Theatre Audition Tips

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I’ve been getting dozens upon dozens of audition applications for Rope this week, and while a lot of the auditioning process is fun, over time there are some poor choices I see actors making again and again, something that leads to frustration for me, and ultimately missed opportunities for them. So here are a few quick audition tips, for those of you applying for Rope or any other show. Hopefully they help.

Headshots
Your headshot is the first glimpse the director or casting director gets of you, so it’s important to have a good one. Colour photos are the norm these days and they should be clear, close-up (shoulders up) and accurately reflect what you look like. That one’s important, so I’ll say it again; your headshot should look like you; a cleaned up version yes, but not a glamourous or fake one. This is not a modelling shot, so don’t send in a photo of you with beautifully styled hair, perfect makeup and fancy clothes if you’re going to show up to the audition in sweats and a ponytail. It won’t help you get the part; if anything, it’ll make it less likely. Your headshot is meant to be a reminder of who you were so if you don’t look anything like it, you’ll end up forgotten.

Artistic Resume
Along with your headshot you will need to submit an artistic resume that outlines your experiences. The most important thing on your resume is your contact info; list your name, email, and a phone number at which you can easily be contacted, right at the top of the resume. You should also list any union affiliations and agent contact info at the top. Generally you will also want to list your height, weight, hair colour, eye colour and ethnicity. Next, list whatever you have the most experience in; if you are right out of school and have a lot of training, but minimal experience, start with the training. If you have done more film than theatre, list those first. List projects in reverse chronological order, and don’t include dates. Follow this format;

  • Theatre: Title of Show, Role, Theatre Company, Director
  • Film & Television: Title of Show/Film, Category of Role (ie. Principle, Supporting), Producer/Network, Director

Generally you don’t include extra work in your main film/television category, or specific commercials; these can be provided on a separate form if requested. An important note about your theatre listings; be sure to list the theatre company you worked with, not just the venue. Sometimes outside companies rent a space from a major theatre, and listing that space as your company is essentially lying on your resume; directors notice, and we don’t like it.

For example, say Bygone Theatre produced a show and we rented out Factory Theatre, the format should look like this;

Rope, Brandon, Bygone Theatre, Emily Dix

NOT like this;

Rope, Brandon, Factory Theatre, Emily Dix

The second example would imply it was produced by Factory Theatre, which is incorrect.

Cover Letter
Unless requested, you don’t need to include a cover letter, but if you do, make sure it’s well written. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors look unprofessional and can get you tossed out before you even have a chance to audition. As well, be sure that your cover letter is specific and tailored to the role; it is easy to tell when something is copied and pasted, and things like referring to a play as a “film” can also see you rejected. Take the time to show you are interested and committed to the project if you want the director to take the time to see you in an audition.

In the Audition
Make sure you arrive on time for your audition; often they are scheduled back-to-back and being even a couple minutes late can throw things off and lose you your spot. Be dressed appropriately; this means wearing something that looks good on you and suits the style of the show. Unless you are auditioning for a character that would do so, don’t show up in sweats. Make sure you are cleaned up and that you look like your headshot.

If you need to warm-up before your audition, do that outside. Th director shouldn’t see you doing this; don’t waste time inside the audition room. When you come in, be cheery and polite; don’t complain about your day or make excuses for being late or ill-prepared (sounds obvious but I’ve seen this a LOT). Be friendly but not too chatty, you’re there to audition, not make friends. Try to avoid asking too many questions. Come in having done your homework and be ready to start immediately.

Choosing a Monologue
If a monologue isn’t provided, choose one that suits the style of the piece you are auditioning for. Think about  whether it is a comedy or a drama, what the period is, and what type of character you are auditioning for. Avoid monologues that have a lot of sexuality or profanity; this rarely comes across as shocking or interesting and is more likely to make the whole room feel uncomfortable (fun story – when casting for Doubt I had several women auditioning to be nuns do monologues that involved excessive amounts of swearing; needless to say, they didn’t receive callbacks) . Try to show some emotional range but don’t feel like you need to choose something that involves screaming or crying; play to your strengths.

Remember, as awful as this may sound, when you are auditioning for something you are putting yourself out there to be judged; put your best foot forward and do what you can to impress your audience. Talent is important but being polite and professional matters just as much. An actor who isn’t right for the role but impresses a director with their preparedness and manners is much more likely to be asked back to audition for another piece than one who is talented but rude and unprepared.

If you find you have trouble at auditions, the best way to improve is to do as many of them as you can. Each time you will be more relaxed and will pick up new tips. To those of you out there auditioning, break a leg!

-E.

Stanton’s Circle, A Theory On Comedy (aka My Review of “We’re Very Proud & We Love You So Much”)

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This afternoon I had the pleasure of seeing His Majesty The Baby‘s New York Fringe performance of We’re Very Proud & We Love You So Much; I can honestly say it is one of the most cleverly written works of comedy I’ve ever seen and certainly the best fringe festival show I’ve ever watched. The show is a sketch comedy, written and performed by Shon Arieh-Lerer, Nathan Campbell, John Griswold, Andrew Kahn and Max Ritvo. Playing backstage is the band Sister Helen, a rock group that “likes to play terrifying music”; they were the perfect accompaniment to the surreal, darkly funny show.

It’s difficult to give a synopsis of this show; while it is a sketch comedy the scenes are better connected than you’d find on something like SNL or the Second City stage. Some broad, over-arching themes of birth and death, truth and the ability to create it and the purpose and power of an audience all are visited throughout the show, but in-keeping with a sketch comedy style they are all addressed through absurd characters and there is, of course, no linear plot.

I was thrilled to see the scene that first caught my eye at the teaser night played out onstage (the palindromic argument that is caught in what seems to be an endless cycle) along with some brilliant scenes like that with the elderly Pepsi Garbage, “America’s Television”!. The show included a secret, hidden pepper; some “questionable meat”; a disturbing “Womb Song” and a sickly looking, curious baby.

The danger with intelligent comedy is that it can sometimes forget its purpose and become so wrapped up in high-concept ideas that it ceases to be funny, entertaining. This was not an issue for these men. Sketches such as “Adam and Susanna” allude to real-world issues like that of gay marriage and what our concept of marriage should be, however at no time does it come out and say anything directly related to the topic. It doesn’t preach or lecture and simply creates a parallel by exploring the idea of a man named Adam who believes that, according to the bible, the only real marriage is that between a man named Adam and a woman named Eve. Anything else is not only wrong, “it’s not marriage”. When the sketch ends with everyone (audience included) speaking gibberish, we are left to question where the true meaning of words comes from and lead to think about the arbitrary nature of terms such as “marriage”. Clever stuff.

I won’t give away any more sketches but I will say that I was especially impressed by the actors’ ability to perform as both men and women, the physicality of the characters and the melding of live theatre, live music, and video presentations. There was always a lot going on but it never felt confusing or forced. The entire show has clearly been worked out from top to bottom, and I found myself having many “ohhh” moments as a previous sketch’s theme would be revisited, tying the whole show together. I especially liked Stanton’s Circle, a comedy theory that was both funny and accurate; you’ll have to check out their show to see what I mean.

If you have not yet seen We’re Very Proud & We Love You So Much then clear your Friday night; only one performance is left. Check them out at Venue #4, Teatro Latea at the Clemente on Friday August 22, 7:30pm.

One more thing to add, once again something that is not usually found in a review but it’s going in here anyway. One of the troupe’s members, Max Ritvo is suffering from a rare form of cancer; Ewing’s Sarcoma. It is frequently found in the bone or soft tissue of children or young adults and unfortunately, there is very little known about how it forms or how to treat it. His Majesty, The Baby has already raised over $10 000 for Ewing’s Sarcoma research, but as it is a rare type it lacks funding, and so they can always use more. If you cannot make it out to see their show, or if you can but understand the pain of dealing with cancer, please check out the Ewing’s Sarcoma Research Foundation and consider making a donation. Even just sharing the link to the site can be helpful. Let’s support our fellow artists and our fellow man; we can all hope for a future without cancer.

-E.

A Trip To The Future (With A Penguin!) – Review of Xavier Toby’s “When We Were Idiots”

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The other day I wrote about Australian comic Xavier Toby’s Fringe NYC show, Mining My Own Businessa stand-out, stand-up routine about his experiences working on a coal mine. Last night I had the pleasure of attending Toby’s other Fringe show; the walking tour, When We Were Idiots.

When I’d asked him about the show before, he told me “I lead people around downtown and yell at people through a megaphone”; I went in expecting some dumb comedy, possibly a few insults, and figured “when we were idiots” would refer to the time spent on the tour. I was in for a pleasant surprise.

The tour takes place in 2114, 100 years in the future. Our host, a penguin descendent of Toby’s, has graciously hired actors to move about downtown so that we can experience what life was like back in 2014. We were fortunate enough to come across vendors, tourists, drug addicts – all “actors”, of course – who all remained in character, almost as though they were just normal people.

While there was the promised yelling at strangers on the street, none of it was inappropriate. In fact, the entire group of us, decked out in high-visibility vests, were often called upon to applaud the every day actions of the New Yorkers we encountered.

The surprising part of the tour was the references to real-world issues, like our deteriorating environment and the concept of money. You wouldn’t expect it from a penguin with a megaphone, but Toby brought up some interesting and intellectual points. All of these were done in a very nonchalant way; references to “tree prisons” and the fact that he, as a penguin, was stuck in NYC because Antarctica had all melted. Turns out 2014 was when we were all “idiots”. Despite his serious points, these statements were surrounded by jokes and odd little historical facts (like the origin of the word “hooker”) so that the entire show still felt like a comedy; it didn’t get preachy.

It’s not that bad a walk, so don’t let the format of the show discourage you from going. It’s highly interactive and thanks to the frequent applause and questions for the audience, you will find yourself leaving with a smile on your face. It’s a nice way to end the day.

If you want to check out When We Were Idiots you have 3 more chances! You can meet Toby in the Fringe Central lot (114 Norfolk St., between Rivington & Delancey) Friday August 22 at 2:30pm or 7:30pm or Saturday August 23 at 7:30pm. Tell your friends!

-E.

 

Lick My Sauce! Review of “King of Kong”

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I’ve always hated people who say women aren’t funny, partly because I have so few examples to prove them wrong. Sure there are some classics like Lucille Ball, and my generation loves Tina Fey, but it’s always easier to list off funny men than funny women. That’s part of the reason why I am so in love with Amber Ruffin and Lauren Van Kurin’s NYC Fringe Show, King of Kong.

The subject matter is bizarre, but absolutely wonderful; Billy Mitchell has it all – hot wife, hot hair, hot sauce company. But the jewel in his crown (and he DOES own an actual crown) is his Donkey Kong high score. Steve Weibe, on the other hand, is a total loser. He has a kid who can’t wipe his own ass and a wife who is distant and uninterested. The only thing he is good at is Donkey Kong and so he sets off determined to beat Billy’s high score.

The entire show is performed by the two women who make lightning-fast quick changes and even take turns playing one of the same characters (don’t worry, the referee shirt keeps things clear).Their ability to convincingly play men is to be envied, and the ease with which they change characters reminded me of what I recently saw Jefferson Mays do in Gentleman’s Guide. Even the lighting was strong, and helped to establish settings that were created with absolutely no set and very minimal props. I can’t neglect to mention their singing either, which was quite good, though it is the writing itself that is truly the heart of the show.

Both Ruffin and Van Kurin are equally talented women, and their chemistry onstage can’t be denied. When it comes to favourite characters, however, I’ll have to go with Billy Mitchell – I hope to see him on SNL one day.

While it’s not something usually mentioned in a review, I’ve got to throw this out there; these are really, really nice ladies. We met them a week or so ago after a teaser night and they were so friendly and funny we liked them right away. I’ve met quite a few people out here in NYC and most you talk to once and that’s it, which is fine. But we’ve been lucky enough to keep running into Amber and Lauren and every time they are just as delightful. They even gave us a shout-out at the end of their performance! So if what you’ve heard about the show isn’t enough to make you want to go (you crazy) then go and support some of the nicest, most talented women I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. You can still catch their last two performances; Sunday August 17 at 6:00pm and Tuesday August 19 and 9:15pm at the Players Theatre, venue 17, 115 Macdougal St.

I’ll leave you with one of my personal favourites from the show;

“Failure is just a success you failed to succeed at.”

-E.

Review: Xavier Toby’s “Mining My Own Business”

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The other day the NVS team headed out to see Australian comic Xavier Toby perform his show Mining My Own Business at the NYC Fringe. While structured like a stand up routine, the audience interaction is minimal, and Toby performs with well-versed speed, prepared with fun little photos and props to help his story along.

The routine runs about an hour and describes Toby’s experiences working on a coal mine in Australia. There are some anecdotes about other miners, but for the most part the story is very personal and provides an insight into the comic’s goofy, lovable personality. As one of the only men working in administration on a site full of very big, very macho men (Toby refers to himself as an “anorexic midget” next to these brutes) Toby is often ridiculed and dismissed. While self-deprecating humour can get tired and trying, Toby manages to find a balance by allowing others to beat-up on him while he maintains his cheery, optimistic attitude; you will often catch yourself saying “awww” and giving him an encouraging smile!

Australian comedian, Xavier Toby

Australian comedian, Xavier Toby

While there is a fair bit of swearing (and the occasional “smurfing” as well) overall the content is pretty PG. If you are very easily offended (or grossed out) this may be one to pass on, but personally I found it well-suited to a Fringe Festival.

If you haven’t yet caught Xavier Toby’s Mining My Own Business, no fear. He still has two performances left; Tuesday August 19th at 8:00pm and Saturday August 23 at 3:30pm. Catch him at the Underground, Venue #12, 64 East 4th Street (Bowery and 2nd Ave).

-E.

A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder

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Tonight I had the pleasure of going to see the Tony Award winning Broadway hit, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, starring Bryce Pinkman and Jerfferson Mays. I had first heard of the show back in June when I saw them perform “I’ve Decided to Marry You” on the 2014 Tony Awards; I was instantly hooked.

The story is about a young man, Monty, who has recently lost his mother and finds himself penniless. A strange woman appears and informs him that his mother was actually a member of the D’Ysquith family; a wealthy but unusual lot who cast her out when she chose to marry for love rather than choose someone from her own status. Turns out, Monty is 8th in line for Earldom, a position that would give him money and authority, perhaps even enough to finally win the hand of his mistress, Sibella (played brilliantly by Lisa O’Hare). Initially, Monty intends to work for the family, but after Lord Adalbert (Mays) sends him a nasty reply he decides it would be better to murder off other potential heirs instead.

The show is set in 1909 and the costumes are stunning. I would love to meet the dressers for Jefferson Mays as he plays each of the 8 D’Ysquiths and often has less than a minute to change from one character to the next. His character changes and acting abilities are astonishing, but none of that would work without the amazing talent of the costume team and dressers to go with it.It’s not the strongest book I’ve seen, but the story is funny. And songs such as “I’ve Decided To Marry You” and “It’s Better With A Man” are sure to be stuck in your head for days. My personal favourite was “Sibella”; a darkly passionate love song that stands out from the rest as being far more serious and moving.

Most of the plot was predictable, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable.

**SPOILER**

The one part that did catch me off guard was the 9th D’Ysqutih who bursts out of the top of the faux stage in the final number, doing a mini reprise of “I’ve Got Poison In My Pocket”. Once again, brilliant set, character, and great comedic timing.

**END OF SPOILER**

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With Tony nominee Jefferson Mays.

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Stealing a kiss from the incredible Jefferson Mays

One of my favourite parts of seeing a show is standing by the stage door in hopes of meeting the stars afterwards. I’m not one who follows celebrity gossip and you wouldn’t catch me standing in the rain waiting to meet a Kardashian, but for Broadway actors, any day.I’m always so happy to see talented actors that are also friendly and down-to-earth. I managed to get the cast’s signatures as well as a few photos – and even a kiss! Not to fear, Mr. Mays wife was there as well, and she also chatted with us and admitted that he does (as many actors I have known do) sometimes slip into character at home. I asked him how he managed to change characters so quickly and he replied simply;

“Really, my head is still spinning”.

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With Tony nominee Bryce Pinkman

If you get a chance to see this show, take it. It was an amazing time and these are actors worth supporting.

-E.

When The Clowns Stop Laughing

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It’s a sad day when the comedians in the world stop laughing, stop telling jokes, and bend to the darker thoughts in their head. I was out with the No Visible Scars crew when we heard that actor/comedian Robin Williams had been found dead in his home, likely from suicide.

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As a kid who grew up in the 1990s, I naturally adored Robin Williams. He was the Genie in the first film I ever saw in theatres; Disney’s Aladdin. I grew up watching Patch Adams,  Mrs. Doubtfire, and when I was a teenager discovered his early classics like Mork and Mindy. He was clever and funny and played the sort of fun-loving dad every kid could look up to.

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This has been a month of a lot of personal loss; two friends have died (one from suicide) and two more are very sick. As I work on a play that centres on depression and suicide I can’t help but feel more affected than I’d like to. That’s probably why William’s death hit me so hard; he had a family, a great career, he was a comedian, one of the ones who is meant to make light out of dark and to inspire all of us to laugh it off and move on. And even he couldn’t manage it.

I’ve been saying it a lot as I work on No Visible Scars; depression effects so many more people than you’d think. It’s not just “emo” kids and poor people. It isn’t exclusive to any age, race, sex, religion – it can take a hold of anyone. His death certainly goes to show that.

“Each and every one of his in this room is one day going to stop breathing, grow cold, and die”

His famous line from Dead Poet’s Society is certainly true, but it’s not a process we need to be rushing along. His death was a waste of talent. A waste of a life. A selfish act that has affected his family, friends, and all who adored him. Don’t let that happen to someone you love. Don’t let that happen to you. Reach out before you lose someone. Reach out before we lose you.

-E.