Holding Successful Auditions
Of all the many jobs you need to do, this is one of the most important – so here are a few thoughts to help you make the exercise as successful as possible.
Ensure a good turnout
This may seem obvious, but don’t schedule auditions on a day when there are likely to be competing events. You want as many people as possible through the door. Cajole, arm twist, flatter – give yourself the best possible pool of people to cast from.
The 80% rule
Many professional directors consider that casting can determine 80% of the success of their production. (And that includes me!) If you get the right people – even if all you do is turn up and read the paper whilst they get on with it – the show will probably turn out ok. Conversely, get the wrong people and there is virtually nothing you can do to turn things around!
Of course, it’s rarely quite as stark as this – and you probably don’t intend to turn up and just read the newspaper – but the key point is, don’t delude yourself. If someone isn’t right for the part you won’t be able to make them right, however much work you do with them.
Make it easy
Make sure everyone has the opportunity to read through the relevant bits of text prior to the audition. (Maybe set up links to excerpts on your website?)
Remember, not everyone is able to sight read well, so you need to give them every opportunity to give of their best.
Keep it short
Choose short excerpts to read. (No more than two pages.) If you want to see more, much better to read the same excerpt again.
Make the odd suggestion
If you are interested in someone and want to hear more, don’t just ask them to read again without any feedback. Ask them to make some sort of simple change the next time they read. (And simple is important – not a string of instructions!) Ask them to make it more urgent, or louder, or faster, or to use more of themselves in the character – or anything that seems appropriate. It can be much more revealing than just reading again.
Ask for volume and projection
Just like Shakespeare, Pantomime is a heightened style. It doesn’t really work unless there is a bit of attack behind it. Request your performers to give you a reading that will get to the back of the Hall. It may well help to liberate their inner clown or baddie!
Some people are just funnier than others! There’s not much you can do about this – it’s true in both amateur and professional theatre – but it is essential that the actors you choose for dame and the leading comic roles, have funny bones – it’s innate and you can’t really teach it.
Good singing is always a bonus, but not everyone needs to sing beautifully in pantomime. However, it really does help if your principal boy and girl have nice singing voices. (Either that, or cut the romantic numbers!)
Try to make sure that you end up with a good blend of voices throughout the company, but be prepared to be flexible. A warm, funny, likeable dame who can’t sing a note is much more valuable to you than a superb singer without those qualities!
Make it fun
You want a nice informal and friendly atmosphere. Everyone does better when they are enjoying themselves!
Don’t be afraid to re-call
If you can’t make up your mind between two performers, ask to see them again. Often a second appraisal can bring things into focus.
Hold more auditions
If you weren’t happy with the turnout the first time, renew the arm twisting and try and see some more people. Good luck!
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