You should always prepare appropriately for an audition. Most auditions will have requirements posted either with the audition notice or with the audition form. Whether you’re getting your information online or from a poster, there should still be ample information on what you’ll need to prepare. If not there should be a contact on the posting, and you should reach out to that person. Being unprepared is the first part of a bad audition.
Starting Out: Most auditions will ask for the basics. If it’s a Musical Theatre Call you can expect to need 1 or 2 16 bar cuts, or 1 or 2 32 bar cuts. If you’re unfamiliar with sheet music, that times out to about 30 seconds for 16 bars and 1 minute for 32. Generally your song should never run more than 2 minutes. Occasionally a Musical Theatre Call will also require a monologue. Try and pick something reminiscent of the show (not from the show) whether it’s sheet music or a monologue. NEVER use materials from the show in an audition unless specified to do so.
Preparing Sheet Music: It’s incredibly important to have your sheet music prepared with you in a neat binder, no flashy colors. Black is standard. A prepared auditioner will have their sheet music marked at the start of their cut with sticky notes that read “Bell Tone”, then another one at the end that reads “End”. It’s a good idea to bring backup songs just in case, but try and limit the amount of music in your binder. Make it look neat and not cluttered, and remember that you should know every piece in your binder. At any time a director could ask you to do a piece you have, and if you don’t know it, then it reflects poorly on you.
Monologues: Monologues are absolutely essential in any auditioner’s repertoire. As mentioned before, it’s advisable to use a monologue that reflects the theme and mood of the show you’re auditioning for. This means that if you’re auditioning for a comedic play, you shouldn’t audition with a dramatic monologue. You also want to keep your type in mind for your monologue. If you’re a 17 year old girl, you don’t want to audition with a piece for a middle aged women – even more so, you don’t want to be using a male monologue. Gender swapping is appropriate at times, but can get tricky. If you think you want to use a monologue of the opposite gender’s for your audition, see if you can run it by your director or someone within the production team. Sometimes it can go very well, but there’s a time and place for every monologue.
Slate: Before you start your monologue or songs you should always slate. Slating can change depending on what you’re doing but at the very least you should say “Hello, my name is [First Name] [Last Name] and I will be doing ____” The blank can be “Doing a monologue from ____” or more specific like the name of the play from which the monologue comes and the playwright. Other times you can say the name of the monologue and the name of the show. It’s usually standard to announce the work you will be doing; however it’s not always agreed on whether or not you should say the name of the show or the playwright. For songs, you should keep the same format of “Hello my name is [First Name] [Last Name] and I will be singing _____ from ______”. You don’t always have to say who wrote the music and lyrics for the song, but you should announce from which show the song is taken. Some directors will specify they only want the same of the songs, or that they do want the music and lyrics, so keep that in mind. As long as you announce your name and what you will be doing, you should be okay!
Be Memorized: Though a lot of people would think it goes without saying, you should be memorized for all of your auditions. It is one of the simplest things you can do for an audition, to show the directors you’re prepared and hard working. It shows that you put thought and effort into your work. If it comes down to performing something you don’t love but is memorized versus something you like better but might forget the words to or trip up on notes – then you should go with what you know. That’s not to say that taking risks isn’t important, but just like gender swapping, there is a time and a place. There will be more auditions to practice your work, and other times to do the unprepared pieces, but auditions are not the place. It often comes across as a waste of both the director’s and your time, so just don’t do it.
Dress: So what to wear to an audition? A basic rule of thumb is to wear colors. Try your best to not wear black, unless it’s appropriate for the show. For example, if you were auditioning for Sweeney Todd and you had a nice black lace dress and thought you typed well for Mrs. Lovett, then it’s a good idea. However, more times than not, this is not the case, so try and wear colors. Try to dress for the show, not stylistically or using period-style clothing (Don’t wear a corset for a Victorian piece), but in something reminiscent of the show. If it’s a love story, try and dress in light colors: something that is soft and sweet for women, and something sharp and handsome for men. If it’s a contemporary rock piece, try something edgier, lower cuts, tighter fits, colors that pop. There’s a lot to consider when trying to pick what to wear. You never want to look unprofessional, men can get away with wearing jeans and a nice shirt, but women not so much. Dresses are usually expected for women. If you really don’t like dresses, try professional slacks, but remember there is a fine line between appropriate for the office and an audition. In an audition you don’t want to look like you’re a business woman, you want to look presentable. Again, it tends to be easier for men to dress, nice pants, nice shirt, and nice shoes. Men, give thought to the character and possibly style your hair a certain way. Try and avoid jeans, but for a contemporary show it’s not the worst thing you could wear. Women, wear nothing revealing. If you’re going out for a younger role, try and wear flats or a smaller heel. Heels are generally expected for ‘Women’ not ‘girls’. If you’re trying to play the young love interest, a nice heel would be fine. Shoes should also remain professional. For the sake of your singing, as well as your look, your heels should really never be higher than a regular character shoe. That of course isn’t an absolute; if you’re auditioning for Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, then maybe breaking out the 6 inch heels wouldn’t be the worst thing. But your shoes should never hinder your movement in the audition. Most important for both male and female is to try and look put together, inviting, and nice.
Hair and Make-up: along the lines of dress, hair and makeup is an important part of both male and female looks. Men, don’t be afraid to put on a little touch up make-up if it suits your fancy, but it’s definitely not necessary. Do not do stage makeup for an audition. Do not do special effects makeup for an audition. That goes for all genders. Men, your hair should be controlled, if it’s longer than it should be out of your face. Women, your makeup should be natural, nothing too eccentric. A bolder look can be done for contemporary/rock shows, but keep in mind how your character would look. Your hair should be out of your face, but try and avoid any sort of up-do. Use your hair to your benefit, just don’t let it wear you.
A final note of dress: whatever you’re wearing should show the auditioner’s who you are. Don’t let what you’re wearing hide your body, or overtake your presence. Stay light on the jewelry. Try and have a pop of color, or a clear focal point – something that won’t pull focus from you and your work, but enhances your look.
Dance auditions: For some auditions you will also be required to go to a dance call. This can be even more nerve-wracking than the initial audition, but remember that it’s important to go and show your best work. Plenty of people are not dancers, however they still are required to go to dance calls. There are a few reasons why you should always go to the dance call; the first being it shows you’re serious about the show. It shows you’re there to work and do what you must, even if it’s something you’re uncomfortable with and lacking in. Most of the time dance calls aren’t held so that they can see you do the combination perfectly, but so that they can see if you can make it through the combination without breaking. They want to see that even when you mess up, your body language stays positive and your face doesn’t fall. Act through your mistakes, stay confident. Some of the dancers there will hit every step and give face, and energy, but don’t let that discourage you from putting forth your best work. The second reason you always want to go to dance calls ESPECIALLY if it’s not your strong point, is for the practice. Every time you go to a dance call, you get better at picking up the combinations quicker and powering through your mistakes. Each dance call is an opportunity to learn and grow, so just try and do your best work and embrace it!
Dance Call Attire: For a dance call you don’t necessarily need any specific clothing such as leotards and jazz shoes, but it does certainly help. Women, a black leotard, pink/black tights and either character shoes/jazz shoes/or ballet shoes are acceptable. Some calls will be more relaxed and tell you to wear whatever you please on your feet, including bare feet. If you have these shoes it’s smart to bring them all with you because you never know what you’ll need. Every Musical Theatre Actor and Actress should have tap shoes, whether you can tap or not, and you should always bring them with you. Try to wear clothes that show off your body and how it moves. If you don’t have dance attire, try and wear whatever is most appropriate of athletic wear, or even leggings. You want clothes you can easily move in. Do not wear your dresses/jean/pants to a dance call. Men, if you have jazz pants those are most advisable, but again, if you don’t, wear moveable clothes that showcase your body and it’s movements. Shoes are the same for all genders, bring what you have. Bring tap shoes. Hair should be kept out of the face, don’t wear anything too revealing. Always bring a change of clothes for a dance call just in case.
Other things to keep in mind:
- Try to not look the directors straight in the eye, especially when presenting the work. It’s okay to make eye contact during a slate, or when chatting afterwards, but during can be uncomfortable for both parties.
- Don’t forget to act through your song. It doesn’t need to be as large as it would be in the actual show, but make sure to bring life to your work.
- Thank them once you’re finished.
- Have open body language when slating; don’t cross your arms in front or in back of you, but try and have them neutrally by your side.
- And have fun.
There’s no need to panic - auditions are meant to be a learning experience! This may seem like a lot, but keep in mind the people holding the audition know you’re nervous; mistakes are bound to happen, so just relax and try to put your best work forward. That’s the most important thing to remember in auditions. Directors aren’t there to see perfection. They are there to see capability and potential.
See below for other resources for audition etiquette: