written by Queenie van de Zandt – Head Honcho at The Australian Musical Theatre Academy
It has never been more important to be audition ready. Outstanding musical theatre continues to make its way to our shores with exciting shows like Come from Away, Waitress and Hamilton just around the corner. I spend a lot of my time working with talented adults, teenagers and kids through my company – The Australian Musical Theatre Academy (AMTA) – and the workshops we run. In fact, we are currently holding auditions for 10 talented adults, teenagers and kids to join our acclaimed, national masterclass series – The Musical Theatre Intensive Weekly Masterclasses. This course connects budding performers with the best creative minds in Australian musical theatre – helping them be prepared to ace their auditions for these upcoming musicals through weekly masterclasses held in Sydney and Melbourne over 6 months.
AMTA also regularly runs audition preparation workshops for children focussing on upcoming musicals such as the workshops we ran to prepare kids for the Billy Elliot auditions.
And if there is one thing I’ve learnt, having spent nearly 20 years working in the field of audition technique it’s this – audition success is 10% talent and 90% preparation! Preparation is everything.
So, I thought in this article I’d focus on children and teens and their parents – and pass on 10 steps that will help them prepare for musical theatre auditions.
Ten steps to help parents and children prepare for a musical theatre audition
Preparation starts way before your child even gets an audition to prepare for. So if you have a talented tyke – and don’t know where to start – here are ten steps to follow to help you make like a Scout and BE PREPARED!
1 – Get a good headshot of, write up a C.V. and put together a show-reel for your child
– 8 x 10
– Black and white
– Head and shoulders only
– Keep it simple
– Don’t go crazy with hair or makeup or accessories
– Make sure it looks like them
– Group their experience together under headings such as: Eisteddfods, Competitions, Training, Exams, Theatre, Film, TV etc
– Keep it up to date
– Make it easy to read and give it a professional layout
– A show-reel is a cut-together video of your child’s performing. If they’ve never performed in public, just film them singing a song, doing a dance or a monologue
– Edit the best bits together and don’t make it any longer than 3 minutes
– Upload it to YouTube or keep it as a file – but make sure it’s not too large as you’ll need to email it
Once you have a C.V., headshot and show-reel, you’re ready to email them to the agents.
2 – Get an agent
Theatrical agents represent actors. They are the link between the people casting musical theatre, film and TV and actors. So the easiest way to secure an audition for a professional musical is to be represented by an agent.
The MEAA (Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance), the union that represents actors, has a list of agents for each state on their website. To download your state’s list, go to: www.meaa.org/?s=agent
They recommend that when choosing an agent to remember:
– All agents must adhere to the Private Employment Agents Act
– You should not pay any upfront fees to an agent as a condition for the agent to represent your child – it is illegal
– Agents are not allowed by law to charge you more than ten percent (10%) commission on your child’s gross wages for a job – whether it’s a live music gig, modeling, film and television work, television commercials or live theatre;
– The ten percent (10%) commission is the total fee payable by you. Your child should not pay your agent for postage, phone calls or similar costs.
You then need to ‘let your fingers do the walking’ and email them your child’s C.V., headshot and show-reel or link to their YouTube show-reel – with a short cover letter asking for representation. Follow up with a phone call a few days later to see if they’re interested and to make a time to meet them.
It’s not always easy to get an agent – so don’t despair if you’re not successful – many children are cast in musicals without having an agent. Just go to the next step.
3 – Get on the grapevine
Whether your child is represented by an agent or not – you need to plug into the ‘grapevine’, and use your ears, eyes and nose to sniff out auditions and opportunities. Below are a bunch of suggestions of how to do that (take it easy – you don’t have to do them all – just pick and chose).
And if they’re not already, get your child involved in the arts – whether through a performing arts school, or doing Eisteddfods, AMEB or Trinity Exams, amateur theatre – whatever – be around people who love musical theatre and you’ll hear what shows and auditions are coming up through the grapevine – as they say – it’s not what you know, but who you know!
4 – Do your research
you hear about a show coming to Australia, get to know the show before
auditions have even been called. If the show is an imported version of a
show currently playing on Broadway/West End (which many of Australia’s
musicals are) then there is most likely a lot on the web about the show,
– YouTube footage
– Wikipedia site
– Casting information
– Sheet music
– Cast recordings
– Even scripts and full video recordings of the show (if you know where to look)
5 – Invest in some stuff
Once you’ve found a cast recording, sheet music, programs, a script, the film or live recording of the show, invest in purchasing some of the material – so that your child can become familiar with the show and get prepared for what she/he may be asked to do at an audition.
6 – Take your child to a good singing teacher, performing arts school or workshop to help them prepare
You can do several things to help your child prepare the material from the show:
– Find a good singing teacher
– Enroll them in a performing arts school – these schools will often focus on the material of upcoming musicals in their classes leading up to when the musical auditions (they usually also get sent the audition notices when the time comes)
– Attend workshops or courses specifically aimed at improving audition technique, such as AMTA’s Musical Theatre Intensive Weekly Masterclasses (go here to find out more: www.amta.net.au)
7 – Make sure they play with the material from the show
Producers are often nervous about children learning material from the show before an audition – as they fear children will get stuck in performance patterns that they can not break out of. And they have a point – if your child learns the material and gets stuck in performing it a certain way – they are going to find it very hard to take direction in an audition. But to not learn the material is also not the answer – as they will not be prepared for their audition. After running workshops in audition technique for children for 15 years – I have found it is integral for children to be as familiar as possible with the material – provided they remain playful with the performances of that material. This is the key.
8 – Warm up before the audition
On the day of the audition make sure your child does a physical, speech and vocal warm-up before they attend an audition where they will be required to sing, dance and act. It will help them to perform better and also help keep them safe from injury during the audition.
Yoga stretches, held for 20 seconds or more are a good basis for a warm up. Doing tongue twisters and reading out loud are 2 great ways of your child getting ready to act and there are lots of great vocal warm up cd’s and apps out there – with one of my favourites being an app developed by some leading musical directors from our industry – called Warm Me Up (you can get it here:www.warm-me-up.com)
9– Dress appropriately
Often the casting director will be specific about what clothing to wear, especially if it is a dance show, (i.e. casual dance gear and jazz shoes). If they are not specific, your child should dress thinking about what the character is like that you think they might be looked at in the audition. Never go to an audition in costume. Just chose something in their wardrobe that they feel comfortable in, that they can move in and that gives a little ‘nod’ to the character they are auditioning for.
10 – What to take with you and audition room etiquette
Always turn up to the audition at least 15 minutes early. They nearly always run late, but turning up early can really help to settle your child’s nerves as they have time to adjust to their surroundings and pick up the vibe of the audition. You often overhear conversations about how the auditions are being run, so your child can be even more prepared when they walk into the room.
Always take an extra copy of your child’s C.V. and headshot in case they’ve been misplaced. Bring water, snacks and activities for your child to do with you – it can sometimes turn into a very long day. And remember from the moment you and your child walk into the waiting room – you are being ‘auditioned’ – both of you! Be polite and respectful of everyone from the person at the sign on desk, to the director, to the other parents and children.
While your child is waiting to go in, make sure they don’t make lots of noise and spend all their energy running around in the waiting room. Performing well is all about focus. They need to concentrate on what they are about to do and save their energy so they can put all that preparation to good use, and go into the audition and their talent shine through.
And this last bit is very important…
Once the audition is over – GET ON WITH LIFE! It is so important to remind your child that it’s all just a big game – and to have fun every step of the way. The aim is not to get the job – the aim should be to do a great audition (which funnily enough often then gets you the job). When focusing on it that way, the outcome is just icing on the cake.
Queenie van de Zandt is a multi-award-winning musical theatre performer and highly sought-after teacher specializing in musical theatre audition technique, song performance and creating cabaret. The above is an extract from a book she is writing on the topic.
To find out more about The Australian Musical Theatre Academy, and the above-mentioned Musical Theatre Intensive Weekly Masterclasses, visit www.amta.net.au