Theatre people are family. We have spent many late nights together, working on a show or socializing after seeing one. We have shared personal theatre stories and know the names of everyone’s kids.
And for people who come into auditions for the first time, it can be quite daunting. Everyone seems to know each other, and that doesn’t bode well for an audition, right? Isn’t the fact that the director just hugged that actress proof that a new girl doesn’t stand a chance?
Welcome to a common misconception about theatre groups in general. Some people think that the same people always get cast because they are chummy with the production crew, or that a small group of people have formed a clique that always takes the leads, or that only the most supremely talented new folks will get a shot – and it will be in the chorus. In some cities, this is actually true – but Tallahassee isn’t one of them.
So, what is really going on in my head during auditions?
Few directors walk into an audition completely blind. I have a general idea in my head about who might show up and what role they might fit – and what roles might be tough to cast because I don’t know a good fit. But I know that auditions can really change my mind fast.
Friends who audition for me have a very tough battle ahead of them. Usually they have made it known that they really want a certain role, but if I just cannot imagine them in that role, they have to prove me wrong with an amazing audition. If they pump themselves up by saying that they love the show and are working hard and have been listening to the CD for years, well, then they had better be incredible or else those high expectations they have set up will tumble quickly. Even if they haven’t telegraphed their motives, they still have to show me something I haven’t seen yet. They have to prove that they have grown some since the last time they were on stage – whether it was my show or not.
Having said that, I sometimes give a friend the benefit of the doubt in auditions – but not for the reasons you might think. They could have proven, through experience, that they don’t audition well, but they are amazing once rehearsal starts. They might have a great work ethic that has shown that they listen to direction well and push themselves beyond my expectations. They might have had a cold, but I know by either seeing them or by reputation that they just had an off night.
However, if they come in unprepared with a song they learned the night before, or take my friendship for granted by just going through the motions and thinking “well, I just had beers with Krystof last week, so I don’t have to prove anything”… well… they probably won’t be cast even if they are more talented. After all, if an actor doesn’t prove they really want the role, 3 other people just auditioned who could play it, and they worked harder to get it.
But what about the people I don’t know? This is where I look harder at the resume and see what kind of roles they have played in the past. Maybe they have worked for a director I know – and I can always give that director a call and ask their opinion. If they are really good, I put them with some of the best actors in cold readings or duets and see if they hold their part of the bargain.
After all, I would be taking a risk with casting someone genuinely new in a lead role for a musical. I have no idea about their dedication or passion or talent or life goals – something I tend to find out during a rehearsal process. They may have had a great two nights of auditions, but what if they showed me the best they had and they aren’t as good after I cast them?
In other words, despite all my knowledge of local actors, talent usually wins no matter what at an audition. A new actor is viewed in a different light than a known commodity – both judged a different way. So don’t be too nervous if you walk into an audition and see me yucking it up with someone who might be competition. We may be a family – but we are always looking for more people to join that family and show us their talent. And underwear.
Read Artistic Director Krystof Kage’s June 10, 2015 blog entry at the Tallahassee Democrat Online Community blog here: We Are Family…Uh Oh…