We put out a cast call for performers at the beginning of this week in London which means that a certain portion of my day is spent listening to various audition songs.
I’ve done some performing years ago and as a piano player and musician i’ve certainly spent a bit of time on the other end of the audition process. Not anything close to what my serious actor friends go through, but enough to have some sympathy.
I don’t know how performers do it. The thrill of the stage, of that live moment in the midst of the play which is more real and alive then all other moments outside the play, the sound of applause, hell standing on live stage and wailing out that peaking note of the big song… these are why they do it. but the cost… the cost is trudging through auditions and getting your self esteem buggered as a matter of course.
You must walk in say “Hey! It’s Me! Let me show you what i’ve go…”
It’s a meat market. You compete against a sea, scrounging for roles and money and nobody give two twats about you. Rejection is as normal to your day as a cup of coffee. I don’t know how they do it. I am happy to be on this side of the equation even although this side brings with it an entire other bag of woes.
That all being said, i open up my email and my inbox is packed with audition submissions which i have to wade through. After a while you get pretty “bing boom bam” about it. I can now tell in about 10 second whether they’ll work or not.
As the… technically for the performance i am the musical director. Hence, what happens is that all auditioners go through me first. It does the director no good to cast someone who’s voice is inappropriate for the role, so i go over them all first and give the director a “move forward” pile and a “sorry” pile. I am looking for voice, range, singing ability, etc. The director will then go to phase two where he puts them through whatever hoops HE has, in order to decide whether they’ll work for him.
Thrown into the director’s hoops phase there probably will be a small extra vocal test i’ll run simply because i have made mistakes before by hiring based on a prerecorded vocal sample. You do not necessarily get the whole picture. Maybe the singer normally goes flat but for that recording they kept doing takes until it didn’t show (i do this personally). Maybe even they SAY they can hit a low G or a high A, but actually they sound terrible doing so. Look, when a performer is asked if they can do something, if there is even a REMOTE possibility they can, they say yes. As they should. If there’s a possibility of a job, better to say you can and then figure it the hell out then to say no and lose it right then and there.
But as the music director i need to make sure that when they say they can nail those notes, they can. Sometimes you can tell by the audition song. Sometimes not.
This is not one of the Idol shows. You are not looking for someone who can simply sing and “impress the judges”. You are looking for someone who can sing a very specific role and become a very specific character. The character is an idea and you are looking for the voice who can suddenly bring that to life in a way that makes you see the character as alive for the first time.
In any case, i have gotten some wonderful submissions. Some really great stuff. As the list of who i’m moving through to the second stage gets longer the pickier i get since i know i already have several choices of people who will nail it. (This is all for Narrators mostly.) It took a while to stop comparing everyone to Kayleigh McKnight (“well, this woman is quite nice but… sigh… she’s not Kayleigh). However, Kayleigh has an important prior obligation and i must let her voice go. Perhaps next time. But i must reimagine.
Okay, I’ve written enough about this today. I have more submissions in my inbox so off i go.