Audition Song Selection, What to Expect, Tips, and More!
Everything You Need To Know About Open Call Auditions
The Open Call - an actor's dream and simultaneous worst nightmare. For those who haven't had the joy of experiencing an Open Call audition first hand, let me paint a picture for you - it's Black Friday, you are on line in front of an Apple store and they are giving away a chance to win free iPhone upgrades for life to the person in line who can outperform the rest. The knowledge that the people sitting on the other side of the table have the power to make all your dreams come true creates a nervous and giddy energy which is palpable from the first moment you walk through the doors of the audition venue.
This energy is exhilarating and fun, but it also has the power to completely throw a performer off their game if they aren't used to Open Calls. Here are some tips for preparing for auditions to make sure you are able to live in the moment and stand out from the crowd in a positive way - as well as some suggestions to keep in mind so you can have the best experience possible whether you're going in for Broadway, off-Broadway, a National Tour, dance audition, musical theatre program or a community theatre audition!
1. Know the Show
You would be astounded to know how many people come into Open Calls hoping it will be their big break, but don't actually know about the show they're auditioning for. If you are going in for a currently running show, try to see it before the Open Call. Gather as much information about the piece as you can because the more knowledgeable you are, the more specific you can make your choices - making you stand out from the rest. One of the most epic auditions I ever saw was a woman who came to an Equity Principle Audition (EPA) for a super-contemporary musical that revolves around a video game and auditioned with the Pokémon theme song. She knew the tone of the show, and out of the hundred people we saw that day, she still stands out in my mind.
2. Know What Characters You Can Play
Going off knowing the show itself, it is also important to know where you could fit in within the show's universe. If you are best for the ingenue role, audition with a song written for an ingenue. Knowing what role you are looking to book when you go in and making that clear to the casting director (through your music choice only - please do not go into an audition demanding roles) makes their job easier. They can immediately think of you in that role instead of trying to figure out where they could possibly place you.
3. Choose a Monologue and Song You Love
If you have the freedom to choose what you are performing, then choose pieces you love! Of course, keep it within the requirements and the tone of the show you are auditioning for, but make sure you genuinely enjoy performing the material you have chosen to share with us. When a performer truly feels connected to a song or monologue, it shows immediately and makes them shine. Perhaps keep some contrasting songs or monologues in your book/brain that you're prepared to perform - you never know when they might want to hear something else. Most importantly, learn the lines well enough that you're very confident going in.
4. Be Confident With Your Material
There isn't a worse feeling than going up on lines or lyrics during an audition. Of course, it happens to the best of us. I promise if you are at the beginning of the song when it happens and you ask to start again we don't hold that against you. However, make sure you are confident enough with the material that you can easily get back into your performance and aren't too flustered to properly continue.
5. Be Energetic
It is no secret that Open Calls are long days for everyone involved, so there is nothing more refreshing than seeing an actor who genuinely wants to be there and is ready to work. This applies whether it's the first ten minutes of the Open Call or the last five. Energy and joy are contagious, so be the person in the room that makes everyone else happy.
6. Be Flexible With Your Time
Because these can be long days, make sure you are in the position to be flexible with your time. Everyone has other places they would rather be than sitting in an audition waiting room, but just remember that if you wait around without worrying about the clock, a casting director will be thankful (and will remember) that you're a great team player. Get there early, and take your time to prepare.
7. Dress to Impress
A person who comes into the room looking put-together will immediately draw the eye of whoever is behind the table. Wear something you are comfortable in that won't detract from your performance. Keep flip-flops and booty shorts out of an audition room for Open Calls. A good rule of thumb is to dress as though you are going to the first day of rehearsal.
Along with flip-flops, people wearing heels - please make sure you can easily walk in them. If the casting director is worried about you falling over any second, then they aren't paying attention to the beautiful performance you are giving.
9. Keep Any Complaining To Yourself
When at any audition, not just an Open Call, complaining about anything is never worth it. You never know who is listening in, and if someone catches the wrong part of your conversation they may jump to conclusions about what you are talking about. If you see your friend at the Open Call and want to tell them all about how you hate your roommate, do it outside of the audition, not in the holding room.
10. Maintain Professionalism In The Audition Room
Going out of your way to make small talk with the people behind the table may seem like a surefire way to leave an impression, but you need to remember they are seeing hundreds of people that day and are more likely than not running behind schedule. An actor who comes in ready to work will be much better received than one who comes in talking about the weather. Be respectful of their time and they'll be respectful of yours.
11. Use the "Who's In The Room" Sheet to Your Advantage
Most Open Calls and EPAs have a sheet at the sign-in table labeled, "Who's In The Room." Use this paper to your advantage! Knowing who is there will allow you to not be shocked when you walk in. Say Mean Girls has an Open Call and Tina Fey decides she wants to be there to see who comes in - you're going to want to know that before you walk into the room. That sheet is there to help you, not the person running the casting session.
12. Have An Extra Resume In Your Binder Just In Case
Have an extra resume in the inside front pocket of your binder that your accompanist can peak at really quickly if they want to. The accompanist stays in the room with casting directors through lunch and sometimes they'll chat about the people who came in. If the accompanist glanced at your resume, there's more of a chance of them remembering you and bringing you up later if the question is asked of them.
13. Talk to Your Fellow Auditionees
If you are at a huge Open Call for a Broadway show or feature-film, make friends with the people you are waiting around with! One friendly person can change the entire atmosphere of a room and in turn, change how you behave once you enter the audition room. If you've been nervously waiting for hours before entering there is no way you are going to be as comfortable performing as you would be if you had spent those hours getting to know some new people.
14. Interact With the Folks Checking You In
Depending on the Open Call, there is a strong chance the people checking you in are interns for the casting office, and sometimes casting directors will ask them about how you carried yourself in the holding room so they can compare your presence there to that of the audition room. Being nice to everyone can only help with your chances of getting a callback, so be kind and if they don't look too busy don't be afraid to engage in conversation. They might be able to tell you more about the project, and if you talk to them past just pleasantries you will definitely stick in their mind.
Act your song! Musical theatre is so much more than just singing a song. We hear hundreds of great voices in a day, it's the people who come in and act from the first beat of the music that get called back.
16. Strong Dancers Stand Center At A Dance Call
If you're a strong dancer stand in the front by the choreographer/associate choreographer to learn the material. Pick it up quickly, but don't make it a big deal that you've picked it up quickly. For those of you like myself who are more movers than dancers, here's a fun tip - stand toward stage right where you can see the choreographer but aren't necessarily in their direct peripheral vision. It will give you time to learn the steps more slowly, and then when the choreographer does turn around to watch you'll be on their left, which is the perfect spot. People read from left to right, and most of the time, choreographers watch their dancers starting on the left and then continue going back to the left side of the group more often than the right. (Yay psychology!)
17. Ask Questions
If you are unsure of anything, especially in a dance call, don't be afraid to ask questions! BUT (and this is a big but) know exactly what you want to ask before shouting out the inquiry. The more specific your question, the more specific the answer you receive.
18. Leave Extraneous Items in Holding Room
More times than not these items become a distraction to the actor the minute they walk into a room - trying to figure out where to put their jackets and sometimes knocking over their water bottle. It pulls focus from the performance before the song even begins.
19. Be Ready to Go The Second You Walk In The Room
Have your music ready to go when you walk into the room so you aren't having to flip through your entire book to find the cut you're planning on singing. Having it ready beforehand makes you look organized and confident.
20. Be Yourself & Have Fun
You got into this business because you love it and the same goes for the people behind the table. If you're enjoying yourself they'll feed off of that and you'll be more memorable at the end of the day. There is absolutely no harm in having fun while doing your job, and auditioning in an Open Call session is no exception! So enjoy yourself and break legs!