I don't just take my hat off to people who CAN act, sing and dance (or any combination of these) but I take my hat off to people who WANT TO. I am a writer, in many ways that's all I ever wanted to be, when I got to the end of my undergrad theatre days I knew there and then that acting wasn't for me, I had done more than my share over the years but I knew my heart wasn't in it.
But there are so many out there whose heart is not only in it, it is their whole life. There are those of you, many I think who absolutely need to, want to act, to sing, to dance, to perform in front of live audiences and there are so many out there that would love to do so professionally.
These days it's hard enough landing a role in the community dramas or am-dram circuit and it's certainly hard in school and in uni or any other place that has a bit of that safety net but the professional industry? That's a hard nut to crack .. it's a harsh place and it seems the difference between being an unpaid "for love" performer and a paid professional is a gulf that is huge and intimidating.
But it's not hopeless. People DO get work. The question is; How can you get into that elusive pro audition? And what does it take to get your through successfully. I did some reading and a bit of chatting to industry pros and I came up with a three simple tips.
Okay, we've all heard tales of people getting into pro roles and auditions with no resume, no formal training and no formal experience or really any industry knowledge. You may even know cases where this is true but it is by no means the norm. In fact, it's way outside the norm. All human beings have intrinsic skills, gifts and talents and you may be a whizz bang natural talent- if so, then you probably won't need this article. But for most people, we need some training and some knowledge. Education, as any teacher should be able to tell you isn't just knowledge but also skills and awareness. I could have also called this heading "Be informed" or "Be Aware" because that's part of your education. You want to perform professionally? You want to have a viable industry career? Get some schoolin'!
The performer and part of the genius behind the nationally successful smash hit "Boy Girl Wall" Lucas Stibbard said " [you should] attend a reputable training organization and invite potential employers to your showcase". Sounds like good advice to me. University is one logical place that offers reputable training, depending on how well your uni sponsors its creative and performing arts, but there are other, acting or creative industry specific training institutions about and most unis in Australia these days offer some variety of creative studies. But training is not isolated to uni. Workshops are another one, even if they are outside your 'field' what can it hurt? Time and again I have told people to acquire as many skills as you can get, dance, physical theatre, singing, clowning, circus, the list goes on and on and often these workshops are quite cheap, accessible and often run in-house by reputable trainers and in many cases theatre companies! What better way in the front door? It also shows you mean business. Training also might come from seminars, master classes, forums- arm yourself with industry knowledge it will be invaluable.
The industry, more often than not works like the workforce, your education is entangled with your experience. Perform, perform, perform, get in where you can on your road to the professional life, every show gives you that bit more experience and education that makes you attractive to a potential employer. Build the resume. Stay informed.
Educate yourself as to when theatre companies hold open auditions if they do so at all. Find out when auditions are on and who will be on the panel. Know what you are signing up for before excitedly showing up and asking where you can sign. Former artistic director of La Boite Theatre Company and now faculty of Creative Arts at Queensland University of Technology Sean Mee says " If you have been given material to prepare, you are required to prepare it completely. Don't play percentage games. Don't measure your level of preparation according to your own assessment of your chances. If you've been asked to audition, then we are serious and we require you to match that with your fullest attention. Anything less than that compromises your position straight away."
This is connected to being educated, but is taking your exposure to a new level. To be successful, you have to be visible. You may not be a professional yet in name but you should already be acting like one, thinking like one, looking like one, dressing like one and most importantly auditioning like one!
Award winning Queensland playwright with over thirty years of performing and writing experience Margery Forde advised that getting representation is often the turning point in someone's career. This was something echoed in almost everyone I talked to and everything I read: the importance of management or representation.
In the twenty-first century we can do a lot of this ourselves, you can and should build a professional resume and that means a performer's resume, which is different to one you will use to get any other kind of job. You can get a portfolio of photographs or other multi-media materials, you should collect everything you possibly can that pertains to your career, including reviews, references, recordings.
Getting an agent or getting management from an agency may be the most crucial step of your career. As educated as you might be able to get and as poised as your portfolio might be, your agent/agency is just going to have more networks and industry links than you are. That's okay, that's their job. It's critical to find the agent/agency that suits you, that's willing to not charge you the earth and work together to mutual benefits. I have heard and read some great testimonials of agents/agencies that come about when they work in unison with their performers. Part of this goes back to education, do some research, explore some options, make some calls and send off some emails, try to get in and talk to people, you probably wont be sorry.
Be visible. Market yourself and network, don't be a nobody or a number. In the industry there will always be the danger of being another face but you can increase your chances exponentially by being identifiable. When you're performing be constantly inviting talent scouts and professionals, consistently audition for professional shows even if you are knocked back, the more times you go the more experience you will have and the more familiar they will be. There are lots of things you can do to market yourself, have a Facebook page, A twitter, Blog, Youtube, your own website; a lot of this stuff is low to no cost and it can increase your exposure. Join collectives and groups, network, collect business cards, find out who is looking for who out there in the big theatre world; it might be you and it might be your ticket to a professional show.
A trite statement but so important. The fact of life is this is really hard, its always going to be hard and it's never not going to come without rejection, uncertainty or hurt feelings. That's part of life and theatre is the microcosm of life, so they say.
It's important that you take every opportunity to perform. Even if its not paid, if you can commit to a show, do so, it will increase your experience, build that resume, increase your exposure and there is no telling where it will lead. Take the work you can get if you can tolerate it, you might get offered a part in an ad for TV or a corpse in a play or a someone in a body stocking in a butoh dance piece, if it pays then you've just ticked that professional employment box. Every professional show you do gets you closer to what you want to be doing.
Audition constantly at every chance you get and audition well. Know the piece you are auditioning for and the role you would like to land. Artistic director of Harvest Rain Theatre Company Tim O'Connor says you should try to be original, don't be like the hundred or thousand other people auditioning, perform/sing/dance something that has meaning to you. Treat your audition like opening night, give it the conviction and commitment that you would if you were in the role that you covet. Anything less is a waste.
If rejected (and it will happen) seek feedback where possible. Find out what you can do better or what about your performance needs touching up. Sometimes it won't be about you or your performance, you might have been flawless but they saw someone who the director liked more visually for the role or someone who fitted better with the other roles, it can be a shallow business, it might come down to hair colour. Try and find out and take the rejection with a grain of salt and never apologize or make excuses for your performance or anything about yourself. Be proud you got your five minutes in front of the panel. That takes guts and there was a road to getting there.
Stay sane. There is work out there and you can get it if you stay educated, stay sharp, stay visible and have a bit of luck and a bit of faith.