In our new advice column, "Hey, Johnny!" (as in: stage door Johnny), an anonymous Broadway veteran answers the burning questions that might just be keeping your theatre-loving soul up at night: Should you move to New York and chase the dream? Should you have a show-mance while you're at the Muny for three harmless weeks? And, what exactly is Johnny's insider take on rejection, acceptance and the merit of all those $95,000 BFA programs? Or staying non-Equity? Or staying sane?
Here's Johnny's latest round of reader replies.
What would you suggest to wear to an audition? Should we dress for the part or is there any sort of outfit that can be considered a staple for auditions?
There's this little pair of blue Underoos I used to wear, when I was 4 or 5, and when I put them on I was no longer shy or awkward — I was Superman. I was transformed. You can actually see it in grainy old photos of me, the way I stand taller, braver, "becoming" somebody else.
When I first moved to New York, I had long outgrown my Underoos, if not my overall nervousness at being alive. And so for important auditions I decided to start doing impressions of the most confident person I know — not Superman, but instead this successful female performer from my hometown, even though I'm not a female performer or even a female. But she was so seemingly confident, this girl, that I used to practice smiling like her, standing like her, channeling her.
I faked my way into the cast of several Broadway shows using this method: acting the part of somebody who deserved it.
So here's Johnny's advice: wear the thing that makes you feel like the most self-assured person you know. Or, even better: the outfit that makes you feel like the most self-assured version of yourself.
Practically speaking: take a bunch of selfies of yourself in various outfits. Ask your most diplomatically honest friend which ones make you look the most confident. What a creative team wants, more than anything, is somebody who can help them fill in the missing pieces of the expensive puzzle that is the musical/play/special-interactive-event-in-Brooklyn that they're creating — and that means they want to cast the confident person, no matter what the hell she shows up wearing.
Other wardrobe tips for my readers:
- If you're a woman, never wear heels that are shorter than 3" to any audition, dance call or otherwise, unless it's for the part of a secretary in a musical set in the 50s.
- If you're a man, do a test-run of your "audition shirt" at home, on a hot day, with the A/C off, to make sure the shirt masks the inevitable pit stains.
- No matter your gender: if you've got a particularly terrific physical asset, showcase it, but keep it classy.
- Feel free to dress gently "in character," but not so much that people openly wonder if it's Halloween, and did they somehow forget.
- Really, really think about not getting that tattoo you've been talking about.
- And if you do nothing else: consider also not wearing the "Banana Republic, circa 2002" look of solid pastel blouse with black skirt; something about that ensemble screams "my 16-bar uptempo is 'You've Got Possibilities' and my 32-bar ballad is 'On My Own,'" and we don't want either of these things to be true.
But back to your initial question, Alysha: wear the thing that makes them forget your outfit and remember you. That means choosing whichever "Superman Underoos" allow you to feel like your most vivacious self, even if you're faking it.
And by the way, everybody's faking it — even Clark Kent.
Break a leg,
Click through for Johnny's reply to Gage, who writes in asking about great summer stock theatres for non-Equity actors.
I'm a theatre student, and I was wondering what summer stock theatres are good places for non-Equity folks to audition (for musicals and straight plays). Also, what do you think of the movie "Cool Runnings?"
* Dear Gage:
There are no dumb questions, only things that should have been Googled first.
I'm not saying this to be a jerk, not at all — I'm saying this because there's something vaguely snarky and entitled about your question(s), which I recognize acutely as a younger version of myself; the one who was too lazy to figure out the easy answers for himself. And so here's what the older version of me has learned: if you want to know which summer stock theatres are good places for non-Equity folks to audition, Google "non-Equity summer stock auditions." I just did so, myself, and got roughly 22 billion hits.
The real answer to your first question is going to be more personal: which auditions can you get to, logistically? (Some otherwise "perfect" theatres will be far away; can you afford a flight or road trip to the audition?) Which theatres are casting shows in need of somebody with your unique characteristics, physical and otherwise? Audition for many theatres, if you can (check out StrawHat), because maybe only one will hire you, anyway. And then that answers that.
Another view: the best theatres to work at, if you're not yet part of the union, are the ones that employ primarily Equity actors but also reserve a few spots for folks just like you (and like me, once). That way, you're surrounded by something to aspire to and learn from.
About your "Cool Runnings" follow-up question, I smiled: not because it was a particularly hilarious or even timely reference, but, again, because I used to be that guy — the one who asked a question in a context where it wasn't really relevant. That guy is the class clown, the yuckster in the back row of music rehearsals who's quick to judge others but slow to actually create something, himself. And so my answer to your question is: I never saw "Cool Runnings," because when it came out, I was too busy trying to get my Equity card.
You were just being silly, of course, and I am, too, mostly. But I bet you have a robust sense of humor, Gage — hell, your name is Gage, which has a certain sparkly quality to it — and I want you to channel that humor into making something real, instead of just making jokes. Or worse: trouble.
Believe me, funny people are always welcome in the room, but it's the ones who can keep the conversation moving along instead of making every punch line about their own cleverness who not only earn their equity cards, but also the next job, and the one after that.
My advice: if you're a fan of "Cool Runnings," create an unauthorized five-minute musical out of it, Gage, and put it up on YouTube. You may have the last laugh, yet.
Break a leg,
Send us your theatrical conundrums and don't be afraid to dive deep. Johnny's got the time. Be warned, however: He talks straight and fast, and he's a little tired. Keep the questions vivid and you're more likely to keep him awake and get picked.