November 6, 2009
My name is Shane Bland and I am the assistant director for Prospect Theater Companies first production of the season entitled EVERGREEN a new holiday musical, written by Prospect Theater Companies own Cara Reichel and Peter Mills. I, along with our producing associate Courtney Breslin, will be blogging throughout the process of mounting this show. We are but two of the many new faces you will see around this season.
This past week I was monitoring auditions for Evergreen and got to talking with some of the talent coming in to be seen. We had artists of all ages come with photos and resumes in hand along with the songs they had prepared to sing. A couple of the parents who had accompanied their young children to the audition had some questions about the process of auditioning. I tried to answer to the best of my ability, but one question in particular got me a little stumped and so I thought I would ask some of my friends in the business what there answer was to: “Where should I look while I am singing? Should I or should I not look at the people I am auditioning for?”
I took this question to the street and of course depending on who I asked I got a slightly different answer. Here are a few of the opinions I received.
Cara, who is also directing EVERGREEN, said that she prefers it when auditionees, whether they are kids or adults, engage the audition panel rather than sing over their heads. “You don’t have to stare at one single person, but rather use the panel as your audience. The one thing you should not do is use someone on the panel as your scene partner if you are performing a monologue. If I look away to make notes, I don’t want to feel I’ve broken your concentration or anything. If you were performing in a theater, you wouldn’t pick one person in the audience and do the entire monologue to them, so treat the audition as you would any performance with people watching you.”
Jeff Lee, the associate director for Disney’s The Lion King and Tarzan says that it truly depends upon the material. If it’s a presentational song, it should be “presented”. If it’s an internalized song, it should not be given directly to the panel. “Ultimately, do what the material asks for, and if there’s a question, it’s generally best not to deliver material to the panel.”
Tom Caruso, associate director of Mamma Mia! and Bombay Dreams says that you should not look at the people you are auditioning for. “You should look one foot over our heads, in our direction. It makes us uncomfortable when you make eye contact with us on the panel. We feel like we have to get involved, instead of writing down our thoughts.”
And finally, Lisa Stevens, who has choreographed Broadways upcoming The First Wives Club and Disney’s High School Musical On Tour says that “personally, I feel uncomfortable when the artist looks directly at me. I lose perspective and am more conscious of me looking at them looking at me, than me looking at them and imagining them doing this on stage. Look beyond as if you actually performing on a stage.”
In the end there is no one correct answer to this valuable question. It may come down to personal preference. So what does all this mean? Do you “sing like no one is listening?” Not quite. Someone is listening. The audition panel has a job to do which is to take in your audition performance, take notes, and see how you might best fit into the show, or not. And so to engage them to much can distract them from this job.
When you walk into an audition room, drop your music off at the piano and take your place in the centre of the room. Go with your gut and do what feels comfortable. When in doubt, sing, dance, or act as if it’s your Broadway debut and you are performing to your opening night audience! That’s what I’d do!
Break a leg at your next audition!