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If you’re still trying to figure out which songs and monologues you want to use for your UPTA and/or SETC audition, take a look at which Theatre Companies will be in attendance…

UPTA Companies

SETC Hiring Companies and Casting Needs

Look up their seasons to see the shows (and roles) for which you’ll be auditioning, then adjust your selection and focus(!) accordingly.

 

imsorry

“I’m sorry…”
*
“…that this page is falling out of my binder.”
“…this page is ripped.”
“…that when I copied this it cut off the bottom of the page.”
“…I didn’t erase the old markings.”
“…for not putting this in a binder. I hope it stays on the piano.”
“…I keep meaning to fix this page.”
*
“…I’ve never heard the piano part before, could you…”
“…I’m not sure this cut was marked properly, could you…”
“…I don’t know what this intro sounds like, could you…”
“…but I’m not sure this is the right key, could you…”
*
Invest the time, money, and effort – all of which would be very minimal – in order not to start your audition with an “apology” which could very well give a first impression of a lack of preparation.

cutarts

While I have appreciated and marveled at what some people have managed to cobble together with pieces of cardboard, poster board, foam core, construction paper, decoupage glue, craft scissors, pinking shears, paper cutters, packing tape, duct tape, as well as gold stars, Hello Kitty® stickers, and multiple colors of crayons, highlighters, and/or Sharpies®, there really is no need to go to all that trouble to make your sheet music presentable.

All you really need is a good copy of your sheet music, a 3-hole punch, a few pieces of scotch tape, a 3-ring binder, and a pencil. Maybe even a Post-It® note or two.

I’m also not averse to the two sheets of paper of your two-page cut taped inside a manila folder.

And for the record: I don’t mind plastic sheet protectors, and, in some instances, they can actually come in handy. -Yes, I know this seems to be a hot topic of debate amongst some of my colleagues, but it shouldn’t be. Don’t @ me.

An interesting thing happened towards the end of my audition day. It started off with one of those "everything in a second" moments:

I looked at the music… I looked at the actor… I started to play… I noticed some writing on the music… A cue line?… I noticed the actor start to speak… Or was he opening his mouth to sing?… Was the actor going to stop me and start his audition again?… I finished playing the very short intro… Still he did not stop me… Then the actor started singing…

For the next 30-40 seconds as he sang, and as I accompanied him, my mind raced: Was I wrong? Did I throw the actor off? Should I just go ahead and stop and request to start again? As the actor held the last note of the song, and as I played the "outro", I hoped and hoped for the best. Then I heard him start his monologue, and from the very first words I could tell that they were leading to the phrase that he had printed on his music. Another 30 or so seconds later, when I heard those words spoken, my heart sank even more.  When the actor turned back upstage and approached the piano to collect his music, I did not want to look at his face, but I knew it was something I had to do. When my eyes briefly met his, I could sense the confusion, the shock, even some anger (which was totally understandable under these circumstances), the self-control. I received the confirmation I did not want to receive. Unfortunately, due to the situation, the process, all I could do while handing him back his music was to say somewhat sheepishly, "I’m sorry." I had to maintain a semblance of a smile, an air of "nothing is wrong" in order not to upset the next person. He did not say anything to me after he took his music, and started to walk away. I still questioned my questions.

All of that in just a little under 90 seconds.

After those 90 seconds – after that audition – I made sure I asked the right questions. Confirmed and reconfirmed the answers I received. There was even one person who turned back to me once they were in place to say that they were doing their monologue first. Did word already get back to those waiting to go on? Or was she just in her own world of self-security?

In an earlier post, I had asked, "Do I care too much?"  Now I know that I do. That I must.

Did my mistake possibly cost the actor a job? Did my mistake ruin that actor’s day beyond his time in the audition room? Did he think that I did that on purpose? Did he think that I wanted to sabotage his chances for getting a job? Did I offend him? Did I hurt him?  All of that and more was going through my mind during and after(!) those 90 seconds. Another 90 seconds later, I did confess to those in attendance that I had made that mistake: hopefully to explain any confusion or unsure footing they might have sensed from that actor during the course of his audition. Alas, my confession felt a bit too little, too late.

I am not foolish nor self-deluded enough to say that I am the one in charge during an audition. Yes, I have joked from time to time that I can make or break someone – Well, I’ll just play it my way! –  but it is so against my nature to actually follow through on that faux-threat. Even with my not-so-favorite people that I end up playing for audition after audition – sometimes more than once in the same week – I just can’t make them have a bad audition. The revenge would most definitely not be sweet.

I have two more days of auditions to go. There are another 400 musical auditions. Another 400 songs to play. Another 400 Actors. Another 400 reasons to care too much.

Do I care too much?

That question came to mind throughout the course of this day, and, unfortunately, it’s been popping into my head with more frequency lately.

I am a musician. A pianist. A good pianist. Competent. Definitely more than adequate. I have never thought of myself as a "virtuoso", but I know have some decent facility. I am also a good sight-reader. A very good sight reader. I like playing auditions. I actually like reading music "cold". -And there have been times when I’ve surprised myself at how accurate I was during an initial read of a piece of music, with subsequent read-thrus of the same music not so cleanly executed. Accordingly, if during the course of an audition, I happen to come across a passage that is not exactly playable on sight, I am able to distill – to "fake" – the idea of the passage, and play something that still remains true to the composer’s intent. (I hope – well, at least that is what I want to do!) So why did I start doubting my own abilities today? Why did I wonder if, indeed, I do care too much?

Auditions seems to bring out the best and the worst in people. However, that’s totally understandable. For the people coming into the room, the ones who are auditioning, there is certainly a lot at stake for them. Yes, they are coming in for a particular project, a particular show, but they are also coming in for themselves. Will I sing well today? Will I act well today? Will I get hired? Am I good enough? Will they like me? Am I likeable? Each audition is a chance to validate the years of lessons, school, coachings, classes and practice sessions. -And the money(!) that they’ve paid for all those lessons, coaching, classes… There is a lot at stake. A lot.

There is also a lot at stake for the people behind the table: the producers, the directors, the choreographers, the conductors, the casting directors, etc. They are holding the audition in order to cast a show, to finally give voice and movement – Life – to the work of the creative team. They want to hire people. They want people to be good. They want to come to the end of the day with a list of possible candidates. They are most certainly not there to be entertained first and foremost. They are there because they want to want you.

So, once you combine those two "forces" – the people behind the table, and the people in front of it – and you place them all in close proximity in a rehearsal studio, well, the good, the bad and the ugly is bound to come out. It’s inevitable: they are all human beings and very human.

And then there is me. -And since this blog is about me, well, it undoubtedly would have come back to me.

I actually consider myself a rarity among audition pianists. As I stated before, I like to play auditions. Playing auditions is not a "paying the bills job" to me. It is something that I want to do, it is something that I enjoy. The fact that it does pay my bills is a fringe benefit. I also like Actors. I like Singers. I like Performers. Yes, they are strange breed, but aren’t we all? I know I am.

When a Performer comes up to the piano and places a piece of music in front of me, my number one priority is to make the Performer as comfortable as possible. If they are comfortable, then I will be comfortable. I will be able to play my best for them. How do I make them comfortable? I greet them with a smile. I ask them about their song, their music. I ask how fast or how slow they would like it to go. I check where they are starting and where they are stopping. I ask if they want me to play the "usual" or if they would like some embellishments. In short, I want to play the music the way they rehearsed it. I want to play it their way. I want to support them, not simply play the notes on the page. We are a Duet, but they are the featured half of the duo..

Alas, there are times when it’s difficult for me to make them comfortable. The music is in the wrong key. The copy of the music is illegible. Their sheet music is put on the piano in individual sheets ready to be blown off the music stand by the next stray breeze. They have never rehearsed the song before. They have never heard the piano accompaniment before. They just learned the song. The tempo they start singing at bears no relation to the one they gave me a the piano just moments before. (Nerves?) And when they’re not comfortable, well that just interferes with my sixth-sense line of communication.

Am I perfect all the time? No. Sometimes I’m distracted. Sometimes I don’t feel warmed-up enough, physically and/or mentally. Sometimes I should have gotten a few more hours of sleep the night before. However, I still want them do their best. I know that the audition is about them, not about me. In the larger scheme of things, I am basically a "necessary", but a necessary necessary. I know my function and how I am supposed to function. Even though the Performer is trying to impress the people behind the table, the one person the Performer has one-on-one personal contact with in the room is the pianist. Me.

So why has it seemingly become difficult for me to be good? To be good for them?

Again, I acknowledge that an Audition is basically a Sociology experiment, a case-study on steroids. Everything is heightened. But most of what I find distracting, what I find to be an obstacle to both of us doing our jobs properly should have been taken care of even before we entered the room. It’s all about Preparation.

I am not going to go into a master class of Dos and Don’ts when it comes to a Good Audition, a Proper Audition. Instead, I will simply ask any Performer who may be reading this post to be a good Boy Scout. To be prepared. You know what you have to do. At the very least, you should be self-aware enough to know whether or not you are fully prepared. And if for some reason – real, imagined or otherwise – you are not able to fully prepare for an audition, please do not take out your lack of preparation, and your subsequent unease during the course of your audition, out on the pianist. Out on me.

I know when you are looking at me. I know when your "Thank you" is insincere. I know what that stony silence means as I hand you back your music. The lack of eye contact. I know I am not perfect, but I always acknowledge any of my imperfections openly. "I’m sorry about that chord." I have started songs over if I wasn’t feeling "right" on the initial start. I have even asked the people behind the table if someone could come back in again if I felt that I hindered their chances of being considered for a show, for the part. Again, I care. Bad auditions happen, but are they really unpleasant surprises? An unexpected happening, yes, but not something totally out of the proverbial blue. At least from where I sit.

Because playing auditions is such a personal experience for me, if something goes wrong during the course of the audition, I do take it personally. If I have a finger slip, make a mistake, I do feel bad about it. If I can’t read the sheet music that is put in front of me, I find myself wishing that I could read through the pencil scribbles, the too-brite high-lighter, the stray marks from the copier, the "texture" of the fax. I wish transposing on sight came easier to me. If I suddenly see a piece of music starting to fall off the piano, I will make every effort to keep it on the piano without taking my hands off the keyboard – that includes almost hyperventilating due to blowing on the pages in order to keep the book from closing. If I find that I’m playing too fast or two slow, I make the adjustment; I never prompt the singer to make the adjustment. Again, I care. And I all I ask is that you care too. At the very least, quietly acknowledge the work I’m doing behind the piano.

I could go into the particulars of why I’m holding this particular Pity Party, but I won’t. The day of auditions ended hours ago. They are over and done with. There were some good ones, there were some bad ones. There were some strange ones. But that’s just the law of averages. However, there was not one audition where I did not try to do my best – even as the afternoon dragged on, and my fatigue level started to inch upward, while my patience level headed down. It is my job to play well. If I do not do my job, I will not get re-hired. Those are my stakes. If you are Prepared, then I will be Prepared.

Wow! That’s a lot of eye-shadow… And perfume… Whoa!
Hi! And what are you singing today?

(Puts music on piano)
That’s not going to stay on the piano – Put it in a binder!

Well, I’m just gonna start here, and then at the end, I hold the note for a bit longer. I’m sorry I don’t have this in a book.
Well, at least she apologized for not having it in a binder.
OK. How slow do you want to take it?

Tap-Tap-Tap-Tap
Hmm… That’s a bit fast.
That seems a little on the fast side.

Oh, yeah, I tend to like it faster than normal.
What’s normal?!?!?
OK.

I’ll just give you a head nod to start. Can you play my first pitch for me right before I start singing?
No, I’m not going to give you your pitch, bi-yatch. You should have that pitch ingrained in your head. Of course, I’m going to give you your pitch, Duh!
Sure. Do you want me to come right in with you? or just catch you on the downbeat?

Yes.
Do not roll your eyes, Do not roll your eyes…
OK.

Thanks. And just wait for my head nod.
I heard you the first time. And it’s written on your music.
OK.

(Goes to center of room. Looks down. Takes deep breath. Nods head.)
(
Play pitch…)

Oh, not yet.
You said to start after you nodded your head…
Oh, I’m sorry.

Just wait for my head nod.
But you did nod your head.
Yes.

(Puts head down. Takes deep breath. Looks at me. Nods head.)
(Play pitch…) Oh, she does want me to play the lead-in with her…

Although he may not be the man some
This is "normal"…

Girls think of handsome
Get to the pitch, get to the pitch…

To my heart he carries the keeee-…
Almost there… Almost there…

-eeeey
Ouch!

Won’t you tell him please to put on some speed,
What were those notes?… Damn, this pedal squeaks

Follow my lead,
This is the end of the group, right?

Oh, how I need
Looks like two more to go till lunch

Someone to watch
Falafel or Chinese?

over me
Oh! she’s taking the turn around ending…

Someone to watch
Someone to give

O-
me

-ver
a

me.
clue.
-eeeeeeee… And she’s not holding that last note out..

(Comes over to piano.)

(Hand her her music.)

(Starts to walk out of the room.)

You’re welcome… You’re Welcome… You’re Welcome…

Next!

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