One of the highlights of BroadwayCon for working and aspiring actors was Broadway casting director Bernie Telsey's Q&A where he offered real-world advice for those who want to get cast in a Broadway show. Among his tips:
What He Looks for in an Audition:
Auditions are like a blind date for the casting director and the actor. The audition starts the minute you walk in the room. Have a sense of presence. We may be looking for someone who has a certain size, shape and color…but many times if someone has the talent it will change our mind.
Training is a must. [The end.]
The biggest deal-breaker is not being prepared. You have to have a book [of songs you are prepared to sing at a moment's notice]. You have to have more than one song. Even if the casting notice says you only need one song, if we like you we may ask you to sing another. The other no-no is overreaching. Don’t sing "Defying Gravity" if you're not comfortable with it and if you're not ready to start singing it eight performances a week. Your Audition Reel:
It should be two to three minutes that shows a really good credit. Something meaty. I'd rather see one really good scene than "All the Faces of Jim."
I look for information: what roles you played, where and who was the director. Also, it should be easy to read.
You can't just sing one kind of song. You must have one old song and one new pop and modern song. Pick something where you connect to the lyrics. It's storytelling. [Also] If you're coming in for a show like Wicked don't come in with a song from Wicked unless we ask you to.
"Under 5" Parts:
We never have enough people who want to do "under fives" — parts with one to five lines.
Advice to Kids and Teens:
The longevity of a child’s career is very short. Most shows will make you sign a contract saying that if you grow taller than 52 or 54 inches, you can be replaced. Also, once you pass 15 or 16 or so, producers may hire someone over 18, but looks younger to play the part because [under union rules] they can work someone longer once they are over 18. Take classes, see everything you can possibly see, get involved in everything you can, usher, volunteer. Off-Off-Broadway is as exciting as Broadway for young actor.
There has been a lot more diversity on Broadway this season, but casting directors don't get credit for that. It comes down to the writers. The credit for [the diversity in] Hamilton, for example, goes to Lin[-Manuel Miranda] and Tom Kail, who demanded it.
How to Choose a "Plan B:" Pick a Plan B that supports your Plan A. My Plan A was to become a producer, but I studied accounting as my Plan B. I had interest in accounting because I knew it would help me be a producer.