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90 Seconds of Glory

UPTA.

TCUTA.

SETC.

NETC.

MWTA.

StrawHats.

If reading these letters makes you want to pop a Xanax, you’re not alone. Compressing all of your talent, skill, and artistry into a 90-second sales pitch can be a harrowing challenge, and no, it doesn’t show you off in the best way possible; but that’s not the point of those 90 seconds. The point is to introduce yourself, to say “Here’s me, and here’s what I do. If you’d like to see more, call me back!” So if you’re desperately trying to shove every conceivable facet of your talent into your “package” (that’s shorthand for your 90-second audition package, don’t get it twisted), then you’ve broken the cardinal rule of show business: Always leave ‘em wanting more!

Selecting Material

This topic is an entire blog unto itself; but here are a few bullet points to help steer you in the right direction.

  • Review this comprehensive “overdone” list. It’s very sensible. It’s not completely up-to-date but it sure is a good start.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, avoid songs that are obscure just to find something obscure. They’re probably obscure for a reason. 
  • There are exceptions to both of the above rules.
  • Read this list of “Songs I Never Mind Hearing at Auditions.” (Disclaimer: I’m married to this guy.)
  • What do you do? What’s your “thing”? What are your strengths? Your material SHOULD represent the answers to those questions. 
  • What are your weaknesses? Your material should NOT represent those.
  • We don’t need to hear the money notes. Don’t select material SOLELY for the reason that it has a high Q# at the end. 
  • IF and only IF you are a BELTER (male or female): Please do not yell at us. Everybody loves a fierce belt but nobody wants to be shouted at all day long. Fierce = control & refinement. 
  • IF YOU ARE NOT A FIERCE BELTER THEN DO NOT SING A FIERCE BELTER SONG. 
  • Not everyone needs to be a belter. I am never mad at a sensible warm mix.
  • IF SINGING IS NOT YOUR PRIMARY SKILL THEN DO NOT SING. “But I want to get seen!” You don’t want to get seen being anything less than your best. Do your BEST work for some of the people, not your WORST work for all the people. Or, to put it another way: NPFT
  • If your monologue has lascivious clowns, your mother’s ashes, or a murdered fish, find something else.

Those 90 Seconds
(or 60, if you’re not a singer (see above about not singing))

Listen to me.

Are you listening?

NO SERIOUSLY. LISTEN TO THIS NEXT PART VERY CAREFULLY:

Nobody cares if TIME is called on you. 

Here’s the thing. You have 90 seconds (or 60, if you’re an actor-not-a-singer) to deliver the goods. You will practice your “package” and time yourself 96,000 times before the big day. You will come in WELL under the limit every time. And then on the big day, the time/space continuum expands and somehow you’re just getting to the good part when 

“TIME!”

is called and you stutter, panic, mumble and stumble offstage with your head hung low. But guess what? NOBODY CARES. So if you go over time and you hear the timekeeper hollering 

“TIME!” 

like you’re on Top Chef or something, just stop talking or singing and take a breath in and let it out. Then say your name & number, smile, and strut offstage like you just won the damn Tony. 

Other tips to make the most of your 90 seconds of Glory:

  • Take your time walking onstage.
  • Don’t cheese the audience. It’s not a pageant.
  • Practice saying the word “availability”.
  • Make sure your starting note is clear.
  • Don’t rush the ending. Take a moment to breathe before you say your name & number.
  • Say “availability”. Say it now. 

Dance Callbacks

  • Go to the warmup! Several companies watch warmup, some even leave before the audition starts. 
  • Dress warmly: Hotel ballrooms are always freezing cold.
  • This one is especially for the movers among you: Don’t ever stop moving! Keep practicing until it’s time for you to walk in the audition room. Your body might know it but your mind will freeze under pressure (and vice versa). 

Callbacks

So here’s the weird thing about SETC, UPTA, etc.: Callbacks take place in the company’s hotel room. THIS IS THE ONLY INSTANCE IN WHICH IT IS ACCEPTABLE TO AUDITION IN SOMEONE’S HOTEL ROOM.

  • Bring a refillable water bottle and keep drinking it.
  • Bring a pitch pipe/download a pitch pipe app on your phone, or bring accompaniment tracks for your callbacks. Hotel rooms don’t come with pianos (at least, not the ones that theatre companies can afford!). Sometimes the company will bring a keyboard but mostly you’re going to sing a cappella; so having your own tracks ready to go is always impressive (and more fun).
  • If you get a lot of callbacks, prioritize. You don’t have to go to all of them. Don’t feel bad; it’s ok if you want to give us a pass. Just slip one of those reject slips under the door and let us know. Don’t just not show up.
  • Plan to stay at least an extra half-day, preferably an extra full day, just in case you don’t make it to all your callbacks. Some companies do morning or afternoon callbacks so if you miss them at night you can hit them the next day.
  • Have a repertoire list ready to hand out. If a company rep asks you “What else do you have?” You don’t want to be stumbling. Have a list ready to go and you’ll save everyone lots of time.
  • When singing a cappella, always keep the beat. Don’t skip beats just because you’re not singing. You have to hear the band in your head, because we will. Here’s Intern Noellia to demonstrate:

THE RIGHT WAY

THE WRONG WAY:

One more word about callbacks: It’s hard, but please try not to compare yourself with your friends. You just never know the reason companies respond more to one artist than another in any given season. The fewer callbacks you have, the more you can prepare for them!

These combined auditions can be crazy town; but they’re an adventure. Enjoy the ride and don’t obsess over the outcome. 

See you in Memphis!

Life Your Life (eh-ay, eh-ay, eh-ay)

Do Your Job, and Let Me Do Mine.

I know you go to Blockheads after your audition and sit around doing post-game analysis on your auditions.  I know, because I’ve seen you do it.  You scrutinize every note, every choice (or lack thereof), every conversation with the creative team, every word we said – or didn’t say – to you during your audition.  You talk to each other and compare notes and try to get inside our heads and figure out which way we’re going with each track and what we’re looking for, and why you got called back for this track and not that track.  You share rumors and stories and try to play Casting Director, and by the time I see you again, you think you’ve got it all figured out; but really you are way off-base and you end up blowing your audition because you tried to do my job instead of yours.  I see it all the time.  Just trust that I know what I’m doing, don’t read anything into anything, and be prepared.  Here’s a simple breakdown of your job versus my job:

Your Job

Do what you do best.  Resist the temptation to aim your audition to a specific character.  Just do what we ask you to do and be who you are.

If you don’t get a callback, let it go.  Go take a class, go make some money, go sit in the park and absorb nature, go drink, go to the gym.  Just keep going.

If you DO get a callback, start preparing your material (if any).  Familiarize yourself with the show, do your research, hire a coach to help you with your sides & music, and get that material POLISHED and PERFECTED. You should walk into that callback like it’s opening night.  If called back to dance, learn the dance combination ahead of time, if possible, look at some videos of that choreographer’s work, or take a class in that style.

Be prepared to take notes, make adjustments, switch characters, cold read new sides, learn new songs and new dances.

When you’re done with your callback, let it go.  See above.

Keep a journal or some kind of record of your auditions and callbacks.  Review it often to track your progress.  Patterns will start to emerge after awhile, and those will help you work through any stumbling blocks you may encounter.

My Job

Analyze your package (stop it, you know what I mean) and figure out where you fit into the show, if at all; and call you back accordingly.

A) Call you back if you fit into the show; B) File you if I think you would be useful to us for another project, now or later.

Make sure you get all the material and information you need to properly prepare yourself.  Answer any questions you or your agent has about the callback, the material, the project.

Make sure I don’t let you out of the room until we have all of the information we need about you.  Consult with creative team about all of the possible places you might fit in the show.

After audition, file your information appropriately and make sure that it’s available for the creative team if needed.  Add you to lists for other projects, if this one doesn’t work out.

Keep calling you back as long as you have potential for the show… and not waste your time if it’s just not going to happen.

Auditioning is your job.  When your work day is over, you must learn to let go of your work and live your life.  Having a balanced life will make you a better person and a better artist.  Constantly obsessing over and analyzing every audition will make you a hot mess in and out of the room.  It’s a challenge for all of us – I take my work home with me, too, although I try not to – but it is a challenge worth tackling.  We will all be happier for it!

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