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homework

Auditioning: The Actual Job of an Actor

Greets, dear reader!

I am of the school of thought that when it comes to being an actor, auditioning is the real work. While I continue to hone this skill, I now recognize that performing is the reward for those seemingly endless hours of work. Rather than approaching them as job interviews, I think of auditions as a unique, albeit brief opportunity to perform for a crowd of few. After all, what more does entertainment require than the actor and audience? Dare to treat them with a touch of levity and you might just find that auditioning can be rewarding and, dare I say, fun.

Preparation

What frays the nerves more than being ill-equipped for an audition? You go up on your lyrics, get that deer-in-the-headlights look, and next thing you know, you’re hearing, “Thank you, that’s all we need to see today.” Nothing is more irksome than blowing a genuinely awesome audition. Preparation is the first step in putting your best foot forward.

homework

I look for songs that are type-appropriate and written for relatable characters. My go-to piece is “Free” from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. As I identify with the larger-than-life style, the role of Pseudolus is right in my wheelhouse. “Free” is an up-tempo “I am/I want” song that showcases both a wide vocal and comedic range, which is an ideal choice for my type. Alas, being a one-trick pony doesn’t do me any favors, so I’ve got several different songs from various genres to meet my audition needs.

The night before an audition is my time to review. I look over my music, making sure I’ve marked it legibly. I double-check the casting notice to ensure I’ve prepared everything. If there’s the possibility of a dance call, I pack accordingly. And, I always make sure I’ve stapled my headshot and resume. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone pesters me for a stapler. They are $6 on Amazon, and that includes staples and a remover. If you can afford headshots in New York, you can afford to prepare.

The Holding Room

For the majority of us at the audition, it’s business time. We’re there to work. There’s always one lone goober, though, who gloms on to whoever will placate them, prattling on about what they’ve done, where they’ve been, or who they know. I’m not sure if this is just how some people’s nerves manifest themselves, but this has got to be one of the most annoying things imaginable. It’s all I can do review my materials, calm my own nerves, and focus on the task ahead without dodging a Chatty Cathy.

I won’t argue that a good warm-up is essential to belting your face off, yet here we find another major holding room no-no. In NY, most studios will rent smaller spaces on the cheap, a service I’ve taken advantage of when those extra fifteen minutes of scales make all the difference. It’s ideal because you’re able to warm up in the privacy of your own studio, and everyone else gets to maintain their focus. I believe it was Aretha who said, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” And, as I know all too well the trials of the regional/community circuit, you have no better studio in which to belt those last-minute riffs than your car. My go-to method of warming up is a BeltBox, a device that is gaining in popularity amongst performers. As it cuts my volume about thirty decibels, I’m able to warm up full voice in the hall or bathroom without disturbing anyone. Ultimately, it all comes down to taking care of our voices while still respecting the holding room space.

In the Room

Just before I walk in the room, I tell myself, confidence is key. I drop all the mental baggage of the day and am completely open to whatever may occur. After a warm greeting and quick chat with the accompanist, the room is entirely mine for the next minute and a half. The spotlight will never be more yours than it is at this moment.

Photo Credit: Chris & Karen Highland, Creative Commons License
Photo Credit: Chris & Karen Highland, Creative Commons License

Prior to walking in the room, the three questions I ask are: Who am I talking to (relationship)? What do I want? What are the stakes? The more detailed your answers are, the more clarity your performance will have. I try to stick to the “16 bars” rule, but if you’ve an up tempo song like “Free,” you’re allowed to cheat it up a bit. I take a deep breath and ground myself, which is crucial because it establishes the firm foundation on which the rest of the audition is built. Most callbacks will require you to prepare sides, which are great because they add some spontaneity to the process. If given ahead of time, I’ll usually be 90% off book after reviewing them into the ground. The pro: you have the luxury of time to experiment and play with different choices. The con: the more set your choices are, the harder it is to be flexible in the room. With a cold read, you’re lucky if you’ve time enough to read the sides twice beforehand. That said, I prefer these! The pro: cold reads allow for a genuine sense of discovery in which the team and I experience the text together. Trust your gut instincts as they are often the most natural choice. The con: heightened nerves from not having worked the text often lead to rushing and fumbling.

From beginning to end and everything in between, an actor’s greatest asset is confidence. Rather than a cocky bravado, it’s a cool conviction that illuminates your work and holds attention. It’s the confidence that comes from choosing the appropriate material, making informed acting choices, and having fun! Be your best you and the rest is in their hands.

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Blogger Positions for Experienced Theatre Folks

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Are you a proven writer who is an expert in your chosen theatrical field? Do you have experience creating video blogs? Do you have social media followers? Would you like to share your experiences with others on an international level and expand the knowledge base that StageAgent brings to its 50,000+ users every month? If so, read on!

Job Duties:

  • Write engaging blog posts about various aspects of theatre: acting, design, directing, auditioning, writing, casting, celebrity interviews, running a theatre, and more!
  • Create original written content between 600 and 1200 words long, exclusively published on StageAgent AND/OR create original video content to be posted on the StageAgent blog and shared via the StageAgent YouTube channel
  • Submit 1 to 4 posts per month as determined by the editor
  • Share your StageAgent blog posts via your personal social media channels

Qualifications:

  • Extensive background in any of the following areas
    • Acting, Voice, Dance
    • Direction, Choreography, Musical Direction
    • Design/technical theatre
    • Theatre management
    • Casting
    • Teaching any of the above in high schools, colleges, privately
  • College degree
  • Proven writing/video experience, with samples to be submitted

To Be Considered:

Please submit your resume and two writing/video samples (or links to samples) to jobs@stageagent.com

In your email introduction, please indicate what major city/country you live in/near (eg, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, London, Sydney). After consideration, if StageAgent would like to move forward, we may request a sample blog post to be written and published that we will analyze for audience response.

Compensation:

This is a freelance position. Bloggers are paid on a per-piece-published basis, after the first sample post.

Designer

Actors and Costume Designers: Building a Perfect Relationship

Whether you’ve been cast in a college production of The Pirates of Penzance,  a community theatre production of Steel Magnolias, or the Broadway national tour of Kinky Boots, you—the actor—are only one of many people creating the character you will portray onstage. A key figure in the development of a character is the costume designer, and the relationship between actor and costume designer is the most intimate in our industry. Designers see actors in their most vulnerable state, exposing the insecurities of body and image.

Clothing is the most intimate and relatable design element. Everyone wears clothing, and everyone has opinions about clothing. Often what we wear says more than any words or actions do: Who we are. Where we’re from. What year it is. How much money we have. How much money we want other to think we have. These are just a few stories clothing tells in real life and onstage, making the relationship between the actor and the costumer one of the most important.

Happy female tailor holding tablet computer

Only by working together can these two artists craft a character. Here are five keys to making the most out of your relationship with your next costume designer.

  1. Come with an open mind

It’s true—there is no bad idea. There may be ideas you don’t like, but know that compromise is always possible. And know that your designer could bring inspiration to the table you wouldn’t have found otherwise. Think of it as a relationship that has potential to grow into a successful artistic partnership, if you’re willing to let it.

  1.  Be willing to cooperate

If you hate wearing yellow, tactfully explain why it clashes with your skin tone, but know that a designer doesn’t choose the color of a costume on a whim. Costumes are designed as dramaturgically as a play is written. Designers consider historic and cultural context as well as aesthetics. They’ve spent years studying design, making them experts in color theory, fit, and how to design the larger picture of a play, beyond a single dress. You, as the individual actor, can’t always see the whole picture. You may not know what you look like onstage juxtaposed with lighting, scenery, and other actors. Your designer does, trust that. Have faith your designer wants you to look amazing, whether you’re playing a homeless vagrant or a 19th-century socialite.

Swatches

  1.  Come prepared

There’s nothing more embarrassing for both parties than an actor who doesn’t wear underwear to a fitting. So, wear underwear, and come prepared to talk about the foundation garments your character and your body need to best perform. A designer wants you to be comfortable, and foundation garments are the place to start. What brand of underwear fits you best? What type of bra are you most comfortable in? Do you prefer short or tall socks? Do you wear orthotics?  These are all questions your designer will ask. Chances are, if you know the answer it will strengthen your relationship, and get you the underwear you need on the first day of tech instead of the last.

  1. Keep the lines of  communication open

There is a fine line between compromising for your own comfort, and changing a designer’s intention. If a pair of shoes really doesn’t feel right, say something. No one should have to wear shoes that don’t fit. When something doesn’t feel right, or comfortable, say something sooner rather than later. Never suck it up. If, for some reason the designer won’t compromise, you are at least opening the door to conversation. Nobody wants the actor/designer relationship to sour. Speak your mind, but know the designer deserves to speak theirs as well. It takes two to make a great costume.

  1. Know your character

Sometimes costumes are written into a script. Other times they’re part of the director’s vision just as much as they are the designer’s. But, it’s up to the actor to communicate their version of a character to the designer. For instance, a costumer might begin with pants for an empowered female character, but if the actor is playing the role as someone who wouldn’t wear pants, everyone’s vision adjusts. It’s same situation for an actor’s body type. Before casting, a designer may design a garment that isn’t practical or flattering on the body of the actor who is ultimately cast. If you go into a design discussion or first fitting ready to share your discoveries of your character, the costumer can share theirs and you can build a strong character together.

The beauty of theater is its fluidity. It’s a group effort. The collaboration is always worth it. As long everyone keeps an open mind and their own artistic integrity, there’s no way the product will fail. So, next time you meet your costume designer, remind yourself—you are an artist, your designer is an artist, and together you will make art out of something as seemingly simple as clothing.

News, thoughts, opinions and advice for the performing arts community.