On Song Baggage…

Let me start this by letting you in on a secret:

To a casting director, every song is overdone.

Let that sink in.

They hear music constantly, and they hear probably the same 400 songs over and over and over. You’re not reinventing the wheel by bringing in the theme song from “Pokémon” or singing that cut song from The Rink or the Opening of Act 2 of Merrily... They’ve heard it. And if they haven’t heard it then they’re probably more focused on the song then your audition. That being said there’s a major topic that isn’t spoken about enough: Song Baggage.

You know what it means, you know the RENT lyric. You can’t go into a room singing “Meadowlark” without a considerable amount of baggage. There are dozens of songs that this goes for. Basically any song that was made famous by a diva or a dangerously brilliant performance.

Everyone has their favorite version of “I Dreamed A Dream.” And when you bring it into the room every person behind the table is going to be comparing your performance to Patti’s or Laurie Beechman’s or Carmen’s or Lea’s or heaven forbid Ms. Hathaway’s

If you’re smart, or alive, then you know what those songs are. “Memory,” “Bring Him Home,” anything from Wicked, “She Used To Be Mine,” anything from Les Miserables, anything from Phantom, “Out There” from Hunchback (honestly I think this song doesn’t work for ANYTHING, it’s a specific song to that specific moment, and it just rarely works in the room and I just think she’s gotta rest for a bit), “Pretty Funny” from Dogfight, “Waving Through A Window” from Dear Evan Hansen (actually anything from this show),most of the older lady beautiful ballads by Sondheim, all of Chicago, the LIST GOES ON and ON.

This isn’t to say that you should never sing these songs, (WHEN THEY’RE APPROPRIATE) but it does mean that you should be cognizant of the baggage that comes with them, and that sometimes people want their coffee how they want it.

On Preparing 8, 16, and 32 Bar Cuts…

I know. It’s the worst. You walk into this call and you wait for hours and then when your time is approaching you hear that they want 16 bars… And then by the time you are lined up they tell you they want 8 bars.

This industry is flooded with talent, there are so many performers and you’re all specific and talented and beautiful flowers. That being said, I can HONESTLY say that pretty much anyone sitting behind the table can get everything they need in 4 bars of music. I’m serious. They hear your voice, they see you act, they see if you disappear or if you pull them in in literally 4 bars. The rest is a gift, and I know it doesn’t seem that way.

So when you are asked for 8 bars, yes it sucks, yes it seems pointless, but if you go in and give your best damn 8 bars then they see what they want and call you back.

You should have 32 bars, 16 bars, and 8 bars prepared for your songs, you don’t have to have them marked (I think you should) but you should know them.

Don’t get caught off guard by a stressed-out monitor telling you for a strict 8 bars and you go into a tizzy, that helps no one.

Here’s where things can get a little vague or grey or whatever term you want to use. I think 16 bar cuts are 30 seconds to 45 seconds. I think 32 bars are a 1 minute to 1 minute 20 seconds. There are differing opinions out there as to what constitutes a cut length, but I think the length of time method is becoming more and more popular.

I could go on about EPAs and appointments for days. There is literally NO POINT in coming in and SINGING A FULL SONG; In fact, it looks bad on you. These people have been sitting all day listening to people audition, and it’s not to say that you don’t do “Bring Him Home” the best in the city, but we don’t need to hear all 4 minutes of it. It looks like you haven’t had the chance to perform in a decade and auditioning is your only opportunity, or that you literally don’t know what a cut is.

LEAVE THEM WANTING MORE, NOT WANTING YOU TO LEAVE.

This post is fueled by Beaujolais but essentially what I’m saying to you all is that you should have SOLID CUTS prepared at all times and marked clearly.

On Treating Your Pianist Like a Person…

Hi. My name is Rodney. I play piano. I am also a human being.

Actors so often walk into the room and forget that actual fact about the pianist. That person sitting behind that big scary machine is actually a human. And they will respond (usually) like a human.

I’ve had actors walk into the room and smile at the table and set their binder on the piano without even acknowledging my existence. They turn to the piano while looking into the mirror at themselves and open the book and talk directions at me, all without saying hello or looking at my face, and then snap a tempo at me and walk to the center of the room….like, how gross…

Yes, you the actor, you’re right. The pianist usually isn’t the most important person in the room. They’re usually not the music director of the show. They’re not the director, or casting, or assistant. But they are in the room and they do have the ability to talk to those important people about what just happened. That’s not a threat, it’s just the truth. Be a human and talk to a fellow human like a human. 

Walk in, yes say hello to the important people, then say hello to your accompanist, look them in the eye and say hello. Smile and be genial. If the accompanist is short and snappy and over it, don’t be offended, they’ve been playing “Life I Never Lead” or “Watch What Happens” or “Waving Through a Window” all day, give them a break. More often than not they’ll smile back at you and then you can continue on with your normal pre-audition interaction. Such a small step, such a major effect.

On Binders…

As Musical Theater performers your rep book is a form of identity. A friend should be able to pick up your lost book (don’t lose your book) and identify who’s it is by the song list.

Your rep book, most of the time, is housed in a binder. It should be obvious that that binder should be in good condition, no: great condition.

Things your binder SHOULD NOT have:

  • broken rings
  • rings that don’t close
  • rings that overlap
  • covers that fall off
  • a width that is greater that 2 inches, preferably 1.5”
  • a cover that closes / doesn’t stay open by itself.

 

These should all be obvious, but you would be surprised at how many of these things happen on the regular. Invest in a good binder, it’s the sign of a good professional. Music falling out in the audition because the rings aren’t closing makes for a sloppy audition. And again as I’ve said before, you should SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS in the room.

Go to staples.com and order a couple. Keep them and switch them out when you need to. Good binders make for a good audition.

Examples of sadness:

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Sloppy….

Don’t use these…. they’re cheap and don’t stay open 🙁

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Girl….align yourself…
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A Quick Note on the Casting Director…

Here’s the thing people: The casting director (CD) wants you to get hired.

When they make appointments and set up a full day of auditions to put in front of the creative team, they think about what they’re doing.

They wouldn’t make a list of people they hoped would fail in front of the team, and they’re not trying to trick you or make you sweat blood for anyone.

They want you to succeed. (They want to look smart, obvi…)

One thing I’ve noticed a few times in various rooms is that people are quick to throw the CD under the bus. They do so in ways that are subtle enough that they probably don’t know that they’re doing it.

One way people inadvertently make the CD look bad: “Oh I never got those sides…” I can assure you, most CD’s will send the sides you’ll need for any audition moving forward in the first email. They won’t want to make more work for themselves than they already have. So if you didn’t print off the side and suddenly realize that then say so. Don’t say you never got the sides and try and make it seem as though it was THEM that made the mistake. Shady bitches…

Another way is by canceling last minute or stringing the team along. If you know way in advance that you’re not going to take the job because you have a better offer or because you would never leave the show you’re at, then don’t audition. Don’t tell the CD that you are interested in the first place. Dick move brah…

Often these casting directors are fighting for you in the room, they’re finding ways of making you look more appealing to the team through any way possible. So when you blow off an audition or turn them down last minute it doesn’t look great on them.

Casting Directors are your friends, treat them as such.