AEA Union Members: The AEA Scholarship Voice Program is Back

bigstockphoto_Microphone_1400326I’m passing on this information from my terrific and endlessly supportive voice teacher, Eric Michael Gillett, who runs this program.  I’ve been a member of the scholarship program for a couple of years now, and it has made a real difference in my singing auditions.  If you’re an AEA member and are seeking affordable voice lessons, you really should audition next week!

Auditions Announced for AEA Scholarship Program at Singers Forum 
After a brief hiatus, the AEA Scholarship Program at Singers Forum, under the auspices of EMGCollective, which administers the program on behalf of the Singers Forum, has returned to offer scholarships to Actors’ Equity Association members living in the New York City area.
The scholarship, which is a funded endowment, offers subsidized vocal training exclusively to members who apply, audition and are accepted. The subsidy covers almost 50 percent of the voice lesson, including a studio and accompanist. Without regard to age, ethnicity, gender and, for the most part, financial need, the scholarship is offered to qualified applicants to assist them in their quest for successful careers while maintaining the vocal health, strength and flexibility to attain long-term musical goals.
New program members, once accepted, are permanently connected to the scholarship, if they choose. This means a student leaving on tour for a year is welcomed back into the program upon return to the New York City area.
Monday, February 9th from 3:30-7 PM
Thursday, February 12th from 10 AM-6:30 PM
Friday, February 13th from 2 PM-6 PM
Callbacks will be held the week of February 16th
Auditions will be held at
Times Square Arts Center/300 W. 43rd Street, Suite 508
 
“Being able to study on a regular basis has bolstered my technique as well as my confidence,” said Scott Tucker, a student within the program. “I have been able to work on music and material that would have been difficult to master without the eyes and ears of an amazing teacher, and I’ve been able to set performance goals and meet them.”
To schedule an audition, contact:
Lynn Kearney
E-Mail submissions should include a photo/resume, and should indicate any known conflicts with the listed audition times.  Please put “Scholarship Audition Request” in the subject header.

Auditioning 101: More Tales of Terror From the Audition Hall

16-ProfessorOccasionally, I post about the importance of professional behavior at auditions.  Call me Mister Manners.  Since it’s getting close to Halloween, I decided it’s time for another installment.  I was at the lovely new Actors Equity lounge (with free wi-fi!) in Midtown NYC one afternoon between auditions the other day.  While there, I witnessed some frightful behavior by actors in the waiting area that may serve as further cautionary tales of terror for those of you new to the business–or anyone just needing a little reminder.

The audition in question was a required EPA call for a play at a well-known Manhattan classical theatre.  The company was seeking males only.  Most auditioners conducted themselves with grace in the waiting area.  But, sadly, there were exceptions.  The Equity audition monitor was a young woman who demonstrated remarkable reserves of calm in the face of a number of awkward moments.  One older man arrived eager to engage anyone and everyone in idle conversation.  He apparently didn’t see the sign asking people to refrain from loud conversation, and proceeded to make his sign-in process as noticeable to all as possible.  He asked if any audition slots were available, and when the monitor said she could in fact get him in within twenty minutes, he actually hesitated, and speculated aloud as to whether he could really wait around that long!  He decided he would consent to wait, and the monitor  asked him to have a seat.  He then looked my way and announced loudly in a general tone: “This process is a pain in the ass, and I’ve been doing it for 30 years.”  If he’s been behaving like that for 30 years, he must have a lot of free time on his hands.

A little while later, another older man walked up to the monitor’s desk.  She asked if he’d like to sign up for a slot.  He sniffed and said “Well, who’s in the room?”  He looked at the information sheet on the desk, and proclaimed loudly: “Only a casting assistant!  Not worth the trouble.”  And he swept away.  But when he got to the other end of the room, he swung around, went back to the table, and demanded of the monitor: “Was the casting director here at all?  For how long?”  She said he had been there twenty minutes that morning.  “Twenty minutes?!” the man exclaimed.  “That’s an insult!”  And with that, he strode out of the room, making a big exit.  He may not have given his name, but he left his calling card all the same.  I was impressed that the monitor didn’t even bat an eye.

As that man left, another arrived, signed in, went in to give his audition, and came back out again, all without incident.  But then he sat down right near the monitor and took out his cell phone.  He called someone who apparently did not make him happy.  And suddenly the whole room resounded with his side of the disagreement.  He got off the phone with that person, and immediately called another to resolve what he had discussed with the first person–all in terms that can only be described as unadulterated whining.

Shortly afterward, another man strolled up to the desk, and said loudly “Is this a comedy?  Drama?  What the hell is it?”  (I’m not making any of this up.  Honestly.)  The monitor gave him a quiet answer, and gave him a slot.  He said “Hello, Frank!” to the whining man who was at last exiting.  A few minutes later, the monitor asked if he was ready to go in.  He put his hand up to her and said: “A minute.  I’m still trying to decide which of these lousy monologues to try.  You think I should go with the way I’m feeling right now?  That could be trouble.”  As the question seemed rhetorical, the monitor wisely opted to ignore it and simply waited to conduct him into the audition room.

So, dear auditioner, what can we learn from this frightful behavior?

  • Don’t make the sign-in process painful for the monitor and others around you; no one will applaud you for it.  True, the Equity monitor is not affiliated with the theatre holding that audition–but the monitor does talk with the casting person throughout the day between appointments.  You do the math.
  • If you’re walking into an EPA late to request an appointment, expect to wait a while.  Be glad they were able to fit you in at all!
  • Even if the theatre only asks for a brief monologue, know what play you’re auditioning for that day, and (gasp!) be familiar with the script.  After all, that knowledge should be guiding your choice of monologue.
  • Don’t share your personal calls with the world–especially at an audition.  Use your head and find a private place to talk.  A public space is not a private phone booth.
  • The casting assistant of today may be the casting director of tomorrow.  As I said, casting people talk to monitors.  All the time.  And chances are, he or she will remember your conduct when deciding whether to call you in for something else.
  • If you’re going to attend an EPA, do it in good faith with a good attitude, because you want to meet someone new and be seen.  Do it because you want to make a good impression, and you’re ready to work without baggage.  If you’re there to complain, or air your insecurities, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll be hired for the collaborative business of theatre.  To use a currently popular catchphrase: “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
  • What should you say at an audition?  “Please.”  “Thank you.” “Nice to meet you!” and “Thank you again.”  The less you say, the better.

Show everyone respect at your audition, and the theatre just might show you a contract.

 

Auditioning 101: The Audition Reader

2-ActorsHere’s another installment of my tips for aspiring actors series:

Anytime you’re asked to perform a scene for an audition, the casting director or producer will provide a person to act as the Reader opposite you. The Reader may turn out to be an excellent actor, or in some unfortunate instances, a casting admin drafted at the last moment who stumbles over the words. It may be a love scene and the Reader may not be the designated sex, or age, or type, or whatever.  It’s your job as auditioner to make the Reader whatever you need him or her to be to kick the scene into orbit.  Granted, sometimes the substitution is a big one!

Smart casting directors know it’s in their best interest to provide a top-quality actor as Reader, to bring out the very best from each auditioner. After all, a scene should be about the back and forth, the little bursts of spontaneous, honest discovery that performers bring out of each other.  Having a deadwood Reader in the room makes your job a lot harder.  But if it happens, continue to play the truth of the scene and work to engage the Reader as much as possible with strong actions. The casting folks will be aware that  the Reader isn’t giving you much, and one of the things they’ll look for is how you well you stay honest in the face of that challenge.

Always make sure you greet the Reader pleasantly when you’re introduced. If casting neglects to introduce the Reader, whenever possible, take that quick moment to say to the Reader discreetly: “Hi, I’m __________, nice to meet you.” And give them a genuine, confident smile to encourage a connection before you read. At the end of the audition, as much as possible, make a connection visually with everyone in the room one last time as you thank them.  And always thank the Reader sincerely, whether they supported you beautifully or gave you nothing.

If you haven’t been a Reader, you should do it a few times; it’s an invaluable learning experience.  You will see how well (or poorly) others audition. And you will hear incredibly helpful things from the brief conversation in the room after the auditioner leaves.  You’ll hear frank discussion of what the casting folks liked. What they didn’t. Who earns a callback and who doesn’t–and why.   On very rare occasions, the casting folks may even ask for your feedback on a particular auditioner.  If this happens, be gracious and brief.  Never volunteer your views.

You will also hear the casting team discuss pros and cons about what that actor is like to work with, if the casting director or anyone else in the room is party to that information from prior jobs. If the actor is getting a reputation as difficult onstage or off, or even just habitually late, or habitually unprepared for auditions, it’ll come out during the brief discussion.  Trust me; I’ve seen it many times.  If the actor is known as a real pro and a joy to work with, the producers and director will literally breathe a sigh of relief to hear that, and that audition will be viewed in a much better light.

And of course, keep in mind that when you act as a Reader, you are not secretly there to try to land a role in that show.  You are not there to dazzle the casting folks; you are there to act as support for each and every actor who walks into the room.  Whenever possible, make sure you are extremely familiar with the script sides, so that you can focus on the auditioner and play the scene freely.  If you give quality support to the auditioners in the room that day, rest assured that the entire casting team will notice, and will file that away mentally for another time–when it’s your turn to audition again!

I remember one instance when I was asked to be the Reader for a theatre I had worked with many times.  They were casting the role of Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, and I read the role of Tom, the unhappy son.  Some of the actors who came in didn’t acknowledge me at all, they just started the scene and aimed their performance exclusively at “the house.”  They didn’t engage with me on any meaningful level; they just trotted out what they had worked up outside the audition room.  Others did engage with me to some degree when they were speaking, but still didn’t listen and allow themselves to respond spontaneously to whatever I might have given them on a particular line.

Then one actor came in, did an excellent job of connecting with everyone in the room, including me, and proceeded to play the scene with me as if we were the only two people present.  She surprised me, I surprised her, we were Amanda and Tom for those three minutes, and the scene soared right there in that little 8’x10′ audition room.  The effect on the casting team was immediate and palpable.  While there were a couple of other very good auditions that day, this actor stood out.  I was not at all surprised to learn later that she had landed the plum role.  And what was the last thing that actor did before leaving the audition room?  She looked me in the eye and said quietly: “Thank you for really playing the scene with me.  That made all the difference.”  It does.

Auditioning 101: The Audition Monitor

9-TrainI was at an appointment-only commercial audition recently where I was reminded that there are still plenty of actors out there who are getting in their own way even before they set foot into the audition room.  The audition was running late, and the monitor checking people in and collecting headshots had her hands full.  As I sat waiting for my audition, I witnessed the following:

One guy arrived with a large piece of luggage and announced to the audition monitor that he had a flight to catch, and really needed to get into the audition room as soon as possible so he didn’t miss his flight.  Honestly: that’s not the monitor’s problem.  Next time, ask for an earlier appointment, arrive earlier, and assume there will be delays.  The monitor did finally take pity on him and let him cut in front of a number of actors who had been waiting quite a while (including yours truly).  But the fellow didn’t endear himself to anyone that day.

Another man (this call was only for men) kept trying to monopolize the monitor’s time.  She was an attractive young woman, and apparently the actor felt that applying his charms to the monitor incessantly would somehow improve his chances of getting the gig.  His behavior was just shy of hitting on her.  Having worked at a number of auditions, I can tell you that the monitor isn’t looking for a date or a friend, just to do his/her job, and just wants to be left to do that job.  The monitor at this audition tolerated it about as well as anyone could be expected to, but she finally had to let him know she was busy.  The actor shouldn’t have put her in that position.

Yet another fellow arrived asking to go in ahead of others who had been waiting.  And then to top it off, he produced two poor-quality headshots from his bag, and asked the monitor in all seriousness: “Which do you think I should use?”  Again, he may have been trying to engage the monitor and make himself memorable to her by enlisting her help.  But the monitor was understandably nonplused.  She looked at the guy, looked at the two sad pictures fleetingly, and then said “Um…I guess that one.”  The guy went to his seat happy, but he didn’t see the pained expression that flashed on the monitor’s face as he walked away.

Another man showed up, and made it clear that he hadn’t prepared the materials sent to the actors ahead of time (the audition sides, and viewing a sample video for the dialect they wanted).  He asked the monitor what he should focus on and if he could watch the video repeatedly now (which she let him do).  I’m not making this stuff up.

Remember, folks: the audition starts when you accept the appointment.  Do your homework.  By all means, always be cordial with the monitor, hopefully because you are a gracious, professional person and you treat everyone well.  And yes, the impression you make may indeed get back to the person holding the auditions.  But the monitor isn’t your date,  your buddy, your coach, or your caretaker.  The monitor has a job to do.  Respect that.  Respect your fellow actors.  Respect yourself enough to realize you don’t need any of that behavior.  And chances are, they’ll remember you–in a good way!