For many performers, the audition process is a tiresome, nerve-wracking and endless process. It's a task plays with our emotions and exploits our insecurities. So I'm basically saying, it's tough enough already, it doesn't need to be made harder by the behavior of those behind the table.
Yes, I'm talking to you, the directors, the casting professionals.
Over my career, I've sat in on hundreds of audition sessions, everything from Broadway productions to middle school musicals. I've worked with folks who have won Tonys and those just starting out. With this vast gap of experience, I can pretty much say, I've almost seen it all when it comes to audition behavior by those in front and behind the table.
While much of what I'm talking about applies mostly to local, non-union, college, high school auditions, surprisingly enough, I've seen some of it from Broadway "professionals" as well.
So here are five ways that auditioners can show respect to the folks who are auditioning for them.
1. Give us your undivided attention
You might be surprised to know how quickly casting teams make a decision regarding your audition. Sometimes it's the moment you're done singing or speaking, sometimes it's the moment you begin and sometimes it's even when you first walk in the door.
Given this, especially if it's going to be a "no", some auditioners tune you out and stop paying attention altogether. Whether it's fiddling with resumes, doodling or even looking at their phones, they're not giving you the time of day while you're still auditioning.
So my advice to the casting teams, give them your undivided attention. Most auditions are 1-2 minutes, not that long at all, so it's not an eternity that you have to acknowledge these people.
They're giving you 100%, so you could at least meet them halfway, even if it's not going to work out.
2. Be discreet with your notes
I would hope in most situations, a performers audition might inspire you to take some notes. In those cases, try not to make it obvious what you're writing while the performer is auditioning.
I've seen everything from directors making exaggerated "X" notes to writing something and passing it around like a 7th Grade math class, while the performer is in the middle of their 32 bars.
I've also seen some who aren't very careful when it comes to concealing what they wrote. One audition I was in, I saw the director write down in big letters "NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS". She then put the resume with the note face-up so anyone, including the performer, could see it as they walked out of the room.
When I write notes, I do it usually right after the person walks out, or I make very small notes during. I use a complex code, which I won't tell you here, but for instance, I'll write "!SL" or "WW+" which means two very different things but for someone who might catch a glance at it, they would have no idea what I was talking about.
3. Don't use the audition to inflate your own ego
There is a director, and I won't say who but some of you may know him, that whenever he's in auditions, he likes to not only give you his entire bio but also likes to ask nonsensical questions that have nothing to do with the show.
"If you could be a tree, which tree would you be?"
"If you could have one drink right now, which would it be?"
"If your house was one fire, what would be the first item you would grab?"
Do questions like these have anything to do with casting South Pacific? No. They're only being used to further put actors on the spot and inflate the ego of the director.
I've also seen one director who said to an actress, "I'm seeing 100 Maria's today, why are you memorable?"
Again, why would you ever ask that in an audition? Are out-of-the-blue questions common in job interviews? Sure. But in a job interview, you go in knowing that you're going to be answering a slew of questions. In an audition, actors prepare for very specific things. Whether it's 32 bars of a song or a one minute monologue, not to answer what kind of cereal they would eat right at that moment.
Actors don't need to acknowledge how great or well known you are, you're behind the table and are the deciding factor on whether they get the job or not. That would be enough for your ego.
4. Say "Thank You"
Nobody says thank you anymore! Usually a common refrain in most interactions but surprisingly also in auditions.
Almost every performer I've ever seen has always said some form of "Thank You" after their audition. However, I haven't always heard it from the people behind the table. common courtesy shouldn't be thrown out the window, no matter the situation. That's why I always say thank you to the actor or try to say it before they can.
5. Be timely with your response
We've talked about this before, but it deserves mention again. When it comes to local, college or high school productions, it's proper to give a timely response to the actors.
Keeping actors in the dark about their chances, for elongated periods of time, is wrong. If the decision hasn't been made yet, at least tell them that.
These requests aren't exactly asking for the moon from people behind the table. Just simply a reminder that theatre is a collaborative space and behavior trends that threaten that should stop immediately.