Published on May 5th, 2010 | by Biz Books
Guest Post: “From Behind the Table: General Auditions Part 2A – The Interview” by Jack Paterson
“Generally, I just really enjoy it when actors come in with a positive attitude and are excited to share their work with us. That makes it a pleasure to audition them and a good experience for us as well…if actors are relaxed and are able to share who they are with us, the chances of us using them is much better.” Mieko Ouchi, Artistic Director, Concrete Theatre (Edmonton)
An audition is a job interview that happens to a have a 4 minute solo show on a 4 foot by 4 foot stage in the middle of it. It took me years to come to this realization, in fact I faintly remember somebody in theatre school saying this and being outraged by it, but after many, many mistakes, experiencing both sides of the table for large and small companies and doing everything from invited auditions to New York cattle calls, it suddenly seems simple – We want to meet you in your best light. Easy to say but not necessarily easy to do.
So – how can we help you shine?
The more comfortable you are with all the little things around the performance portion the better your chance to enjoy the audition and then the interview process. For that reason I’m focusing on the interview aspect. This is something we often overlook in our panic to find the right monologue and be the best actor we can be (and god, how we really, really want the job), however it is just as important and sometimes more so. I have yet to meet a Director or Artistic Director (AD) who believes that the monologue is the best way to cast a show. Most of us behind the table have been in your position, and are well aware of the difficulties involved for the performer.
We try as hard as we can in theatre to make it seem as less “job-interview-y” as possible, but the truth remains that that is indeed what it is. All things important to a regular job interview are just as important in an audition. Who is this person and can we work with them? This begins the minute you enter the room. We try not to judge but human beings are human beings.
As a new actor this is a chance to make a strong first impression or as someone who has been around for a bit it’s a chance to reconnect and put yourself out there in a fresh light.
• Information to know:
More you know about the company and their season the better. This will help not only in your monologue choice but also offer you something to talk about during the interview. Take the hour or two to google the company; be familiar with the company’s season and mandate (if that information isn’t readily available check out their previous season). Is there a play, playwright or author there that you really enjoy? What about the mandate excites you?
It’s not enough to simply want to pay the rent by practicing your craft – we all want that. Those of us behind the table are passionate about our work; we wouldn’t be doing it otherwise, and are looking for people who share in that passion.
Read the plays if you can. A lot of companies will have the scripts available at the local reference library. Get down there and read ‘em. Again same question – what excites you about them?
• Your Resume:
Give your resume a scan – look at the last few gigs. Think of some positive experience that you had on those projects. Many directors will use questions about previous shows in an attempt to lighten the atmosphere and get to know you. How did you like working with “insert name or company”? These will usually be pulled from the last few credits on the resume. If you are fresh out of school, think of a few positive things about the program to talk about.
• Special Skills:
If you have any special skills – singing, dancing or musical instruments, etc – be prepared to showcase them. Have something in the bag ready to go. There is a strong chance you will be asked to demonstrate even if it was not put on the posting. Artistic Directors and Directors are always on the lookout for extra skills.
I once watched a Theatre for Young Audience AD in Vancouver grin from ear to ear as an auditionee made her an animal balloon (after two days in the audition room, it was a treat). Another auditionee in Montreal worked street dancing into his monologue and received cheers for his effort. They made a mark.
• Things to bring:
Always bring a couple extra headshot and resumes. Have them out of your bag and ready to be passed out. Make sure they are stapled (one in the top corner will do), paper clipped or double side taped. The amount of paper flowing over the table is sometimes overwhelming. Have pity on us and make it easy. We don’t want to loose your stuff in the maelstrom.
About Jack Paterson
Jack is a Canadian director/ actor who is currently in Toronto for Canadian Stage’s BASH! Residency. He is a graduate of The Circle in the Square Theatre School in New York. Directing credits include Mad Duck’s Jessie nominated productions of Coriolanus, Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar and The Tempest, Carousel Theatre’s The Hobbit and The Odyssey (winner Outstanding Production Jessie Richardson Award), 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 Belisa in his Garden for the Shaw Festival’s Neil Munro Directors Project.
A tremendous thank you to all the artistic directors, directors and actors who shared their insights for this blog.