As one of a plethora of 30ish mezzo-sopranos with a decent voice and the ability to move with some semblance of grace, I know at any given audition there’s 10 of me for every 1 spot they’ve reserved in the show for my type and vocal ability. There’s a decent amount of “stuff” on my resume but the stuff doesn’t begin to come close to highlighting my abilities. As much as I dislike the corporate job-interview process, I do wish the community theater audition process borrowed some from the corporate world. Because 16-32 bars isn’t enough time to learn I’m more than my resume.
Corporate interviews usually start with a 20-30 min interview with the boss or the HR screening person. In the theater world, that initial audition of 16-32 bars singing or a brief 30-second monologue for the straight plays is the equivalent of a corporate interviewer asking you how you heard about the job and then saying, “OK, thanks- great interview.”
For me, no matter how well prepared I am or how well I know the production team or the theater I’m auditioning for, the nerves are horrendous. Those nerves make my throat close and it hard to take a deep breath. And to show off my vocal style, my range in such a tiny snippet of a song is nigh-on impossible. If that first vocal audition consisted of a full song by the time I bring the song to its dramatic and powerful conclusion, I’d be so much more relaxed and my voice would reflect that.
Corporate interviews give the applicant the chance to speak, to explain more about them and who they are, what they are. There’s none of that in the theater world. If there was they would learn how dedicated I am. How I’m the first to arrive at rehearsal and the last to leave. How I will record every dance and watch it endlessly to nail those steps opening night. You don’t see that at an audition. All you see is my nerves, my trying to pick up at least half the combo when the choreographer is throwing out terminology I’ve never heard before because I don’t have an extensive dance background. I understand not having the time to speak to each of us individually but a few lines on the theatrical forms labeled “tell us about yourself” would do wonders. And you might learn something interesting about your auditionees too!
On my resume, there are lots of ensemble roles. As I’ve previously written, the ensemble is a wonderful place, a place I’ll gladly inhabit. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’d love a role to stretch my acting boundaries once in a while. I’ve often been asked to bring writing/project samples to corporate interviews giving them the chance to see me and my abilities beyond what’s listed on my resume. Directors, if you see a spark during auditions or call-backs, take a chance. Ask them to give a little more during the process, ask for those additional samples as it were. If you can, have him/her stay an extra 5 minutes at the end of the night. (I don’t know any acting friends who wouldn’t happily stay an extra hour or more if it meant they were truly and wholly being considered for a role, any role in the show.) You might find the next Sutton Foster lurking in the ensemble waiting for her chance to shine.
I recognize unless the show only has a handful of parts, for brevity’s sake the audition process has to be streamlined otherwise it would take weeks. But directors, choreographers, music directors, any and all casting folks please look beyond the resume to the person inside. We’re all more than our resume, let us show you how much more.