I kept getting the emails: Landmark Musicals was holding auditions for 1776 this weekend. Hm. I hadn’t performed in 13 years. The idea was intriguing.
I’ve experienced auditions from a variety of viewpoints — as an auditioner, as an audition coach, as a director, and as an observer. The nervous energy in any audition room could power Times Square.
Last year, I watched auditions for the production of My Fair Lady that came through Popejoy in February. Just before auditions began, I spoke with director Jeff Moss and asked him what he would be watching for. He said all he wanted to know was if they had the necessary skills for the job. He would read them for specific characters at call backs.
Inside the audition room, Moss checked with his stage manager to find out the ground rules. She told him that because it was a non-Equity production, there were no ground rules.
In auditions, if you're the actor, you step into the room with your music. You give it to the accompanist, set the tempo, and step up to sing your song. That song you choose should be your A game, and you should show that you love performing it. Professionals have their songs in an audition book.
At the My Fair Lady auditions, one young woman sang her best song, and sang it well. Moss asked what else she had in her book. She offered two titles. Moss chose one and she started to sing it. Moss stopped her and asked her to sing it in an entirely different way. She couldn’t overcome her nervousness so she wasn’t able to follow Moss’ direction — a key skill for any actor — so she failed to meet his first requirement. She did not get called back.
James auditioned for the Barter Theater in Virginia. They saw on his resume that he’d performed the lead in Bat Boy here with Musical Theatre Southwest. Since the Barter was going to do Bat Boy the next season, they asked James whether he had any songs from that show in his book. As fate would have it, he did not. He did not get called back.
So, was I going to audition? There were a thousand and one reasons not to: my job, our summer plans, the audition process. Still ...
I looked at the calendar. Two weeks to the auditions. I hadn’t sung in 13 years. I had nothing prepared. I have no book, not even a shred of sheet music. I knew I wouldn’t be able to give them my A game. Still ...
Ultimately, reality overtook fantasy. I have a lot of conflicts on my calendar during the next few months. As a director, I know how hard it is to set a rehearsal schedule around everyone’s conflicts, so I finally decided not to audition.
For everyone who does audition this weekend, breathe. Focus. Bring your A game. Sing your song as though you love performing it. If the director asks you to try something, listen very carefully. And I hope the fates are with you.
Terry S. Davis
Photo: James Mills in the Musical Theatre Southwest production of Bat Boy