Getting Through General Auditions
Alexa Doggett shares advice on how to prepare for one of the most intense casting calls for university students.
I'm sure this is a subject that has been covered before on TMU, but after this weekend I have to discuss the dreaded topic of… general auditions. I know that not all schools cast the whole season at once, and those that do might call it something else entirely: season auditions, mainstage auditions, etc. But we all feel the same pain and excitement when the time rolls around for casting at our university.
At Carolina Coastal University (CCU), the faculty seems to do the impossible and casts the entire season in just one weekend. These 3 days include the initial 2 ½ minutes (variations on 2 contrasting songs and a monologue), the dance call, and then a night and day of respective callbacks. With rehearsals starting that Sunday, the cast list has to go up pretty quickly.
Even in the midst of this mad weekend, I knew I had to write a blog about generals no matter what the outcome was. In reality, this process began last year- the season was announced and automatically there was speculation, rumors- casting already a buzz in the air. Luckily the first show was already cast, so there were only 5 shows to begin to prepare for. But still- how does one pick a package for multiple, highly varied shows? The question is relevant beyond college, stretching into the world of auditions for summer work and many regional theaters that hold calls for their whole season.
I'm not sure I've had enough experience yet to know the "right answer," but I think the best starting place is to know yourself. In the world of the university, life is easier. A professor reminded me of a good point recently in Directing I. Schools pick shows with specific students in mind. There would be no reason to do the show if they thought they had no one to fill the parts. In addition, sometimes people are cast in roles they aren't necessarily perfect for to encourage growth, but added: "If you are a leading lady, I don't want to see that you played male Snug the Joiner on your resume. That tells me nothing about you as an actor." We can yearn to be stretched, but it is helpful to be learning what work you will honestly book while still in college. The professors want to build a resume that looks professional and impressive, but still realistic.
So be honest about what you are probably being considered for. And then… prioritize! If you have a specific goal in mind, go for it. For instance, part of our season includes A Midsummer Night's Dream. I would've loved to have been a part it, but my main ambition for the season was a musical with conflicting dates, so I chose not to do Shakespeare. Others, however, did use one of his pieces for their monologue, even though two "contemporary" plays were also being cast. That's putting out there what you really want.
Throughout the week, the other BFA MT girls I live with and I found ways to keep smiles on our faces. The chalkboard that adorns our kitchen always had a supportive quote of some kind- be it serious or silly, and a countdown. Once everything was done, we hit the town and celebrated. Although I won't be able to gorge after every successful audition in the real world, this once-in-a-year Saturday afternoon of Bridesmaids, Taco Bell and Ben and Jerry's was a welcomed treat that has become tradition for us. Inspiring thoughts, supportive friends, and shared celebrations can push you through stressful times.
All in all, my third round of generals was extremely successful. Learning how to build a package, staying sane throughout the week, and understanding how the casting process works for a big season allowed me to make the best choices that I could. I'm hoping to put these newly learned lessons to use with SETC and Strawhats around the corner. But now I have an even bigger pool to pick material for and a few months to prepare. Perhaps its time to find a healthier alternative to Taco Bell for that post audition celebration.