A Few Thoughts from Andrew Gall on Auditioning for Parkway Playhouse
Every great performance, even by the mightiest of stage and screen stars, started out with an audition of some kind.Dr. James A. Panowski, an especially beloved teacher of mine at Northern Michigan University, taught an Auditioning Class that all theatre undergraduates had to take. It was incredibly beneficial and I will never forget what was written on a handout that “Dr. P” gave us:
Life is not fair.
Theatre is less fair than life.
Auditions are the least fair part of theatre.
So now that auditions for the upcoming 2015 Mainstage Season are THIS COMING WEEKEND, I thought I would share some of my thoughts about auditions and casting.
An Audition is Like a Sample Performance
Thinking about auditions as a ‘mini performance’ is not new. For a director, seeing what an actor is like as a performer is paramount. Getting the sense of what a paying audience will see and experience when they are on stage is the most exciting thing about watching a good actor’s audition. Many actors get hung up on whether what they are doing is “right” or, worse “what the director wants” instead of just giving their level best performance. An audition isn’t like a spelling quiz. While its true not every actor is “right” for every show, in most cases that is totally out of the actor’s control. I think many actors would be surprised to know that directors wish them to be successful at their auditions.
Actors Aren’t the Only Ones Who are Nervous
There have been times I have come to auditions nervous about how we’re going to cast a role. I am not looking to just fill in the blanks on a cast list, I am looking for collaborators. I am looking for actors who have confidence, ideas, spirit, and who can show up prepared to make something happen. There is a lot on the line at auditions, so when I tell an actor that I want them to blow me away, I am not kidding. I am dead serious and am over the moon when I get an audition that defies my own expectations. When this happens, everyone’s nerves diminish.
“The Director Knows What I Can Do”
I don’t have ESP. If an actor is interested in a role for a show I am directing, I will expect them to audition. An audition from an actor indicates a serious interest in the project and that they are willing to collaborate. Actors who expect me to seek them out, because I innately “know what they can do” (whatever that means) are not likely to get cast. The actors whose work I respect and who I have enjoyed long collaborative relationships with expect to audition.
1) When you go to an audition you should read the play first, if you are at all serious about being cast. Getting a copy of the play to read is not hard. We put all of our scripts on a reserve shelf at the Yancey County Library. Other theatres have scripts you can check out and any published play can be found in online or local bookstores.
2) At auditions many actors are asked to read from the script and good actors will take this as an opportunity to be inventive. Show me what you can do with the material! Be bold! This reading may be the ONE chance you have to demonstrate what you can do, so don’t hold back. I may ask actors after they read to do something different. This isn’t because what they did was “wrong”, it might be because I want to see what else they can do. It most definitely means they have my attention and I am interested. Actors who just read the script appear bored and uncomfortable.
3) If you are auditioning for a musical, you will need to sing as part of your audition. We typically ask for folks to have 16 bars of two contrasting songs to sing, with sheet music that is in the correct key and with cuts clearly marked. You should also show up prepared for the choreography audition, with appropriate clothing and footwear.
4) If you are a professional actor and you are asked to show up with a headshot, a resume, and prepared material you should have it and be ready to go. Your audition material should present material that you like performing and that showcases you well. Your material should not be weird or alienating. Monologues that are rife with explicit sexual content, profanity, or maniacal ravings/sadistic/strange/abstract are not good choices. These kinds of pieces might in fact be quite exciting to perform, but if I don’t know you they don’t tell me anything valuable. Also, the kinds of shows/roles that really call for that kind of material are few and far between.
The best actors, or at least the actors I like to work with, are very authentic, sincere people. They have informed opinions, lots of ideas, and they have an accessible sense of humor. I get very suspicious of actors who are obsequious and take themselves too seriously. I want to work with people who are relatively comfortable with being themselves and are relaxed and positive in their outlook.
The Most Important Thing
Be nice to everyone you meet. All of the time.
Looking forward to seeing everyone at auditions this weekend!
Andrew Gall, Parkway Playhouse’s Artistic Director
Parkway Playhouse, located in the Appalachian town of Burnsville, NC, is a haven of theatre talent. While people come to the mountains to get away, Parkway Playhouse is a natural gathering place to connect. Likewise, we are an extension of traditional mountain talents: singing, dancing, and, foremost, storytelling. By giving rise to energetic new voices and through a wide variety of plays and musicals, we invite our audience into experiences that are thought-provoking, adventurous, and entertaining. Together we reimagine the world in every live performance, creating dynamic conversations that last far beyond the curtain call.
This blog is will feature stories, helpful information, insight and features about the performances.
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