I have found, both in my life as a creative and in my career in casting that there are two kinds of people: those who love auditioning and those that would rather eat glass, but know they must audition in order to work. Either way, auditioning is a necessary evil, if you want to be a professional actor. There is just no way around it. If you are a person who loves auditioning, consider yourself blessed.
If you are not one of those people, every little thing about the audition process probably becomes something that you question or second-guess. What you wear, when you arrive, what you prepare, and even the simplest moments like interacting with the monitor become things that you obsess about the night before — and maybe even sometimes stop you from going to your audition. These fears become your excuses.
First, I just want to say that these fears are totally valid. How you deal with the process of putting yourself out there is your own business, and each individual relationship with the audition process from breezy to terrified is totally legitimate. However, if auditioning stresses you out to a point of detriment, I want to remind you that auditions will last a lifetime, if you want a professional acting career. They will never go away. So, I encourage you to look deep inside and make sure that you are willing to deal with that fear daily. If you are, then lets talk about audition material — just to make that part of the process a wee bit easier.
As you know, every casting director has a different point of view, and that point of view can also change daily. In the world of theatre, every person who works in casting has material that they love and material that they hate. There are songs and monologues that we hear every session, during every EPA, and at every college audition day. A song that I love might be a song that another casting associate hates. So know that there is just no pleasing everyone.
You might walk into a room and sing a song that the casting assistant’s ex-boyfriend used to sing. And guess what? That will put a bad taste in that persons mouth no matter how wonderfully you sing it. You just never know what is going to happen. Other posts on StageAgent talk about resources to find suitable material, and preparing that material, but let’s talk about rules of thumb for knowing that material is right for you, regardless of the particular context. Let go of the idea that you are going to find “the perfect song” or “the perfect monologue” and try to find a piece that follows my personal 3H POLICY!
Make sure that what you are presenting HONORs the brand that you have created for yourself. When the material is on brand it will feel much more authentic to the people on the other side of the table. That does not mean don’t push yourself to try new things. That does not mean that you shouldn’t do material that speaks to things that you as a human being might not. Push yourself, speak other peoples truths, but know yourself and what best sells YOU.
In my book, performance is an Olympic sport. When you wake up the day of an audition make sure that you check in with your body. If you are going to an audition where you get to pick your own material, only choose a song or monologue that feels comfortable in your body THAT DAY. This is especially true for singers. Of course, warm up and be ready for the big day, but if your throat is hurting , don’t go for the highest “screlty” note just because that is what you think that’s what the casting director wants. Sing what is going to make YOU sound best on the particular day on which you happen to be singing. This doesn’t mean making an excuse or telling us you’re sick – it just means choosing material that suits who you are in the moment. We can always ask you for more if we want it.
Some auditions can feel very self-indulgent. Personally, I know when an actor is doing a monologue because it feels good to them. I can always tell when a singer is singing a song because they like the way that it sounds — and they like listening to their own voice. There is a real difference between material that makes you happy and material that makes you have a talent crush on yourself. Material that makes you happy, however, will truly make you shine – this is the material that feeds your soul, speaks to you deeply, galvanizes you and challenges you. Find a song or monologue that you know is on brand, serves the piece for which you are auditioning AND allows you to remove your own opinion from the performance.
On a personal note, I must say that, when it comes to material, I really enjoy when someone auditions with something that they completely own and perform with honesty. Even if it is a song that I have heard a thousand times — or is a monologue that I personally can’t stand — I will listen to it with fresh ears if an actor performs it with vulnerability and truth. For example, when I am behind the table, I must admit that I am a total sucker for the slightly overused “So Many People” from Stephen Sondheim’s Saturday Night. I think the song is simple and lovely, which can — ironically — be very complicated for many artists. I am always so pleasantly surprised when someone truly understands the material and presents it in earnest. Nothing will grab my attention more than the ability to make life’s most complicated moments –- simple.
Remember, StageAgent has tons of amazing resources for finding new audition material. Be sure to check out the MONOLOGUES and SONGS pages for great audition inspiration! What pieces have you been auditioning with recently? Is there any material that you are tired of hearing at auditions? Let us know in the comments below!