Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Audition Preparation Tip: Put in the Work

Photo: My director, Whit Hertford, and me in a rehearsal for a Riot Act's "Poor Bastard". 

Yesterday, Coach Ahmed told Max at his tennis lesson that the old saying goes, "Practice Makes Perfect", but he sees it as "Practice Makes Consistent". I think I like that perspective better. As an actor, I know I will never be perfect, there is always something to refine, but with practice I can reach a level of consistency that will put me in a more professional bracket. The key to any improvement whether it be singing, dancing or acting is the work. We have to put in the hours it takes to become better. That will not only be in the rehearsal room, but all the countless hours leading up to the rehearsal room.

The portion of the creative team that does the casting, (director, artistic director, musical director, casting director, choreographer) notice individuals who have put in the work as they audition. The funny thing is, we still may not get cast if we are prepared for an audition and knock it out of the park. There are many factors involved. I believe that is why some actors feel powerless. They feel like the creative team holds all the cards. I don't buy into this. I propose that we take our power with us the moment we step through the doors to greet the Stage Management team, on through the audition room, and as we say our 'thank you' and 'goodbye'. We need to see those casting as our equals, not as though they are towering above us. We need to see our audition as an opportunity to show what we would bring to the table if we were cast. They can take it or leave it, but if we are prepared, professional, and treat others with respect, they cannot help but remember you.

And this leads to the truth that just because you were not cast in the show you auditioned for doesn't mean this creative team won't cast you in future shows. In fact, they may personally invite you to come in for another show. They may talk to another creative team about you and they will call you in. I have been hired for jobs just on recommendations alone. Word of mouth is a force that cannot be stopped. Are you ready?

Whatever your goals are, make sure that you are working on them daily. If you sing, practice every day for AT LEAST 15 minutes. Keep in shape vocally by taking lessons and have coaching sessions to gear up for future auditions. If you dance, continue to take classes. If you act, attend classes, have your monologues ready, and keep those fresh with coaching sessions. Even if it is in front of friends to give feedback. You are preparing for the auditions you know about and the auditions or opportunities that seemingly come out of nowhere. My dance teacher used to tell me, "For every hour you spend practicing, there is someone out there practicing an hour more." I know that sounds harsh, but it is true! If we want to improve we have to put the hours in.

But, with these hours we need to remember to take care of ourselves. Our physical & mental health, our spiritual health. It isn't easy to be in this business, I imagine outsiders looking in thinking we just get up there and do our thing."How fun!", I often hear people say. Well, yes, it is fun, but it is HARD. Often, it is emotionally and physically draining. The struggle is real. But, the struggle is where we find our best selves. The struggle is where we grow and overcome obstacles. The struggle is where we reach our potential, our goals, and that consistency that we desire so much. As a result of that struggle we get noticed, we get cast, and we reach the highlight of any actors life, performing on stage in front of an audience. There is nothing like it. And all that work was worth it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Audition Preparation Tip: Your Moral Compass

I recently taught a workshop at the High School Musical Theater Awards here in Utah and thought it might be nice to do a blog series of what I discussed with the students on that day. It is also a good reminder for myself and hopefully some of you too. (Photo: Me and my friend, Stephanie at the awards show.)

Right out of the gate, if we are going to embark on an acting career, whether it be in film or on stage, we have to know who we are as a person and where we stand. I like to call it my "moral compass". I got that term from a film acting teacher and loved the notion that we have to make choices before we start our career and get into the thick of things. With our standards in mind, what are we willing to do? What won't we do? How will we treat those around us? You get the idea...

I am of the strong opinion that wherever your moral compass takes you, you will find your people. There are groups out there that fit any actors comfort zone. It may be harder in a smaller town, but once you venture out you can find work. Your moral compass may shift a bit with experience and your attitudes may change with maturity and what not. But, please remember, if you are uncomfortable you do not need to settle. It may mean opportunities are missed, but other doors will open if you stick with it. Even if you want to take on the Great White Way or Hollywood there are an array of shows that will fit the bill.

Within that moral compass is understanding who you are. When I asked the question, "How will you treat those around you?", this is an important question when working in a collaborative art form. It comes down to recognizing the difference between confidence and conceit. Confidence is essential from making career decisions to getting up in front of people to perform. Yes, we may still have our insecurities, but we can maintain a competent level of confidence amidst those because we know that as we improve, and as we gain more experience those insecurities will lessen. It is having clarity in what you do well and what needs work. Always striving for higher quality in your abilities. Having confidence also means that we remain collaborators, remain teachable/malleable, remain respectful and kind. Conceit is thinking you are better than everyone. I feel that someone who is conceited has their insecurities but instead of addressing them they tend to overcompensate their abilities because of their self-doubt. They close down. There is no more to be taught. There is no one who can tell you what the scene needs. You know. Others need to rise to your greatness. While one with confidence rises but will bend when needed to help those around them rise too. Confidence inspires creativity, conceit crushes it.

So often actors just starting out will get tossed, chewed and spit out if they do not have confidence in their abilities and where they stand. It is essential to have some sort of foundation going into this. If you haven't configured your moral compass yet, start today! Decide what you will allow, where you will draw the line and where you are okay with making compromises. The journey will be different for everyone, so respect that. Let others find their way and you find yours. Be supportive, Be Kind and *Get to Work!

*hint for my next post. :-)