Hello dears. This is my first blog. Until recently I thought that the term ‘blog’ referred to blockage problems in the toilet area. Luckily my PA filled me in so I cancelled the plumber.
Being a producer I frequently get asked to give advice to actors about auditions. So that’s what I thought I’d use as a subject for my first blog. I hope it leaves you with some useful tips, dear.
Recently I was asked to give my views on a bad audition. Or more specifically what actors should avoid doing in an audition. There are lots of obvious things that come to mind like not being drunk and not being late. But there are also some less obvious steps that actors should consider. One of them is what to wear.
Men should never wear trousers that are too thin. Today’s fashion sense astounds me. I do not understand why people with bandy, breakable legs would want every inch of their twiglet calves to be shown. It is most upsetting. I tend to sit behind my table thanking the lord that my own trousers allow my legs to breathe. Also – it is not good highlighting your panty region, no matter how big your appendage appears to be. When watching a lovely rendition of ‘Martin Guerre’ it is never nice to see an auditionees testicles retract on the high G at the end. That’s a big no-no, dear.
Ladies – I don’t mind you wearing heels, but please don’t wear heels that totally change the way you look. We had a lady in a couple of weeks ago who walked like she was auditioning to be a one-legged pirate. When I asked her if she’d be more comfortable with her shoes off she said ‘No. My heels give me confidence’. On her CV it said she was 4 foot 2 - in her heels she looked like an Amazonian she-male, dear.
At the beginning of your audition please don’t tell me that you’re ill. Unless I can actually see a flesh wound, or you have a valid doctor’s note I will presume you felt underprepared and are lying. It’s not good enough. We had an actor in last year who looked as pale as one of those ‘Twilight’ actors – but when he started singing he sweated and his white make-up started falling off his face. Michael Ball has thankfully never tried that since. However, if you are genuinely ill then it’s your own fault. You’re an actor – you’re not allowed to get ill, dear.
I always like to remind actors not to seem overly keen. Enthusiasm is a great thing, and is what drives us to be the best at what we do. But over enthusiasm is a killer. It makes actors seem desperate and weak. Having a constant fake smile is never a good sign. I can appreciate good teeth , but unfortunately when you audition for me chances are we are not casting the new Colgate campaign. I say just be yourself. Be interested and professional, but not keen and needy. I find it ridiculous when actors constantly smile through their songs. Think about the character. If you are singing ‘Javert’s Suicide’ it really isn’t helpful to see your lovely white teeth, dear.
So – should you shake my hand when you enter? I honestly don’t mind if you shake my hand, but please make sure that your hand has been recently cleaned. I appreciate that many actors get nervous and go to the toilet directly before auditioning. But I’m not always sure if they’ve washed their hands afterwards. I’m not a massive fan of body contact anyway, and the thought of shaking a toilet-infected hand makes me want to hug my Jean Valjean teddy bear. I shall start asking all actors to sanitise their hands when they enter the audition room. That way everyone involved can feel relaxed that hands are bacteria free. Or perhaps I shall just wear gloves. Either way I will be a lot happier.
So where to stand when auditioning? It can be very embarrassing if you stand in the wrong place and look uncomfortable. As a general rule I would suggest you stand facing the audition panel, and not with your back to them. Make sure you aren’t too close, but if you suffer from Halitosis or tend to dribble then it’s probably a good idea to stand a little further back. Make sure you feel nice and relaxed before singing, because if you look nervous, I’ve already made a judgement, dear.
During your song remember that you have to be in character from the beginning – when you hear the pianist playing those ominous first notes your performance has begun. Never spend the song’s intro smiling at the panel like you are a Barry Manilow impersonator, and don’t start doing bizarre yoga stretches. If in doubt, take the ‘neutral vacant stare pose’ that actors are very good at. It makes you look harmless, vulnerable and dull all at the same time. Which is the perfect actor that most directors like to work with, dear.
As a general rule when we ask you to sing – we don’t want a piece of tightly rehearsed choreography to go along with it. We just want to hear your voice. Invariably the dancing will just distract and you’ll end up looking like an inferior Strallen sister. We had an actor audition recently who did some marvellous split jumps and ball changes, but was so out of breath by the chorus he couldn’t sing. To be honest the choreography didn’t really go with ‘Memory’ anyway, dear.
If I want you to give me eye contact when you are singing, I will ask. But if I do please don’t think that means you should wink at me in any part of your song. Winking at me will result in one thing. - me drawing a naughty body part all over your headshot, dear.
I have often heard actors moan about what we do when they sing. As a general rule I try and be as attentive as I can, but like anyone, I get distracted. If you perform a song like ‘Corner Of The Sky’, that I have heard 15 times that day I am going to reach for my iPhone and start playing Angry Birds. I’m not being rude – I’m just saving my sanity. If you sing a song really well, and I think you show a lot of potential I will usually watch you for a while, and then finish the drawing of Lloyd Webber I’m doing on my notepad. Invariably I don’t make notes about what you sing, I tend to see who you remind me of – and that’s what I write. If you remind me of someone like Colm Wilkinson or Jonathan Pryce then you get a recall. But if you remind me of Martine McCutcheon then you’re doomed to be working front of house for another year.
There has always been a misconception about what it means if we ask you to sing a second song. To be honest it depends. If we are bored with your first song but think you looked right and sounded good we won’t bother asking you to sing again, we’ll just recall you. If your first song was fine but didn’t show the range we want we’ll ask you to sing again. And if your first song was really bad, we’ll ask you to do another one just to keep us amused. One of my casting directors is terrible – he always asks the boys he fancies to sing two songs, just so he can drool a little longer. I’ve told him to stop doing this - but bless him, it’s one of the only kicks he gets these days, dear.
When we ask what you’ve been doing recently we’re not interested about your recent holidays or love life. I’m actually enquiring about your last few acting jobs. And if you haven’t done any recent acting jobs just say you’re in the process of devising a piece about the Sphinx or something. It makes you sound a lot more interesting, dear.
And finally, when you leave the audition – please be careful never to slam the door. That’s very dangerous as it could wake up my casting director, dear.
So, in retrospect my main pieces of advice when auditioning are: don’t drink, don’t shout, don’t dance, don’t wink at me, don’t wear tight trousers or high heels, don’t smile too much, and always wash your hands. Basically - be professional and be yourself. After all, it is a job interview, dear.
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