Monologue Search, Benefits of Grad School, Script Rights

Monologue Search, Benefits of Grad School, Script Rights Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice-seekers. This week's column explores some benefits of graduate school, gives sources for getting the rights to musicals, and offers some helpful tips to actors from an actor studying in NYC. I invite actors of all ages to continue 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!

Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice-seekers. This week's column explores some benefits of graduate school, gives sources for getting the rights to musicals, and offers some helpful tips to actors from an actor studying in NYC. I invite actors of all ages to continue 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!

Question
Hi. I'm starting a little theatre company out of my college this summer, and we would like to put on Jesus Christ Superstar...here' s the problem, we can't find how to get the rights. Would you happen to know who to contact and how to contact them?
Thanks a lot
Paul Fidalgo

Dear Paul,
There are four organizations, all in NYC, that license the rights for most musicals:

Samuel French -- (212) 206-8990
Tams-Witmark -- (212) 688-2525
Musical Theatre International -- (212) 868-6668
The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization -- (800) 541-6600

Congrats on your company and break a leg getting the rights! Question
Ms. Blair,
I am a 16-year-old male living on L.I. I was wondering what type of help/advice/information that you could give me as to what type of audition materials/places to look for information on auditioning in the city (NYC). I would really appreciate this. Also, could you please try to explain Equity to me, some of my friends have tried, but none of them really know. Thank you for your time.
Sincerely
Rich Sweeney

Dear Rich,
Thanks for your questions.

To begin your question about Actors' Equity Association, please refer to the Sept. 20-26 column of Ask Blair, available by clicking on the "previous columns" button at the bottom of this column (on the website). If you still don't understand AEA after reading that column, write me with specific questions.

As for auditioning and audition materials--your question is very broad, so my response will be brief. To start with, the best place to find audition listings is Backstage magazine, the number one actor trade paper in the NYC area. New issues are sold every Thursday, and it should be available at your local deluxe newsstand.

Online there is a site called the Callboard. It's great for audition listings, but you have to become a member. They may charge--I'm not sure. The address is: http://www.thecallboard.com.

Although many auditions nowadays are based on cold readings from the text, as far as audition materials, it's good to have at least one classical and one contemporary monologue, one of them should be comic and the other serious. Ideally it's great to have two contrasting contemporary monologues and the same with classical. Classical monologues are generally from the 18th century or before, written in verse. Shakespeare, Moliere, Sheridan, and any of the Greek plays are some choices of playwrights and texts to consider.

I recommend you spend a day or several days in your local drama library or bookstore, flipping through and reading works by classical and contemporary authors and finding pieces that you feel a connection to. From the home page of the PBOL website, you can click on The Drama Book Shop, under Multi-media. You can look up scripts and playwrights online, or the actual store is a great place to visit in New York City, and spend a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, looking through plays and searching for monologues. It also carries many useful books such as "How to Be a Working Actor" and "Acting Professionally" which you may find helpful. The New York Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center is also a great resource.

The process of finding monologues gets easier the more you do it. There are fewer monologues around for people your age, so you need to look carefully. If you use monologue books such as Monologues of the 1990's, (Men), make sure you read the play! Here are some other tips for picking monologues and songs:

1) Pick only pieces that make you come alive when you read them. Make sure you can really relate to the character's struggle.
2) Avoid choosing pieces that you don't like, think you're supposed to like, or have been done by everyone and their mothers (unless of course, you REALLY like it). Ask an acting teacher or director about what pieces are overdone.
3) Pick characters that are close to you in age.
4) When auditioning for a specific show, before you audition, discover the flavor, the qualities of the character you want to play. Pick a monologue or a song that is similar to that. For example, if the character you want to play is charming and funny, do a monologue from another play where the character has those qualities. If there's a key scene where the character you want to play is experiencing loss, choose a monologue that has a similar theme.

I hope you can use these tips to help you, Rich.

Question
I am currently in my junior year at a university, majoring in theatre (performance), and as such, I am beginning to consider what I want to do after graduation. I would like to know a little bit about graduate school--what does it offer for performance majors and what are the benefits of going to graduate school before entering the workforce? Or, would it be better just to get right in there and start auditioning? I'd appreciate any help you can give me.

mmurray

Dear Murray,
Thanks for your great question, for which there is no right answer.

In a previous column, I tell a story about when I auditioned for Yale right after undergrad, and how the head of the department told me that I would benefit from going out and getting professional experience before going to Yale. He told me Yale prefers actors who have had post-grad, professional experience. Then, another student from my class who auditioned got in. She did know one of the professors--but, still, you can see how there are no rules.

Many people in the business adopt a kind of snobby but somewhat legitimate attitude about thorough classical training. While many good actors can and will make it without classical, or sometimes hardly any training, I believe that, if an actor can master Shakespeare, and learn to perform Shakespeare seamlessly--then they've pretty much got the whole craft down.

There are many different graduate schools and the programs vary. You can research them from the college database on PBOL. Here are some things a good graduate program can offer:

  • Intense and comprehensive dramatic, vocal and dance training- including "classical" training
  • An appreciation for high artistic quality and hard work
  • Access to professional productions when resident theatres are attached to schools, such as Yale Repertory, Harvard's American Repertory Theatre and DePaul/Goodman.
  • Working and studying with wonderful theatre professionals.
  • Working on film
  • Working in a close-knit, safe environment
  • Contacts from teachers who are also directors or playwrights
  • Contacts from other students in your program
  • Strong likelihood of getting an agent(s) from scene nights at the end of your program
  • Having a Masters degree can be helpful (Especially when going for teaching jobs)

Leaving the university world after being in school virtually one's whole life is scary. It is particularly scary for actors, whose professional lives are much more risky, competitive, and chaotic than other careers. A university environment can be seductive and misleading with it's safe, exclusive atmosphere. I think it's wise to let a year or two or five go by after undergraduate studies before going to Grad school. This way, you will know more about yourself as an actor, including what you would specifically like to learn and gain from a graduate school program to improve your acting, instead of just being a learning machine. Furthermore, you can try on the life of an actor, so that when you get out of grad school, you'll know more of what to expect and it will be less shocking.
Good luck, Murray.

Response
I admired your reply to Nora, about not beating yourself up [from Ask Blair, April 18-30].
I've learned (and continue to learn) through my work with my teacher, Jim Bonney (plug!), about the value of honoring yourself and your work. One of things Jim made us write down is:
"My biggest obstacle to my acting is ___________ (fill in your name)". . .Meaning that if you learn to get out of your own way, you can be wonderful.
Another essential step is honoring your artist/creative self, which is why we're required to read "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron.
Thanks!
Christopher Fabbro (NYC actor/singer)

Christopher,
Thanks for your comments. I wanted to post your response so other readers could gain from your wisdom, and its always good to know of people who really like their acting teacher--solid, trustworthy teachers can be hard to find.