Some thoughts for people holding auditions… (make your job easier)

Auditions are HARD!!! For EVERYONE!!!

People always think about the folks up there showing they can sing, dance, act or whatever… but it is just as hard and nerve-wracking for the people who are casting the show – the ones who supposedly, “hold all the cards!” It isn’t easier on that side of the table at all!

Here’s a few tidbits of advice from my experiences….

1) TELL PEOPLE!!! What’s the point of auditions if no one knows you are having them? You need a lot of people for any show – even a simple little two hander. You want choice, right? You want selection? You want word of mouth? TELL PEOPLE! Don’t hold secret auditions. Don’t have them on a tough weekend, like a holiday or when the super sale at the mall starts… pick a good time – far enough in the future and PROMOTE IT!


2) Tell people what the show IS! Sure it might have a title they recognize, but maybe it is a different version, or maybe you are planning to set it post-apocolyptic, (please don’t), or maybe you want TWICE as many actors as normal… if you don’t TELL THEM…. they won’t come.

3) Hold the auditions at convenient times. Evenings and Weekends work for community theatre – and make sure to mix that up. Don’t do just a weekend or just the evenings. Give people multiple chances to get out to see you. You need them, don’t you?

4) DON’T hold the auditions too far away from the show. You are only hurting yourself. If your show is in December, seriously, what is the point of auditions in January? So much can happen to people in between the time of the audition and when rehearsals start. Heck, they might even forget they are in your show! About 4-5 months before your show is fine, with rehearsals starting shortly after you cast it – but remember, if they don’t know about it, it doesn’t matter when you hold the auditions.

5) TELL THEM WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE!!! If it is singing – tell them what style. Provide examples if you can. Do they need to dance? Tell them. Be ready to teach that. Do you want a monologue? Comedy routine? Improv sessions? Don’t be afraid to shake it up and do something different – just be ready to answer their questions – cause they’ll have them!

6) Make your requests make sense for the show. Don’t ask for a WICKED inspired power ballad if you are doing a Shakespeare, and if the show is comedic, what IS the point of a classical monologue? Seriously, know what you are looking for when you prepare that audition statement.

7) Sit down with your team and discuss your dream cast. When I say dream cast – I mean it. Dream big! Who would you cast from all time of all the famous actors you and your team know? Build that EPIC cast list, (with options) and know what it is you are hoping to see walk through that door. Be ready though – cause it just might! OR – even more exciting – something you didn’t expect will show up and knock your socks off!!! Be ready for that.


8) Prepare your banter. Know what you plan to say to each candidate and be ready with that. Have questions. Read their sheets/resumes/questionnaires. They took the time to come out and fill out those forms, have something you’d like to know about them. Be curious. Be genuinely interested in them because they are genuinely interested in you and your project. It’s the least you can do.

9) Be ready for the hard decisions. Here’s where it gets tough. The person you thought would really “bring it” might not. The unexpected will happen. Be prepared with challenges for your actors so you can know who is really going to deliver and make the project exactly what you want it to be. Don’t waste their time. They are there, working in front of you and delivering their level best. Challenge them. Have the callback materials ready – KNOW what you want to see. Then have the guts to make the tough decision and stick by it. Whatever happens. It isn’t easy. Art is never easy.

10) This should really be the FIRST thing you do… and I shouldn’t even have to put it here, but I do, cause you’d be surprised…. READ THE SCRIPT. Read it again. And then read it a third time. Make sure EVERYONE on your team has a copy. And do your best to give them time to read it. Discuss it. Have questions ready. Solve problems with it before you even audition. And if, for some strange reason, you don’t have the script and you are heading into auditions… what are you doing? Wait. Get the script. Read it. It’s the only way to be certain you are ready for the project and your people who are investing their time are also ready.

These are just a FEW tips. Do you have more? Mention them in the comments below.

What makes the best…? (Part 3)

Set Designers are crucial the a show’s success. They are also crucial to the creative process of the director – at least they are to my creative process. No matter what the play or musical is about, if I don’t have a set design, then I can’t see the show coming to life in my head and in turn I will have difficulty in bringing that vision to the cast for them to give it life.


I’m a pretty visual person, but I work kinetically on a play. This means that I need to be able to feel in my gut what is the crux of a scene and give it some truth in the physical relationships of the characters involved. That holds true if it is a musical number or a dramatic, tension filled scene and the spatial relationships of the players can really affect the kinetic feeling of the scene.

A great Set Designer will read the play. Then they’ll read it again and then they’ll talk with the director and eventually be able to give them some plans, either 2D or 3D – preferably both –  to help them show the entire team the world that they will be living and working in for the life of the show. The sooner a Set Designer can provide this, the better. If you don’t know the layout of your apartment, for example, how can you go shopping for furniture?

A superb Set Designer will solve script problems. Sometimes problems that you didn’t even realize were there. They’ll be able to give you solutions to scripts that read more like movies – many authors seem to forget that it is hard to transition from the dining room of a tavern to a seaside in a matter of seconds. Your Set Designer can have creative tools up their sleeve to help to tell the story in a seamless manner. They will also help to tie in the colour palate of your show and give the whole world a real sense of belonging.

Aside from knowledge of building and a good aesthetic sense, a flexible personality is necessary for a great Set Designer. They need to be able to take their artistic sensibilities and skills and apply them to the whole vision of the show. They will consider the movement of the actors, the potential difficulties of costumes and the location and operations of lighting and sound equipment. They can give a director levels to play on and moveable pieces to bring an imaginary world to an audience. And they will probably finish their design long before the other members of the crew will finish theirs. A good set design will inform the whole production – and the whole production’s process.

It’s a big job. And we always need someone to do it. Could that someone be you?

5, 6, 7, 8!

The beginning of the rehearsal process is filled with trepidation and not just for the actors. The creative team have a lot of questions that they have to answer and they’ve got to be ready for all manner of problems with the script, the score, the rehearsal space – whatever… but hopefully they’ve got a handle on it all and have begun their plans, right? Of course they have.

They’ve copied their scripts, they’ve got the scores, (or at least they are on order), the set is sketched out and costumes are being measured and the choreography is… well… in the choreographers head.

That’s right, there’s generally no guide for the choreographer. No score, no script, no nothing. Except those words in the script that say… [they dance], or in the case of a Shakespeare… [they fight]

So, where does it all come from? And how can you be sure it’s gonna be good? Where’s the inspiration? How is it written out, taught, rehearsed, remembered? Well, sometimes all that’s a tall order to fill.

Just the other week, I began giving some choreography to a group of actors and before I’d begun a step, one of them said, (not too quietly either), “Oh, no, not another jazz square…” Well, the following step was NOT going to be a jazz square, but that little statement epitomizes the challenge of choreography. If an actor’s line in a script is silly or a note is difficult to sing, it isn’t the Director or Music Director’s doing. Sure, the actor can discuss it with them, and perhaps a solution can be found, or sense can be made of it, but if the actor doesn’t like the choreography, well, generally that came directly from the choreographer. Sure, some shows have film versions and some choreographers will lift directly from that source, but generally, I find, they like to create anew, and it can be a pretty daunting task. There’s nothing in the script to guide them – save for the odd stage direction. The only thing they’ve got is the music and often there isn’t a complete version of that. If there IS a complete recording, that can be a godsend. Otherwise it’s just the score, but some choreographers don’t read music and that will make it even more challenging.

It’s always fun to surprise people with something fun and inventive – your cast, your crew, your audience and your colleagues. I know how to read choreography and if I I’m surprised or thrilled by something on a stage, then that means I had an entertaining read at that performance. I’m always striving to provide the same for my colleagues who choreograph – and that means as few jazz squares as possible. And if you don’t know what a jazz square is… well then, you’ve probably never done a musical.

So, now… I’ve got to go find some inspiration for a dance number – again. With NO jazz squares.

Dance a Cachucha – Gondoliers Choreography MTP 2009