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Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director

May 8, 2008

The Secrets Behind Auditions

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 12:59 pm

Charleston Stage is in the midst of its annual Seasonal Auditions and I thought I’d give you a little look behind the scenes.  Over the past few days more than 70 local actors, singers and dancers have been auditioning for scores of roles for next season.   No, though there are three of us watching auditions,  Director Marybeth Clark, Music Director Wendell Smith and me, it’s not like American Idol.  We don’t give instant feedback, in fact we never give feedback on auditions.  Auditions are not pass/fail exercises, they’re simply a way for directors to see what skills you have, what you look like and whether you might be right for a role.  You might be interested to know what does go into our decisions though.   Some of our decision making is simple,  for the musicals you have to sing of course, and  your vocal range matters.  We also have two dance heavy shows for next year: West Side Story and the tap-dancing Crazy for You so, of course,  if you are not a dancer or at least a good mover you probably won’t be selected for those roles. How much consideration do we give to your “look”?   It matters but less than you think actually.  If you’re a playing something like one of the Cratchit children in Christmas Carol we probably want the children shorter than the parents and if they look alike it helps but that isn’t a huge consideration.  In this year’s Christmas Carol the Cratchit children will probably sing so in that case we’re looking for good voices.   It all boils down to what is appropriate for the role at hand. Age is a consideration.  A 19 year old isn’t going to be cast as a middle aged man or woman of course. Good, clear, resonant speaking voices are a must. First and foremost audiences must be able to understand you. Mumblers beware.What about training?  It helps a lot but limited training doesn’t necessary take you out of the running.  Charleston Stage prides itself on casting professionals and young professionals together so they can learn from each other.  We do cast newcomers each season but even then they must already have a good natural abilities, especially a good speaking voice.What about the audition material, how much does that matter?  Again, less than you think.  There is no perfect song or monologue and certainly not one that’s going to make you look better than you are.  The best choices are those that show off your talents and those that show that the actor can play more than one thing. (Sad depressing monologues are usually sad and depressing.)Does it help if I know someone or if I’ve done a show with Charleston Stage before?  Not really, we value our returning actors who seem to get better and better each year but each season we welcome dozens and dozens of actors who are acting with Charleston Stage for the first time. The best performer will get the role.  So how do we decide?  We look for performers that have energy, life,  and honest enthusiasm and those who can really bring a character to life.  How do we know that when we see it?  I don’t know, we just do. If we’re interested in an actor we invite them to a second audition in which they may sing again or perhaps read from the script.  Somethings  during these readings we give what’s called an “adjustment”, perhaps asking them to play a scene in a different way. This is not to trip them up but find out what kind of range the actors has as a performer and then we have the hard part: actually assigning the roles.   Being a good actor isn’t enough if we don’t have a role for you.   We’re often frustrated because we see a great performance and have no place to put that that actor in the shows we’re casting in this season.  That’s why actors should not take rejection too personally, it may have nothing to do with your audition or your performance, you just may not be right for the role. In the end we must cast over 100 roles this season.   Some of those will go to our six Resident Acting Company members,  a few to professional Equity Guest artists brought in (for roles we can’t cast locally) but scores of roles are offering to Charleston’s exciting and growing professional acting community. And in the end we have some GREAT talent lined up for you next season. Just wait. Julian Wiles, Producing Artistic Director          

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