Community Theatre 101: How to WOW Your Casting Committee!
There are so many factors that go into casting a production. This article is designed to help you to prepare to wow your casting committee, and also to help you to handle yourself professionally and admirably when you don't get the part you want (because it doesn't matter who you are - if you audition regularly, you WILL experience rejection several times in your theatre tenure).
Before we delve into tips for a strong audition, there's something that must be considered. Its important that you have realistic expectations going into the process. Be very honest with yourself about the role you are considering. What are your strengths, and what are your weaknesses? This can be the most difficult part of the process. Are you tall? Short? Heavy? Thin? A strong vocalist or dancer? A strong character actor? Own your qualities and characteristics instead of ignoring them... This will help you to choose to audition for roles that are appropriate for you. Do you struggle with rhythm? If so, go in knowing that you probably won't be considered for a tap-heavy dance role. Is harmony something that you haven't mastered? You should think twice about auditioning for a role that sings primarily in 3- or 4- part harmony throughout the show. Are you a low alto? Going for a part written for a soprano is likely not the most realistic decision. Liking a show and a character is not the same as being right for that character in the show.
Now, let's discuss some of the more common areas that your casting committee will consider about each person who is auditioning for the show, and what you can do to impress in each category.
Vocal audition: When you're auditioning for a musical, this is a given, and it tends to be what most auditioners in community theatre primarily focus on. This isn't a bad thing - the vocal audition is important. A musical needs vocal talent. So, what can you do to impress? Be prepared. Choose an audition song that suits your voice, and practice! To see what the casting committee will see, practice in front of a full length mirror. Find someone (NOT a family member or close friend who may not be completely honest with you, or may have a personal bias toward you) who is willing to listen to you and give you feedback and tips. This could be a vocal teacher or coach. Be confident when its your turn to sing (fake it if you have to), head up with a smile, and give it your all. Extra tip: Don't practice by singing along with a Broadway or professional recording. Karaoke versions of most songs are available for purchase - use them! Record yourself and listen to the playback... Listening to a recorded version gives you an idea of what your casting committee will hear, and it is different than you expect it will be!
Dance audition: During auditions for a musical, you may be taught an audition dance to perform for your casting committee. Be sure to be dressed in clothes that allow you to move well. If you're an accomplished dancer, show it off! You know what the committee is looking for - strong movements, rhythm, and the ability to learn the dance combination fairly quickly. If dancing is not your strong suit, do your best to keep up, making sure that you are expressive the entire time. If your face shows that you made a mistake, it will be noticed much easier than if you appear confident and expressive.
Cold read & Chemistry with other potential cast members: The biggest mistake that I see during cold reads is simply reading. This is your opportunity to show off what you would bring to a certain character... Don't throw it away by simply reading words on a page - show what you'll bring to the character! If you're asked to read for the same part twice, try different things! Different emphases, different accents, different interpretation of stage directions and emotions. Show the committee that you're not one-dimensional. If the director gives you a direction, take it, run with it, and show him/her that you don't only "sort of" listen. Give 100%. Don't be afraid to get physical. This will show the chemistry between you.
How you behave in the audition room when someone else is on the stage: You are auditioning from the moment you walk into the room. Sitting with a friend and acting catty when someone else is auditioning is a surefire way to get yourself dropped to the bottom of the list. No director wants to work with a diva. Some talent isn't worth the drama that it brings to the experience... Bring your best self to auditions - check your pettiness at the door, and offer support - you don't know anyone else's story, insecurities, or confidence level... Build up other people instead of tearing them down - your casting committee does notice.
Previous experience with the casting committee: Have you worked with the show's director, vocal director, choreographer, or producer before? Have you shown a strong work ethic, punctuality, a positive attitude, and a willingness to follow direction and step outside of your comfort zone? Or have you shown up late, missed rehearsals regularly, shown a temper when things weren't going your way, or brought gossip and drama to the experience? Take a step back and think about what you've brought to the table in the past... But don't give up hope if its not something you're proud of... Its not too late to start fresh, and show growth... Your production staff will notice! Extra tip: Local theatre is a small community, and word travels fast. Directors talk to one another. Its not always the A note - its the total package, the total YOU that gets, or doesn't get, the part.
Physical appearance: This is an area over which you have zero control. If your director's vision of a character is someone short, and you are 6'4", you are not likely to get the part. If the casting committee is leaning toward someone beefier and menacing for a role, and you're naturally petite, that does not work in your favor. However, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't try! Certainly it is possible for you to take the tips above and completely impress the committee, forcing them to alter their expectation and vision for that particular role. However, there's obviously no guarantee... This is a category that you can take off of your list of things to control.
There is, of course, the chance that despite your very best efforts, and perhaps even a personal best audition, you won't get the part. Here are a few things to remember:
1. It doesn't mean that you're not talented, wouldn't have also been good in that role, or won't ever get a role you're going for with that company or director. Don't beat yourself up... Chalk it up to a learning experience, and start preparing for your next audition opportunity.
2. How you handle yourself after a rejection says much more about you than how you handle yourself after getting a part that you want. Sincerely congratulate the cast, including the person who got the role you were hoping for, and go see the show. If you can't be sincere, then be quiet. Badmouthing or making accusations against the casting committee, production crew, or cast members makes only one person look bad: You. And it will very likely affect your next audition. Remember - this process is cyclical, and its impossible to unhear or unknow a personal attack that was launched against you.
3. Never stop being open to learn. The minute you think you know it all is the minute that you stop improving. There's always room for growth. Ask a member of the casting committee for a tip on how you can improve for your next audition, and listen openly. Take that advice to your next audition!
What is your best audition tip? Share it with us!