Monday, September 15, 2014

The Casual Diva Takes the Stage

What a busy weekend it was! I know, I know, when is it not? But it was a big weekend for Baltimore, and it seemed like everyone pulled out the stops. From the Star Spangled Spectacular (to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner) to our winning Orioles, the town was hopping!

On Friday, our building management had a cookout on the roof, so we hung out in the sunshine (getting a little crispy around the edges at the same time) and watched the Blue Angels practice for their big show the following night. If you've never seen them, you're missing out on quite the airshow by some of our Navy's most talented pilots.

We'd also been watching the clipper ships come in and out of the Harbor all week.

We braved the traffic to get across town (because the President had come to town for the celebration, so no one was really going anywhere at 4pm) for Happy Hour in Federal Hill before heading over to Camden Yards to watch our beloved Orioles take down the Yankees for the second time that day!

Saturday morning dawned gray and rainy, which, combined with the strain of having yelled to much at the baseball game, did not bode well for my morning audition. I got through it, and even did passably well. But I had ignored some of my tried and true tenants of auditioning. It was sheer luck (and a poor turnout at the auditions) that let me shine.

Wait! What? There are rules for auditioning?

Of course there are!

I've been doing musical theater for almost 30 years (I was really young when I started!!!), and there are absolutely must-do and should-do items on the list. For example:

  • Do your research. Into the show, into the theater company, even into your fellow actors (it never hurts to know who else is going to be going for the same roles as you). I'm always amazed when I see someone audition who doesn't know what the show is about, or what style of music the show uses. If you aren't at least marginally familiar with the show, how do you know it's something you'll enjoy doing? This is something you're going to be dedicating a lot of time and energy to over several months - make sure you know what you're getting in to!

  • Dress comfortably. This is crucial. You don't have to be slovenly, but you definitely need to wear something that you feel at ease in. Often, you'll be asked to dance, but even beyond that, if you're more concerned with staying balanced on your 5-inch heels (I've seen it happen), you're going to be distracted while you're singing or acting, and not showing the director the full degree of what you can do. I usually go for a t-shirt and yoga pants, or a skirt and tights. I still look feminine, but I don't have to think about flashing anyone (I've see that happen too!).

  • Be prepared. This kind of goes hand in hand with my first point, but even more so. If it's a musical, rehearse your audition song so that you know it well enough not to be thrown off. Inevitably, something will go awry - the accompanist will take the tempo too fast or too slow, or miss notes, or not have an amp for their keyboard so that you can't hear them. The director may cut you off before you get to your favorite part. You may be asked to sing something completely different, or in a different style or accent, or kneeling on the stage. These are all things that have happened to me, and no matter how frustrated or shaken you feel, it helps to show directors that you can roll with the punches.

  • Be okay with rejection. I've given some auditions where I felt like I blew them away and that I was a solid contender for a leading role, and then not gotten cast even in the ensemble. I've had other auditions where I felt I gave a mediocre performance, and then was offered the lead with gushing praise from the director. When I was a kid, not getting the part I wanted felt like a crushing blow - I'd cry, I'd beg my mother to explain why they didn't like me, I'd argue that it was all so unfair. But I survived the rejection. Now, when I don't get cast, or don't get offered the part I want, I'm still disappointed, but I recognize that directors all have their own reasoning. Sometimes you get offered a different part that may not be as glamorous, but it more challenging or more fun anyway. Sometimes, no matter how right you are for the part, there's simply someone who is better. And sometimes, it just wasn't meant to be.

  • Be respectful. Don't argue with the director. Don't make fun of people who mess up their auditions. Don't talk through other auditioners' cold reads or songs. Remember, if you get cast, you're going to be spending a huge amount of time with these same people - start off on the right foot.

  • Have fun! Remember, it's theater, not the pursuit for a cure for cancer. We do it because we love it - the music, the costumes, the make-believe. If it stops being fun, it's time to find a new hobby.

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