Guest Posts

Published on February 3rd, 2010 | by Biz Books

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Guest Post: “From Behind the Table: General Auditions Part 1” by Jack Paterson

I recently had the unique opportunity to attend the General Auditions organized by the Quebec Drama Federation. The room was a combination of Montreal and Quebec’s Artistic Directors from both the Regional Theatres including Roy Surette (The Centaur Theatre), Bryna Wasserman (The Segal Center), Andrew Johnston(Hudson Village Theatre) and other local companies Emma Tibaldo (Playwright’s Workshop Montreal), Clare Schapiro (Imago Theatre), a mix ranging from Theatre for Young Audiences Dean Fleming (Geordie Productions) to the indie Fringe scene Jeremy Hechtman (MainLine Theatre)and several freelance directors. What made this event so distinctive for me was that I was both an auditor in my role as artist in residence at the Centaur Theatre and an auditioner as my recent experiences at the Shaw Festival’s Director’s Project had inspired me to hit the boards again. It had been over three years since I done an audition and although I have sat on directors side of the table many times and often coached for auditions, all the old questions, concerns and terrors returned. This was an opportunity to observe the AD’s at work as well as the actors and get up there myself. My goal over the next few blogs is to share what I’ve learned through that process. Part 1 will address General Auditions and what they are. Part 2 will be about Preparation and Part 3 will be about the Monologues themselves.

What is a General Audition?

Canadian Actor’s Equity Association (CAEA) and the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT) have agreed that PACT members will hold at least one General Audition a year in order to review available talent. These auditions will be attended by the Artistic Director or another senior representative of the theatre who works in a casting capacity. Each year, all professional companies do just that. Companies producing more than one show a season are required to hold 2 days for CAEA Member and Apprentice auditions; they also will do 1 day of non equity auditions. You should never have to pay for an audition.

How do I get one?

Notices are posted on the CAEA Email for Equity calls. Non Equity Notices tend to be posted on through local Arts organizations such as The Alliance for Arts and Culture and VPL in Vancouver, QDF in Montreal or Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts in Toronto.

Submit a headshot, resume and cover letter. The cover letter doesn’t have to be long. It can be a short paragraph or two on why you want to work for the organization. Make it about them and why you would be a good fit for them (Why are you passionate about their material, season or mandate?). Some organizations will accept email, while others will expect mailed packages.


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Why Should I do it? Or “To General or Not To General”?

Yes! Do it! There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. Remember that Artistic Directors and directors are human and as much as we may wish to be omnipotent, we’re not and in fact have very minimal brain space due to all the things we are juggling. Even if you and I have been friends for years and worked together on many shows, I just might not have thought of you for a part. Any opportunity to remind us of you, showcase yourself or demonstrate a side to you we may not have thought of should be taken advantage of. If you are new to the scene – get out there and make yourself known.

Generals are an opportunity for AD’s and directors to be reminded of the current talent and introduced to new talent. Many companies will already have their leads cast for the season and may only be casting the smaller roles; however that is not always the case (one company I have worked for actually makes a point of casting roles from the generals). Think of the audition as a long term investment: you may not get a part now, but this opens the door for down the road.

That being said…be prepared and rock our socks off!

What happens if I don’t get a Slot? Or “To Crash or Not to Crash”?

Some people are to going to hate me for this but again – Yes! Do it! There is nothing to lose and everything to gain! Most companies will have a waiting list – get on it. Show up early, early slots are unfortunately quite often missed and there may be a chance to slip in. Also you have to be twice as prepared. You may not have been called because the AD knows your work and is trying to see as many new people in a limited time or because they don’t feel you are right for their season or projects (this is never a reflection on your talent or skills, simply the mindset of the individuals doing the casting – do not take it personally – it isn’t). The people organizing the Auditions have been running around for weeks trying to sort everything out so be prepared to wait and go by their schedule, you may be there a while (I always bring a novel). They may turn you away – again this isn’t personal. If you get in, and most companies will try and get you in, show us the passion that made you take the risk to come down in the first place despite not being given an audition time.

Behind the table:

The people behind the table are not the enemy. They want you to do well. They have been sitting there sometimes for days in uncomfortable chairs, drinking too much coffee and ignoring the fires that are going off at their offices. They are here for you and want you to succeed. Depending on your call time they may have trouble showing it, but no one wants you to do badly. As shocking as it may seem, we are your friends and equals.

Most importantly, this is your opportunity. It is your chance to do a four minute play of material you want to do. Do it for you and allow yourself to shine.

“I never expect anyone to be brilliant in an audition. It is almost an impossibility. Was anyone ever brilliant while acting with a chair? What I do hope to find is someone who seems capable and someone with whom I might want to spend four weeks in a rehearsal hall”

Michael Shamata, Artistic Director, The Belfry Theatre, Victoria, BC

About Jack Paterson

Jack is a Canadian actor and director who is currently exploring Toronto. He is a graduate of The Circle in the Square Theatre School in New York. Directing credits include Carousel Theatre’s The Hobbit and The Odyssey (winner Outstanding Production Jessie Richardson Award 2007), MD Theatre’s Shakespeare’s R&J, Mad Duck’s Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, The Tempest, The Bardathon’s Henry 6 Parts 2 & 3 and The Presentation House hit The Real Inspector Hound. He is the recipient of the Ray Michaels Award for Outstanding Body of Work by an Emerging Director and been nominated for four Outstanding Direction Jessie Richardson Awards.
Most recently he was the artist in residence at the Centaur Theatre and directed The Love of Don Perlimplin for Belissa in his Garden for the Shaw Festival’s Directors Project.

A tremendous thank you to all the artistic directors, directors and actors who shared their insights for this blog.

Be sure to visit Jack’s website.

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