Hi everyone! In case you missed Part 1 of this little behind-the-scenes peek, you can catch up here. (The link won’t appear if you’re viewing an excerpt of this post… only if you’re viewing it in it’s entirety.) I’m just gonna dive right in where we left off…
So once I was in the room and ready to begin, the team requested that I start with the monologue from the show, which was great because I wasn’t going to have to tackle my nerves while singing, but awful because it required the accent. But it went really well! The monologue happened to be a big anthemic piece, accompanied by a rock band, and they actually had a guitarist there for the audition, in addition to the pianist. They played behind me while I delivered my monologue, which I wasn’t expecting, and it was a total blast. I’m pretty sure I’ve never said that about an audition before. Oh, and I was on a little stage, (because of the nature of the show I was auditioning for) so it just felt more like a performance than an audition. It was a very unusual audition setting all around, which is probably why I felt so much more at ease than normal. There’s something about being in a sterile room standing in front of a long table of people that just doesn’t encourage your best work. So I was grateful that for my jump back into the audition world I was given an environment that was much more comfortable!
When it’s time to sing the song of your choice (I didn’t even get asked to do it at this audition, which is common!) you always always always go over to the piano to check in with the pianist. Always. You’ll point out your intro bars (which of course you’ve already marked clearly, like a good little actress), where you’re starting, where you’re ending, and if there is anything funky, like bars you’ve omitted, for example). Then you do a quick tempo demonstration. While either snapping or tapping your leg on beat, sing a couple of bars under your breath for him/her so they are completely on the same page as you. They’ll appreciate it, and believe me… at an audition, there is NOTHING worse than having the pianist play at a tempo you can’t comfortably keep up with, or at a tempo that drags too slowly.
The best accompanists will be very aware of you while you’re singing and will have your back, matching your pace, and following subtle directions you may be giving with your body language, to go a little faster or whatever, but you never know what the pianist will be like, so it’s best to cover your bases and prep them appropriately. The key here is to be quick and quiet. The creative team doesn’t want to sit there for five minutes while you banter with the piano player.
Something I definitely want to share is how important it is to treat the pianist with the utmost respect. It is a hard job. High pressure. They are sight-reading music all day, and are dealing with stressed out performers. And they have the power to make or break your audition. So be kind. Treat them like you’re on the same team. If you do that, you are much more likely to have a pianist who will bend over backwards to help you if you find yourself trouble and (God forbid) forget a lyric… they’ll vamp for a second and circle back to get you. They’ll be more attuned to your needs mid-song. If you waltz over and treat them like they’re the hired help, you’ll be on your own out there. So don’t do that.
Then skeedaddle yourself back out to your spot, and once all eyes are on you again, casually say what you’re singing. You don’t need to do the children’s theater-y stiff, “Hi, my name is … and I’m going to be singing…” thing. Just be cool man. Then nod to the pianist and you’re on.
I will now share with you one of the biggest pet peeves of a creative team in the audition room:
Do NOT be all dramatic about how sick you are and that’s why you sound bad. Even if you don’t say anything, but you do that obvious shake-your-head-and-press-your-hand-on-your-chest-when-you-crack-thing. It’s so beyond annoying to them. It just sounds like an excuse and makes you look unprofessional.
Here’s what I recommend instead if your voice doesn’t get the memo that it was supposed to be awesome. First of all, if you’re actually sick, and are sick enough where it will affect your vocals, cancel. Period. You can’t win. You’re better off not going than trying to get through an audition and giving a poor showing. First impressions with casting directors are huge. If you have a bad crack or some other vocal kerfuffle, (believe me, it happens), don’t let it show on your face or in your body language while it’s happening. Continue on as if absolutely nothing went wrong. Don’t break character. Don’t flutter your eyelashes and blush. Don’t cringe. When you’re finished, I repeat: DON’T say, “Sorry I’m getting over a cold.” But in the interest of wanting the job, you shouldn’t leave it totally unaddressed either. (With the exception maybe being if you’re about to sing another song that features a similar vocal skill to what you already blew, so you’ve got another shot to show what you can do.)
My personal preference is to make light of it in a way that shows I heard the problem, and that it’s not the norm. But without making an excuse. For example, in my initial audition for We Will Rock You, I cracked pretty ridiculously on a high note, and as soon as I finished, I said with a big obviously-fake smile, “Well. THAT was AWESOME.” They all cracked up and asked if I wanted to sing it again. I did, and landed the role.
During my audition for American Idiot I had to belt really really high, and just didn’t quite get there on the big note of one particular song. Immediately after the pianist finished the button of the song, I re-sang the line I had botched, with no piano, three times in a row, rapid-fire-style. And then casually said, “THERE we go.” It made them all laugh, but also assured them (with no lame excuses) that the first time I blew it was a fluke. And probably more important, assured them I would be cool to work with. I booked the job. Obviously you need to find an approach that feels natural to you, but something along these lines is much more appropriate than the hand-on-the-chest-this-darn-cold thing. They hate that.
What happens next is always totally different. Sometimes they’ll tell you right away that they’ll be bringing you back in for another round, or for a dance call. Which is my worst nightmare, by the way. Sometimes they’ll chat with you for a minute. Sometimes they’ll ask you to tell them what else is in your book that might show them something else they’re looking for. Sometimes they’ll give you a piece of direction and ask you to do something again. Sometimes they’ll just say, “Thank you.” Regardless of what happens, always graciously thank them, even if the director was literally typing on his phone for your whole audition (yep, that’s happened to me), gather your stuff, and leave. And then exhale. Seriously though, make sure you remember all your stuff. It’s mortifying to have to slink back in there murmering, “Hello agaaiinnn…” because you left your handbag in the corner.
Typically you hear within a few days if things are going to move forward or if they have “decided to go another direction”, which is code for NO CIGAR. Or you’ll just hear nothing at all. Which is also very subtle code for NO CIGAR. And that’s when you use your finely tuned skills of bouncing back after rejection, one of the most key aspects of being a professional actor, and move on with your life. And of course, promptly forget how to do that accent, because your brain needs to make room for more important things. Like keeping track of all the words Sadie could actually mean when she says “pa-pa”. (Papa, pom-pom, pizza, play dough, and blueberry.)
So that’s about it! An overview anyway. I hope it gave you a little bit of insight on what goes on behind the scenes! Feel free to post any questions you may have in the comments section and I’ll do the best I can with them. Ciao dahhlings!