Happy New Year!
OK, auditioning at school is a bit different and a bit the same as auditioning outside. The same because you should always prepare, dress, and treat every audition as if it were Broadway. Different because due to lack of time and other resources, things are run differently in every program.
There is likely no posting of audition requirements. There might be, if you are lucky, but in general it’s best to go straight to whomever is directing the play that year and ask what you will need to do. Some want a full-on prepared monologue and song, some may want to have you sing a capella, tell a joke, or cold read from the script. If you are told “sides will be at the audition” it doesn’t mean mashed potatoes or a side of beef. It means copied portions of the script. That’s a “side,” and you’ll hear that a lot. I have NO idea why it’s called that, but we will get into terminology at some point later.
Whatever you can prepare, do. If the play has been announced, READ IT. Get a feel for which characters you like or think you might have a good chance for. Especially if you have difficulty reading aloud without preparation, READ THE PLAY. Read it a few times.
If the audition is going to be cold readings, and you do have difficulty reading aloud- whether it is dyslexia, a stutter, sheer terror, or you are just not a great reader- ask the teacher if there is a chance that you could get the sides ahead of time. Promise not to share them or to tell others that you’ve got them, that these are just for your personal use to be ready because you have a difficulty that could really get in the way at the audition. This is a good thing to ask, not only because it will genuinely help you, but because it is showing that you have an awareness of your own needs as an actor and you are willing to do what’s necessary to give your best work, even if it is a tad embarrassing or whatever.
Resist the urge to have a friend audition “with” you. Most of your drama friends will be there anyway, and depending on how your drama program is run, some have “a part for everyone”policy, and some do “survival of the fittest.” It’s tempting to do the “safety in numbers” thing to try to assuage nerves (look it up), but it can backfire if your friend is more nervous or more talented, or you get in and your friend doesn’t, vice versa, or a myriad other pitfalls. Go on your own. Socialize if you like, but be there just for you.
Show up. On time. With your resume, even if no one else has one. Fill out forms. Listen carefully during the process to the director, to the stage manager, and anyone else in apparent authority. Things can change quickly, and folks in charge hate few things more than having to repeat themselves six times about a change just to have the next 10 people have not heard a word. Be the good one.
When the time comes for you to shine, shine. This may be your only chance to play this role, so in your few minutes up there with whomever it is, play it like you want to play it. Don’t worry about what the director wants. The director will direct you if they want to, but first, play it to the hilt. Read Michael Shurtleff’s book for more on this part.
THE CAST LIST
When the cast list goes up, it’s a sociology experiment in public humiliation. When on the wall at school there is a list posted of who got what and your name is not on that list, life is really difficult. It is almost impossible to mask your first reaction to what you see, whether it is joy, confusion, panic, disbelief, disappointment, anger, or devastation. It’s also multiplied by the Artist Factor. So. How to deal with the cast list. I have a few suggestions:
- Ask the teacher if they would consider emailing the cast list to those who were called back the night before it’s posted so you all have a chance to digest the news and decide what face to put on it. I have made this a practice myself, and it works very well for me. It may be something they have never considered, or they may have some kind of policy against it. But it’s worth asking.
- As with everything else in this business, preparation is key. Rehearse. Play the scene. Your name is not on that list. Your name is exactly where you hope against hope it will be. Your name is where you are really hoping it will not be. Your name is somewhere you never expected it to be. Your name is where you expected your friend’s to be. Try every scenario that you can think of, and physically walk through how you believe you will feel, and let yourself go ahead and feel that. Go through that disappointment, cry and whatever else you need to do. Feel that elation and surprise. Feel that total weirdness. Then decide how best to show, not show, or to escape those feelings when the list goes up. Practice that too.
- You all want to be first to see the list. And everyone wants to see it alone. Both will not be possible. Understand that if you want to see the list with no one else around, you will likely have to wait till the crowd dies down, at which point you will probably have heard just about everything you need to know anyway. But if you need to avoid people and not hear the spoilers, know that and do what you can to avoid it. Or, do what you need to to be among the first crush.
- You can have a friend look at the list for you while you wait in the bathroom. No shame. Then you can process your reaction in there with or without your friend for support, and if you are going to wet your pants or throw up, you are in the right place.
The one reaction I am going to caution you greatly about is anger. It is perfectly OK to feel like you were not treated fairly. It’s natural. Did I mention that NOTHING about this business is fair? And it is absolutely fine to believe absolutely that the director has made the wrong choice.
You CANNOT telegraph that reaction in ANY way to ANYONE. Go into the restroom, kick the walls a few times, write “I HATE MY LIFE” or “MS. B IS AN IDIOT” a hundred times in your journal, go into your own backyard and scream about it, even call your grandma and vent, but NOT at school, NOT to the rest of the cast or ANY other students, NOT to the director. Your best friend is OK as long as you trust them beyond all probability that they will indeed keep their mouth shut.
Directors do make mistakes. It happens. But it is rare, and it doesn’t usually become apparent until well into the rehearsal process. You have to trust them. Not because they are right, but because they could be, and it is up to you to prove that they did make the right choice by entrusting you with the part you were given. Sometimes it is tempting to not accept a role. Whatever your reasons- you feel like it’s a waste of your time, you think you deserve a lead, you don’t think you can handle that large a part, you can’t stand the person playing your love interest- DON’T TURN IT DOWN. You will regret it, I can almost guarantee you. Take it, do your very best with it, and learn everything you can while you serve the story. More on that later.
You are not too good for whatever part you were cast in. Guaranteed. No way. If you would be thrilled to take this part on Broadway, in a major motion picture, in the West End, then you need to be thrilled to take it here. I have NEVER in my life (and I have seen a lot) seen a show where there was a person in there too good for their role. I’ve seen the opposite, though… and so often that’s because they thought they were too good, and didn’t serve the story. That attitude doesn’t help anyone or anything, only limits you severely and tells the director that they did make a mistake by casting you at all.
Circumstances under which you CAN turn down a part include:
- A major scheduling conflict that you weren’t aware of prior to auditions- with your family, another sport or activity, whatever.
- A moral or religious objection to what the character would be asked to do. A character who must appear in their slip, or someone who commits several murders, or who wears real fur as a costume. Though you should be clear about this kind of thing before the auditions if possible (that’s where reading the play ahead of time can help a lot…).
- Your grades are low, and you really need to not do the show in order to get them up.
- Your parents demand it. For whatever reason.
Notice, for the majority of these, I’m saying you are turning down the show, not just the part. When you audition, you are agreeing to do whatever part you are given.
Take the part. Do it like you are working in the best house in town. Walk away proud and happy. Otherwise, why are you here?