In my life, I have been lucky enough to cross over from the auditioning side of things to the auditor side of things at three places. Auditions are so tough, especially if the nature of the beast is improv – there’s a lot of pressure to make a make-believe moment count, just showing a slice of what you can do in an alloted amount of time. Boy, that’s hard.
This week, I had the strong urge to audition for a show, because I wanted to implement what I know now, watching auditions and graduation shows so frequently. Instead, I’ll share what’s helped me, hoping it helps you. Here’s what I’ve learned so far – the good and the bad.
1. Your auditors are rooting for you.
TAKE COMFORT, DEAR FRIEND! Yes, let’s get fear one out of the way: it is advantageous to remember not only have your auditors been you in almost all situations, but, they want you to thrive, because they are looking to hire. Moreover, even if there’s not many spots to fill, they want you to be good just because it is fun to watch people be good at things. It’s just like an audience – the quickest way to get over a fear of public speaking is to remember that your crowd probably wants to have a decent time. Then, it’s easier to provide it.
2. Speak the fuck up.
What is going on, auditionees (and also, classes)? Rule one, I’d like to hear you and see you, so I can feel something about what you are doing. Please be nuanced in your acting, not your volume level. If you’re playing subtlety, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be able to hear you. Slating your name in an audition line shouldn’t be the only time I hear your work.
3. Be passionate/happy/excited to be there (in a way that suits you).
Hey, you don’t need to shit rainbows, but you don’t look like you’re having too much fun playing make believe with your friends. You do realize that is indeed what you’re doing, yeah? If you look miserable doing pretend with a bunch of adults, GTFO. What will you be like to work with? I certainly don’t want to get in a touring van with you, a professional stage, a corporate gig where things aren’t perfect, or hang out with you, generally.
3b. No auditor should be more stoked than you.
If I am out-friendlying, out-welcoming, out-dancing, out-gladhanding, out-interesting you on the other side of the table, you are doing it wrong. I’m probably trying to tell you something about the culture of that place upon your entrance. I shouldn’t be impressing you, I should be making you feel warmly welcomed – now, you go.
4. Support your partner, and their horrible/wonderful ideas.
In the course of this calendar year, I have watched over 500 auditionees. The ones I loved most was where there was a mismatch of experiential level, and through that, no one looked like an idiot. You WILL be matched with someone who has less or more experience than you. You WILL possibly be paired up with a person that retired from ETC or is in 5 Luna commercials and wants a different opportunity, or you’ll be with the dude that flew in from Arizona who’s seen Tommy Boy 74 times and is the funny guy at the watercooler. Can you handle both? I hope you can handle both, and the way to begin handling both is respecting and heightening ideas that come out of both of those archetype’s mouths. Play. Dress up silly ideas. Engage. If it feels weird, get weirder. Honor each other. Are you making your new friend look good? Trust us, we know which one of you is doing the gift giving.
5. An audition for a professional ensemble is a (really fun) job interview.
Are you treating the ensemble/group you want to participate in with respect? Have you done any research on the place or form? Have you seen a show? Have you looked up what the time commitment might be to join said place? Are you ready to make that ensemble one of three priorities, not seven? If the answer to any of these is no, don’t audition.
Short form isn’t an opportunity to yell, long form isn’t an opportunity to clam up and give no ideas, and sketch isn’t an opportunity to shoehorn in a replication of another player. Be you. We don’t need another whomever, we need a You. We need you, playing at the best of your ability. Don’t play what you have stereotyped the show to be, play a good improv scene, and let the auditors see that. Talk at a measure where we can understand you. Contribute and listen. Digest other’s ideas, going line by line, no matter the pacing. Get oxygen.
7. Dress like you’re going on a great first date, but like, at a bowling alley.
I want you to feel awesome about yourself, and in every day life, I want you to know that whatever you wear won’t make me judge you. Your clothing may be expression, or an afterthought, and either way, that’s fine. HOWEVER, if you are walking into one of the places I LOVE to audition for a form I REVERE with my friends I ADORE and you’re wearing cargo shorts and a stained Q*Bert shirt, we got a problem, bro. Are you serious? Was this audition merely just an afterthought for you? Then you will become one for me. On-topic, ladies, please wear fucking tights. Sweet lordt, please wear tights/leggings if you’ve GOTTA WEAR THAT DRESS, GURL. You’ve limited yourself to 50% (well, 51%) of people by wearing that dress in the first place, and if you bend over and I see France, then, I think you’re a beginner no matter your level. Run a comb through that hair, wash that face, give a rip.
8. Uncross your arms, get your hands off your hips, and give a shit when it’s not your turn to go.
We’re watching you most when it’s not your turn – at least, I am. Are you supportive? Are you brave enough to laugh at someone else’s work, not threatened by the response they receive? Are you eager to assist, to play, to go? Or, are you staring at the floor? Please know I know whyyy you’re staring at the floor (you are scared and judging everything you just said or haven’t said yet), but, yeah bro, you’re staring at the floor. Eyes up, chin up, play well.
9. Be honest on your resume.
We know where you have worked. Saying you do ComedySportz is a lie – It’s an ensemble of 40 people on the mainstage and we all know each other. Saying you work at SC when you’ve done a Skybox run isn’t true. Making up a Harold team that has never existed at iO – that’s our job when we’re doing bits and drinking as a game, not a CV builder. Mentioning you were in _____ back in ______ – we have friends, everywhere. Improv is global, and so are our friendships and sense of community. It’s way cooler to say the real things you really did, and be PROUD of those things, so we can assess what you may need if we hire you (a boot camp or immersion) and, we can think your independent project is cool since YOU came out of it. Don’t lie.
10. Auditions are opportunities to get better, feel humility, monitor your own journey and growth.
Reflect upon what you have done, and work hard to get better next time. Be gentle on yourself and know WE know that auditions aren’t everything – they are a moment in time to sample what you are, and sometimes, those samplings are difficult. You are not a failure. You are awesome. Very few other jobs make you prove a lifetime of skills in a matter of minutes – unless you’re doing something like dismantling a bomb. No matter how you do, do something nice for yourself after, because you did something cool, you tried. Oh, and remind yourself of this: Know that sometimes there are limited spots, and really, it’s not about you – you may have done wonderfully, but there were only so many spots. One time, Steven Colbert, Steve Carrell, and Will Ferrell auditioned on the same day, on the monologue stage, for SNL. Only one got it. That’s a real story. They were all liked. And now? – They are all doing fine. There, isn’t that nice to hear? Maybe this will be your Ferrell moment, or maybe with hard work, your Colbert/Carell moment is just around the bend.
Thinking of you. Rooting for you. Now, go get ’em.