Well, we’re back at it! Another New Year, another show, which for me is always something to look forward to. Cindy, Chris, Lisa, and I met in December and discussed the pros and cons of different musicals before finally settling on an “old” favorite – The Wild, Wild, Wildest West.
On Saturday we announced this show and the kids seemed pretty happy about it, so I guess we’re off to a good start. If you ask any NDW kid (and probably any theater person) what they’re favorite part of the process is you will not hear any actor say auditions. Most will probably say tech week. I am the same way – when I’m an actor.
When I’m working behind the scenes my point of view changes and I really enjoy auditions. I like seeing what all of the actors bring to the table. In some cases I know all (or most) of the actors coming in, but there’s still an excitement in seeing what people do. Will this actor burst out laughing in the middle of the audition due to nervousness? Will that actor try something new or play it safe? Has this actor improved since I last worked with her? Auditions answer all of those questions.
While working on this play I am going to be prepping for directing Shakespeare with a community theater group this summer. With those auditions there are certain actors that I know will be auditioning for me once again and I’m looking forward to hopefully working with them again. I’m also looking forward to seeing new talent and how the new and old will mesh together. At these auditions each actor will be given a cold reading to do (similar to what we do at NDW, a monologue or scene is given out and the actor has a short amount of time to figure out how to act that piece), but will also be invited to prepare a monologue. I personally hate preparing monologues – they have to be memorized and when you’re nervous it’s hard to remember stuff (especially Shakespeare!) so I always give it as an option only. Some people prefer the prepared monologue to the cold reading because there is ample time to prepare and plan exactly what to do and how to act out that particular piece.
When an actor comes into the theater for an audition I start judging immediately. Did the person say hello? Is he nice or all business? I look to see if the person is nervous as well, that way, I can tell if nerves are interfering with the actual audition. I can adjust my judgment based on that because, let’s face it, everyone gets nervous and no one likes to be judged. If an actor is nervous and the performance suffers as a result there may be a glimmer of something wonderful that allows me to look past the nervousness. And then, when the audition ends, how does the actor leave? Is he smiling? Does he say thank you? This last piece is key by the way: always be polite at auditions.
In community theater not every actor gets cast in the play (there are exceptions to this, though, of course). So the audition really matters. At NDW the audition matters, but some of the pressure is off because you already know that you made it into the play. Aside from that, NDW isn’t that different.
While NDW gives out monologues and a song for actors to audition with, we give our actors the tools to understand how to audition in the real world. Actors can choose a monologue and are told to make choices about the delivery. For this play students were given nursery rhymes. It is up to each individual to decide what emotion to put behind the rhyme. How to move, what gestures to use – all of that is up to the actor. While in the real world actors are always asked to bring in their own song for musical auditions, we do try to have all actors pretend they are doing that at our auditions. When an actor walks on the stage for her singing audition at NDW she must say her name and the title of the song. Of course we know what the title is – it’s the same song that everyone is singing, but this is a good habit to get into. By the way – we especially like it when actors walk in and say, “Hi” before introducing themselves and say, “Thank you” as they leave. Hint hint.
Our dance audition is pretty typical as well. Depending on the audition sometimes dancing is left for a callback, but generally speaking it follows the same model. Actors line up and are shown the choreography, have some time to practice and then audition in groups, usually with numbers as identifiers. We don’t have numbers and we give more practice opportunities to our actors, but other than that it’s the same process.
Throughout the whole audition process there are two really important things to remember. First, first impressions matter: be polite and smile – even when you mess up. Second, make big choices and commit to them. What do I mean by this? Well, it depends on the audition. One good example for musicals is to infuse everything with your personality. When I sing at an audition I act out the song as much as possible, treating the song like a monologue. When I dance I know I might miss a step or two, so I move no matter what. I find my movement/dance strengths and I make sure that I freeform dance when able in order to show what I can do and mentally prepare to fill in an accidental missed step with something that won’t throw me off and shows my personality. A lot of people forget that you don’t have to be 100% perfect at auditions – you get to practice a play for a long time before opening night – we just want to see your potential.
With that in mind I move to casting. We have a lot of talented actors that could play several parts, but the job of the professional staff is to figure out the best possible combinations of actors that allow them to shine, while also making sense within the show as a whole. Casting this week was hard because it was done remotely. Usually, Cindy, Chris, Lisa, and I remove ourselves to a quiet room and talk for what may be hours about all the possibilities. But this week the snow came and separated us and we weren’t able to discuss as freely as possible. That being said, I think we did a pretty good job. We still managed to discuss a few different combinations before settling on the right one.
What other part of the rehearsal process do I love you ask? The read through! And that’s next week. I look forward to seeing everyone one read the play for the first time. I love our actors’ reactions. I also really enjoy when our actors are able to jump right into it and start putting voices and personality into the characters. With that in mind I leave you until Saturday.
Have a great week,