Why I Hate Callbacks...

Vicki Trask

  • OnStage Canada Columnist

If I’m being honest this article should be called: “Why I Suck at Callbacks” because the process doesn’t suck, it’s about how I handle myself when I’m in that room. 

Now what I’m talking about is those big, group callbacks with hundreds of hopefuls vying for those precious few roles. The kind you see in movies and musicals about twelve hours of grueling dancing, singing, and acting, only to be sent on your way after an hour – or never getting to go up there after twelve hours of sitting around. 

These are the days that separate the professionals from the non-professionals. Because it’s not about training or an equity card, it’s about attitude. 

So. Callback day. I’ll paint you a picture:

One hundred and twenty eight hopefuls, eight hours of callbacks; two hours of dance, one hour of music, a one hour break, and then four hours of sides and solos. The dancing? Not a worry. The singing? Manageable. And then for three hours and fifty-five minutes I waited for my turn to go in there and show what I can do on my own. 

This is the part where I start sucking at callbacks. I’ve come to stop stressing – or stressing less – about what actually happens in the room. Once I’m in front of the panel, what will be will be. I do my best and walk away. It’s the four hours before that I wish I could do over. 

I sat around, talking with my friends, getting more frustrated by the hour that I wasn’t being called. I did exactly what directors tell you not to do: worry because you’re not being used the way you expected – worry that you’ve been forgotten in the chaos. 

You know what I could have been doing for four hours? Keeping my voice and body warm, familiarizing myself with a show I know very little about, practicing the songs we learnt earlier – no matter what materials were provided. Keeping myself involved in the process. 

After finally getting a chance to sing my 16 bars, I walked out of the room feeling content but not satisfied. I wish I had been more focused, and more prepared. There is nothing worse than getting stuck in your head when you have no idea how the day is going to go. 

My only word of caution is this: don’t overprepare. Don’t spend four hours preparing your sides and songs. Make new friends, take some time to keep relaxed. 

The key, I think, is balance: Knowing what you need to do to walk into your callback feeling confident. 

Which is why callbacks suck: they are the best and worst hours you’ll spend in a theatre because that’s when you learn the most about yourself as a performer. I learned that I need to be more focused; not just learn the material but actually work on it. These are free classes and also crucial to defining how my theatre season – or career – will go. The only way to make it through is to be prepared.

Who thought it was a good idea to put so much pressure into four hours?