Here’s a breakdown of what I learned:
1. We actors are really brave. There were maybe 10 people behind the table with me. The actors came in, stood up in front of a room full of strangers staring at them, judging them and their talents, and put themselves out there. That takes guts! So kudos to us actors for rising to the challenge everyday.
2. The casting/creative team isn’t nervous during the audition so why am I? I know this is obvious, but the point is if no one else is nervous why should I (the actor) be? The creative team has nearly just as much at stake don’t they? Their jobs are also dependent on the casting. Yet they are perfectly comfortable in the audition room. If their hearts aren’t racing when I walk in the room, mine shouldn’t be either. (This point could have also been entitled Be professional, but don’t take yourself too seriously).
3. I’m the only one who cares about my mistakes. Sometimes we go up on lyrics. Sometimes our voices crack. We are human, and mistakes happen. But for whatever reason, in an audition setting, most of us are overly apologetic when these issues come up. We act as if we just said something terribly offensive and need to right the situation immediately.
A few folks had these sort of mishaps when I sat behind the table, but the amazing thing was…none of us on the casting side were bothered by it. We all waited patiently as the performers started over, reset, or worked through the phlegm they brought in with him that day. It wasn’t a big deal to us, so it shouldn’t have been a big deal to them. Yet, some made it very clear that it was a big deal.
Let me give it to you straight- bringing too much attention to these imperfections reads as desperation. It comes across as “this is my only shot at this and, if I screw it up, I’ll never work in this town again!” Desperate Actor is not the name I want for myself.
4. It actually IS about who you know…sometimes. Obviously this is different for everyone, but I was struck by how often I heard “oh I know him and can vouch for his work ethic”, or “oh, John at X Theater Company has worked with her before. I’ll have to talk to him about his experience with her.” Or even, “hmmm don’t know her or anyone who has worked with her. I’d rather go with this other girl who I know I like working with.”
Get to know folks in the industry. If you are a known entity, if you have people who know and love you and will go to bat for you, you can only help yourself. There are plenty of people out there willing to take a chance on a stranger, but there are just as many who aren’t willing. Why not cover all of your bases?
5. It’s YOUR audition; do what it takes to feel comfortable. I’ve often wondered whether I should introduce myself and my audition material in the room. It’s somewhat customary to do so in the play world but less so in the musical theater world. And I tend to go back to that “I don’t want to waste anyone’s time” sentiment. However, my feelings on this have changed forever after sitting behind the casting desk:
Those that came in and introduced themselves, said what roles they were interested in and what they were going to sing, made me feel comfortable. Why? Because they were in control. They weren’t nervous (or at least they didn’t come across as nervous). They had something exciting and wonderful to show me, and I couldn’t wait to see it! I was comfortable because I didn’t feel like I needed to take care of them. You know how you always hear the casting team wants you to do well? They want you to be just the person they’ve been waiting for? It’s true. I experienced it myself. And the people that came in and respectfully took charge, made me root for them even more.
6. Know that sitting behind that table is a little overwhelming sometimes. I have a new-found appreciation for the casting process. It’s more complicated than it seems. There is barely any time between each audition. When you start to process what you just saw, the next person is in front of you waiting to start. You want to jot down notes so you can remember each person, but if you look down you’ll miss something. And if you wait until she finishes her audition to write down anything, then you miss the opportunity to thank her and tell her she did a great job. Next time I go to an audition, if I receive a generic “Great job! Thanks!” I’ll have a better understanding of why I didn’t get more feedback and won’t take it personally. I hope that you do the same.
If you ever get a chance to sit behind the casting desk, do it! I could go on forever with all that I learned and will utilize in my next audition, but I won’t. Instead, I encourage you to go out there and discover it for yourself. Sit in at an audition. It will change the way you think about this business.