Welcome to "Ask Blair," a weekly online column of practical advice for actors, written by Blair Glaser.
Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice seekers. This week's column addresses how to "direct" your audition, some Equity concerns, and what to do if you're an actor on holiday break from college. I invite actors of all ages to continue to write me with any problems encountered at auditions, in class, or anything you feel could be standing between you and your talent. Make sure to check the previous columns to see if your question, or one like it, has been answered already!
When at an audition, performing a monologue or singing a song, do you recommend playing it straight to the directors, playing it to the audience (i.e. focused just beyond the director - above his head or a few rows back), or playing to an imaginary character on stage? Different directors I have worked with have different preferences and many of them think their's is the only proper way to audition. For the sake of clarity, if you go into an audition blind, not knowing the casting director's preferences, what is the best approach in terms of focus?
Hey rdaring. Just exactly how daring R U?
It's good to be daring as an actor, but when it comes to the issue of where to focus, being too daring may be a hazard. Before I launch into my strong opinions, I want to acknowledge all the directors you've spoken with, and reiterate that, like many questions actors ask, there is no "right" answer. Ultimately, you have to find out what works best for you from your own experience.
When you don't know the auditioners, I recommend almost never using them to work off of-- unless, of course, they specifically ask for it. I feel that using people who have not agreed to be a part of your work can be potentially phony, invasive and rude, and has a tendency to make some auditioners feel very uncomfortable. When you use the auditioners as part of your monologue, (songs tend to be a little different) you run the risk of sabotaging your own audition. If auditioners feel trapped within your performance, it limits their ability to assess it.
Furthermore, let's say you begin acting directly to them and then they don't respond, start writing, or seem annoyed and look away. You will most likely (and naturally) have a reaction to that, which in turn will most likely distract you from being in the moment of the piece--you'll start to talk to yourself about it while you're acting--i.e. 'Why are they looking away?. . . am I boring? smiling too much? etc.' Why create that much work for yourself? If you are singing a song that tells a story, it may be okay to sing directly to them. If you are singing a character song to yourself or to another character, I recommend not using the auditioners.
On the other hand, if you are auditioning for the part of an MC, stand-up comic, car salesman, by all means, use the auditioners. You have to feel it out. Trust your instincts about the auditioners and what the situation is.
As where to place your focus, well--that's a personal preference. Try different things, even working directly to auditioners to see what happens. (You may be so great that they love being a part of your work!)
I feel comfortable placing the person I'm talking with at my eye level, staring at a space that allows my face and my eyes to be seen--not looking too far above their heads and definitely not down.
With monologues, I think it works best when actors feel the presence of the person they are talking to and appear to be talking with them, but are actually connecting inwardly with their own instincts, impulses and emotions. Connecting outwardly to an imaginary person creates a lot of work--you have to create them and their reactions to you all in your imagination, and it can really keep an actor in his or her head.
Good luck on your auditions, rdaring. Be daring in your willingness to allow the entire audition place to become the place of the character, to forget you are even auditioning and to let the auditioners deep into the intimacy of the character's world.
Okay, so here I am, finally at the end of an unbelievably hectic semester at school and looking forward to a long vacation at home in the L.A. Area. It was suggested to me that I should go on auditions there, even though I know I won't be able to accept any offers I might get. Do you think that's a good idea? I would love to chalk up the audition experience, but then again who's to say that my name won't be broadcast around town as unreliable? Let me know, thanx.
Great to hear from you again. Thank you once again for your question, I hope you are having a great holiday season and break.
I suggest you go to all the auditions you can!!!
Frankly, Shana, there are so many names in LA, I can't imagine that at this point in your career, that if anyone remembered your name enough to make a broadcast about your reliability, it would have very much influence.
In the event that you are called back to a production you audition for, write the director a very nice note explaining that you are in college and you were thrilled to have the opportunity to audition and get called back, and to please remember you when you return.
Of course if you get called back for something really great, what would happen if you went for it? I know many people who have taken off a semester of school and were able to graduate on time...
Good luck. Keep going to auditions and learn, learn, learn.
I am an actor in the Chicago area and am wondering about Actors' Equity. I am 24 years old, working in the biz for four months, and the show I'm currently working on is giving me my first Equity points. I have filled out the forms but haven't turned them in to the office yet because I was getting too much advice from too many people on what to do. The decision I made was to not submit it at this point because I can always pick up those points at a later date, but I didn't want to limit myself to only eligible shows this early in my career. In your opinion, is this the right decision for me? Also, if you could tell me a little more about the actor's union it would be so helpful to me. I am not currently being represented by anyone so some professional advice would be great!
Thank you so much,
Thanks so much for your questions. In order to find out more about the actors' union, Actors' Equity, please refer to the Sept 20-26 Ask Blair column (accessible on the website through a "previous articles" button at the bottom of the column).
Regarding your current situation, I would suggest, if you haven't already, that you become clear on how many points you are actually getting. Understand that being Equity-eligible is different than being a member of the union. Currently, being eligible does not limit you to Equity auditions only, rather it allows you to audition for both Equity and non-Equity productions, which is a great thing. This may change soon, but it hasn't changed yet.
Be aware that even though you are getting Equity points, in order to become Equity-eligible, you have to apply--and there are certain requirements that you will discover by referring to the previous issue.
Your instincts were right to avoid becoming an Equity member right away. Considering all the wonderful non-Equity theatre opportunities, especially in Chicago, it does seem too early in your career to limit yourself to audition only for Equity productions -- even though many non-Equity productions pay poorly, and rarely offer the many protections of a union contract.
Good luck, Sean. Sounds like you're on the right track.
Dear Ms. Glaser,
I've been searching high and low for a URL to the SouthEastern Theatre Conference. Does one exist? Also, if you know of any others like Strawhat, UPTA, U/RTA, National Dinner Theatre, etc... that do have URLs please send them to me.
Thanks for your question. I always let people who address me as "Ms. Glaser" know that Blair is fine :>.
I searched, but I can't find sites for any of those organizations either! If any readers know about any sites for the above mentioned organizations, please let me know--and I'll post them in a column.
In case you don't already know, most of the information that would be on a StrawHat Website can be found on Playbill On-Line, in the Casting Calls section. You can download and print the applications.
Criteria and tips for Straw Hat applicants can be found in the Oct 25-31 column of Ask Blair.
Good luck at the auditions, Nathan.
Sincyberly to all,
-- Blair Glaser
Blair Glaser coaches actors privately in NYC. For Blair's bio or information about classes, click here.