Personal Audition Stories (With Hot Tips of course)
1. One of my first auditions was for the Nutcracker with Alberta Ballet. I got cast as a 'Party Girl' (which is a hilarious term now, but at the time it just meant you played a child of one of the families at the Christmas gathering top of show). I had the time of my life, prancing about with Clara and Fritz, getting let in on the jokes and smiles of the adult company members, exploring the tunnel walk ways in the underbelly of the Jubilee auditorium, and just playing a kid from another time in a frilly dress and a bow.
I thought my career was made. I thought I'd be a Party Girl for life, or at least until I got cast as the first half-Filipino Clara. The following year I auditioned again and nailed it. I felt so present, and my ballet technique had improved by leaps and bounds. They split us into two groups and some of the best girls were in my group, including the girl rumored to be playing Clara that year. Our success was an absolute certainty. Until they announced that we were the cut group. At 12 years old, we were too tall.
F**king devastating. It was my first taste of true personal injustice.
You can do everything right and still be too tall. What is this place?
Tip learned: Detach how you feel about your performance from the outcome of the audition.
2. My senior year in high school, we were lucky enough at my studio to have Stacey Tookey come in and run a 'mock' Celine Dion audition, where she would teach the actual combination to 'Drove All Night' (she was part of the original cast of the Vegas company) and we would get notes on our performance and learn what a real professional audition setting was like. It was an amazing gift for newly graduating dance pro-hopefuls, led by the nicest, most generous choreographer in the known universe.
I couldn't get through the combination, and left the room, crying.
It was utterly humiliating, and I couldn't understand my behavior until recent years. As a competitive dancer I typically juggled 3-5 solos and a dozen or so duos/group numbers. I wanted to dance professionally without a doubt, and I had enough talent and work ethic to make it a reality, but was crumbling under the pressure of NOT EVEN A REAL AUDITION. All the costumes and gimmicky solo concepts and friendly peer exchanges normally at my disposal were meaningless in this room where we all agree to be truly seen and judged. An audition is not a performance and not a class. It's a kind of boastful rehearsal with a cut and dry performance review straight after. You get your 'yes' or your awkward 'no' and you are left to guess the why. This was all before I understood that the 'no's often have very little to do with you personally, and that pretty much everyone gets 10 (or way more) 'no's for every 'yes'. Tip learned (and endlessly relearned): Don't ever take it personally. It's a screening for a job, not an indicator of your worth as a person.
3. Moving to New York was a blur, and I had no idea what to expect. I was thinly prepared with a song I was still afraid to sing, and a brutal head shot taken in the lounge of my first cruise ship contract (it was all shadowy, I was wearing too much makeup and not even really looking at camera). But on my very first morning in New York, I auditioned for a new musical based on Oliver Twist, choreographed by legendary dance icon, Debbie Allen. I was travel-weary and scared, but a very kind dancer noticed my abject terror and volunteered to show me around. She even took me on the C train to Nola Studios to sign in for a different audition. She was giving me the non union chorus girl low-down, and I will never forget it. I got kept through the first cut and felt freshly assured in my dance/audition ability. I didn't get asked to sing, but the whole thing was a thrill--getting tidbits from Debbie Allen herself, moving my body, and feeling affirmed as capable. And that kind dancer who took the time to help me out? Her name was Alida Michal, and I never forgot that moment or her. Tips learned: Show up so growth can happen, even when you're scared. Kindness goes a long way--pay it forward.
4. 10 years ago now, I was attempting to keep up with a world I knew almost nothing about: musical theatre (now it's my wheelhouse, go figure). I showed up to a regional South Pacific audition after I'd spent enough time in New York to get a solid base of audition know-how. The combo was a blast. Cute and playful with a nice leggy dance break. I took my turn with 4 other girls and waited at the side of the room for the verdict.
The choreographer took a moment before announcing the names that would stay. He addressed the room of young hopeful beauties and said, "There are so many factors that go into casting a show, and I thank you for bringing in your talent and work. Don't get discouraged when the show isn't right for you..." and then he gestured to me and said, "You are so great. You're a wonderful performer...but you're just not right for this show."
That sh*t caught me off guard. It is a rare gem of a moment to get feedback in the room when you're not being kept. I was shocked and honored, and so glad I had shown up even if it wasn't my part to play. Tips learned: Show up to get practice being seen, and stop analyzing the results when you get cut--it often has nothing to do with you.
5. Cut to a Wednesday in Los Angeles about 6 months ago. I arrived at a dance call for a short industrial gig. I knew one of the choreographer/directors and she even took the time to hug me before the audition started. The combo was a sassy heels number taught by a well known heels teacher. There were about 500 women in one tiny 2nd floor studio in Hollywood. They taught half of us the combo and instructed us to rehearse outside, as they had only rented one room. 'Outside' was a sidewalk on Highland Ave, busy with passersby. We diligently searched for the music and rehearsed in 6 inch heels, bras, and short shorts on concrete. We had no mirrors. It was hot outside. Guys were filming us as they drove by and whistling (large eye roll). I thought I had the combo decently but I was unfocused, shaken by the whole escapade. All 500 of us were repped by agencies. It wasn't an open call.
When the time came to dance, I hit the first two counts half as hard as I wanted to and knew it was over. I usually can dismiss these types of cheap cattle calls, but in that moment, I wanted to plop down in my stupid heels and cry for the rest of the day. How did I get here? Begging for gig scraps in a room full of the overmakeupped and underpaid, sabotaging my own skills, too shocked by the whole operation to practice what I preach and get some kind of learning experience out of it. That day spawned a few fresh thoughts for my playbook:
-I need to find clothes/heels I feel truly confident in (I mean, still working on this)
-In my research, if I detect a cutthroat cattle call that isn't my jam, I can say no.
-I miss New York. I miss the respectful efficiency of theatre calls, with their big temperature controlled holding rooms and their agreement that no combo should be taught to 300+ people at a time. Tip learned: You don't have to please everybody, and the auditions that jive with you might say something about your bullseye as a performer.
*With that in mind,
I've been in New York for about 48 hours and the early morning subway grind to sign in's feels like a small price to pay to be part of a well-run audition. I feel both capable and respected, but I also like toting my new LA-born skill of coming in with confidence, unafraid to share my Looshness, and unflappable in the face of whatever's thrown at me (because at least I'm not practicing in stripper heels on the sidewalk).