so you think you can act

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September 5, 2012 by jooshanoosh

I teach acting, or at least I used to. I became the department chair in July, so now my job is listening to everybody’s problems. But before this I taught acting, and one of my classes was called “Auditions.” There is no mystery in that title. I honestly taught students how to audition for shows, or anyway how not to. So I know a little bit about it.

It occurred to me recently that many people audition for community plays and theatre with no knowledge or training on how to audition. I’m sure in some places, rural folksy places, a badly chosen monologue is cute and a warbly song is endearing, but not in Utah. Utah, for whatever reason (MORMONS) seems to have a real knack for the arts. And we are a little competitive. And you can’t just walk into an audition looking like some yahoo or Mammy Yokum with yer cutesy story and 16 bars of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” No sir. We’re out for blood. And in the world of Utah community theatre, there will be blood.

So maybe I can help. Hoping to nail that dream role? Looking to make some new friends? Ready to spend six weeks in the world of lip buzzes and back rubs? Here’s a few things to consider before you walk into that audition room:

1. Don’t wear crazy crap. I mean it. Seriously – not even stripes. Solid colors, always. Don’t have crazy hair. Ever. Ladies, don’t hobble in on high heels all spangled up like you came from trollop church. Gentlemen, crazy ripped top-stitched jeans or an ironic t-shirt do not help you. All we remember is your dumb outfit. You are fighting a losing battle. Be conservative. Dress like you were recently birthed from the loins of JC Penney. Ask yourself “is there any way my outfit can be more boring?” If the answer is yes, hit that. I wish I was exaggerating. If I can’t remember your face but I remember your sparkly booty shorts (GUYS) then you lost.

2. If you are auditioning for a musical, it’s a safe bet we’ll need you to sing. So maybe you’re not a great singer? I’m not – it’s ok! Why not hold out for a straight play? And if you’re determined to sing for us anyway, maybe it would be a good idea to get a little coaching first? LIFE COACHING? Also, if you are a marginal singer you better be an amazing dancer. You better be on the hot tamale train. Because most musical theatre people are great singers but not great dancers, or they’re vice versa. So which are you? Neither? Hmmmm. Save yourself some pain and try out for that new Agatha Christie thriller they’re doing down at the five and dime. You’ll still make friends and memories and you won’t deal with shin splints or judgy gay dudes.

3. If you are auditioning for, say, Oklahoma, don’t pick a song to sing from Oklahoma. Pick a song from that genre. Here are some terrible songs to pick anytime:

I Dreamed a Dream from Les Mis
Castle in the Cloud from Les Mis
Anything from Les Mis
Send in the Clowns (boring!)
I Could Have Danced All Night (too high for you)

Anything from Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark
Anything from The Book of Mormon (we act like we’re cool with it, but we really aren’t)
Songs your Grandpa used to sing you when you were a kid (probably racist)
Cultural songs from your mission
Anything that indicates you should be dancing at that moment


5. You need to slate. You need to tell us who you are. Do you have a headshot? Great! Did your mom or roommate take it? Not great. You gotta spend money to make money in this biz. Save up, get some snappy headshots, zip yourself out a little CV and you are ready to rock! Do not list high school plays on your CV. I would rather see six inches of blank page than your high school reel.

6. Don’t talk too much before your audition. Don’t walk in and try to engage us in conversation. Think of yourself as a very, very special robot. If we ask you how you are, or apologize for the wait, or compliment your slacks, you may respond. But don’t come in all chatty and casual and expect us to match that. We’re probably grouchy because we’ve seen a million people wearing crazy crap and singing Les Mis. We’ll say hello, you say hello, and then we all launch right into your audition. It’s not personal. Actually, it is personal, but that’s a topic for another time.

7. You are being timed, most likely. If you go over time, someone will say STOP. You should stop. Maybe you should time your pieces before you come?

um, that’s all I can think of right now. Do you have any more questions for me? Go ahead and list them in the comments and I’ll respond. I’m sure there are a ton of things I can answer. Also: there is no casting couch in Utah, so DON’T ASK. Also: don’t chew gum. Sorry, I wish I had more do’s than don’ts – it makes me sound so negative. Basically DO not do all those things. Contact me below. I want to help.

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