The Ultimate Music Theatre Audition Workshop

On June 29, I attended The Ultimate Music Theatre Audition Workshop, presented by Stage Door Access. This was a pre-conference workshop that I was grateful to have been paid for by Cardinal Stritch University (as well as the registration fee for the conference itself).

I got some interesting information, both from the written handouts and from the audition master class, which I’ll summarize here:

HEADSHOTS

  1. Should look like you
  2. Use natural makeup and lighting 
  3. You can show more than just your head
  4. COLOR – no more B&W
  5. Be age appropriate
RESUME
  1. Don’t include your home address or social security number (really? who’d put that on a resume?)
  2. Make sure the overall formatting is clear
  3. Don’t include years
  4. Put role credits before ensemble credits
  5. List credits in appropriate categories
  6. Format the training section clearly
  7. Be clear and conside
THE SONG AUDITION
  1. Do your homework. What’s the style of the show? How should you look?
  2. If your song is angsty, find a moment of lightness. Don’t be monochromatic.
  3. Less is more in terms of movement. Find more stillness.
  4. Work the song as a monologue, not just as a poem.
  5. A great audition is something that is watchable.
  6. Bring a piece that can be played by the accompanist. If it’s too hard, bring your own accompanist or bring a different piece. [As I’ve said, if I can’t fake my way through it, don’t bring it!]
  7. Be very clear in conveying tempo to the pianist before beginning. Do not clap, snap or tap it!
  8. Take charge of your audition!
  9. If you say something more than once, find a different motivation the 2nd time.
  10. It’s not attitude – it’s specificity. Deal with every moment in the song.
  11. Earnestness is a turn-off. Find the line between earnestness and immediacy.
  12. Text should follow the musical direction.
  13. Be present in the room – be aware and energized! (This is not the same as earnest and overeager.)
  14. Don’t state your name or the name of your song. We already have it.
  15. Leave when you’re done – let them call you back if they want more. Don’t hang around and wait. It’s awkward.
THE DANCE AUDITION
  1. Get out of your head. 
  2. The audition is less about the steps and more about conveying the energy and expressing what you have to express.
  3. Are you willing? That carries a lot more weight than whether or not you can dance. Show that you are willing to try.
AUDITION BOOK
  1. Have both legit and belt pieces available.
  2. Comedic
  3. Character
  4. Standards
  5. Three ring binder with your music in non-glare sheet protectors 
Do NOT bring anthologies! [This is a total violation of copyright law!]

ATTIRE
  1. This is much more casual than it used to be. Wear what you’d wear to a brunch where you’re going to meet your future in-laws.
  2. Be appropriate to style – contemporary shows demand contemporary wear.
  3. Don’t wear costumes – but do suggest the character.
  4. Don’t wear loose baggy clothes – let the clothes reveal your body. (But not too much!)
  5. Make sure that you can move in your clothes and that they aren’t distracting.
BUSINESS/NETWORKING
  1. The creative team is behind the table. Know who they are. Know what they do.
  2. Befriend casting directors – go to auditions, workshops, industry functions.
  3. Make friends with the room monitor.
  4. Treat the accompanist professionally.
  5. Keep an audition journal – know who is behind the table, record the feedback, the total experience.
  6. Treat the audition like an interview. When it’s over, let go.
MISCELLANEOUS
  1. The purpose of the audition should be to show yourself in your entirety and to match you to a role.
  2. The panel wants you to be good as much as you want to be good.
  3. Musical theater performers must have good musical chops and be able to learn music quickly.
  4. Make the piece appropriate to the audition. 
  5. Have a flexible voice. Be able to approach a phrase in a variety of ways – belt, mix, head
  6. Some songs people are sick of because they’re good audition songs. That’s why they’re so frequently done.
  7. “Don’t sing Sondheim” – baloney. Some Sondheim is too hard to play, some is not. [See difficulty, above.] Some are not melodic. Some are. 
  8. Signature songs – individuality is important. If you can sing “Don’t rain on my parade” without doing a Barbra Streisand impression [or a Lea Michelle impression of a Barbra Streisand impression], then do it.
  9. Don’t look overeager or crazy.
  10. It’s important to have an agent in NYC. Have the right agent for where you are in your career.

Benjamin Britten Centenary Celebration

On Sunday, July 1, 2012, I was blessed to perform two duets at the 52nd NATS Conference in Orlando. The composer was Benjamin Britten, 1912-1976, whose music I’d only performed before in opera – as Florence and Nancy (two separate productions – Peabody and Opera North) of Albert Herring and in the chorus of Peter Grimes at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

I sang “Mother Comfort” with Beverly O’Regan Thiele, a fantastic soprano, and the opening of “Canticle II” with Steven Stolen, a wonderful tenor. We were accompanied by Hal Leonard’s vocal music editor, Richard Walters. The other singer on the program was baritone Kurt Ollmann.

I had been more nervous about the former, because I had more solo lines. However, as it turned out, the Canticle presented more challenges. Steven and I were the voice of God in this piece – consequently, everything had to be together. Onsets, phrasing, releases – our blend had to be impeccable.

And it was! It was such a fantastic experience. I got great feedback from my colleagues, those on stage and those in the audience. (Wanna know pressure? Sing for a roomful of voice teachers!)

And I didn’t have any performance anxiety – except for burping. I don’t know where that has been coming from. But I’ll take it over dry mouth, shaking, and mental fuzziness any day!