(BTW, Share your audition stories, questions and suggestions at FB’s Theatre Teachers Conspiracy)
Hi. I’ve been thinking about it being audition season for a lot of folks for their spring musical and I want to share some ideas about those famous auditions. The first is that, if you don’t already do this, you might consider doing a pre-audition read-through of the show, maybe more than one, so that your students can find out who all of the characters in the play are, not just the leads, and get to know just what it is, other than wanting to be in the show, to know who’s there, and what the storyline is, and if there are any problems that they could anticipate, or roles they haven’t thought about that they would love to have. If it’s a musical, then it’s a great time to also introduce the music, and play the CD from the show, and let them get a chance to hear what it sounds like.
A next step would be an audition workshop where you get a chance to explain to the kids what’s important to you, what are you looking for in an audition. Also, again, if it’s a musical, let your music director do the same thing. What do they want to see prepared? How ready should people walk in, with what? Maybe even some generic dance stuff. This doesn’t have to be about the particular show, but in general, are you looking for clarity of speech, are you looking for confidence? I love to do bad auditions at this workshop where I demonstrate doing an audition monologue that is way stiff, or crazed, or just soft, or way too big, or without any movement, all sorts of things that can happen, and you see them, and this way you get to let the kids see kind of what the range is that makes sense for them.
It makes a lot of sense if you can anticipate that there could be conflict after the auditions to have multiple auditioners. You have the final say, of course, but if it’s a musical, get your music director in there, have the choreographer, and even if it’s a straight play, having another teacher or two sitting with you, providing a little bit of feedback, but mostly sharing the blame as it were, so that everyone knows that there were several people whose opinion meshed in coming up with that final cast list.
Speaking of which, a great idea is to have a ticket to callbacks. You want to get into callbacks, you need that production contract signed by both student and parent. If you don’t have a production contract, for goodness sakes, get one. It’s not clear quite who reads these things. It could be an, “Oh, Mom, callbacks are today. You’ve got to sign this. I’ve got to go. Bye.” But at least it can be very helpful in clarifying in conversations just what was expected and when, and things like the show dates, and what conflicts they have, and what to do if there is a problem or conflict with a rehearsal. All of that can be spelled out in a way that no one can deny they knew about if they didn’t come in with a contract.
Also, you do not want to be casting people who don’t have their parents’ permission to do the show. Nothing worse than having some kid pulled a week before opening because the parents finally figured out that’s where the kid was after school every day, and they never gave permission for them to be in this play. So contract as a ticket for callbacks can be very helpful.
I recommend that no matter how strong or weak an auditioner, you take some very specific, quick, little notes about what those strong and weak points were. You may well have to explain to either the student, or who knows who else what influenced your decision. Sometimes I try to cast everyone, but then as stronger auditioners show up for a particular role, others filter down, but at least you have some sense of where people might fit, even if it’s the back of the chorus.
That feedback can be very helpful to students who come to you after the fact, after your cast list is posted, which you’re probably doing on a Friday, and possibly online. You do not want to be doing this at the beginning of the day and destroy everyone’s lives. But providing some feedback, shifting the conversation from, “What was wrong with me?” To, “What did you see? And is there anything I could do to improve next time?” Can be most valuable.
If there are conversations, this is number seven, if there are conversations with parents and/or administrators about casting decisions you made, two things: first, is you can’t ever win by undoing a cast list you’ve posted. Even if you realize you have made a mistake and should have cast someone else, you’ve got to find a way to live with that and make it work. The other is, to try to shift the conversation to one about resilience, and how parents can help kids deal with disappointment, how lucky to have this disappointment happen while they still have the safety net of home. You don’t want everything to go perfect until the kids are out on their own. And if this is something that didn’t go perfectly, okay, how are they going to deal with it? Hopefully, that’s be being involved with the production in some other way, backstage, or assisting you, or whatever works for you.
Lots of possibilities, much to think about, lots of tension, emotions run high. These are drama kids after all. Have a great time. Break a leg. Do great shows. Thanks.