Secrets of a Theatre Teacher: Auditions

Auditions

First of all, you should note that this post is not a revealing, tell-all about the process behind my casting choices. This is a post about the experience of…

Auditions. What a heavy, double edge word. Such a word has connotation for both pure excitement and dreadful anxiety.

As an actor of any age in the seconds before you walk onto the stage to audition, you are faced with either the sensation of throwing yourself off a ledge and into the casting director’s judgement or the thrill of jumping over the edge and into a pool of new possibilities. Or both. Theatre is such a funny art.

I have been to many auditions in my life time, waiting “on deck” to perform my piece and monologue in a stew on anticipation, however as a director I get a completely different experience with auditions.

As a children’s theatre director, I find now auditions so fun and yes, very stressful  in a  way that is completely different from being the auditionee. It is very nostalgic for me to watch children of all ages go through the audition process.

The most recent auditions I hosted was for a kid’s version of Winnie the Pooh. The day of auditions was met with a typical mix of emotions.

Just as I once did at their age, I sat in the audience waiting to be called on stage to audition. As I look over my shoulder behind me, I could see the worry in some eyes and the twinkling excitement in others. To be so young and aware of the importance of auditions makes me happy to have my job. I often have parents come up to me and tell me their child has been practicing for weeks on their audition performance.

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Typically the way I hold auditions consists of singing a portion of a song and reading from a couple scenes I have chosen from the script. Although not required, sometimes students have monologues prepared that they get the chance to perform. With my beginning group I often have some students that don’t know how to read so instead of reading from a scene in the script, they do a little bit of improvisation and movement.

For Pooh auditions, the young students sang and danced like bees in the show. They did such a good job at it too! So. Cute. Once again another reason why I think I may have the best job ever.

Every time a student leaves the stage I often see a look of relief and accomplishment. What other people may not realize is that occasionally I see a look of disappointment in their own performance as well. Its amazing how such young artists are already critical on themselves, regardless of how well their audition was.

As a director and a teacher, I often feel a lot of compassion for my auditionees. I am very forgiving of nerves and “mess ups” and often reassure kids that they are in a safe place. I want their experience to be positive so when auditions roll around again in their lives they feel like they can step up to the bat. At the company I work at, every student that auditions get a role. I know this is not feasible for every theatre company out there, but I never want students to ever feel too inadequate or intimidated to ever audition.

Once auditions are over, and after everyone leaves and the nervous chatter ends, the hard part really begins. I know that some students are going to be disappointed with their roles, although often times they don’t understand how important their roles truly are. However, for example, not everyone can be Winnie or Tigger. I know that regardless of what role they get, being in a production and creating something of their own is priceless. I always hope that one day they will realize it too.

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Casting is truly like putting together a jigsaw puzzle with only a rough sketch of what the end result should be like. It is a hard process that is stressful and sometimes a gamble. Occasionally casting goes very quickly, like a bandaid being pulled off, and sometimes it is extremely long and gruesome. Regardless, after making the final decision, I am often left with excitement to begin a new adventure with a new group of students.

Auditions may be a nerve wracking or fun experience, but ultimately I found that since I have started directing what they mean to me (and hopefully my students) is the beginning of a new family, a new story, and a new opportunity to share my love of arts with creative children.

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