From Behind the Table: The General Audition Part 2 – The Interview

March 30, 2015
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Director Action ShotOriginally published 2010 on www.bizbooks.net

 “Generally, I just really enjoy it when actors come in with a positive attitude and are excited to share their work with us.  That makes it a pleasure to audition them and a good experience for us as well…if actors are relaxed and are able to share who they are with us, the chances of us using them is much better. “
Mieko Ouchi, Artistic Director, Concrete Theatre (Edmonton)

An audition is a job interview that happens to a have a 4 minute solo show on a 4 foot by 4 foot stage in the middle of it.  It took me years to come to this realization, in fact I faintly remember somebody in theatre school saying this and being outraged by it, but after many many mistakes, experiencing both sides of the table for large and small companies and doing everything from invited auditions to New York cattle calls, it suddenly seems simple – We want to meet you in your best light.  Easy to say but not necessarily easy to do.

So – how can we help you shine?

The more comfortable you are with all the little things around the performance portion the better your chance to enjoy the audition and then the interview process.  For that reason I’m focusing on the interview aspect.  This is something we often overlook in our panic to find the right monologue and be the best actor we can be (and god, how we realy realy want the job), however it is just as important and sometimes more so.  I have yet to meet a director or Artistic Director who believes that the monologue is the best way to cast a show.  Most of us behind the table have been in your position, and are well aware of the difficulties involved for the performer.

We try as hard as we can in theatre to make it seem as less job interviewy as possible, but the truth remains that that is indeed what it is.  All things important to a regular job interview are just as important in an audition.  Who is this person and can we work with this individual?  This begins the minute you enter the room.  We try not to judge but human beings are human beings.

As a new actor this is a chance to make a strong first impression or as someone who has been around for a bit it’s a chance to reconnect and put yourself out there in a fresh light.

Preparation:
Information to know:

More you know about the company and their season the better.  This will help not only in your monologue choice but also offer you something to talk about during the interview.  Take the hour or two to google the company; be familiar with the company’s season and mandate (if that information isn't readily available check out their previous season).  Is there a play, playwright or author there that you really enjoy?  What about the mandate excites you?

It’s not enough to simply want to pay the rent by practicing your craft – we all want that.  Those of us behind the table are passionate about our work, we wouldn't be doing it otherwise, and are looking for people who share in that passion.

Read the plays if you can; A lot of companies will have the scripts available at the local reference library.  Get down there and read ‘em.  Again same question – what excites you about them?

Your Resume:

Give your resume a scan – look at the last few gigs.  Think of some positive experienced you had on those projects.  Many directors will use questions about previous shows in an attempt to lighten the atmosphere and get to know you.  How did you like working with insert name or company?   These will usually be pulled from the last few credits on the resume.  If you are fresh out of school, think of a few positive things about the program to talk about.

Special Skills:

If you have any special skills – singing, dancing or musical instruments, etc – be prepared to showcase them.  Have something in the bag ready to go.  There is a strong chance you will be asked to demonstrate even if it was not put on the posting.  Artistic Directors and Directors are always on the lookout for extra skills.

I once watched a Theatre for Young Audience AD in Vancouver grin from ear to ear as an auditionee made her an animal balloon (after two days in the hall, it was a treat).  Another auditionee in Montreal worked street dancing into his monologue and received cheers for his effort.  They made a mark.

Things to bring:

Always bring a couple extra headshots and resumes.  Have them out of your bag and ready to be passed out.  Make sure they are stapled (one in the top corner will do), paper clipped or double side taped.  The amount of paper flowing over the table is sometimes overwhelming.  Have pity on us and make it easy.  We don’t want to loose your stuff in the maelstrom.
“Choose a monologue you really, really know and can inhabit with complete ease.  Know what kind of play the company is likely to be doing and perhaps try to choose something that will interest them…you are not auditioning for a role, but for the chance to audition for a role.”
John Wright, Artistic Director, Blackbird Theatre

Presentation:

What to wear?

Some people won’t care about this, however those that do will quite strongly.  Clothing is our first experience of you.  Better to take the time to for a positive first impression than a negative.

Dress nicely.  Put a little effort in to it.  Wear something comfortable that makes you feel good and is suitable for the pieces you are doing (there is nothing worse than getting flashed during a monologue.  You may have been brilliant but that’s all we remember).  Save the track pants and T shirts for rehearsal.

Warm up

Take the time to stretch and do a vocal warm up before heading out.  Just like going on stage, you are entering a stressful situation and want to be as relaxed, available and on your voice as possible.

The Audition:

Show up!

As actors, we will find all kinds of reasons not to show up.  I certainly did it early in my career.  The thing is – it will be remembered.  The theatre community is also small enough that is may be remembered for a long time.  Time and effort has been put into who received audition slots, and the people preparing the auditions are giving you an opportunity – other people did not get a slot.  A no show will also affect the entire days scheduling.  If there is a real emergency or a valid reason not to be there, then call.

Arrival and Signing in

Show up early and sign in.  Make sure you give yourself enough time to deal with traffic, transit etc.  If you come rushing into the audition in a panic – you are not going to be at your best during the performance.  By showing up early you have time to put on your game face and find a positive place to be in before entering the room.  Different people have different ways for this.  I know an actor who plays a character at auditions – the character happens to be an awful lot like himself in a good mood.  Some people meditate, some people work their stuff and others just hang out and talk.  Find what is right for you and respect other people’s processes.

It’s alright to be nervous, most of us our on both sides of the table are, be ok with where you are at.

If you are asked to go during earlier slot and are not ready yet, it’s perfectly normal to ask to wait for your time.

When signing in, be polite to the staff.  They maybe anyone from family members of the AD, Board Member’s volunteering or the company General Manager and, guaranteed, they will be having a beer with the AD afterwards.  They are working hard to for the help make the auditions run smoothly and may have a lot on their plate.

Patience

There are a lot of people to be seen and despite all the best efforts on everybody’s side auditions often fall behind.  Please be patient with us. We are doing the best we can.  If you are booking time off work, it’s best to add an hour after your time slot.  You don’t need the extra stress and hey, if the time ends being free, treat yourself to a cappuccino.
“The people you’re auditioning for want you to succeed. They are hoping that you’ll be great. They are on your side, and many of them have been through what you’re going through… After your audition, go for coffee and forget it. ”
Robert Metcalfe, Artistic Director of Prairie Theatre Exchange (Winnipeg)

The Interview:

So you’ve done your monologues.  Your heart is pounding.  Your brain is going “oh my god I hope they didn’t notice that or this or I hope they liked it and everything in you is crying in you to flee the room and somebody says  “pull up a chair, tell a little about  yourself.”

Take a breath.

Remember we are here for you.  This is an opportunity for you to hang out with people in the same craft as you.  It’s a chance for you to get to know them as well as them to know you.  It actually can be quite fun.

Questions to be ready for:

Tell us a little about yourself…

This question is heard a lot.  This is not meant to be personal question, but a way into conversation.  Think of something light that you enjoyed and are open to talking about (Have you been on a trip lately?) – if you can think of anything see the next question.

Are you doing anything at the moment?

If you are doing a show, then this is a great moment to share some positive things that are going on the production.  If you’re not, what classes are you taking?  Side projects?  or plays that you are reading that excite you? What have you seen recently that excite you?

No matter where you are in life you are always doing something that supports your craft.  A reply can start something like “I been taking the time to see a lot of plays lately and..” or “I’ve been concentrating on reading scripts…”.

Do you have any questions for us?

This is a chance for you to start a segment of the conversation.  Truth be told, it rarely works as the actor usually just want to get the hell out of there.  If you feel up to it, try and ask something about them that interests you artistically.  This is about supporting them or showing an interest in their product.  It is not about sucking up.

The Big Don’t!

I hate to say it but I’ve done it, people have done it in my hall and I’ve had it done about me.  For whatever reason it’s done, be it passion, fear, vulnerability, or simply being opinionated and speaking your mind, avoid saying anything negative about somebody.  It is a small community and things get misunderstood – word will get around.  We want to you in your best light.  Save the horror stories about the last show and the passionate discussions about theory and methods for the bar after rehearsal.  This is not the place.

Leaving:

A smile, a handshake and go reward yourself.

Be confident, trust in yourself and enjoy the process.

Additional Note:

As I was working on this blog I did my 3rd audition in 3 years.  Wow! Did I ever bite!  Everything went wrong performance wise.  I blanked, my dyslexia kick up a storm on the reading portion and my nerves were having a field day.  The interview however was fantastic.  I reconnected with 2 directors who I had met previously who also share a passion for Shakespeare and a playwright I haven’t seen in years.  I left with 2 cards in my pocket and had a wonderful time.

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