Monday, July 22, 2013

Know Before You Go - Audition Preparation

Hello friends and neighbors!

Here’s a novel thought for some: Obtain information about the audition before you go, not while standing in line in your overalls trying to convince the receptionist that you are, in fact, an Irish Dance Champion so you can get in and force the panel to watch your hill jack magic act. It's that good. Sure it's a dance audition but if they would watch for just a few minutes the producers would be astonished, amazed and would feature you in your very own show! You would finally achieve the applause you deserve, and you'd be doing the world a favor, sharing your gift. 

Shockingly, there are many tragic cases of hopefuls arriving to audition with only a wisp of a clue. They present a comedy monologue to audition for Death of a Salesman or do impersonations of dead presidents at a dance call. And although there are probably some unnatural exceptions, auditioning with a talent not called for uniformly results in failure. Here’s what to know before you audition for a passion play wearing a barrel and clown shoes. 

Who – For whom are you auditioning? Ever heard of the company? Do you know who is doing the casting? What have they done previously?  If you don’t know, get busy. Phone a friend. Poll the audience. Look online. Check associations, trade papers, professional organizations and web sites. This will prevent you from unknowingly auditioning for Unsavory Productions, who may be seeking entertainers to accomplish swishy acting you wouldn’t want your Grandma to see.  Or the company could be a couple of barely legal buffoons that saved their allowance money to rent a meeting room at the library. They’re auditioning actors for the groundbreaking film they plan to produce as soon as they find a backer or knock off a liquor store. Be wary, my friends, be wary.

Once you are certain the organization is legitimate, reach out to one of their employees, or barring that, try to speak to someone who has auditioned for them and lived to tell.  Employees past and present from companies large and small voluntarily identify themselves on Facebook and LinkedIn. And Google, as you surely know, knows everything, so it should be a simple task. Ask anything that will help you feel more comfortable, relieve anxiety, boost confidence and minimize your odds of being openly ridiculed.

Was there an auditions panel or a solitary judge? Were the judges warm and friendly?  Did their mannerisms imply interest or detachment?? Were those auditioning able to watch one another and clap, laugh or sob uncontrollably, or were those waiting secluded in an separate area rife with nervous sweat stink? Did the judges seem to respond favorably to a particular style or genre? Were callbacks held the same day or did those from out of town need to bring enough underwear for a sleepover?

What – What does the casting notice ask for? If the agency is looking for women between 18 and 24, and you have a child who is 10, don’t put her in hooker make-up and lie about her age. Incredibly, other people and probably monkeys can figure out she’s still a little girl.  Likewise, if you’re a young-looking 60, please share whatever drug you’re taking that makes you think you can pass for 24. And if you’re a man, let Mother Nature have the last word regarding your gender.  Stay home.  If the notice says to prepare three two-minute selections, and you show up with two five-minute pieces, be sure the first two minutes are really good so you can sell yourself before you get the hook.

Here’s a bonus tip– Either edit your song's intro so it is of reasonable length or choose a song with only a measure or two before you sing.  The casting team may have ADD or be too tired to give you any real consideration if they must first sit through the intro to Crazy On You watching you gaze at your imaginary sky and nervously groove.

Why – Why is this audition being held? Is there an open position or is it a cattle call to have some backups ready when someone resigns or breaks a femur? Is there an immediate opening? Is this a screen to choose people for yet another audition? Know before you go.

Where – Seriously, is there anybody who can’t figure this out? Go to the right place. If you’re not savvy enough to find the building, you probably aren’t savvy enough to find the performance venue either, or to remember to blow your nose or wear socks when it’s cold or memorize a script and learn a song. 

When - Not only should you show up on the correct date and during the published audition window, but also you should find out when the show will run.  If you’re headed to college in the fall, the Christmas Show may not work unless you take finals early or long distance. You would shine onstage playing Sandy Olson but will your little bun in the oven turn into the Pillsbury Dough Boy during the run? Avoid antagonizing the auditions team by doing an award-wining performance then telling them you can’t do the show because you have an overlapping contract or a mysterious previous engagement. And no, you are not good enough to skip rehearsal and start the day before opening.  If you’re not available, at least have the decency to make it known before you’re offered a contract.

This brings us to consider those who audition for practice, whether or not they would be able to take the gig. And also those unavailable but optimistic souls who audition hoping you will call them for future productions, after Junior is delivered or after their Red, White and Blaine contract ends. Although you risk disappointing those who wish to hire you, if you have the time and patience, it can’t hurt to your keep your auditions chops up as long as you take it seriously. When you sleep in your clothes, grab a CD from your car, scribble your resume on the back of a menu and have no idea what you’re auditioning to do or be, don’t. Have some respect for yourself and those who’ll be forced to endure you.

To Reiterate: Know before you go. Educate yourself early enough to prepare a great audition. It ought to increase the chance you will be given attention and presuming you are good, considered and called back.  If, remarkably,  you have not a tittle of talent but your heart has no other dream, audition anyway. Hope is alive. To turn on the television is to attest that those totally devoid of talent are bringing home the bacon, just like the talented. Who says life is unfair?

Carry on, brave soldiers. Audition away!

From your own,
Miss Audition

Friday, July 12, 2013

Five Unsuccessful Audition Personalities

Greetings Performers and Stars-to-be!

You've all been there...sitting, waiting for your name to be called. You're focused, prepared, pumped and ready to roll. You're confident, a little nervous maybe, but you know you're good. You're in the zone. Then the guy next to you starts coughing, sniffling, sucking mucous in and out, wiping his nose on his sleeve, trying to wipe his nose on your sleeve. What's he thinking? Trying out for a Louis Armstrong role? Because nobody's going to hire Typhoid Mary, or Mark as the case may be. Right? 

Here are five common audition personality types. Their flaws may not always be fatal, and in rare cases may even help them, but be careful, unless of course you're auditioning to play yourself. Your own cabaret show? Your own introspective interpretation of the Donner Party's ill fated trip? If you're selling your personality, front and center, even if you are a Goth Gorilla with a Belly Dancing Act, to thine own self be true. But if you're hoping for an existing role, consider turning the weird dial back a notch. 

5. The Croupy Crooner - He's gripping a half roll of toilet paper he pilfered from the bathroom, and looks like he slept in his clothes for a week. He's coughing and spitting like a llama. His eyes are runny and fixed straight ahead. You can feel his radiant fever ten feet out. He reeks like a bad nursing home. 

Why this person may not be cast: First, nobody wants to be near him, including the auditions team. He's probably contagious. Second, the auditions team can't tell how his un-sick voice sounds. Third, he's not winning any beauty contest. Fourth, seriously is he crazy? Stay in bed. Take it as a sign from God he's not supposed to audition. 

The exception: Maybe the show calls for a rasping, putrid toilet-paper thief. This means he must maintain said voice even if he gets well. 

4. The Ou-la-la Lady- Her face stays wide-eyed and innocent until she faces the auditions team. Then she purrs like a kitten and gives a sexy little pout. Her clothes accent the positive, mask the flawed and reveal skin people don't normally see. She wears heels, very tipsy high heels, the kind only girls like her and drag queens can stand up in. When she approaches the table, she leans forward directly in front the most masculine looking judge so he has a clear view of the topography. 

Why this person may not be cast: The person casting could in fact be the bookish old lady at the table, the one she ignored. Or the one she tried to impress may think women are icky. The most likely scenario is that the casting team is a group of professionals who won't appreciate the act. They have a job to do and should they cast Jessica Rabbit in a Doris Day role, their new careers might not be nearly as much fun.

The exception: There are, no doubt, certain shows that require this personality type, and there are some creepy unethical producers who have a personal affinity for tarts and harlots. Better to sell one's talent than one's body. 

3. The Uppity Liar - He waits confidently to be called, and as he waits he cooly watches those auditioning. He judges them with an air of superiority, nodding or shaking his head in turn. He jots down notes in his dime-store wire-bound note pad. As he approaches the table, he introduces himself as though he should be easily recognized and shakes hands with those who don't recoil and reach for the hand sanitizer. His resume is impressive. He's played everywhere from Broadway to Vegas and his training includes Really Big Names. He mentions that he knows the owner of the company, that they are distant relatives if one goes far enough back (to Noah). Vince was his vocal coach, you know, Vince Gill? 

Why this person may not be cast: The auditions team does not consist of one celled organisms. They can reason. If he knew all those people and was related to the rich and famous he wouldn't be auditioning for a theme park.  If the owner wanted him there, she would have called already. And Vince Gill nodding at him while he's humming and mopping the floor outside the green room does not count as coaching. 

The exception: If it turns out he genuinely is royalty and hiring him would provide inestimable marquee value, he may get the gig, but if he's Prince William, why would he audition for a theme park? 

2. The Stage Momster- Although Mom isn't the one standing in front of the panel, she's the one auditioning. The kid is a miserable trained poodle, trying to look happy. She keeps one eye on the panel and one on mom who stands in the back of the room exaggeratedly mouthing the lyrics, demonstrating the choreography and showing real feeling as she squeezes her eyes closed for the money note.

Why this person may not be cast:  A child who doesn't wish to be onstage should not be forced to do so. Stage Momsters annoy people besides their unfortunate progeny.  They loudly read lines with the child, giving performance notes and making sure the child has not a single wasted moment for childish pursuits like using the restroom. They tell anybody who will listen and many who won't about their child's star status. They submit rewrites to the producers that would allow junior more face time onstage. There's no nerve like a Stage Momster's nerve.

The exception: Not every Stage Mom is a Momster. Some are loving parents supporting their child because the child asks to be involved. Mom would be just as happy if junior had chosen dance or softball or gymnastics. It's about the child, not the parent. But the Momsters.... Maybe they're doing unto their children what they wish their parents had done unto them. If you're reading and recognize yourself, listen up. Let your child follow her dreams, not yours. 

1. The Accidental Auditioner - He auditions because he saw a line outside a building, asked people what they were doing and got in line himself. He's wearing pants around his hips, an elmo t shirt and his hairstyle could best be described as tornado. When called to audition, he has no sheet music and no CD. He wants to sing an a cappella tune, a song he wrote about his dog and Elvis. He wails and contorts his face to show his depth of passion. 

Why this person may not be cast: This bears no explaining. 

The exception: There may be a microscopic chance that a person might wander in by accident and show unprecedented ability. Same odds as being hit by a dwarf star. 

Now don't you feel better? Surely you don't fall into one of these categories. 

That's all for now, my friends. Have a great audition! 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

If They Can Smell You, They Can't Sell You

Good Day to you all! Miss Auditions here with today's audition tip: 
If They Can Smell You, They Can't Sell You (guidelines for grooming and appearance)

Grooming errors can end an audition before you sing the first note. First, the errors of omission.

Failure to iron your clothes that God intended to be ironed
  • Pressing your pants between the bed and mattress the night before does not count as ironing and you will look messy.
  • Dangling your wet clothes out the car window on the way to auditions will likewise not work; you will look messy and wet. 
  • Wrinkled clothing tells the casting team you didn't care enough to look nice. Or that you are blind. Or that you don't know how to work an iron. Or that you're messy and lazy. 
  • If deliberately wear disheveled clothing to pioneer a unique "look" or express your free spirit, you will still look messy and possibly crazy. 
  • Messy is bad. Avoid messy.

Failure to thoroughly clean yourself and your accessories
  • Start with your body. Clean thoroughly using soap and rinse thoroughly using water. A quick rinse is insufficient, as is running a washcloth only over the critical areas. Think long, hot soapy shower and don't leave anything out. 
  • Clean your hair. Use shampoo. If your hair clumps together in oily strands, you may need to get professional help. 
  • Moving on to your clothes, they should be thoroughly clean, as in washed with proper soap and rinsed with clean water. If you're wearing an item of clothing that can only be dry cleaned be sure that it has indeed been dry cleaned, recently, not last winter. 
  • Don't overlook accessories. Even Hannibal Lecter noticed Clarice's shoes and bag. Your shoes, bag, belt, jewelry, hat or whatever you use to decorate yourself should also be pristine. Your entire appearance should be polished, clean, unworn, tidy and in a color that works with the color scheme of your attire. 
  • Brush your teeth, gargle, put in your dentures, and check for specs of pepper and broccoli long before you face the panel. 
  • Shave. Men: Seriously. Don Johnson was the last guy who wore the almost-beard and looked cool. If facial hair is part of your look, think trimmed like George Clooney, not untamed like the Duck Dynasty contingent or ZZ Top.  Women: We're not in Europe. Shave accordingly. 

Now for errors of commission... They can be just as career-ending as errors of omission. 
  • Do not add aromas to yourself. No Old Spice, Armani Code, Chanel number anything or Patchouli oil. If the casting team is concentrating on not breathing they probably aren't paying rapt attention to your audition. You should be odor neutral. A big whiff of you should smell like nothing. A blood hound should lose your trail. 
  • Unless you're auditioning for Hunger Games or to be a munchkin, keep your hair a color found in nature. If the panel is so obsessed with whether your hair is lime or chartreuse that they don't notice your voice, that's bad. Not only will they not notice your talent, they may be subtly taking pictures on their phones to show their friends later. Okay, not really, but you want attention for your performance, not for your bold challenge to the color wheel as we know it. 
  • Make up should make you look fresh and healthy. No Tammy Faye. Dolly Parton make up only works for Dolly and female impersonators. And no Ursula from The Little Mermaid, either. 
  • There are many hairstyles that aren't meant for everybody. Here is a short list. If you wear one of these, you'd better be sure it's right for you. Poll the audience. Ask your mom. Look in the mirror.
    • The Lily Munster
    • The Bride of Frankenstein
    • The Betty White
    • The Pee Wee Herman
    • The Caught Sideways in a Storm and stayed that way
    • The Fauxhawk
    • The Mullet
    • The Rat Tail
    • The Coffee Cake
    • The Bozo the Clown 
    • The Dorothy
Rest assured that following these guidelines will not leave you looking like your parents. You'll look professional, polished and it will be easy for casting agents to picture you in a role other than Pig-Pen in  Charlie Brown. You can always frump yourself up and wallow in the dirt after the audition.  Remember, most audition teams are looking for you to fit into a role that's already conceived. Most auditions are not like the ones on TV where quirkiness counts. If the auditions team can't get past your unusual characteristics to picture you in the role they're trying to cast, you may end up in the hall waiting all day for your car pool friends who didn't paint their faces half blue-half gold and got a call back. 

In short, don't smell bad, don't smell like anything. Look neat, fresh, clean and healthy. Get the part and give up your night job. 

You're welcome!

And remember, Miss Auditions wants to help YOU follow your dream of performing professionally.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sing Something You Know

Hello one and all! Welcome to your very own auditions page! Okay, not really. It is MY auditions page but it is the conveyance for direct, concise audition information to help you in your quest for employment as an entertainer.  

Hmmm, you may wonder, why should I listen to Miss Auditions?  Having been involved in casting a great variety of shows and events for theme parks, resorts and the wide wild world of corporate entertainment, I know what makes the "judges" write in their diaries that the next truly great artist has arrived, what will put them directly to sleep and what is so terrifying you may be sued to pay for their Post Traumatic Stress therapy. 

Lesson One "Sing Something You Know" is for vocalists; not dancers, unicyclists or trained horses.  This may seem self-explanatory to most of you, but I assure you there are those who have shown up to audition for the lead in Evita with a spoon-playing monkey. And no, he didn't get the part. 

Now, Sing Something You Know should also be self-explanatory but experience has shown that not everybody chooses a song they do, in fact, know. This suggests to the casting team that if you are unable to learn a 2 minute song of your own choosing, you probably won't master the 39 page score required for the role. 

How, you may ask, will the casting team know whether you know the song or not? There are hints. Here are a few:

  • You have the lyrics written up your arm in sharpie
  • You ask the pianist to play through the melody a few times so you can familiarize yourself with the tune
  • You have your mother stationed behind the casting table with cue cards
  • You ask to go last so you have a little more time to prepare
  • You sing "da, da, da-da, da" instead of the lyrics
  • You bring an audition track that includes the original artist singing, so she can cover if you forget something. Lip syncing worked for Milli Vanilli but it may not work for you. 
  • Do an original, a cappella tune. Nobody will have any idea whether you improvise poorly or whether you actually wrote a song that bad. 
  • You keep saying, "My bad, can we start over?" 
So, go forth and learn by heart the song you want to use to audition. If you will be auditioning with a pianist, practice with a pianist. If you will be auditioning to a track, practice to the track. 

When, you may ask, is it okay to use an original tune for a vocal audition?
  • never
Unless, of course, your originals are famous enough that those listening will applaud not only your impeccable execution but your passion and brilliance as well. 

As a rule, if not explicitly stated otherwise, the auditions team wants to know you can sing with accompaniment,  with other people, with a track and/or sing in harmony with voices other than those in your head. Maybe you sing brilliantly in a key all your own. That doesn't work for ensemble numbers. If you are a maverick who sings to your own oboist, let it be known before somebody casts you in the chorus and the others hurt you. 

Once you know your material, have practiced and it comes easily to you, you're free to worry about other things like what to wear, how to make eye contact, what to say and does bribery work or is idle flattery sufficient. 

Visit again soon or even better, subscribe, for more vital information. 

In the meanwhile, happy auditioning! May the part be yours.