Audition advice

<p>We revised our guidelines this year, and I thought it might be helpful to share some portions of it with everyone. There are other sections specifically aimed at students auditioning for our program; if you are, please make sure you read the entire document that you received from our audition coordinator.</p>

<p>Happy Thanksgiving to all!</p>

<p>OUR MISSION</p>

<p>In our desire to develop theatre artists and artisans of the highest ability, our program provides a select number of undergraduate students with the training, education and experiences necessary for the successful pursuit of careers in the American professional theatre. In support of the liberal arts goals of the University, we also seek to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to live full, rewarding and productive lives. </p>

<p>Because we define our mission this way, we are looking for students who want actor-training and a liberal arts education, students who are interested in other human beings and who want to learn everything about them, students who love the theatre and want to spend their lives doing it. </p>

<p>Because we define ourselves as a school that trains actors and educates human beings, acting is the root of our training programs. Of course we are interested in students who can sing coloratura or do three pirouettes. But that’s not enough. We need students who want to use their acting, singing and dancing skills to tell stories to audiences hungry to hear them.</p>

<p>WHAT WE WANT TO SEE</p>

<p>We want to see you.</p>

<p>We can see you if you play… </p>

<p>• characters that you understand,
• caught in situations that you understand,
• who are demanding what they need from the other characters in the scene,
• using the words (and, in songs, the music) as tactics to achieve their objectives. </p>

<p>If you make all the characters’ desires your own, we will be able to see you.</p>

<p>We can’t see you if you…</p>

<p>• do a piece in an accent that isn’t yours, in order to show us that you can do accents,
• yell or cry hysterically in order to show us that you can be emotional,
• sing very loudly to show us what a big voice you have,
• sing very high notes to show us what a great range you have,
• use props,
• choose a piece with words designed by the playwright to be shocking, or
• wear clothing that calls attention to parts of your body other than your face.</p>

<p>In other words, don’t push an image of yourself at us. Rather, share yourself and the pieces with us. It’s a subtle mental shift, but it has enormous positive consequences.</p>

<p>AUDITIONING: THE MONOLOGUES</p>

<p>It may surprise you to know that casting directors don’t use monologues. Instead, they typically ask actors to read scenes with someone from their office. Acting is about relationships, and it’s very difficult to act with an imaginary partner. But we don’t have the luxury of an hour with each of you, and so we use monologues instead. It’s not ideal, but almost all professional training programs use them.</p>

<p>Here are some tips that should help:</p>

<p>• Because we want to see you, it is better to do pieces written for younger characters, rather than characters who have much more life experience than you do. </p>

<p>• Choose monologues written about characters in situations that you understand in your gut, because you’ve been in similar situations, or you have friends or siblings or parents who have lived through them. Maybe a play moved you to tears when you first read it. Maybe you couldn’t stop laughing. Both are good signs of connecting with the material. You need to feel a connection. </p>

<p>• Choose (at least) one piece that has humor. That may seem to be a contradiction to the previous suggestion, but it isn’t. Much comedy comes from tragedy retold in a humorous way, and there’s humor in tragedy as well. One of the funniest things some characters do is rage and wail. (That’s also a reason you should not rage and wail in a piece that you want us to take seriously.) For musical theatre auditions, the humor can be in the monologue or in one of the songs. Up-tempo songs tend to be funnier than ballads.</p>

<p>• You may choose to do a piece from Sophocles, Shakespeare, Ibsen, Chekhov, Synge, O’Neill, etc. All of them wrote wonderful young characters. But be careful: sometimes the words in poetic drama become so thick that we can’t get past them. We watch you “doing Shakespeare” instead of watching you using Shakespeare’s words to accomplish your character’s goals. Generally, it’s safer to do more contemporary material that doesn’t demand an in-depth understanding of acting styles. But we don’t rule out anything that works for you.</p>

<p>• Make sure that you’re playing characters in high-stakes situations, characters using strong tactics to get something they desperately need from the other characters in the scene.</p>

<p>AUDITIONING: THE SONGS</p>

<p>We want to hear you.</p>

<p>The same guidelines apply to songs as to monologues. Do songs that you connect with. Choose songs written for younger characters. Choose songs about characters in situations that you understand in your gut. Choose at least one song or monologue that has some humor. Remember: singing is acting with music, not just making beautiful sounds.</p>

<p>But musical values are still essential. Effective audition songs let us hear the range, quality, and size of your voice, your sense of style and command of technique, as well as your ability to act the song:</p>

<p>• Range: It’s better not to try to show us your very highest notes, or how loud you can sing. Again, it’s about sharing, not showing. Songs should live within the range you are comfortable singing. But do make sure that the song has more than a five- or six-note range. We don’t learn very much from such songs.</p>

<p>• Style and Technique: We listen for good diction, accuracy in pitch and rhythm, support and control of the breath, and the ability of the voice to “ring” throughout the vocal registers used by the singer. Many of you have worked diligently on these issues with your voice teacher. But don’t do any of these things for their own sake. Practice the songs long enough so that your technique becomes a part of the way you sing. That way you will be able to focus on acting the song. The best way to think about technique is to view it as part of the constellation of tactics that your characters are using to achieve their objectives.</p>

<p>• Quality: Some singers have a legitimate sound, as in the kinds of voices heard on the original cast recording of Oklahoma! This style, based on operetta and opera, is still very much alive in works like Light in the Piazza. It’s also the core of our vocal training, so one of your two songs should be in this style. There are many places to find this style, including current musicals. But another place to find this style is in musical theatre repertoire written between 1930 and 1980, including songs by George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Kurt Weill, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe, Leonard Bernstein, or Kander & Ebb. </p>

<p>Some singers have character voices, required for most of the characters in Guys and Dolls. Some singers can rock it high. Some singers can belt or mix. If one of these is your best sound, let us hear it. Just make sure that you’re not straining or yelling or screaming. </p>

<p>AUDITION ATTIRE</p>

<p>Remember what we said before about not wearing clothes or jewelry or shoes that distract us from your face and what you’re saying or singing? While you may normally sport lots of rings or military boots or long hair falling across your eyes, those things can be so distracting that it’s all we see. Same for too much exposed skin, or flip-flops, sandals, and most athletic shoes.</p>

<p>At the same time, an audition is not a business interview, so please do not wear a suit and tie, or a suit and pumps. The intent of those clothes in a business interview is to prove that you can fit into a business environment. That’s not helpful to us. </p>

<p>But an audition isn’t a picnic or a party, either, where you might wear torn jeans or cargo pants or shorts or t-shirts with cute logos. Don’t wear those. And it’s not a prom, so please don’t wear cocktail or prom dresses. And don’t wear spike heels. If you’re comfortable in heels, and think they make you look good, wear character shoes or something with a similar heel.</p>

<p>So what can you wear? Clothes that fit well, that you feel comfortable in, that you look good in (and feel that you look good in), and that draw our eyes to your face and hands. Shirts and pants work for men and women alike. Skirts are fine for some women, and for some, a dress can work very well. So can classy jeans. We want to watch you, not your clothes.</p>

<p>Since you will be doing some dance at the audition, you should come dressed in clothes that you can move in. Women may wish to wear tights if they choose to wear a dress.</p>

<p>OTHER GUIDELINES FOR SINGERS</p>

<p>BRING YOUR BOOK</p>

<p>Experienced singers have a book that includes representative songs that they have studied and know well enough to be able to sing on request. During your audition and interview, you may be asked to sing something other than your audition pieces. So please bring additional pieces in a separate 3-ring binder from your audition binder. You can organize them in any way you want, but it is very helpful to have a table of contents in the front. It’s also a good idea to have the full-length versions of your audition songs in your book.</p>

<p>LAST THOUGHTS</p>

<p>Lead with your best piece. You may be tempted to do your weakest piece first to get it out of the way, and save your best for last. It’s not an effective strategy. Remember the old adage: you only have one chance to make a first impression. </p>

<p>Don’t yell, either in the monologue or the songs, unless it’s for comic effect.</p>

<p>Share yourself and your work with everyone in the room. We are your audience and we all want you to do well.</p>

<p>Best wishes. See you soon.</p>

<p>doctorjohn</p>

<p>Marvelous!</p>

<p>Thank you!</p>

<p>Refreshing. Wish my D was in a small liberal arts program with this kind of philosophy instead of a huge state school program, but we simply couldn't afford the private school :(</p>

<p>Very enlightening! I am really looking forward to my son's audition in January at your school. My cousin graduated from Otterbein many years ago (not musical theatre) and she loved it there.</p>

<p>Wow, what a thoughtful and practical entry. Thank you.</p>

<p>Daughter will see you all this Friday! She's excited to return to campus, after an excellent visit last fall that really showed what a unique place Otterbein is!</p>

<p>Wow, that is a really helpful and informative post. Thank you, Dr. John!
I'm relieved that all her decisions have pretty much fallen in line with your advice!</p>

<p>Bumping - great info.</p>

<p>Thank you, this was very helpful!</p>

<p>This thread was very helpful. My D is a lyric colortura soprano, and has been told by some that all the best MT programs want are belters. Nice to know that one of the top schools still appreciates voices like Shirley Jones and Julie Andrews.</p>

<p>Bumping up for this years students!</p>