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The Other Side of the Table


Auditioning is probably one of the most stressful things anyone can put themselves through.  The scheme of stressful events should be amended to death, taxes, moving…and auditioning! Besides wanting to perform well, your only other desire is to be able to read the minds of the auditioners. What are they thinking? She’s smiling- does she like me? Or am I so bad that she is laughing on the inside? He’s nodding- does he realize that I am the perfect person for this part or is he nodding off? What are they writing? Hire her? She sucks? Their grocery list for tonight’s dinner? Wait, he’s whispering in her ear and pointing at my resume- don’t look at that! I’m much better than my resume says I am. If only I had gotten more sleep last night, if only I had gone with that other song, if only I had practiced more, if only…

And then your minute is over and you leave the room. And then the torture really begins. Will I get a call back? Did the high note sound alright? I think it did. But maybe not. They seemed pleased with me, but then again, that guy on the end never looked up. The director laughed at my monologue- that’s a good sign, right? But maybe she was laughing because it was so bad. Oh, I don’t care anyway; I don’t even like this show. Who am I kidding, of course I want this part! I really want this part. PLEASE let me get this part…


And on and on until your head explodes or you get so busy with the rest of your life you eventually forget about it. Or not.


I experienced some variation of the above scenario for years. Well, actually I just experienced it when I auditioned for The Wizard of Oz. The difference is that now I do have an inkling of what those people on the other side of the table are thinking because I have been one of them! And oh, what a revelation it is to be there. I got my first chance to be an auditioner in 2008 when I was a visiting professor at Ball State University and part of my job was to help choose the new Musical Theatre majors for the following year. And what a fascinating, valuable experience it was. Based on what I learned there, sitting in judgment, I believe every performer should have a chance early on in their auditioning lives to experience auditions from the auditioners point of view and listen in on the decision making process.


You learn that it really is not personal. We (generally) don’t know you. BUT we actually do want you to do well. We really are routing for you to be amazing, to be “the one”! We need to hire someone and it might as well be you! My very first director, the wonderful and beloved Rhoda Klitsner, first imparted this pearl of wisdom to me when I was a teenager, but I am afraid I didn’t quite believe her. When you are so nervous and the panel of judges staring at you looks so forbidding (or bored), you just can’t fathom that you aren’t facing the Inquisition instead of a welcoming committee. But it is true, mostly (please see my previous post on auditioning in NYC for the exceptions).


And if you don’t get the part, it actually may not be that we didn’t like you. You might have been awesome, but too young, or your voice didn’t work with the person we had to hire to play opposite you. And I’ll admit there are other, less flattering reasons, like politics and favoritism and the like, but that’s life. And it is still not personal.


Experiencing an audition from the other side of the table also teaches you:


1.       What you wear affects the impression you make. (Dressing sloppily and/or too casually suggests how little you care about the audition even if that is not the case. Dress for the part you want. This is true in the rest of life as well.)


2.      How you treat the accompanist says a lot about you as a person. (Be polite!)


3.      How prepared you are tells us how much you care about performing.


4.      What you sing tells us how well you know your voice and its abilities, even sometimes how smart and thoughtful you are.


5.      Your general demeanor speaks volumes, ie: how you carry yourself physically, how you announce yourself and your repertoire, how you enter and exit the room.


6.      No detail is too small to go unnoticed.


Knowing all of this doesn’t really make auditioning any easier but it can make it a little more fun and certainly less mystifying. I try to remember all of this when I audition to keep me on a somewhat more even keel. And this weekend, as I sit behind the table in my role as vocal director for Pentacle Theatre’s “25thAnnual Putnam County Spelling Bee” auditions,  I will try to remember how hard it is for the people brave enough to stand in front of me, putting it all out there, hoping for the best! Break a leg, everyone!


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