and don’t pretend to be. That having been said, I’ve noted some good, bad, and curious along the way, and wanted to add to some of the dos and don’ts of auditioning. But as I’ve already expressed, I’m not of that world, so I thought I’d ask some folks to weigh in who are of that world. Please note that while this article is about musical theatre auditions in general, it is also specific to the Milwaukee Generals. And as we have four different folk coming at these questions from different angles, there are bound to be some differences of opinion.

 

And for those unfamiliar with the process, the Milwaukee Generals are a day of auditioning set up and run by the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. It is a chance for actors to be seen by over twenty theatre companies, in which the auditionee is given a four-minute slot to perform two contrasting pieces.

 

Here are the folks weighing in on this article.

 

Diane Lane

Diane is always at the top of the list when folks are looking for some vocal training. A gifted singer and comedian, she’s always the most watchable actor on stage. Diane has a BM in Music Education and an MM in Vocal Performance (classical singing). She also graduated from a Feldenkrais Method training (movement education). During and right after grad school, Diane was an apprentice and then a resident artist with several opera companies — this led to future gigs. Singing has always been her favorite thing.

 

Jill Anna Ponasik

Jill Anna is a force in every production she directs. Inventive, enthusiastic, and driven, her shows are a delight to behold. Though she was a super-shy, arts-infatuated kid, Jill Anna was fascinated by the process of art-making, be it visual or performing arts.  When she had to pick a major, she chose music, receiving degrees in music performance, but in both undergrad and grad school she would get reprimanded by her teachers for spending too much time outside of the department doing theatre and dance.  Jill Anna never thought she would work as an administrator, but when she moved back to Milwaukee in 2009, an opportunity at Milwaukee Opera Theatre appeared, and by giving it a try, she discovered that it was a much better fit for her than performing.

 

David Bonofiglio

I’ve watched David accompany the Milwaukee Generals over the last several years. A consummate professional, I’ve seen him bend over backwards to get it right for the auditionee. In the rare case where things go sideways, he’s unflappable, calmly halting the process, and doing his best to get the audition back on track. David received his undergraduate degree in piano performance from Cardinal Stritch University. He started working professionally as a pianist and music director in 2005, and has worked steadily in Milwaukee since then for most of the companies in town.

 

Paul Helm

Paul is a charming performer and accompanist with a million-dollar smile. He started playing piano when he was four – first by ear, then he took lessons. Paul kept training up until his junior year of high school, when schedules were consumed with numerous school groups and activities, yet he never stopped playing (a huge part of why he’s still doing it today). Paul caught the theatre “bug,” during that junior year, when he decided to audition for his high school production of Bye Bye Birdie. From there, he got involved with community theatres throughout southeastern Wisconsin, minored in Theatre in college (but majored in Mass Communication), and landed his first professional theatrical job performing in the chorus of the Florentine Opera in 1999. After graduating from UW-Milwaukee in 2002, he worked in Public Affairs at a medical college for about two years until he decided to pursue a “starving artist” life full-time in May 2004. Ever since, he’s led a successful career as an Equity actor, director, music director and pianist, both nationally and internationally. After calling Wisconsin home for thirty-eight years, he made the move to New York City in 2017 to further his career as an actor and musician.

 

 

Fletcher: How do you approach an audition where you are the accompanist? Or rather is the Milwaukee Generals a different beast? You don’t know what’s coming at you, so how do you prepare for such a thing, and how is it different than an audition for a specific show?

 

Paul: In general, I try to stay as knowledgeable and “current” as I can with the musical theatre scene. While I’ve educated myself extensively with the musicals of years past, I also try to stay up to date with the musicals of today. I’m a glutton for shows of the old-fashioned caliber, but nowadays, the Broadway scene is more contemporary, and I think it’s important to embrace that genre, especially when so many auditions I play for implore that kind of style and sound. It’s crucial that I continue to brush-up on my sight-reading skills, and the more informed I can be of the musical theatre world, both past and present, the more I will feel prepared with whatever piece comes my way.  When I’m playing auditions for a specific show, auditionees tend to bring in selections in the style of the show or by the same composer, and sometimes, even from the specific show itself. Again, I prepare myself as much as possible to be as familiar with the show, its musical style, the composer’s history, etc. before even entering the room. When it’s an audition like the Milwaukee Generals, the song spectrum will be much broader, so again, keeping my musical theatre knowledge as extensive as possible is imperative.

 

Fletcher: Diane, how do you approach an audition? Do you choose a number from the show you are auditioning for, or a number from another show that has similar characteristics?

 

Diane: I try not to audition! <Wink!> When I recently have, it’s been for a particular show, and I was asked to sing certain sections of the score. (Most Milwaukee music theater auditioners seem to request “32 bars of a song in the style of the show.”)

 

Fletcher: You say you try not to audition. Do you mean you don’t like to audition? I certainly don’t, and would always rather be called in to read for a specific part, or better yet, just be cast, but I don’t want to speak for you.

 

Diane: Because I’m not as hungry to perform as I was when younger, I tend to audition only when invited to sing/read for a particular role in a show — I haven’t done a general audition in years. (However, when I was starting out, I auditioned regularly and loved doing so.)

 

Fletcher: Jill Anna, what would you rather see? A song for this particular production or something else?

 

Jill Anna: If they want to sing a piece from the show, great! In a way, that makes my job easier. But there is value in offering variety as well. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong here.

 

Fletcher: Paul, how about you? When folks are auditioning for a specific show, do you think it’s better for them to sing something from that show, or choose a song with a similar flair from another production?

 

Paul: This has always been a constant debate, and I, too, go back and forth with my thoughts on this. First and foremost, I’m a big believer in an actor singing what they sing well. It is sometimes discouraged for an actor to sing a song from the show they’re auditioning for, often for fear of typecasting. However, if you rock at singing a song from the show, then by all means, you should sing it! For any audition, you only have the one chance to shine and promote yourself, so sing what will show you off. Unless the audition listing specifically says to not sing a song from the show, I would never be opposed to it. Still, I also believe singing a song in the style of the show can be a tremendous benefit.  Knowing that many others will sing a song from the show (often the same song repeatedly throughout the day), the actor singing a different song in the style of the show will stand out from the others. It also demonstrates that the actor is someone who prepares, which ultimately goes a lot further in the long run (i.e. professional, hirable, educated, etc.). But in the end, no matter what, the right choice in song is to sing what you sing best.

 

Fletcher: Jill Anna, you told me that you hate auditions and prefer other ways to get to know an artist, but when push comes to shove, how do you set it up in a typical audition process?

 

Jill Anna: Over time, it has occurred to me that the traditional audition process may not be the best way to build the cast for a production. So, when push comes to shove, we still don’t hold auditions at MOT. If we need to hear someone sing something, we’re usually able to get that done using Voice Lab. I only participate in auditions when I am part of a project for another organization or attending something like a general audition.

 

Fletcher: David, what’s your opinion on the selection for an auditionee?

 

David: Sing what is requested. If the creative team wants to hear the show, then sing the show. There are often specific qualities or abilities that we are looking for (the end of Chip’s Lament in Putnam, for example). If they ask for a similar style or composer, sing that.

 

If nothing is specified, sing something that shows your voice and its strengths. E.g. If you’re reading for Bobby in Company, then by all means sing a verse of “Being Alive” if you have it prepared. We’re going to hear you sing it eventually.

 

Fletcher: How important is the “acting” of the audition piece as opposed to a recital of the piece?

 

Jill Anna: I think it’s vital. Otherwise you’re not performing the piece, you’re just singing a song.

 

Diane: It depends on the auditioning company’s artistic values and the repertoire we’re singing, but, to me, investing deeply in the scene of a song almost always enhances the singing of it (and certainly betters the resulting performance). Short Answer: Seriously Important.

 

Paul: Extremely. In audition workshops, I constantly remind actors that a singing audition is a monologue set to music. While yes, we need to see the level of your musical abilities, it is just as important to see how you tell the story through singing, which honestly is often harder than a straight monologue. I believe that if you can convincingly act your song to the extent that I forget it’s a performance, that’s the kind of actor I want to work with.

 

David: In a general audition for a season or the Milwaukee Generals, fully staging the scene as if you are in performance isn’t helpful. What I want to see is if a singer knows what they are singing and what the progress of thought is for the character. What does the character begin the song and where do they end up? Don’t run around the room or gesticulate madly. Just show me with your voice, face and a few well-placed gestures that you know the internal movement the character makes during the song. I’m interested in your internal process and how you externalize it, not your ability to execute blocking.

 

Fletcher: Would you rather work with a singer that can’t act, or a non-singer that can carry a tune, but can act up a storm?

 

David: This is role dependent. Bea Arthur could barely sing, but she was a hell of a Yente. Some actors don’t draw an audience in with text work, but I’ll ignore that because they sound so great.  Casting is the dark art that compares the ratios of many factors until you find a ratio you think will tell the story best.

 

Jill Anna: Well, a fully integrated artist who can dance gracefully between the demands of singing and the demands of acting is ideal.  That said, I love working with casts who have a varied array of skills. Some may be expert at singing, others may be movers, some may be learning music by ear, but have a spectacular gift with spoken text.  The important thing is that we form a rehearsal group where we’re all using our individual skills to elevate the collective whole. So, to answer your question, I have no preference, as long as the artist is interested in expanding those capacities.

 

Paul: Tough question. Because music has been such a large part of my life, you would think I would prefer a singer that can sort of act. But going back to my answer to the previous question, what good is a song if there’s no story or meaning behind it? Sure, it may sound beautiful, or catchy, or become an earworm that you can’t get out of your head. But ultimately, if I’m pulled in by solid storytelling, I often don’t even notice that a note or two are pitchy, or any indication that the actor is not a trained or experienced singer. So, if I had to pick, it’s the non-singer that can carry a tune, but acts up a storm, that would be my go-to. In theatre, good storytelling is key. I can often work on better vocal habits with a non-singer than I can develop strong acting chops with a non-actor.

 

Diane: The latter, the latter, the latter. Even if we’re performing a traditional-opera stand-and-sing duet. (Let’s open our songholes to say something.)

 

Fletcher: Songholes! I love it! You train singers. How quickly can one really learn a new song?

 

Diane: It sure depends on the song, and how musically-knowledgeable and -experienced the singer is but a, say, Tin Pan Alley ditty, can be “learned” in maybe 15 to 20 minutes. (I think memorization involves returning to the piece several times a day [for a few days?] to keep finding out what we haven’t yet learned until the piece is completely remembered.)

 

Fletcher: Jill Anna, how important is the accompanist in an audition? What do you need or expect from them?

 

Jill Anna: In the types of pieces I do, the pianist is very important.  In fact, the pianist is sometimes the music director, so they’re experiencing what it’s like to work with that artist during their audition.  The top-notch audition pianists are ready for anything, and laser focused on supporting the singer-actor.

 

Fletcher: Diane, when auditioning, how specific are you with the accompanist? In the brief time you are given, and it really does seem brief, what specifics do you focus on?

 

Diane: I think Less Is More (I wouldn’t overload a pianist with information). Do let them know exactly how you’d like them to begin your song (sustain starting pitch? sustain opening chord? two-bar intro?) I think tempi guidance is everything. (I wish every singer determined/wrote a metronome marking at the top of their songs and, moreover, that every audition accompanist had a metronome on their piano. [I think it’s almost impossible for a singer to verbally convey their tempo to a pianist.]) Do make internal cuts 100% true and clear. PS: Please remove those plastic sheet protectors from your book. Highlighting any key changes and sudden/dramatic shifts wouldn’t be bad.

 

Fletcher: Have you ever gone off track due to you and the accompanist not being on the same page, and if so, do you know what went wrong?

 

Diane: These days, when an audition pianist and I aren’t in sync, it’s usually because I didn’t make my tempi clear to them. (Again, I dream of metronomes being part of audition rooms.)

 

Fletcher: As an accompanist in an audition, what kind of pressure do you feel to get it right? And what can auditionees do to help you out? I know there’s not a lot of time to confer, but what do pros get right that newbies could learn from?

 

Paul: I certainly feel the pressure, as I want to play my best for the auditionee so they can perform their best. However, it’s not always that easy. Some auditionees will bring in a song that they kick ass at vocally, but the accompaniment is much more complicated. And if I butcher that, it can certainly affect the auditionee’s overall performance. That’s not fair to them.  o to avoid that, I always recommend actors to bring in sheet music that is 1) clearly marked (a start, an end, and tempo or time signature changes throughout), 2) easy to access (put in a three-ring binder, or taped together to minimalize any page turns, if at all), and 3) includes chord symbols (the “cheat sheet” for any accompanist who may not be familiar with the song). If I need to sort of cheat my way through a piece that I’ m not as familiar with, at least I can keep the tempo and piece going with the added benefit of chord symbols. While it’s never required, be aware that it can only help the auditionee. If the accompanist is given these necessary elements in order to perform at his or her best, then the auditionee will be able to perform at his or her best. It’s a win-win. I also encourage auditionees to politely indicate tempo while chatting with the accompanist (i.e. tap the beats on your hand, sing a little of the piece to establish tempo, never snap the tempo, etc.) and to be courteous. Remember that the accompanist is there to help you and may be seeing the piece for the first time. And while there still could be a mistake or two from the pianist (certainly never intentional), don’t ever show your disapproval. Hence, it’s always important to rehearse your song with an accompanist before you audition, just so you’re not thrown any “surprises.” The accompaniment doesn’t always sound like it does on the cast recording.

 

David: I feel enormous pressure to help the auditionee get it right. I wish I could run through everyone’s cut with them, but there simply isn’t time. Also, the folks behind the table want you to be awesome so they can know they have a role cast.

 

To help your pianist, realize there IS some time to confer. It might feel like an eternity, but if your tune is the slightest bit unfamiliar to the pianist, take the time to walk through it. The most important information you can give is the tempo and style. Practice giving the tempo and feel of the INTRO, not your vocal line. When the pianist asks for your tempo, please do not say “The usual one.” You must know this information, especially with contemporary repertoire that not everyone knows.

 

Contemporary music theatre is very groove oriented and if I’ve never heard your tune, I’ll need help establishing what you want. I’m a piano, not a drum set and guitar, so things don’t always translate easily on the first pass. Say something like “This is in a moderate four (then tap or snap the tempo softly but accurately). The intro is Da, da DAADAA (approximate the groove by speaking it) and then I come in.” Where you stretch or change tempi is less important to mention. I’ll probably figure it out when we get there. If we don’t start well, we probably won’t end well.

 

When choosing rep, don’t choose cuts with multiple abrupt tempo changes. These are very difficult to make happen on the first pass.

 

Auditions are job interviews, not recitals. Find repertoire that best shows your voice and character ability. Don’t sing a song just because you love it on the cast album. Directors don’t want to hear the most obscure Pasek and Paul trunk song you can find. We want to hear something we can use to evaluate your storytelling ability for a particular production.

 

“If I Loved You” from Carousel continues to be one of the best choices you can make for an audition (male and female). I hear your range, acting ability and vocal quality. I’ve heard countless people sing it and it still shows me everything I need to know about someone’s musical theatre voice.

 

“Common” is not necessarily “bad”.

 

Fletcher: I’ve always been told that one is not supposed to sing a song acapella. Can you explain why?

 

Paul: Singing a song acapella won’t tell me how well the actor works with music. It’s easy to sing flat or sharp without an accompaniment. So, when this happens, I have to wonder if that’s because the actor is not a musician at all (accompaniment or not), or is it just because they don’t have music behind them to guide them? It’s also easy to go off tempo without accompaniment. When an actor sings freely acapella, I will have no idea what the actual tempo is and if they can stick to it. In short, an actor singing with accompaniment allows me to see the extent of their musicality, which can be difficult to decipher from an audition without.

 

Jill Anna: I have heard successful a cappella auditions. They are certainly possible. But if a pianist is available, that resource should be used. Working with the pianist demonstrates that you are familiar and comfortable with the song as a whole, not just your vocal line.

 

Diane: I don’t know why. I think that if you can start your song in its key (if this is important to the piece/audition), and maintain the piece’s key while you perform it, why not sing unaccompanied? (Flip Side: Singing a song a-cappella is not what’s actually gonna happen when you perform that song in its show. And all the auditions being accompanied, levels the playing field. Also, I think some companies feel requesting No A-cappella Auditions might discourage less-skilled performers from auditioning.)

 

David: I need to know if you can sing with an orchestra or band. It also generally indicates a lack of direct-able musicality.

 

Fletcher: I recently saw an auditionee accompany themselves on guitar. Related to my previous question, is this a bad idea?

 

Diane: If you’re doing a general audition for a company, and they’re planning on producing a show like Once or Pump Boys in the near future, accompanying yourself on guitar during one of your audition cuts can be a useful choice. But, ordinarily, I would not do this (playing an instrument while singing limits our acting choices).

 

Paul: It doesn’t bother me, to be honest. It shows their strong musicianship and skill level, and if the song has a folksy or rock style, it only can add to their performance. And it gives the accompanist a break! However, I don’t usually recommend accompanying yourself unless the audition specifically asks for it.

 

David: At a general multi-company call, I don’t think it’s a bad idea at all to show instrumental chops, if you are competent and aren’t weird about it. There are a lot of jukebox shows that call for actors that play instruments, especially if you are auditioning for companies that produce in tourist areas. If it’s at an audition for Sweeney Todd, it’s a terrible idea.

 

Jill Anna: That’s an unusual choice, and therefore risky, but if someone came in and played and sang well, and it made sense for them to be accompanying themselves on guitar…I would eat that up!

 

Fletcher: Is it better to go for that one really big note that you might not make, or to play it safe?

 

Diane: Show them what you can do really well versus what you’re still learning how to do.

 

Jill Anna:  Artists are aspirational.  Trying to do things we haven’t done before is part of what gets of us out of bed in the morning.  So I think aiming for that high note is serious and important business.  But an audition may not be the best environment to test one’s limits.  A strong audition song is something you can sing anytime in any circumstance.

 

Fletcher: I’ve seen any number of folk with perfectly fine voices (at least to my untrained ear) miss the high note and it’s always curious to me. Surely, they must know they can’t quite get there, so why pick that song? Or maybe they don’t know, and it’s nerves or something else that gets in the way. Any thoughts on that?

 

David: It’s best to select something that you can reliably execute so you don’t have to make the compromise in the first place. Everyone has an off day (weather, allergies, illness, bad luck) but you should have an audition book of a 4-6 tunes that you can sing perfectly at the drop of a hat, with minimal warmup. If a money note is only happening for you 75% of the time, don’t audition with that tune until its closer to 98%. Try different keys (this is cheap to do using Musicnotes). Sometimes a half step makes all the difference.

 

In an audition, I’m usually not against giving someone another run at a missed note if it sounds like it’s in there somewhere, but as a music director, I don’t want to cast someone who may or may not be able to execute a role reliably every night.

 

Sometimes it’s obvious that people have never recorded and listened to their audition cuts. Hope can be a dangerous thing.

 

Paul: Certainly happens more than I would like to think. I like to assume that it most often comes down to nerves, or perhaps they’re not fully warmed up, or they may be feeling ill. We’re all only human after all. Still, if those notes are not in your capabilities, whether it’s because they’re just not in your range, or your voice is not up to par for the day, don’t sing that piece. Again, you have that one chance to impress the auditioners, and if those high notes are going to come off as second-rate, especially with so many others also auditioning, what good will that do for your chances of getting cast? Truth be told, most auditioners can tell when a singer has “got it,” but is just under the weather. As much as I want to go in and knock it out of the park, if I’m not feeling those high notes today, I’m going to play is safe and sing a piece that’s solid and impressive. I’ll say it again: sing what you sing best. High, belty notes are not required. If you can do them to their full extent, go for it! If it’s not in the cards for you, don’t feel pressured to attempt it.

 

Fletcher: For a newbie, what’s the one thing you wish they knew that you’ve learned during the course of your career?

 

Jill Anna: That whether or not you are cast in a particular production has nothing to do with your worth as an artist.  In the moment, it may feel like the sky is falling, or you may think that you have “made it,” but it’s the small decisions, made day after day, for years at a time that build a career. Resilience is one of the most valuable skills you can hone, and you will use it often.

 

Paul: Be yourself. No question. In my early days, I thought I had to do what everyone else was doing, sound like everyone else, be just like everyone else. So fantastically untrue. What sets you apart from all the other auditionees is to just be you. What you consider your “quirks” may not be a bad thing in their eyes – it might be just what they’re looking for. The auditioners want to cast you, they want to witness your specialness. They are not there to see you fail; they want you to succeed. All the reason to just be you. While they certainly need to see the extent of your abilities, they also want to see what makes you unique. You are just as awesome as anyone else who enters that room, never forget that.

 

Diane: Since this blog post’s about auditioning, “Don’t Audition. Perform.”

 

Fletcher: Can you elaborate on that thought? Do you mean, don’t audition, do it through your work, or don’t look on an audition like an audition, approach it like you are in a performance?

 

Diane: I used to like to think of a general audition as a short, spontaneous concert event with a small, exclusive audience and a scrappy pianist and silly lighting, but I get to choose my repertoire, direction, costume/makeup. (Auditions don’t have to be completely awful abstractions of performing.)

 

Fletcher: Are there certain songs or shows that people should stay away from? I’ve seen certain monologues beaten to death, and I inwardly groan when they are introduced. I love me some Christopher Durang, but I never want to see a monologue from Laughing Wild again. Are there musical numbers that are just plain tired, or numbers that are generally reviled by the musical theatre community, or something along those lines?

 

Diane: There are scads of “Do Not Sing” lists of music theater songs on the Internet (but most of them also advise that if a song fits you like a glove, and you love performing it, you go audition with that tired song!)

 

Paul: You know, back in the day, when contemporary musicals were just starting out and on the rise, I heard my fair share of songs from Wicked, Rent and Avenue Q.  However, again, going back to singing what you sing best – if “Defying Gravity” is your money song, then I say sing it. Even if it’s a song that’s sung frequently, show the auditioners why you are singing that song. I’ll never be opposed to a song I hear constantly but sung magnificently. The one thing I will encourage auditionees to stay away from is songs that are negative (not to be confused with “dark”) or involve a fair share of profanity. Sure, if you’re auditioning for Sweeney in Sweeney Todd, I wouldn’t choose “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning,” unless the auditionee gave it a more menacing tone. Still, I always recommend leaning toward more positive pieces. Not in every case, and again, strive for that song that will set you apart from the other auditionees. If you’re auditioning for Chicago, chances are many of the other auditionees will sing “All That Jazz.” Not a bad choice, but unless that’s your money song, sing a song that the auditioners will remember you by.

 

Jill Anna: Oh gosh, not that I can think of.  Terrifically long, or wildly ambitious pieces may qualify for exclusion here, but I would encourage artists to choose freely from the resources that are available.  Don’t worry about whether or not the folks at the table will “like” the piece.

 

Other Thoughts

 

David Bonofiglio: Take the time to COACH your repertoire with someone besides your lesson teacher. They are important, but you need another set of ears that have casting in mind to listen.

 

Milwaukee is a difficult market to audition in. There aren’t many auditions for much of the year because companies aim to book their seasons in spring, so local actors don’t get to keep their audition chops up. Chicago and New York have dozens of auditions every day of the week, so it’s easier to remember that auditioning is just part of the business and the stakes often feel lower since another opportunity is just around the corner (being called in for your dream role notwithstanding).

 

I wish we could build a stronger culture of constant improvement. Dance classes, voice lessons, song coaching, text and voice work, true cabaret work, and on-camera classes all help keep chops up when you aren’t booked on a show. What seems to happen right now is that we make our own opportunities and put on a show somewhere, which is great entrepreneurism, but it doesn’t always help people with less experience to work with directors who will help them grow.


I’ve been remiss in posting this. The Milwaukee Generals are almost upon us, so I thought now would be a good time to revisit some thoughts on auditioning. Here are my thoughts from several years ago. I’ve done a bit of judicial editing, but my thoughts on this process haven’t changed that much. Hope it helps.

 

Fletcher

 

Having sat through the Milwaukee Generals for over a decade now, I’ve come across all sorts of things that auditionees do which sabotage the work at hand. I’m continually amazed by some of these gaffs, but to be fair, how could they know? If you haven’t been in that room, and you haven’t been auditioning for years, or had some really good teachers and/or mentors, some of these gaffs might be understandable. And I understand just how hard and awful the process of auditioning is having been an actor for the last 35 years. 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 than preparing a piece that requires you to spin a chair around and sit on it backwards only to find out that the chair has arms. 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 info down. We see a lot of auditions over this long day and it’s extremely difficult to keep them straight. Give us a chance to remember you. I’ll never fault an auditionee for taking his or her time introducing their 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 item of clothing as you are introducing yourself. That’s odd 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 body language 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 any questions we won’t let you leave the room until we know the answers.

 

Give us the info we need. We need to know the character you are playing and the play it is from. That’s it. But give us both of those things. Don’t name the play but not the character, 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. I don’t need to know the author and I certainly don’t need to be told that Hamlet was written by Shakespeare. And occasionally an auditionee will give us a summary of the piece they are about to give. Nope, don’t do it.

 

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 give them. If you say you are going to do your classical piece second, do so. They may use that brief period of time while you are performing your first piece to scan your resume and see what other classical pieces you have done and where.

 

Oftentimes the audition goes wrong during 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 working on that part of their audition. Auditionees 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 can’t understand 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 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. As I’ve stated, we’re going to a whole lot of people over the course of this very long 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 worse yet, one in which the resume is attached in such a way that it covers your headshot. It does nothing but make you look unprofessional and your audition might fail right there before you even get in the room. 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 white space 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 my eyes get tired. If you give me an 8 point font I might just give up on it after reading your name. Also, weird or funny fonts are irritating. I want to work with professionals and that might make me question that prospect. It just adds an extra hurdle where I don’t need one. And if you use comic sans I will throw your resume away.

 

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 quickly. 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 that information 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, but leave your GPA off. Those names may open up a conversation. 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 one year, quite a few people 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 that’s not something I need listed. You may have a lot of film and/or TV credits or you may have a lot of directing credits, but that’s not what we’re here for. I’m here to audition stage actors. 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. If we don’t walk out of the room with your headshot and resume it’s unlikely we’ll ever contact you.

 

Don’t lie on your resume. It’s likely this will come to light and then you’ve lost 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 troupe. If you were Gregory in Romeo and Juliet once upon a time, don’t claim that you are a trained fighter. You’re not. 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 have a sense if you fit into what we are looking for. 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. In the past, many people were going over three minutes and that was just for one of their pieces. Leave us wanting more.

 

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 such a piece. Of course, if you are still looking for a piece right now you are probably in trouble.

 

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 an actor has written for themselves 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 two pieces 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 go to some 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 Hamlet’s “To be or not to be.”

 

Women’s monologues from Shakespeare are hard in that there are vastly fewer of them. We’re going to hear a lot of Hermia from Midsummer, Viola from Twelfth Night, and Rosalind from As You Like It. If it speaks to you and you can bring something fresh to the part, go for it! Just know that you might want to beef up your monologue book with a few other choices.

 

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. And unless you live in a suit and tie 24/7, don’t wear a suit and tie. It always comes off as amateurish.

 

There is the funny monologue trap. I don’t find them very engaging for a couple of reasons. The first is that I’ve likely seen it too many times. I love Christopher Durang, but I don’t need to see a monologue from Laughing Wild ever again. The second is that I want to see you in an actual scene interacting with another or others. I want to see your struggle or your triumph, not a funny anecdote.

 

Feel free to use me as your point of focus. I will always sit in one of the corner seats for just that reason. But know that not everyone is okay with that. If you focus on one person the whole monologue, one of two things may happen: they may turn away defensively and not see your audition, or they may freeze, afraid to turn their eyes away. Me, I don’t care, I’m happy to be your focal point, 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 member I can be, 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 starting to wonder 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, you’re going to lose me.

 

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 some of them.

 

Be bold and good luck.

 

Fletcher

 

P.S. The people in the room really want you to be good. We’ve got a lot on our collective minds during the course of that very long day. Please don’t read anything into our dour faces. And know that if you come in with a bright smile and a chipper attitude we will immediately light up.

 

P.P.S. Be kind to those folks out in the lobby taking your resumes.

 

P.P.S. If something happens and you can’t make your audition, call. It’s a black mark against you if you are a no show, no call. Some people who couldn’t get an audition slot may be able to slip in.


The Milwaukee Generals are almost upon us, so I thought now would be a good time to revisit some thoughts on auditioning.  Here are my thoughts from a couple of years ago.  I’ve done a bit of judicial editing, but my thoughts on this process haven’t changed that much.  Hope it helps.

 

Fletcher

 

Having attended the Milwaukee Generals for over a decade now, I’ve come across all sorts of things that auditionees do which sabotage the work at hand.  I’m continually amazed by some of these gaffs, but to be fair, how could they know?  I understand just how hard and awful the process of auditioning is having been an actor for the last 35 years.  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 than preparing a piece that requires you to spin a chair around and sit on it backwards only to find out that the chair has arms.  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 info down.  We see a lot of 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 auditionee for taking his or her time introducing their 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 item of clothing 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 body language 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 occasionally an auditionee will give us a summary of the piece they are about to give.  Nope, don’t do it.

 

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 while you are performing your first piece to scan your resume and see what other classical pieces you have done and where.

 

Oftentimes the audition goes wrong during 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.  Auditionees 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 can’t understand 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 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.  As I’ve stated, we’re going to a whole lot of people over the course of this very long 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 worse yet, one in which the resume is paper-clipped to the headshot, actually covering the headshot.  It does nothing but make you look unprofessional and your audition might fail right there before you even get in the room.  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 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 are irritating.  It just adds an extra hurdle where I don’t need one.  And if you use comic sans I will throw your resume away.

 

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 performed in, 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, but leave your GPA off.  Those names may open up a conversation.  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.  I’m here to audition stage actors.  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’ve lost 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 troupe.  If you were Gregory in Romeo and Juliet once upon a time, don’t claim that you are a trained fighter.  You’re not.  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.  In the past, many people were going over three minutes and that was just for one of their pieces.  Leave us wanting more.

 

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 such a piece. Of course if you are still looking for a piece right now you are probably in trouble.

 

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 an actor has written for themselves 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 two pieces 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 go to some 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 wear anything that is more disturbing or more interesting than you are.  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.  And men, unless you live in a suit and tie 24/7 and look great in it, don’t wear a suit and tie.  It always comes off as amateurish.

 

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 your charming me with a funny anecdote.

 

Feel free to use me as your point of focus.  I will always sit in one of the corner seats for just that reason.  But know that not everyone is okay with that.  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 auditor I can be, 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 wondering 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 it was to deliver that piece, 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 some of them.  I’m still an awful auditioner.

 

Be bold and good luck.

 

Fletcher

 

P.S. The people in the room really want you to be good.  We’ve got a lot on our collective minds during the course of that very long day.  Please don’t read anything into our dour faces.  And know that if you come in with a bright smile and a chipper attitude we will immediately light up and take notice.


newseason1213_fullsize_story1-1

The Milwaukee Generals are almost upon us, so I thought now would be a good time to revisit some thoughts on auditioning.  Here are my thoughts from a couple of years ago.  I’ve done a bit of judicial editing, but my thoughts on this process haven’t changed that much.  Hope it helps.

 

Fletcher

 

Having sat through the Milwaukee Generals for the last several years, I’ve come across all sorts of things that auditionees do which sabotage the work at hand.  I’m continually amazed by some of these gaffs, but to be fair, how could they know?  I understand just how hard and awful the process of auditioning is having been an actor for the last 35 years.  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 than preparing a piece that requires you to spin a chair around and sit on it backwards only to find out that the chair has arms.  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 info down.  We see a lot of auditions over those couple of days and it’s extremely difficult to keep them straight.  Give us a chance to remember you.  I’ll never fault an auditionee for taking his or her time introducing their 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 item of clothing 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 body language 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 occasionally an auditionee will give us a summary of the piece they are about to give.  Nope, don’t do it.

 

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 while you are performing your first piece to scan your resume and see what other classical pieces you have done and where.

 

Oftentimes the audition goes wrong during 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.  Auditionees 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 can’t understand 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 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.  As I’ve stated, we’re going to a whole lot of people over the course of this very long 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 worse yet, one in which the resume is paper-clipped to the headshot actually covering the headshot.  It does nothing but make you look unprofessional and your audition might fail right there before you even get in the room.  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 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 are irritating.  It just adds an extra hurdle where I don’t need one.  And if you use comic sans I will throw your resume away.

 

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, but leave your GPA off.  Those names may open up a conversation.  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.  I’m here to audition stage actors.  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’ve lost 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.  If you were Gregory in Romeo and Juliet once upon a time, don’t claim that you are a trained fighter.  You’re not.  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.  In the past, many people were going over three minutes and that was just for one of their pieces.  Leave us wanting more.

 

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 such a piece. Of course if you are still looking for a piece right now you are probably in trouble.

 

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 an actor has written for themselves 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 two pieces 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 go to some 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 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.  And unless you live in a suit and tie 24/7, don’t wear a suit and tie.  It always comes off as amateurish.

 

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 your charming me with a funny anecdote.

 

Feel free to use me as your point of focus.  I will always sit in one of the corner seats for just that reason.  But know that not everyone is okay with that.  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 member I can be, 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 some of them.  I’m still an awful auditionee.

 

Be bold and good luck.

 

Fletcher

 

P.S. The people in the room really want you to be good.  We’ve got a lot on our collective minds during the course of that very long day.  Please don’t read anything into our dour faces.  And know that if you come in with a bright smile and a chipper attitude we will immediately light up.


AP/AP – The reading room of the new Folger Shakespeare Memorial Library in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 2, 1931. It will in time house the 75,000-volume collection–the world’s greatest of Shakespeariana–given by the late Henry C. Folger of New York.
Yesterday was April 23, the generally accepted birthday of William Shakespeare, who is again in the news. Just a few days ago, two rare-book dealers, George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler, announced that they had found a copy of John Baret’s “Alvearie” — a 1580 dictionary — actually used and scribbled in by English literature’s greatest writer. If true, and there is obviously considerable skepticism at this point, this is just the sort of treasure that Henry and Emily Folger would have moved earth and heaven to acquire. For, unlikely as it seems, Washington is home to the most important repository of Shakespeare material in the world. The Folger Shakespeare Library, located on Capitol Hill, possesses more than 275,000 books related to the playwright and his time. It also owns Bard-related memorabilia, playbills, costumes, furniture and paintings. Most notably, its treasures include 82 First Folios, the first edition of the “complete works” of Shakespeare, compiled in 1623 by two actor friends from his old theater troupe, the King’s Men.

In “Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folger,” Stephen H. Grant provides not just a biography of the “onlie begetters” of this astonishing library, but also an account of the worlds in which the Folgers lived. The result is a superlative book, one that ranges from Amherst College in the 19th century to the gilded age of Standard Oil to the glory days of high-end book collecting. Crisply written and packed with facts and anecdotes, “Collecting Shakespeare” would be better only if its type size were just a bit larger.

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2n5YaL/:CM+ksyH7:43-fg$E4/www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/collecting-shakespeare-the-story-of-henry-and-emily-folger-by-stephen-h-grant/2014/04/23/ee9aad0e-c5a1-11e3-8b9a-8e0977a24aeb_story.html?tid=socialss/


I begin this rant by admitting that I don’t know all of the facts yet, but charging actors to audition for anything is just wrong.  META the Michigan Equity Theatre Alliance, is charging actors $25.00 to participate in their unified auditions.  Going to their Facebook pace I find the following explanation:

Q: What does the $25 Registration Fee go towards?
A: META is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, and all fees go to defray conference expenses and support the continuation and operation of META that is striving to provide greater opportunities such as conferences and unified auditions to the theatrical community.

Another opportunity META supports is EncoreMichigan.com. META is the financial administrator of EncoreMichigan.com, Michigan’s leading source for reviews, comprehensive show listings, thoughtful commentary, audition notices, original podcasts and special offers.

No participating venues will receive any funds collected.

 

My questions are many.

 

How many people will pay this fee and where exactly does this money go?

 

Why should actor’s audition fees go towards funding EncoreMichigan.com Michigan’s leading source for reviews, comprehensive show listings, thoughtful commentary, audition notices, original podcasts and special offers?

 

How many people are being employed by this organization?

 

Are theatre companies seeing these auditioners also being charged?  And if so, how much?

 

How many of those auditioning will likely be cast?

 

I’m looking for answers to all of these questions and I think all of you should as well.

Charging actors to audition is absolutely unforgiveable.  I hope you will also contact this organization and demand some answers and a change to this practice.

Fletcher

Here’s the link to their page: https://www.facebook.com/mitheatrealliance


This article contains my thoughts on auditioning.  While many of the thoughts I have here pertain to auditioning in general, (and by that, I mean auditioning for theatre, not film) they are particularly skewed toward the beast that is the Milwaukee Generals.  My goal is to help those auditioning avoid the many pitfalls that await them once they set foot into that intimidating room.

 

My first piece of advice is that you must already be working on your audition pieces.  As I write this it is January 13th, 2014.  The Milwaukee Generals are on February 24th.  That gives you just over a month to whip your pieces into shape.  I hope it goes without saying that an actor should constantly be working on audition pieces and looking for new ones; you can’t have too many in your back pocket and you never know when you’ll have an audition pop up on short notice.  Too many actors attempt to learn a piece on short notice and it never goes well.  There are just too many things that can catch you off guard during the audition itself, and unless you know your pieces stone-cold, you are likely to go up during the actual audition.

 

Having a good audition piece isn’t enough though; you must have a great audition piece.  Each year I sit through this very long day of auditions and each year there are only about three people that knock my socks off.  I see a lot of really competent auditions that I can’t recall the next day.  Find a piece that you can absolutely kill and work it until it’s in your bones.

 

Now on to specifics.  I’m dividing this article 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 than 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 who are new to the Milwaukee Generals, you are walking into a room to face a group of auditors in a horseshoe configuration.

 

If you are going to sing go right to the pianist and work out what small things you need to before your introduction.  At this point we are probably still passing around your headshots.

 

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.  There are as many as twenty different companies in the room and seconds before you enter we are handed a stack of your headshots and resumes.  We are furiously passing those 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 info down.  We see dozens of 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 auditionee for taking his time introducing his pieces.  When in doubt, introduce yourself and your pieces and 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’ve seen people enter, and then slowly take off a coat, scarf, shirt and any number of other things as they are introducing themselves.  That’s weird and distracting.  Leave that stuff outside.

 

This pertains to 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 air 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.   I don’t need to know the author, I don’t need to know the scene and I certainly don’t need a synopsis of what has come before.  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 may have less interest in your modern/comic piece and are waiting for the Macbeth you have promised.  If you say you are going to do your classical piece second, do so.  Those auditors 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 at all 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 as to render it unintelligible, 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 and then introduce yourself, or introduce yourself and then get set.  Trust me; we will welcome the extra time to look at your resume.  Those little stumbles can send you reeling.  Suddenly a voice in your head is saying, “I can’t believe I messed up my name” and now you’re not focused on your audition and things can go south in a hurry.

 

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 during the course of the 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?  Not a problem.  Maybe we’re looking for just that 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 or print it on the other side.  It’s incredibly irritating to get a loose resume, or one that is paper-clipped to the headshot actually covering the headshot.  Don’t let something like that get in the way.  Also take the time to trim the resume to fit.  Most of us keep these resumes on file so help us out.

 

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.  Those extra attachments only serve to get in the way of the info I’m looking for.

 

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 productions on your resume from twenty years ago you might think about some judicial editing.

 

Use a decent sized font.  We’re at this all day and our eyes get tired.  If you give us an 8 point font we’ll want to throw your resume in the discard pile then and there.  That also goes for weird or funny fonts.  They’re just hard on the eyes.  Be funny in your audition, but let your resume be professional.  Jarring print just adds an extra hurdle where the auditors 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 we won’t be able to find the info we’re 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 unscrupulous folk.  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 consists of your stage experience.  There are four things I want to know here: the theatre you worked at, the show produced, 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.  There are folks who are really great at auditioning and not so much at the acting part.  They tend to work at a lot of theatres once.

 

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, but leave your GPA off as that won’t help you get cast.  The names of your teachers may open up a conversation.  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 or you may have a lot of directing credits.  I’m not interested.  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 have the ability to make copies, so if a theatre doesn’t get a copy the day of, you’ve lost that opportunity.

 

Don’t lie on your resume.  You will be busted and then you’ve lost 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 troupe.  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 on the long end.  Even if you’re great, going beyond that is too much.  In the past many people were going over three minutes and that was just for one of their pieces.  Leave us wanting more.

 

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.

 

Close with your best piece.  I know that I said we’ve generally made up our minds in the first ten to fifteen seconds, but our minds can be changed.  That second piece that kicks ass will make us forget the first piece.  Of course if you want to be one of those three people we remember, make sure both pieces kick ass.

 

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

 

In the same vein, I suggest avoiding the monologue that goes into great detail about a recent sexual exploit.  Taken out of context of the rest of the play they tend not to work.  Teenagers doing such a monologue is doubly troubling.  They don’t shock us, they just make us tune out.

 

Avoid monologues from monologue books.  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.  If you do find a monologue in a book and it’s actually from a play, go find that play and read it.  Know where it comes from and in what context.

 

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 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.  Skirts that are too short, blouses that are buttoned too low and clothing that is too revealing are all traps.  Let me concentrate on your piece, not worry about a piece of you falling out.  And men, avoid the suit and tie affair unless you live in it daily.  There’s looking nice and there’s looking awkward.

 

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 your charming me with a funny anecdote.

 

Feel 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 member I can be, 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 you worked at that piece, 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 fire.  Sigh.  It now needs to be said.

 

If you are a singer, sing, or if you can sell a song, sing, but pick the right piece.  I’ve seen all too many folks with perfectly lovely voices choose a song in which they can’t hit that one note and I’m stumped as to why they would make such a choice.  Surely they knew they couldn’t hit that note before they began, so why go there?  It’s better to sing something you can really nail that might require less of a range.  Leave the auditors wondering.  And songs do need to be acted as well.  Invest in the song as much as you would any monologue.

 

Some Final Thoughts

 

Milwaukee is a special place.  I’ve lived in a few different cities, Los Angeles being the worst offender, where auditors were unforgiving if not outright rude.  In such situations hostility pervaded the rooms and there was an attitude of, “I dare you to be good.”  I have never understood that philosophy.  Know that you are walking into a room of very kind people.  We want you to succeed, we want you to be great and we will do everything in our very limited power to make sure your experience is a positive one.  We have a selfish reason for doing so; we want to get your best audition.  I hope that will empower you to take risks and to not beat yourself up if you trip up a bit.  We really are pulling for you.

 

Be kind to everyone you meet there.  As I try to teach my students, everything is an audition.  Folks in Milwaukee work in all different aspects of theatre, and the other actor you meet in the commons that you are rude to may be the director of the next play you audition for.  Many of the people who are helping run the auditions are current interns at the Rep earning next to nothing, and the person actually putting the whole thing together is on the Artistic staff at the Rep.  It’s a really trying day in which just about everyone is on edge.  Put on your best face and be kind.

 

It always breaks my heart when I see a talented person from another city show up to the Milwaukee Generals, and by that I’m talking further than Chicago or Madison.  I’ve seen people travelling from as far away as Florida.  It breaks my heart because unless there is a very specific need for a type we can’t find here, you are not going to get hired.  Such is the economy and the state of affairs in the world of theatre.  The experience of auditioning is always useful, but to go to the expense and time of travelling such a long distance with no chance of getting hired seems a fool’s quest.  If you are interested in auditioning for a specific theatre, I would suggest you contact that theatre, find out what their season is, and if there’s a role you might fit, schedule a separate audition with that theatre.

 

The caveat to that is if you have housing in Milwaukee you should let that be known in no uncertain terms during your introduction.  And on that note, if you live here and are still hanging on to an area code from your last home, make sure we know that you are local, otherwise we’ll assume you live in another city and put you in the discard pile.

 

When you are done with your audition, find some time and space alone and play the whole experience over in your head.  What went right?  What went wrong?  What could you have changed?  And perhaps most important of all, did I do everything in my power to make this a kick-ass audition?  If the answer to that question is yes, congratulations.  That’s all you can ask and if you don’t get cast it may have absolutely nothing to do with your audition and you can be assured that you left an impression.  If the answer to that question is no, you should perhaps rethink how you’ve prepared.  Did you allow enough time to rehearse?  Did you commit to the piece 100%?  Is the piece right for you?  Be constantly willing to honestly critique yourself.

 

And in rehearsing, it’s important to perform these monologues in front of another.  Don’t perform them in front of a bunch of different people looking for criticism, that will just lead to confusion as we’re all looking for different things.  Find one person you can trust (teacher, fellow actor, director, lover) and get up and do it.  Even if they love everything you are doing and have nothing new to offer, the experience of doing it live will help you to no end in the actual audition.

 

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.

 

Fletcher

 

P.S.  I’m pasting the guidelines for signing up for these auditions below.  Please note that this is a separate date from the auditions themselves.  Please also note that people were lined up as early as 6:00 am to procure a slot and these were all filled by about 9:00 am.  You have been warned!

 

The 2014 Non-Union Milwaukee General Auditions will take place on Monday, February 24th, 2014, from 9:30am to 6:30pm, at Milwaukee Repertory Theater.  This is a Locals Only audition – only Non-Union actors that do not require assistance with travel and housing should attend.  These auditions are intended for adult-aged, non-union, locally-based professional actors.

We will again implement an in-person sign-up process for this year’s auditions.  On Saturday, January 18, 2014, from 9:00am to 12:00 Noon, interested actors will be able to sign up in person for the 2014 Non-Union Milwaukee General Auditions outside of Milwaukee Rep’s Stackner Cabaret – www.milwaukeerep.com/planvisit/directions.htm – on the 2nd floor Arboretum of the Patty & Jay Baker Theater Complex, accessible via elevator or via the escalator near building security.  Please note that the doors to the Milwaukee Center are scheduled to be unlocked at 6:00am, and are not under the control of Milwaukee Repertory Theater.  A line formed very early last year, and there is no reason to expect otherwise in 2014.

Slots will be available on a first-come-first-served basis – all slots will very likely be filled well before 12:00 Noon.  This span of time is provided only as an estimate of the time commitment necessary for this sign-up process.  Attendance on January 18 will not guarantee an audition slot.  Interested actors must present a valid form of photo identification (driver’s license or state-issued identification is recommended) in order to obtain a slot.  In addition, please note that an individual is eligible to request one slot only – requests made for other individuals will not be honored.

There will also be 25 Waiting List slots available.  Sign-up for these slots will occur in the same manner as outlined above, once all auditions slot have been filled.  Obtaining a Waiting List slot does not guarantee an audition, but preference for any slots that open at a later date will be given to those actors on the Waiting List.

Should there be audition or waiting lists slots available after this sign-up period, they will be made available via an additional in-person sign-up at The Rep’s administrative offices.  Additional details will be announced on this page should any slots remain.  This situation is highly unlikely to occur.

Slots for this Non-Equity day will fill quickly. Please plan accordingly.

PREPARATION

Audition slots will be 4 minutes long, and will consist of any two of the following:

  1. One contemporary monologue
  2. One classical monologue (preferably Shakespeare)
  3. One musical theater selection – 60 to 90 seconds in duration.  An accompanist will be in attendance.

Please note that the actor’s introduction and any time necessary to communicate with the accompanist will count as part of the 4 minutes.  Please prepare and time your selections carefully, as actors who exceed the audition time of 4 minutes will be stopped.

Actors should plan to bring 30 headshots/resumes – please check the website listed below often for updates on the number of producers attending.  This list is subject to change at any time.

Actors who choose to audition with a musical theater selection and desire accompaniment should come prepared with sheet music.

Questions?  Please visit this website frequently for additional information.  For additional information, please email Michael Kroeker, Artistic Associate, at mkroeker@milwaukeerep.com.  Due to the volume of questions, please allow two business days for a response.

All interested actors should visit this page regularly for information and updates.

COMPANIES EXPECTED TO ATTEND IN 2014 (updated 20Dec13)

Actor’s Craft

The Alchemist Theatre

American Players Theater

The Bunny Gumbo Theater Company

Cooperative Performance Milwaukee

Door Shakespeare

First Stage Children’s Theatre

Forward Theater Company

Great River Shakespeare Festival

In Tandem Theatre

Lori Lins Talent Management

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre

Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Next Act Theatre

Optimist Theatre

Peninsula Players

Pink Banana Theatre Company

Renaissance Theaterworks

Rhode Center for the Arts

Skylight Music Theatre

Soulstice Theatre

Splinter Group

Theater RED

UPROOTED Theatre Company

The World’s Stage Theatre Company

Youngblood Theatre Company

Zoological Society of Milwaukee/Kohl’s Wild Theater

(27)


 

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: “ROLL FOR TITLE!”

 

Smell that?

*takes long sniff*

It is the first flash fiction challenge of the year.

I’VE THAT SCENT OF SHEER STORY POTENTIAL CLINGING TO THE INSIDE OF MY NOSE.

And it is wonderfully sweet.

I’d actually like to take a little moment to say I’m so happy that these challenges seem to get people writing and I’ve seen more than a few folks sell-through stories based on these challenges, which makes the brittle broken snow-globe that I call my heart twitch and shine for one second.

Anyway, let’s get to it.

All you need to do this week is to use a d20 or a random number generator to consult the table at the bottom of the document to roll for a story’s title. It’s a two-part title (meaning, two random numbers 1-20) and whatever title you get must fit the story you write for it.

Find out all of the details here


Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
  • Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
  • Merrick Morton/20th Century Fox
  • Liz Lauren
  • Johan Persson
  • Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
  • Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
Orlando Bloom in “Romeo and Juliet” on Broadway.
Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad in “Romeo and Juliet,” now on Broadway.
Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio in the 1996 film “Romeo and Juliet.”
A scene from the 2006 production of “King Lear” at the Goodman Theater in Chicago.
Rory Kinnear, left, and Adrian Lester in the National Theater’s production of “Othello” in London, to be broadcast in movie theaters this week.
Denzel Washington, far right, in the 2005 Broadway production of “Julius Caesar.”
Josefina Scaglione and Matt Cavenaugh in the 2009 Broadway revival of “West Side Story.”

By 

Wherefore art thou riding a motorcycle, Romeo?

Romeo and Juliet

Considering the timelessness of Shakespeare’s tragic love story

So might audiences muse at the start of the new Broadway staging of “Romeo and Juliet,” the first in the season’s plentiful Shakespeare productions, both on Broadway and off.

As the shows open in the coming months, fellow New York Times writers and I will be regularly posting commentaries on aspects of them, engaging larger questions about how today’s theater artists approach these canonical works, and inviting you to add your opinions about how vitally Shakespeare continues to speak to modern audiences. (Opera, ballet and movies will come up as well.)

Read the whole article here


Here’s A Wild Idea For Shakespeare: Do It His Way

Mark Rylance as Olivia (right) and Samuel Barnett as Viola in Twelfth Night. The Broadway production, which first played at London's Globe Theatre, is done in the Elizabethan tradition, with an all-male cast.Enlarge image         i

Mark Rylance as Olivia (right) and Samuel Barnett as Viola in Twelfth Night. The Broadway production, which first played at London’s Globe Theatre, is done in the Elizabethan tradition, with an all-male cast

Mark Rylance as Olivia (right) and Samuel Barnett as Viola in Twelfth Night. The Broadway production, which first played at London’s Globe Theatre, is done in the Elizabethan tradition, with an all-male cast.

This season, New York audiences have seen wildly different interpretations of Shakespeare plays. They’ve seen the Romeo of Orlando Bloom make his first entrance on a motorcycle; they’ve seen a production of Julius Caesar set in a women’s prison.

Now the London-based company from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre has landed on Broadway with what seems like the most radical concept of them all: plays staged in a style Shakespeare would’ve recognized, with all-male casts, period costumes and live music.

Read the full article here.