Tag Archives: sa-scene

New Features

Introducing Quizzes, Scenes, and Job Postings

We are excited to announce new features for StageAgent members! First, on many of our show guides you can now take fun quizzes and earn points and badges. Further, to help you with class and preparation work, we have added a new section with two and three-person scenes from plays. And lastly, Pro members can now post unlimited job and audition opportunities to the StageAgent jobs board.

Theatre Quizzesquiz

Our expert-written show guides help you study about the context, plot, and characters from plays, musicals, operas, and operettas. With our new theatre quizzes, you can test yourself on how much you have learned after reading selected guides. Question types include multiple choice (both single and multiple answer) and true/false and are typically worth 5-10 points each. If you pass enough quizzes, you’ll start to earn fun badges based on the following point scale:

  1. Fan: 30 pts
  2. Theatre student: 100 pts
  3. Ensemble: 300 pts
  4. Supporting: 500 pts
  5. Lead: 800 pts
  6. Rising star: 1500 pts
  7. Broadway bound: 2500 pts
  8. Award winner: 4000 pts
  9. Director: 5000 pts
  10. Theatre expert: 7000 pts

You can view your current badges and points on your achievements page.

Scenes From Playsscene

Drama students are commonly assigned to work with partners to perform scenes from plays. However, finding and choosing the right scenes can be overwhelming. We now make this scene research process easier with our new play scenes tool. In the StageAgent scenes library you can search play scenes by length, number of male or female characters, style (comedic or dramatic) and period (contemporary or classical). For each scene we provide you with some scene context, the starting/ending lines from the scene, citation information to help you locate the script, and links to the character descriptions.

Featured Job/Audition Opportunitiesjobs

We have expanded our auditions section to include not only performer auditions but also theatre jobs of other types including artistic staff, backstage and administrative jobs. If you are a StageAgent Pro member you can post unlimited jobs and auditions to the StageAgent theatre jobs board. So if you are a producer, you can use StageAgent to recruit performers, musicians, backstage personnel, and executive staff. Keep in mind that not only will your job or audition posting be listed on our website, but it will also get e-mailed out to our email list with 50,000+ subscribers!

We hope you enjoy these new features. Stay tuned for many more enhancements to come! If you have any suggestions for how we can improve StageAgent, please let us know.

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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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Photo Credit: Evan Teich

Keep Calm and Embrace Your Type

When I began to lose my hair senior year of college, I knew my days as a leading man were numbered. But not because of my receding follicles! The diverse course schedule and departmental productions challenged me to discover who I was as a performer. I was more inclined towards bigger, comical choices, but found they weren’t always leading man appropriate. I did not know it then, but my type was at odds with the characters I was playing. College left me wanting those star roles but, glorious locks or not, my natural inclinations would lead me towards much more rewarding experiences.

Photo via Good Free Photos.
Photo via Good Free Photos.

To know your type as an actor is to understand your strengths and how others perceive them. To embrace your type is using this knowledge to power your career choices. Understanding your type is allowing yourself to be the best piece to fit in the overall puzzle. This sense of clarity and self-awareness is essential. There are several factors in identifying your type:

  1. Age: What is the range you can believably play? If you look 17, you’re more likely to play Natalie in Next to Normal than Diana. If you’ve an older look, you’re more apt to play Max Bialystock in The Producers than Leo Bloom.
  2. Gender: This is less definable as cross-gender and gender-blind casting is commonplace. If you’re a fella with the height and gravitas to play Miss Trunchbull in Matilda, then more power to you!
  3. Look: The creative team’s first impression carries huge influence. When you walk in the room—before you even open your mouth—you’re contending with the established character in their mind. Maybe you are too tall/short for the actor you’d be playing opposite. You might not fit into the current actor’s costume. They might be looking for actors with rounder features, yet yours are sharp. We find ourselves asking, what did I do wrong? These factors are completely out of our control. We can’t get hung up on trying to be what we think they want. Be your best YOU! Often, you’ll find the desired “look” stated in the audition notices’ character breakdowns (always triple check). Keep these in mind when auditioning for that dream role:
    • Height
    • Weight
    • Hair length/color
    • Eye color
    • Ethnic appearance

  1. Voice: Your voice goes hand in hand with your look. A tenor won’t sing the bass solo in South Pacific’s “Nothing Like a Dame.” This also applies to the speaking voice. If you’ve a higher, mousy type voice, you might reconsider auditioning for the sultry Chaperone in The Drowsy Chaperone. Are you skilled at dialects? This is a killer feather to have in your cap as so many great, zany character roles require fun dialects.
  2. Personality: The most important factor that identifies your type is…YOU! What kinds of characters do you feel completely at ease playing? Do you possess a natural smarminess or a brash sexiness? This kind of security and confidence could turn an entire audition on its head, despite missing some other qualifiers. The rest of the list means nothing if you’ve no connection to the character.

When it comes to our types, strive to strike a balance between outside and personal perceptions. Like a favorite pair of jeans, you know what kinds of characters fit you best. As our own worst critics, though, we often lack the proper perspective to judge ourselves fairly. We actors are a sensitive bunch and there’s always something we wish was better, thinner, tighter, etc. But, we must also be honest with ourselves. A couple years back I was slated to return to a theatre where I had done summer stock the previous summer. They were doing Kiss Me, Kate and I had my heart set on Fred/Petruchio. He’s in my vocal wheelhouse, and I knew I had the presence to pull it off. Alas, I was to play Gangster #2. Despite a bruised ego, I quickly realized that it didn’t matter how I saw myself, but how the director (generously) thought my type would best serve the production. In retrospect, I had a blast and sharing one of Cole Porter’s best eleven o’clock numbers is nothing to sneeze at either.

Being able to capitalize on our strengths is truly what mastering type is about. This is where outside opinion can be beneficial. Find people whose opinion you trust and get their read on you. You fancy yourself the ingénue, but is it time to consider the quirky best friend? Sometimes it takes that external dose of truth to set us on the right path and while we may not always agree, embracing your type is part of understanding who you are as an actor. The last thing you want to do is waste the casting director’s time (or your own) when you know you’re not right for something. What’s worse, you don’t want to be remembered that way.

Photo Credit: Evan Teich
Photo Credit: Evan Teich

Once you know your type, master it! Become the best ingénue, leading man, or character actor you can be. I’ll find a working actor of my type, see what roles he’s played and then learn bits from those shows. This is a great way to get new material for your songbook. Read plays! This is the source for new monologues of all types. Be a reader at auditions. This topic is worthy of its own article, but is a great way to get ideas from other actors. As they say, “genius steals!” Auditioning with pieces that truly compliment your type shows a level of professional ethic that is often overlooked in theatrical academia. Ultimately, showcasing yourself as a competent performer will put you that much more ahead of the curve.

This clear sense of self-awareness is one of the more important of the myriad tools an actor has in their arsenal. It will help you to narrow down your options and give clarity to your choices. Otherwise, it’d be like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. However, we are not limited to one type over the course of our careers. There’s plenty of room for growth and discovery. After all, that’s what we strive for, right? To continue to grow and learn as artists.

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Scott Ward Abernethy in The Magic Tree at Keegan Theatre in Washington DC.  Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

The Hearts of Monsters: Why We Need to Play Villains

“You are terrifying!” came the enthusiastic greeting as I stepped into the post show lobby. . I had grown used to it by then, and knew from the grins on the faces of this pleasant older couple that it meant they’d enjoyed the show. I smiled back sheepishly and offered a genuine, though bashful thank you, trying to distance myself somewhat from the character I had just played. Each night, I even made a point of dressing up more than usual when I went to the theatre. This was my first production in a new city, after all, and I wanted to be sure that everyone knew I wasn’t really a sociopath.

Scott Ward Abernethy in The Magic Tree at Keegan Theatre in Washington DC.
Scott Ward Abernethy in The Magic Tree at Keegan Theatre in Washington DC. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

I’ve always been drawn to eccentric characters –or, perhaps, I have always been drawn to the eccentric in the characters I play – but playing Doc in Ursula Rani Sarma’s The Magic Tree was my first opportunity to play a genuine “bad guy.”  In the time we spend with Doc we  are introduced to him as a would-be rapist, and witness him in the act. He is a very, very bad guy.

Over the course of the rehearsal process, I had delved into the Doc’s damaged psyched, felt his pain, and tapped into the genuine pleasure he feels in committing horrible acts.  I had intellectually acknowledged that for Doc, a wounded animal, morality didn’t mean the same thing it meant for me. Yet, I found myself in tech still walking onstage knowing I was there to do a horrible thing. Doc needed to walk on stage knowing something awesome was going to happen.  

And then my director told me to stand up straight.  What a little thing – and yet, in that small note was the key to unlocking my character.  I may have been feeling guilty, but Doc was a man without knowledge of that guilt.

Stand up straight. That’s all it took, and suddenly, there he was. He didn’t care about laying low, and he wasn’t there to commit a serious crime. He was there for a party, and everyone else was ruining it. Now I could see how truly ugly he was, how deep it went for him. When I saw the bottom of that dark well, a cruel light washed over parts of myself I try to ignore; and once that happened, how could I do anything but love him. The moment I stopped concerning myself with how much I hated Doc, I loved him. I had spent so much time trying to understand him, It seemed foolish to have denied it for so long. I loved him for being human, and now I could play him.

People may not be born with ethics, but we are born with empathy; and while it atrophies easily, it can also be the easiest, and most rewarding to stretch. After this point I noticed myself exhibiting more patience in day to day interactions, going out of my way on impulse to grab a door or carry a package. Occasionally, this came from my sense of guilt about spending so much time with a horrible man, but it was more often from the way it taught me to be attuned to the pain and the yearning in each of us.

Brianna Letourneau and Scott Ward Abernethy in The Magic Tree at Keegan Theatre.
Brianna Letourneau and Scott Ward Abernethy in The Magic Tree at Keegan Theatre. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

 

Would I throw someone like Doc in prison? Absolutely.  Still, my calling as an artist has taught me that Doc, and every character – angel or villain – has something important to teach me.   Iago has something to teach me.  We can learn as much or more from Edmund, Captain Hook, and Javert than we learn from Edgar,  Peter Pan, and Jean Valjean. We are all more alike than different, and there isn’t one of us that doesn’t know something the rest of us do not. In a world where we judge an article with a “like” or a comment before we even read it, it is difficult not to pass judgment – and all the more essential.

In the theatre, we must have empathy.  Playing Doc, I had the opportunity to give him something he probably never had, something I cannot help but to give to any character I play: love.  This is the great gift of our craft. As we hope to hold the mirror up to nature, we must be the first to find the hearts of monsters.  

 

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Instagramming photos of the Hamilton program is now a form of social currency.

Hamilton Hype: Why We Are Obsessed

Standing on the stage of the Richard Rodgers Theatre, after a quiet Sunday matinee of Hamilton, I looked out into the gilded, empty house, and thought, “What would Hamilton think of ALL THIS?  As a self-proclaimed history lover (my friends and I picked presidential boyfriends in the 10th grade, because we were that serious about American history,) I wondered how this influential, almost-forgotten founding father would feel about his city today, and his long-awaited legacy turned fame.

On a week-long pilgrimage to Manhattan to catch up with friends and theatre, Hamilton was as prevalent in real life conversation as it is on my daily Facebook feed—people snapchatting themselves lip-synching to the soundtrack, others drinking Hamilton-branded wine, or posting choirs covering “My Shot.”  The obsession is real, and it’s spreading like bubonic plague.

As an industry professional who has chosen a life in non-profit theatre because I don’t believe we’re all in this game to meet the bottom line, I can’t quite wrap my head around the the fact that people are now wearing snap brim hats that read A.HAM  not ironically.  My first night in town I waited at the stage door to ride the train home with a friend in the cast.  I thought to myself, “Why is there a fifty year old man standing in a planter box waiting for a glimpse of these people he doesn’t even know?  Why are people screaming SO loudly? WHY CAN’T I JUST WALK ON THE SIDEWALK!?”  I’d never seen a stage door so reminiscent of a Hollywood red carpet.  And they’re all here to watch a play.  I’m dumbfounded.

Instagramming photos of the HAMILTON program is now a form of social currency.

 

If you didn’t catch Hamilton when it was downtown, or you don’t have a connection or several hundred dollars, you probably won’t see this “game changing” piece of theater for another year or two — capitalism and social hierarchy rule Broadway.  Consider the $1000 A. Ham paid to keep his affair a secret — that’s about half of what an actor will make for an entire Off-Broadway run at a theatre just a few streets over from the Richard Rogers.  It’s our industry’s manifestation of the capitalist economic structure that Alexander Hamilton built!

The wild success of Hamilton has left most producers too scared to move their shows to Broadway until after Hamilton sweeps the Tony’s.  While Lin-Manuel Miranda and his cast are in the midst of taking “Their Shot,  plenty of Broadway bound shows, actors, stage managers and designers are in limbo: waiting for work, waiting for their show’s shot at success in the commercial sector.  “Every action has its equal opposite reaction, and this Hamilton fever hits home for a lot of us—and most of us can’t even see the cultural phenomena that’s changing our industry!

A musical for a new generation of School House Rock fans, the show touches on major plot points in American History in a magically lyrical poeticism Alexander would appreciate.  The mashups of beat boxing, R&B melodies, and traditional Broadway underscoring, elegantly mirror Hamilton’s own poetry, and beliefs.  Hamilton introduces us to a hopefully romantic man who wrote eloquent verse about hurricanes, but spoke his mind, no matter the consequences to his career.  Luckily for Miranda, this is one of the best plots a writer can ask for:  an immigrant orphan with a fierce drive to succeed  moves up in the ranks, builds a country almost overnight and then to ruins himself with infidelity and die in a duel to a rival of fifteen years.  In love with two different women who happen to be sisters? Even better.  And thanks to this new hip (hop) version of history told in a contemporary American voice by people that look like all of us, maybe some of the high schoolers flying from all over the country for a three hour musical history lesson will go home an look up the Federalist Papers, and have a better understanding democracy.

A few days before watching the show, I took my friend to the Trinity Church graveyard to see Hamilton’s grave. He and his family are buried across the street from a discount shoe store, just five miles from his hit musical biography — capitalism at its finest.  My friend looked at the monument and said “Wow, I had no idea he was so young.”  And I scoffed, “Yeah, he was killed in a duel by Aaron Burr.”  And in that moment, I realized Hamilton wasn’t written for me — I wanted more Revolutionary War grit and gore than the Broadway glitz and glam of backup dancers in tight pants and endless color scrollers. Hamilton was written to inspire new generations of history lovers and theater goers (two things I can get behind).  Not only is it a tribute to the man, (and more importantly his wife who spent fifty tireless years preserving her late husband’s memory and repairing his reputation, only to die before his biography was published) – it’s a love letter to New York and to the birth of our country.

 

Alexander Hamilton’s view of the Shoe Outlet.

Eventually, the show will tour, but the sentiment “How lucky we are to be alive right now, in the greatest city in the world, won’t be quite as potent outside of Manhattan.  Because in those moments of the show you realize you’re not the first person who’s hoped that “in New York you can be a new man, and when the city inevitably devours you, you know you weren’t the first, and won’t be the last.  We all want to be “in the room where IT happens, because –

like Alexander Hamilton – we were born with the American Dream we will work harder, do better, achieve more, and (fingers crossed) be remembered.  That is part of the phenomenon —everyone wants the underdog to win, and most of us identify with A. Ham on some level, and we just want to change the world.

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