Two years ago, director-actor Dennis Corsi and some colleagues were preparing a showcase in which they would perform in front of a group of important agents. There was a lot of pressure to find the perfect piece of writing—the right scenes and monologues that would best spotlight their talents. It did not end well.
“Me and my peers spent so much time endlessly searching through plays and songs just to find something,” says Corsi. “By the time we found a piece we were happy with, we didn’t have much time to actually work on the piece and act it. I was just so frustrated by that process.”
Corsi was certain other theatre artists had gone through the same turmoil. So he decided to do something about it.
The result is Script Match. The new app catalogues hundreds of plays and musicals and lets the user sift through the reams of material by way of a series of filters (“character traits,” “genre,” “time period,” etc.) until they find that script that suits the audition at hand.
For a few years now, theatre artists have begun to harness technology in new ways. Today, apps aid in everything from fundraising to analyzing audience data to documenting staging and choreography. The latest wave includes several services designed to streamline the time-consuming and stressful process of preparing for an audition.
Steven Gross’ database, Musical Theater Songs, (like Corsi’s Script Match) also originated from impatience with the tiresome old methods of getting ready for an audition. “I can certainly recall when I was in my college years and studying and looking for repertory material,” recalls Gross. “The go-to place was Lincoln Center Library and you had to go through numerous catalogues and numerous scores.”
Gross works both as a Broadway conductor and in academia, and thus felt he was well-suited to bring the process into the modern era. As an historian, he had already been cataloguing theatre scores for his own edification. Beginning in 2013, he started to convert that interest into a user-friendly database, plugging in hundreds of scores.
Today, nearly two years after it launched, Musical Theater Songs contains more than ten thousand songs. Actors can narrow down song search by typing in age, voice type and the sort of song they’re looking for (ballad, up-tempo, etc.). Users can also search by composer, the time period the songs were composed, the time signature and the difficulty the song would pose to an accompanist.
“This does it all for you,” explains Gross. “You type in, ‘OK, I’m looking for X.’ It will get you to ‘X’ and get the sheet music directly and let you listen to recordings. There’s also a glossary for terms you may not know.”
Like Musical Theater Songs Script Match can get very specific in their winnowing of information. There are 80 character traits one can choose from on Script Match when looking for a scene or monologue, including “angsty,” “diplomatic,” “maternal,” “paranoid” and “prudent.” Corsi culled these terms by surveying actors about what sort of parts they were looking for. “We took the list and picked the most common adjectives and consolidated some similar adjectives,” he says.
Once an actor settles on character type, he can choose between plays and musicals; between dramas and comedies; and time periods that range from before 1400 to today.
There are three ways plays end up in the Script Match files. A playwright can self-submit their texts. The Script Match team inputs plays from the public domain. The third way, which is soon to come, will allow major play publishers, such as Samuel French and Dramatists Play Services, to submit massive imports of all their scripts. Corsi built software to automatically format such plays.
Script Match is free at present, and, Corsi says, will always be free to playwrights. “We want playwrights to have their work seen,” he says, “so we don’t want to put up any barriers there.” On the other side, Hundreds of individuals and dozens of universities and conservatories—individuals pay a monthly ($29) or annual ($79) fee for the service with pricing for institutions prescribed case by case—subscribe to Musical Theatre Songs.
Samuel French has, itself, gotten into the app game. The venerable play publisher recently unveiled Abbott, a digital portal to all the ePlays in French’s catalog. Right now, Abbott holds 1,200 scripts. (Fifty more plays will be added every month.) French hopes that theatre companies will use the app to search for plays for their new seasons. But, the service can also be used by actors prepping for an audition. Subscriptions range from $9.95 to $29.95, depending on the number of plays read a month.
Another new audition-focused app is Bookster, which allows actors to track auditions as they are happening, find additional auditions occurring that day and track details from past audition, such as the material they used and clothes they wore—even the identities of the judging faces who were sitting on the other side of the table. The Actor Genie app performs a similar service for actors auditioning for television and film in Hollywood.
Don’t expect the flow of audition apps to slow. Corsi sees an ambitious new future for services like his. Some casting apps have already reached out to him to collaborate and create a sort of one-stop shopping destination for digital audition preparation.
“There are some plans to have coaches and head shot photographers on the website,” he says. “That is down the line.”