Last week I went back to auditioning. I haven’t been in quite a while and I only plan to go to the big stuff but I auditioned for 2 Broadway shows before noon. For anyone in the trenches, you know that that can sometimes be quite a feat. It felt great, scary, weird, stupid, meaningless, huge, amazing, annoying and a million other things I could conjure up. The general feeling of why is still there for me. I love being able to sing, make people smile, tell a story, and illicit feelings within my audience and myself. The more I sat and observed the perimeter, I realized how crazy the business just keeps on getting.
As someone who has not been actively going to auditions in the past few years, I was quietly observing for a lot of my first day back in. I think it is the most valuable lesson for any performer, to observe and learn from your surroundings. I learnT. 🙂
I looked around all morning at the headshots people were handing over and the clothes they were wearing. There are dozens of classes to make sure our clothes and headshots are representing us the best. I could not get over the ridiculousness of the headshots I was seeing. Oh, the costumes, oh the hats, oh the wind, oh wait are you sure that’s you? A girl literally had more pictures on her resume than actual credits. Where are the credits people? Where are the paid gigs on your resume? That’s another blog. I love sizing up the wardrobe choices too. There was a lesbian character in the show’s breakdown so every girl with short hair was wearing a flannel shirt and skinny jeans. Everybody is on a mission to be super cool and look like they don’t care, like the hipsters invaded Broadway. Dressing appropriately for an audition and time period is important but don’t wear a costume or over generalize. Maybe I’m not up with the times but I still feel that dressing up for an audition is respectful. I would do the same for a job interview and that’s what it is. Do we lose sight of this as we desperately try to book work?
Name dropping has always been a thing but at auditions, we go into Olympic training for a drop here and a drop there. If we drop the right name, we might get extra special treatment- ooh me me me! “We both worked at Blah Playhouse!” even if it was a 50 year difference in time. Oy. It’s very much like who you sat with in the lunchroom at school. There are the Kinky Phantom of Chicago tour kids, the Bumblefuck Theatre group, the audition buddies catching up and swapping pages in their rep books, the dancer boys stretching in the corner, and then everyone else with their ear buds on. All the kids are cool and the cool kids are alive and well in the theatre community. Cool versus a commodity you do the comparison. Who knows who is who anymore. I was never a networking person. If I think you’re cool or I like you, I’ll friend you on Facebook. Why not? If I don’t care, I won’t do anything. I’m nice because I’m nice and because I think you’re nice but now it’s all about what you can get. If someone isn’t writing you songs or buying you cocktails, in this world, you are behind. I don’t want to kiss that much ass to get ahead and I know that’s what this business has become. I work hard and I’m talented. I make friends where I find good people and don’t use them for what they can get me. I know TOO MANY people who do not operate the same way.
Another incredibly valuable tool is to listen to what people are singing. As I sat and listened I heard some AWESOME choices, intuitive and smart but most of all well sung. I also heard some poor choices and some untrained/unsupported voices; this disappoints me. That’s a representation of all of us who work to perfect and study. Study is required by even the greats to maintain a healthy, smart and mobile instrument. You don’t have to like my sound but you will respect the work that has gone into it. Picking a song is another story and an admitted weakness of mine. Even I felt good about my choices after listening to some of my fellow ladies. Instead of picking a song in the style of the show like in the good old days, the pickings were the most obscure, screlty, loud anthems with money notes at the end that just don’t make sense. It’s rare to see people really commit and connect to a song in such a short amount of time but when it happens, I just really hope they get the job. Remember the days in college when we were coached on what to sing and how to do it? Man, that was awesome, to feel coached and prepared all the time. We are constantly pulled by questions over WHAT to sing; now I feel like I’m always adding songs and just throwing things together between my lessons and job and other job and life. Is the song a contemporary, classic, uptempo, ballad, Golden age, pop/rock, country, or fairy kind of song? What if it doesn’t fit into those categories? Is the song too overdone? Does it fit the style? I rethink and often switch because I doubt that my song “fits” or is appropriate enough. There are millions of options for every audition and I feel conflicted every time as I’m sure many others do. There are just so many options now. You can’t lose but sometimes you feel you just can’t win with what you pick. Does everything rest in WHAT you sing? Shouldn’t it be about how you sing?
The other day a Facebook friend posted that she was going to sing all the songs you’re “not supposed to.” GOOD FOR HER. At this point, I say sing them if you slay them. I learned that from my return to the trenches. Same shit, different year. It all looks the same on the outside but in my quiet time, I realized a few things. I gotta sing what I love and what I sound awesome singing. I don’t care if it’s Mister Snow from Carousel or even Let It Go from Frozen. I have to let my fabulous voice teacher be the only voice in my head- no more doubting myself. I also learned to just be me and wear the dress but pick one that’s appropo. I’m not gonna wear high heels for American Idiot but respect is due and I’m gonna give it. As for name dropping, I’m gonna drop my own with my headshot, reminisce with old friends, and let my talent do the dropping, LIKE IT’S HOT. This isn’t judgement- this is the reality of this business. Our business is trying to make it in an overabundance of choices, good, bad, right, wrong, ugly, pretty, fat, thin, smart, clever, etc. We want to earn the great things we get. Watch, people. Steal and borrow things you like. Live and learn from things that don’t work and keep on trucking. Welcome back, Cari. Now get your ass to the next audition. Get out there.