Don’t get me wrong; I love working for small theatres, and I love their quaint, small towns that surprise you with their appreciation for professional theatre. But sometimes, those auditions are actually insane (which, truth be told, I also love, because who doesn’t love to come home with a kooky audition tale). Shereen has actually starred in a few productions with this theatre, and while she did warn me things were fairly unconventional, nothing could have prepared me with what I experienced.
This particular audition was for replacements for an extended run of a musical set in the 1940’s, so like every good musical theatre girl, I over-thought my outfit choice. Am I more of a nurse, or more of an island girl? I decided to go with a cute burnt orange dress that I’m pretty sure is actually from the 40’s (yay, thrifting!) with my nude heels, and I curled my already fairly period appropriate hair and put a giant flower in it. I hopped in my car and headed to a hardly-inhabited area, typical of dinner theatres.
I arrived and was so impressed with the beauty of the location. It’s neighbored by a few mansions and a huge park, and the theatre itself looked ranch-y. Parked next to me was a guy about my age dressed nicely with a headshot and audition binder in hand. So far so good. The lobby area is just as lovely; on the wall are photos of past productions and the theatre’s founder, which sets of a pleasant atmosphere. After I took everything in, I looked at who else was with me. Three young men, a small child and her mom, a middle aged woman, and three young women. The boys are dressed for a vocal call like I am, but all the women are in black dancewear, all black top and black leggings except one girl in LaDuca’s and a black leo with a skirt. Did I miss the memo? Nothing was specified in the confirmation e-mail to my submission. Now I’m nervous.
The company manager came out to tell us she will be taking the boys into the theatre first, but she would come back with music for the girls. She also took Girl-in-LaDuca’s. When she came back with our music, I took a look at it and could not believe what I was seeing; this was a print out of the songs directly from the script. THERE WAS NO SHEET MUSIC. Now, I’m familiar with this show and not the strongest sight reader, but no sheet music whatsoever is setting me up for some serious failure.
I tried to follow the song lyrics with videos on YouTube with my headphones in until the girls were finally called into the theatre. I’m not really sure why we were called in at this point because they were far from ready for us. I felt like we were in the middle of a replacement/understudy rehearsal because everyone was off book, and it turns out one of the young ladies and the middle aged woman were already in the show. Here’s the kicker; the young man was NOT in the show. The director had him perform in a trio and a solo that he had just went over half an hour ago with two other guys, off book with full blocking.
During this time, Girl-in-LaDuca’s comes up to me and asks if I got sheet music, and I responded that I only got lyrics, to which she replied with a giggle, “This is the strangest audition I have ever been to.” Turns out when she asked them if it was a singer call or a dancer call beforehand (lesson learned on my part), to which they responded come in dance attire, and because her resume included extensive dance training (including recently returning home from a big cruise line), when they called her into the theatre with the boys, the director asked her to come up with something easy to see if they had rhythm. That probably could be okay if they told her in advanced they were considering hiring her as a choreographer and dance captain as well, but no such comment had been made. I also found out she and the young man who had to perform off book found this audition though a professional casting site like I did, which I assume is a new thing since Shereen had never seen that before and our confirmation e-mails included the company manager asking us how we heard of the audition.
We girls auditioning finally got to do something after at least an hour, but it only consisted of small chasses across the floor and running in front of the boys during the large group number in which they are supposed to check us out. We almost were dismissed by the director until the music director finally spoke up and said she needed to hear us sing. The director didn’t see why, but she caved and let us learn and sing about ten measures of a song. Then the company manager told us when callbacks and rehearsals were (did we just all get offered a role?). At this point, Girl-in-LaDuca’s and I realize pay has never been discussed in this entire “audition;” Shereen did tell me she only knew of principles getting paid, but if they were posting on casting sites, it had to be paid, right?
When everyone left except Girl-in-LaDuca’s and I, the two of us walked up to the director to discuss it. “You have a very nice voice. Nice and powerful,” she addressed me first. “Will you be doing the show with us?” Bringing up money to people who just said something nice about you kind of sucks. But, I asked her if it was paid, and she responded no. I politely told her thanks but no thanks, and she told me to come back when they have paying roles.
I can’t say I would never go back if I were to be paid, but man was that a(n amusing) learning experience. Life lesson of the day, folks, make sure if the casting call does not mention pay, don’t make assumptions.