Important Things to Remember for Community Theatre Actors
So you’ve always wanted to play Liesl or Jean Valjean, but you’ve never taken a singing lesson in your life. Don’t sweat it, you can still make the callbacks. There are some easy steps to prepare yourself for an audition no matter what your level of ability, and you don’t have to commit to regular lessons with a teacher.
Choosing the Right Song for the Right Show
The first thing to accomplish is music selection. If you are not sure what the director wants, take a look at the show that is being produced. If it is an older style of music, such as Rogers and Hammerstein, or Lerner and Lowe, then the director will want to hear a specific style of song. If the show is newer, such as Andrew Lloyd-Weber or Stephen Schwartz, he or she will want to hear a completely different style.
- Watch the movie, if there is one. But remember, sometimes the movies are presented in a way that is not approved by the director, and some directors advise actors not to watch the movie.
- Go see the show. If you what show is coming up that you might want to audition for, check the listings right away to see if it is already playing in the region. It’s worth the drive.
- Get to know the character and the storyline. Read the script and find the characterization of the role you’d like to play. Is he high and mighty? Is she sweet and sassy? Practice talking in that way, and then just sing any song you know with that style. Think about Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President.”
The best policy is to choose a song from a similar character in a show by the same composers. If you are auditioning for Carrie in Carousel, then consider singing a song from Lady Thiang in The King and me.
Prepare Your Audition Song
- Get heard. The most common mistake is for people to assume they can sing well so they must be able to audition well. Pay no attention to the compliments of family members, they mean well, but they may lead you into a false sense of security. Find a non-biased listener who will not be afraid of giving you constructive criticism.
- Practice. If you don’t have a piano or can’t play one, find someone who can. You can hire vocal coaches at any college where there is a music school, and there are always piano players who are willing to do the work for extra cash.
- Sing in the shower. If your only option is the original broadcast recording, then make sure you sing along to it many times, but that won’t be sufficient to learn the song without hearing the original vocals underneath you. Sing the song several times without the accompaniment, but be sure to sing the accompaniment between lines. This will help you to hear the beats and know when to come in next.
- Count the beats. How long is the introduction? How much music is played between the first verse and the second? If you are not aware of these rests and sing over them, your accompanist will either be confused or try and follow you, throwing you both off.
The Day of the Audition
- Arrive fully prepared. Have a copy of the music to give to the accompanist. Remember that copyright laws forbid the use of photocopies unless you have written permission. Make sure you have the original, and it must be clear, legible, and not folded or crinkled.
- Have the right music. Many people bring a vocal line from a show they had previously done. This is not enough. Be sure that your music includes not just the vocal line, but at least two additional staves that include the piano accompaniment. If you only have the vocal line, it must at least have the chords written out, but don’t expect every pianist to handle this smoothly.
- Be kind to the accompanist. Pick a song that is not outrageously challenging to a piano player. Most of the time they are sightreading this. If the key is too hard or the music too fast or complex, your performance may be detracted by the pianists struggle to keep up.
- Smile and sell it. That’s what the directors really want. Are you a joy to watch on stage? Or is it a chore just to let you finish the song. Regardless of whether you can sing all the notes, are you acting the part? Are you engaging the audience? Do you believe what you are singing about? Don’t just sing the notes.
Most importantly, make sure you ask other actors for some tips. It’s important to make friends in the theater community, and it can be beneficial to share information about the best audition practices.