Auditions! I hope you get it!

“I hope I get it! I hope I get it! I really need this job!”

Those might be familiar lyrics if you just saw A Chorus Line at UND’s Burtness Theatre (also playing this weekend). The musical revolves around performers auditioning for the chorus of a Broadway musical. The anxiety the characters experience is almost palpable in the audience. Wanting a role so badly that you feel sick to your stomach is not much of a stretch for most actors. Then there’s the whole judgment part. Putting oneself on display to be judged is something most people avoid, but in order to get a role actors have to seize every opportunity to audition.

As their name is called, they take center stage. Sometimes stage lights are on and they find themselves responding to the director or stage manager from the darkness of the house. “Tell us your name and what piece you’ll be performing,” comes the disembodied voice. Standing in the spotlight, one couldn’t feel more exposed if s/he were naked. That cowlick that just won’t lie down is doing the wave on top of his head. The anxiety pimple that popped up only hours before is glaring on the edge of her chin. Is she too fat; is he too thin, should s/he have lost the scarf? And why is her mouth so dry? And, good God, please let him remember the monologue!

If you’ve always thought about auditioning for a play or musical, you are going to have plenty of opportunities in the next few weeks. The Empire Theatre Center (ETC.) is having auditions for the Wonder of the World. The Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre is looking for men and women ages 18 and older for the comedy Dearly Departed, and the Late Night Series at Fire Hall Theatre will be auditioning for the campy, new musical Cell Block Sirens of 1953. (Doesn’t look like there are any roles for children in these shows.)

“I hope I get it!”

The skinny on the scary directors: Local directors won’t be nearly as cruel as you’ve imagined or seen in movies, and don’t worry about being asked to spill your deepest, darkest secrets on stage, as the characters do in A Chorus Line. Remember: Directors want to find the right actor for the show. They want you to be that person. Casting is more than 50% of directing a successful show. Higher, actually. So, if they don’t cast you – this time – it’s probably because they have a different vision for the character than what you’re presenting. I know that sounds like a nice way of letting you down, but it’s often the truth.

Preparing for the audition: Most local directors do not expect you to have a monologue memorized (see end of blog), although if trying out for a musical it’s a good idea to prepare a song in the same style of the musical they are casting. Don’t sing a Miley Cyrus song when you audition for Carousel. Another thing, a headshot and resume are not expected at auditions for most local shows. More likely you will be asked to fill out an audition form when you arrive. If you have had some stage experience, you could type up a resume and clip it to the audition form to expedite the process.

In most cases you will be asked to do a “cold reading.” That means they will ask you to read a few pages, either by yourself, or a scene with other actors who are auditioning. They may also ask you to read other roles. While it’s a “cold” reading, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the play. For one, the director may not know you; you probably have a good idea about what roles you are most suited. Secondly, what if you hate the play/musical? I’ve had actors audition and then after they were cast discover that they might be asked to swear or kiss on stage, and they’re not comfortable with doing that – so they quit! Quitting a show is a major no-no. Quitters rarely get cast in the future; it’s a small town and word spreads. So, do your research. With the advent of YouTube, you don’t even have to read the script. (However, Stagemama suggests you do – reading scripts is good for you! )

Do it: Sure, auditions can be scary. But some of the most fun you’ll have in life has an element of fright to it, right? Going on the tallest roller coaster at the fair, going in that haunted house in Reynolds, and the moment right before the big kiss. You have to take some chances sometimes, and I think I can promise that if you audition you will be happy you did. Even — if you don’t get it. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You must do the thing you fear the most.” So get out there – you’ve been thinking about it for how long? Audition, already!

Use some hairspray on that cowlick, dab on the concealer, and lose the scarf. What are you waiting for? You might not get cast this time, but then again, you might.

I hope you get it!
Upcoming auditions in Grand Forks:
Wonder of the World – Nov. 19/20th, starting at 7 p.m. at the Empire Theatre. No need to prepare. It will be cold readings from the script. Looking for 3 men. 4 women. Late teens through early 60s. Directed by Chris Berg.
Dearly Departed, Dec. 1 & 2, 7 p.m., Fire Hall Theatre (behind City Hall, north of Central H.S.). No need to prepare, cold readings. Seeking minimum of 5 men, 8 women, 25-years old through 50s, some bit parts. Directed by Lana DeMars and Patrick DeMars.
Cell Block Sirens of 1953, Dec. 15th, 7:30 and Dec. 16th at 7 p.m. – Fire Hall Theatre. Prepare a monologue and 16 bars of a song. Need men and women, 18 years and older for campy musical. May cross-gender cast. Directed by Nicole Quam.  Musical Direction by David Henrickson.

A Peek Backstage

Mulan, cast at Fire Hall“I’ll make a man out of you!” So sing the young actors to Victoria Rose Lee, as Mulan, on stage at the Fire Hall Theatre last weekend. The cast of 28 have been rehearsing the show since early September, along with their younger counterparts who have been rehearsing The Nightingale, with a cast of 33, ages 6-11.
My objective in writing this blog is to give lovers of theatre a peek backstage. I think audiences have an idea about what goes into putting an amateur theatre production together, but most don’t know the depth of it. Actually, it’s not something performers and producers want them to think about. The art is in making it look easy. The lines flow out of an actor’s mouth and the audience should not be worried that the actor is searching his memory for the next word. The song comes “tripping of the tongue” and the audience shouldn’t worry if the singer is going to forget the lyrics.
That said, I believe that knowing more about what goes on backstage will invite even greater appreciation for the production audiences see. For example, when you see Mulan, you will appreciate the beautiful kimonos worn by the young actresses, and even a few actors. But did you know that those costumes were handmade, not ordered in, and that they were created primarily by one woman who has a full-time job teaching children with special needs during the day, and has five children of her own, all of whom have band, chorus, voice and piano lessons to be shuttled to in the midst of 8 hours of rehearsals a week – after a full day?
The audiences that were on their feet applauding last weekend at Mulan probably have no idea that due to a contractual error with the publishing house, the directors and performers did not get their scripts until a full week into rehearsal, so the typical six-week rehearsal was compromised. They also do not know that one of the directors experienced the death of her father in the third week of rehearsals, causing her to miss a week. The audience doesn’t know that her co-director stepped up that week and directed the younger kids show, The Nightingale, and the older kids’ Mulan, a total of 61 kids, with the assistance of one teen helper. They can’t possibly know how many hours Dave Dauphanais, the parent of one of the actors, put into researching how we could safely have fire on stage, and how seriously he takes his responsibility of handling it backstage.
Perhaps the audience knows when they walk into the lobby of the Fire Hall Theatre that a lot of parents volunteered to create a beautiful entrance to the show . Perhaps they also know how very proud those 61 kids are of their efforts, when they see them beaming as they take their stage bows.
I think they know how important the performing arts are in a young person’s life.
Yeah. I think they know that.