TIPS FOR CHILDREN’S AUDITIONS

With ANNIE auditions right around the corner, here are a few tips to consider for successful childrens auditions…..

While some of the following recommendations are geared to professional theatre jobs, many of the concepts translate to the community theatre world as well. Having a good audition is the only way to ensure that you will get “that part.” Whether you are auditioning or your child is auditioning, there are certain rules of decorum that you will need to take into consideration.

 An audition is similar to a job interview. There are a number of things that you need to be aware of before ever setting foot into an audition. Additionally, you need to be sure to properly prepare your child on how to behave.

When you enter a theatre, you should treat it as if it was someone’s home. Show respect to the property, no matter the condition and perform as well mannered as possible before taking the stage, while performing and afterward if a waiting period is called for.

If you are a parent to a child actor, be aware that you are being judged as well. Directors want to know right off the bat that if they cast your child that you will be easy to work with as well. While you can only prepare your child’s performance so much before they audition, there are a number of things you can do to help increase the quality of their audition and the likelihood that they’ll get the part.

Here are a few Don’ts:

Steer Clear of Chewing Gum – Although it seems obvious, you would be amazed at the number of kids who walk into an audition snapping their chewing gum. Now, unless chewing gum is an actual character choice you and your child have decided upon, this is not something that will go over well with a director.

Don’t Avoid Eye Contact – When you teach your child about how to behave in an audition, make certain that they understand both proper etiquette and how to make eye contact with the  director.

This doesn’t mean a scene or song should be entirely played out while looking at the casting person, but when your child introduces themselves, they should make direct eye contact, have confidence and be confident in who they are as people.

Don’t Overdo It – Your child should do three things when they are called into the audition area. 1) They should clearly say hello and make eye contact with everyone in the room. Keep in mind, more than likely they won’t need to mention their name as everyone in the room (if there is more than one person) is expecting your child to enter. 2) They should perform their scene or song. 3) They should say “thank you” and good bye and exit the room. They shouldn’t ask how they did, or when to expect a call back, or any such question. The casting director will find them if they need to.

Don’t Make Excuses – Everyone makes mistakes in auditions — this is completely expected and natural. Casting directors are often quite patient and understand that the actors performing for them might be quite nervous (especially those who are first timers). Although it is okay to ask to start over if you make a mistake, avoid making excuses. Casting directors will usually prefer that you just keep going.

Parents in particular — NEVER MAKE EXCUSES FOR YOUR CHILD. Even if their poor performance is a direct result of something you did. Assume every casting director you meet has not only heard every excuse in the book dozens (if not hundreds) of times, they won’t care. They simply have too many other potential candidates to see and wasting time listening to your excuses why little (insert your child’s name here) doesn’t know his/her lines is not something any casting director wants to do. This may sound harsh, but it is generally the truth.

Unless unavoidable, don’t bring other siblings that are not auditioning – They will generally be bored, the waiting area may be small and crowded and often keeping the noise level in this area down to a low roar while others audition nearby can be a challenge. You should be able to focus your attention on the child you’ve chosen to bring and that’s it.

Avoid bringing overly tired or wired children to auditions – If your child is simply too tired, wired or even suffering from a cold, you’re better off passing on the audition all together rather than hoping to “suffer through it.” It certainly won’t help your child’s chances with this particular audition because the casting director who sees your whiny/wired child will remember their behavior more than their performance.

Never coach or scold your children in front of a casting director – This is often cited as the most uncomfortable moments of any audition for the director, so avoid it whenever possible.

Acting as a child should be fun and VOLUNTARY. If you find that you are living vicariously through your child and forcing them to do something they don’t have any interest in, understand that a casting director will more than likely pick up on this sooner rather than later. Casting directors are looking for those parents who will serve in more of a “silent partner” capacity for their children and root for them from behind the scenes.

Practice the audition many times at home; work on developing the child’s posture, they should stand tall and proud with shoulders back and eyes forward.  Overcoming nervousness, bring in the neighbors or grandparents, even you with an untrained eye can pick up on habits to break like hair-twirling, foot shuffling, the whispering shy voice etc.

Wear appropriate clothing; auditions do not need to be in costume but appearing at auditions like your child just left a sporting event or playtime in the back yard may not help the director see the eventual image desired. Directors also want to see faces, pay attention to wearing long hair too close to the face and eyes. Avoid hats unless they are part of choreography.

Despite the best efforts of a Director, casting is a difficult and stressful time, perhaps there will be brief moments of confusion or a breakdown in communication or assigned times or places that may need adjusting, please understand that much thought and planning has gone into this process but things do happen.  Don’t let too much time pass by if an obvious mistake has been made but there is never a need to get visibly aggravated, we are all doing this for the fun of it!

If your child dreams of an acting career then encourage them to go for it. But to help better their chances of actually landing something, be sure to take these tips into consideration.

Rocking the house

“Finally, something worth talking about!”

And by that I mean, “Finally! Something I have time to talk about!”

Last January, during the terrific run of Out of Sterno, Linda Bower approached me about a show she was slated to direct during the coming season.  Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grill was a very intriguing show with some interesting technical challenges ranging from set construction and props to lighting and sound.

Well, here we are almost 10 months later and as Ravenscroft draws nearer and nearer to open, Rainbow is starting to spin up for its opening at the end of January.  Linda, Mitch and company have been scavenging for all of the bits and pieces necessary to turn our stage into the bar at the end of the world.  Upon arriving at the theatre last night to work on lighting for Ravenscroft I was pleasantly surprised to find Linda and Tim unloading a key part of the bar set.

Meet the newest member of FCT: a 1971/72 Seeburg USC2 Firestar Bandshell.  Or in plain English, our new jukebox.

As we rolled the juke off the trailer and into the theatre lobby, it was apparent the machine was cosmetically in great shape for a 40-year-old.  This beautiful beast was no TouchTunes*; it was a living, breathing, electromechanical monster.  Or at least it once was.  Now, no one was even sure if it even powered up.  The previous owners said it was working at some point in the not-too-distant past but only time and technical expertise would tell.  I’ve had a fair bit of experience repairing pinball machines–I guess you can consider them a cousin of the jukebox–so I held my breath and opened up the cabinet.

Opening a machine like this is a bit like opening a treasure chest.  You might find a spotless gem, or you might find a mess of dirty, broken, or worn parts.  The result is most often somewhere in between.  There were some good signs immediately: no animals living inside, no obvious structural or mechanical damage, and a fair number of 45’s left in the rack.  The jukebox was indeed not too far removed from its musical career.  There were some bad signs: a fair amount of debris around cables and a thick covering of grime over everything, but no deal breakers.

Fortunately, Linda’s only requirement for the machine is that it lights up.  We plan on providing sound in another manner, probably via a monitor speaker placed inside the cabinet.  The fluorescent lamps inside the machine were worn out or missing, and they were 3-foot lamps (2 and 4-footers are far more common).  Fortunately, it was early and the store had not one but two different lamp color temperatures to choose from:  2600K “reveal” and 6500K “daylight”.  Color temp essentially means how “warm” or “cool” a light source looks: a flame is around 1800K, incandescent “soft white” light bulbs 2700K, stage lighting 3000-3200K, most fluorescents from 5000-6500K (did i mention that on this scale higher = cooler?).  I chose the 2600K since I don’t want them to differ from the stage lights too dramatically–the jukebox should stand out, not irritate your eyes.  If you’ve ever put a “daylight” and a “warm white” bulb side-by-side you’ve seen what I mean.

After a little mechanical wrangling and straightening the mounting brackets, I managed to get the new lamps in.  Flipping the machine on, I waited eagerly as…nothing happened.  Then, a flicker.  Like an old car starting after sitting all winter, the ignitors began to slowly bring the lights back to life.  After a few moments, all three lit up and stayed up.  Primary mission = accomplished!

Going forward, I would like to see if I can make the rest of the machine boom to life (more on that later).  Perhaps it is the tinkerer in me, perhaps it is the desire to deliver that “wow” effect to the audience.  Despite the best special effects, sound machines, or other ways theatre has to make things look/feel/sound real, there is still something special about an effect being real.  I’m sure some day theatres will be doing The Wizard of Oz with a lifelike, animatronic Toto, but I think it will still be better with a real dog.

*TouchTunes is a registered trademark of the TouchTunes Music Corporation.

State OCTA wrap up

Anyone who has ever attended a state OCTA conference knows that by Monday night, you are very tired, so this will be brief, with more details to follow  but the weekend was wonderful. I saw 15 great excerpts, true some were better than others but all were very worthy of being there. I wish FCT had been able to showcase the Northwest regions alternate, OUT OF STERNO, it would have been something very different from the other selections. Outstanding cuttings in my mind were,  AVENUE Q, RENT, DOUBT, THE OLDEST PROFESSION and THE SECRET GARDEN. I attended a responder round table discussion on how to improve our job at future festivals, and a parliamentary procedure workshop that despite the early Monday morning time slot, was very informative. I regret not entering the OUT OF STERNO set in the set design competition, or some of the costumes. OCTA awards excellence in newsletter, website, various in house tech aspects and many others, let’s make a goal to bring home a bunch of awards to show the state what great theatre FCT is capable of doing, when we work together!