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Blogging with Brendan: Make 2023 the year you audition!

There are many “wins” a theatre director could count. A smooth and efficient tech process? A sold-out house for opening night? Or, perhaps, a cast that can remember all of its lines BEFORE the off-book deadline (yes, a director can dream)..

Indeed, this director is celebrating many wins– before the holidays, 100 wonderful student performers shared their talent with us during auditions for Moana Jr., our first 2023 production at Quincy Community Theatre. Auditioning can be nerve-wracking, if not outright terrifying. To be able to overcome that fear and follow through with an audition is, truly, to give a gift of yourself. A huge thank you to all of the courageous and brilliant young actors that tried out for the show!

In return, I’ve prepared a gift of my own for our blog readers: some audition tips, tricks and techniques from a director’s perspective!

● This first tip is also the most difficult, but confidence is key in your audition presentation. Some people think this means they have to just sing or perform their scene reading confidently– this is true! But don’t forget how you enter the room and how you introduce yourself. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let it out with a sigh before you enter the audition room. Remember that the people on the other side of the table want you to succeed and are there to get to know you. The more bits of your personality you can share, the better!

○ TIP: A lot of times, I’ll ask a random question before an actor shares their song or scene, just to start a conversation. It’s partly to put the actor at ease, but it also gives the actor a chance to tell me something about themselves, reveal their personality, or make me laugh (even better!).

○ TRICK: In case the panel asks you if you have any questions, have one prepared in advance! Even if it’s as simple as “how many performers are you planning to cast?” or “will there be an ensemble or chorus?” It gives us a chance to converse with you more and gives another opportunity for your personality to stand out!

● I like to give all auditioners a “cold read” in an audition, which means that each actor is given a short scene (they don’t know in advance) to perform on the spot. It’s not a perfect format and can seem borderline harsh– what do you mean they can’t prepare!?– but I think that the cold read sets our auditioners on a level playing field. Not all young people have the same capacity or time to prepare the acting portion; plus, it gives me a chance to consider the adjustments or bits of direction I will give for each scene (or “side” as it’s called in an audition). In this way, I can fairly compare cold reads. Now, even though you will not know what scene you will be reading in advance, there are ways to prepare for a cold read. NOTE: If you have a learning difference or require reading accommodations in any way, do not be afraid to share that with the director in the audition room, or in advance. Theater is for all, and an audition panel will certainly take that extra step to ensure that you feel comfortable and confident with your cold read!

○ TIP: Read the script before you audition! The cold read sides will be from the script, so you will be somewhat familiar with the scene. Also, do not assume or anticipate what character the director will ask you to read. Be prepared to read one or many different sides (it does not mean you are being considered for ONLY those roles, by the way!).

○ TRICK: Intention and connection are so important in acting, and there is a way to show this even in a cold read! Pay attention to who the director tells you will read opposite you in the scene (this could be a stage manager, an assistant or the director). Take a step toward that person and face them. Do not feel like you need to rush the scene reading. Instead, use the technique of “grab and give” to make a connection with your scene partner. Look at the page. Memorize one phrase or sentence at a time. Look up at your scene partner and speak that phrase or sentence with conviction and confidence. Return to the page for the next phrase, sentence or line. It may sound slightly “choppier” than if you read the scene without looking up from the page– but believe me, the feeling that you give by connecting with your scene partner is worth it! Also, you can practice this technique at home.

● Finally, song choice. I was really impressed with the song choices in Moana Jr. auditions! It makes a huge difference when you choose a song that you enjoy singing and that means something to you– as that energy and positive emotion comes through in your voice and it really affects us, too! Think about the story that the song is telling. Is it about a princess who is excited to finally have a party after being alone for a long time? Is it a story about longing to try something new, after being held back your whole life? How can you give that story a beginning, middle and an end? The last chorus should feel different in intensity, story and emotion from the first chorus. Something must change so that we feel as if we’ve experienced the full story in just a minute.

○ TIP: QCT is lucky to have wonderful piano accompanists assist us during auditions. Try to find sheet music for your song! The accompanist can practice it with you before your audition and support you in many ways by helping you stay on tempo, on key, etc.

○ TRICK: Pick a song that matches or complements the music of the show. Think creatively about this! Is the music light and airy? Does it sound like folk music? Is it earthy, percussive and rhythmic? As a director, I’m trying to imagine how you, as an actor, fit in the world of the play. If you help guide my imagination through your song choice, it helps paint the full picture of you as a performer!

Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is to be authentically yourself. Theatre is both a collaborative and deeply personal art form, and our community continues to show up and freely share their full selves with us– as volunteers, as performers and as audience members. This is, truly, the greatest gift of all! I wish you all a happy, safe and joyful 2023!

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