Saturday, December 8, 2012

Music Directors - Interview in Five Questions

This summer I began an interview process with three lovely Music Directors. All work in different areas of the country so I wondered if their answers would vary widely to the five – very long – questions I asked them about what their preferences are when in an audition situation.

Jeff Caldwell works on the east coast in the New York area, on Broadway and Off Broadway.

Kim Dare works in Seattle at various Equity and Non-Equity companies

Darcy Danielson is the resident Music Director at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

This is Question Number 1.

There is much debate about "the book" that is handed to an
accompanist. Sheet covers - no sheet covers. Taped together - Or in a
binder. Or taped together pulled out of a binder. The list goes on
and on. Many of you play your own auditions when you are Music
Directing. When you do so, what do you like to see placed before you?

Jeff Caldwell – East Coast – New York, Broadway, Off Broadway

Never put plastic sheet covers in front of me. I've never met one that didn't reflect light, even the excellent non-glare ones. I agree with not having a book crammed full of music - it even makes turning pages hard. One practical use of sheet covers is to protect your copy of music, which you transfer OUT of the cover and into the binder before the audition. I personally prefer and recommend you have separate music for each version of a song you do. Please don't tell me to ignore the markings of your 16 bar cut when you're doing the full song. Just have a clean version for each.
Double-sided absolutely, and with an intelligent thought about minimizing page turns. A 4 page song should only have one turn, between pages 2 and 3. A 16 bar cutting shouldn't have any page turns. Don't have the intro on one page and the song proper on the next. Better to turn later after the song is established than after only a few bars.
If you have a cut involving a key change or feel change, don't make it at a page turn.

And, just ask a coach or pianist about these things. It's worth the investment.

Kim Dare – Seattle Area – Arts West, Balagan and others

  • I like a book that is clean looking (not a bunch of paper that is falling out - it's scary when I see paper tucked all over the place).
  • I like a book where the size if managed. I played auditions for a casting director with Book of Mormon last week. One gentleman came in with a binder containing no less than 30 songs in it - when he walked out of the door the casting director and I were talking and he said that that book was a mess which usually indicated a messy actor (not prepared – a little scattered). He wasn't saying anything that I haven't said or thought. Actors should have 2 'books' – one containing ALL of their music and one that they bring to auditions with carefully selected songs (no more than 5–6) that are appropriate for the show that they're auditioning for and that they know that they can do well.
  • The only thing that I ABSOLUTELY care about is that it's 2 sided, preferably with as few page turns as possible. That being said, I don't mind if it's 'pull out' ready so that I have one long page. My concern there is that you never have a guarantee that the piano you're at will be able to support a string of pages pulled out.
  • I prefer no glare sheet covers if there are sheet covers. But, I don't need or prefer sheet covers. Just clear music. Printed cleanly and not really crazily marked up. If an actor is doing cuts, they should cut the music up and provide so that I don't have to jump my eyes from page to page.
  • I also prefer that if the actor is doing a selection from inside of a song that they write the name of the song on top of the page (if it's not available on that page) so that I know the name. And, if I'm only playing a selection, make sure that I can see the key signature and time signature. There have been times (it's rare in publisher printed music, but it's happened) where I'm given a piece of music and don't know the time signature – or the name of the song. I shouldn't have to hunt for that information – the vocalist wants me to be able to concentrate on making them sound good and playing the dots on the page – they should do everything that they can to make that possible.



Darcy Danielson

Sheet covers too often cause glare and can be hard to turn pages. My preference is back-to-back taped, three-hole punched in a black binder. Fold outs are great. Pet peeve: chord symbols, page nos., bass notes that are cut off due to poor photocopying.


I like cuts on a separate copy from the full-length tune, and I encourage younger auditioners to retain the whole song for their repertoire collection. You never know when that solo show or cabaret performance will present itself.


I love playing my own auditions, and it's such a joy to try accompaniment choices that check their musicality.


The sheet music apps for iPad are a swift way to bypass the photocopy model. They mail a PDF and I slide input into iBooks, or the sheet music viewers such as Stanza or Musicnotes. Again, there can be a glare factor.



Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Songs: Audition Cuttings Part 1 - The Verse and Chorus

So you’ve picked your song. First suggestion – learn the entire song.
Will you ever do the entire song for an audition? Probably not. Should you know the entire song? Yes. Why?
What if?
I have heard the stories. OH the drama! The fun! The “Oh-my gosh I’m so lucky –I’m so screwed!” – Stories!
·         An actor finished their 16 bar cutting and then they were asked to do the entire song.
·         An actor finished their cutting and they were asked to do 32 bars, or the verse and the chorus.  
·         An Actor finished their cutting and then they were asked to do another song. “Start from the beginning and go until I stop you.” (SO RARE, so Lucky IF you can do it)
·         An Actor finished their cutting and then they were asked to tell the story of the song they just did the cutting from.
It happens. Not often, but it does happen.
So – be prepared.
How do you cut a song?
You want to show off your voice AND tell a story. That seems impossible in 16 bars. It’s not. It’s just a very short story J Let’s start with something easier.
Today let’s talk about the request for the “Verse and Chorus”. Please remember these are not hard and fast rules. They are however pretty great guidelines that have worked for me and other actors I know.
v  Verse and Chorus
o   I usually start at the chorus and then go into the last verse. I do this because well – the chorus starts at a high point and then usually keeps building in intensity. It's INTERESTING. In most songs the last verse goes someplace new musically. That place is -usually -DYNAMIC! Doing this part of the song shows off your range and often the last verse has a money note. Think about it.

·         Defying Gravity
·         The Wizard and I
·         There’s a Fine, Fine Line

o   The story is usually exciting at the end the song. Often at this point the song is telling the end of the story. Sometimes there’s a reveal. It’s wrapping up. We humans are pretty good at putting together what happened to get us to the end of the story. So you’re telling the climax of the story. The EXCITING part. You want to sound good. You need to sound good. But you need to tell the story. So as always:

Don’t forget to act!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Auditions This Week

Happy Sunny Monday..... if you don't live in Seattle. :(

Yes that's right - another gray day in Seattle BUT people are happy!

Why? This week is filled with exciting auditions.

Balagan Theatre  is holding seasons auditions this weekend. They are doing some great shows this year! What else is new? Glad you asked. Their Season.  This and every season. Contemporary shows. That is Balagan!
 Click on their name and follow the link to check them out. If you haven't seen one of their shows yet -

Seriously -you are missing out. They are doing some amazing work with talented, highly respected Seattle / New York artists.

Dickens Carolers - Christams in July! No - just auditions. A Seattle tradition and wonderful orginization. They start rehearsals soon and work around your schedule as much as possible during the Christmas season. It is a great gig. If you have the harmony chops - schedule an audition!

Unexpected Productions! Are you an improv genius? Another Seattle mainstay - Unexepected Productions is having auditions for their team!!!

If you check out Theatre Puget Sound (TPS ) you will find a moderatly hopping audition board this week. Outside Seattle? Edmonds and Auburn have some offerings this week!
Some student audio work is seeking voice talent among a smattering of independent films and a couple of plays.

If nothing tickles your audition bug -  then it's a great week to read a couple of new plays, look for new material or take in the PINTER FESTIVAL at Act Theatre.

What was the most recent play you read and REALLY enjoyed? Have you booked anything recently that you would like to promote? Have you SEEN anything you would like to promote?

Let me know in the comment box below!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Building Your Book

Hopefully by now you have a three ring binder with the beginning of your Audition Material. You will continue to add to this binder as you continue to audition and work.
In this binder you should have your monologues, your audition sheet, a record of money you're spending etc (see previous posts).
Now it is time to add songs. Even better? Grab another binder that holds just music. Please remember, this is YOUR resource. This is not the book you will share with your accompanist. We will talk about that book in later posts.

What do you need in this book? Great Question. First let me ask you:

Do you have a voice teacher?
  • If they are involved in Musical Theatre, they will have their own opinions on the subject of what to keep in your book. Ask them what they think. Also, they should be a wealthy resource for finding songs.
Do you know your voice type?
  • Although Sheet Music Direct, Music Notes and other resources for downloading sheet music allow you to change the key, you still need to know what key suits you the best. If you are out there auditioning - you should know your voice type and your range. Know your craft. You also need someone to play through the accompaniment even if you have the ability to learn the song on your own. Learning from a CD is not (usually) the best option. If you don't have a voice teacher, at least hire an accompanist to run through your material before your audition. More on that later. 

 These are the "Tabs" I think you need. This is just a foundation. We will continue to add geners etc as we continue this series.
  • Classic Musical Theatre (Cole Porter, Jerry Herman, Rogers&Hammerstein etc.)
    • Ballad
    • Uptempo
  • Jazz standard
    • Ballad
    • uptempo
  • Showstopper
    • The 11th hour number, the number that stops the show. "Ain't It Good" from Children of Eden. "Defying Gravity" from Wicked (also the 1st act curtain song - so I cheated there). These are examples not suggestions.
  • 80s Pop Song
  • 70s Pop Song
  • 60s Pop Song
  • Rock Song
  • Sondheim Song
    • Ballad
    • Uptempo
  • Webber Song
  • Something in the style of Musicals from the 1995-Now (Like Wicked, Next to Normal, Avenue Q, Spring Awakening)
    • Confusing? Try to find songs by the same composers or songs that "sound" like that composer. I am not suggesting songs becuse - you may be auditioning for these shows! Some of these songs are also - well overdone. Do it at your own risk. So try to make sure this song is from a show - different than .....:
  • A Cabaret Song
These songs are not necessarily from a show - but "Showtune Like". There are a couple websites that have search engines to search new composers and old ones. Unpublished material and standards. I will post those links next week.
  • Catchall
    • This is a song you could use for almost anything. It has a catchy tune, it is versatile. Probably uptempo. All of the above songs should show you off but this song - this could be your signature song! Your showiest of them all!
This is a good solid foundation. We will add more as we go. I have found all of these and more useful for planned and more importantly - unplanned auditions.
We will delve a little deeper into this subject and talk about Cuttings next week.
Next Post: Cuttings - The Art of 16 bars, 32 Bars and Verse to Chorus.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Choosing a Monologue Part 1 of 4

Choosing a Monologue Part 1
If you don’t have one already now is the time to get a three ring binder. Start Building Your Audition Book.
The audition determines the type of monologue and the length. Read the requirements and follow them! If it says prepare a 2 minute monologue don’t walk in with a 2 minute and 15 second monologue. If they ask for comic piece don’t walk in with a dramatic one. If they ask for a Modern piece don’t bring in Shakespeare. But...."Let's start at the very beginning..."
I give examples of published work below. I have not included the entire text but I have provided enough information for you to find the text if you so desire.
Find an Active Monologue – this means a monologue that happens in the now not a Memory Monologue. A Memory Monologue (or M&M) is when you are telling a story, something that happened in the past.
An M&M might start something like this:
When I was a little girl I went into the abandoned coal mine. At first everything was fine but then I went deeper and there was a big bang. Everything came tumbling down…
Below are a couple of lines from The play “Lardo Weeping” by Terry Galloway
Dinah has a monologue that begins:
“There was only one time in my life…. –and ends- …..just not quite ruthless.
This is an M&M
An Active Monologue (AM) might start something like this:
I don’t understand you. I give and I give but you know what, I’m through giving. Get out. Right now! Go into the bedroom, pack your bags and get out! No – don’t talk. You know why? Because I’m through listening!
Below are a couple of lines from The play “Four Corners” by Wendkos and Bond
The character Jimmy has a monologue that begins:
Look, you know how dogs begin to look like their owners….. -and ends - ….couldn’t I turn into her?
This is an AM.
I prefer these when I direct and when I act. I think they are easier to play objectives and allow an actor to use more tactics and objectives which in turn let's the director see more of your range.

Before You Audition - A Re-Post

 If you are new to this blog or to acting please PLEASE read the following and - Welcome!
This is a re post. If you are looking for How To Choose A Monologue and other Audition Tips - please head back to August, September, October of 2010 in this blog.
For Musical theatre - stay tuned over the next couple of months.
However -Before You Audition
If you are an adult reading this blog and you have never done a show or taken a class –
Get Thee To a Class. I’m not saying you have to have a four year degree before you audition, but take a class and acclimate yourself to the world of theatre.
Learn the basic vocabulary. Get some experience under your belt, find your sea legs – insert metaphor here – but get some experience. You are entering a competitive field. Raw talent is great and if you have it – Yay! Talent will only get you so far. Hard work, determination, being prepared, being easy to work with and knowing your business is what gets you the job after the first job. The story’s of being discovered walking your dog (David Boreanez from Buffy, Angel and Bones) are FEW and FAR between.
There are techniques, skills, basic vocabulary, knowledge and plain old stamina – way more than this blog post has room for – that will help you in your pursuit of becoming an Actor. Take a class and then audition for one of the many amazing smaller or community theatres we have in Seattle (or your local theatre!). I have posted links to some local places to take class and Theatre Puget Sound (TPS) TPS posts classes, auditions etc.
Be smart when signing up for a class. Is it a studio that’s been around a while, a new group with some hot new teachers? Just ask around and make sure some people know who they are. Find someone who has had experience with the studio/teacher. Check out their website or blog. Make sure the class is reputable but - don't judge it fully based on someone elses experience. You may love a class your friend hates - or hate a class they love.
If you live in a small community and you are just out to have some fun – audition. See what happens. Some people – David Mamet among them – believe you should only do shows. He feels this is how you learn the craft of theatre. I do not believe that is the best way and definitely NOT the ONLY way. Will it help? Yes. Will you get better every show you do? Yes. But class affords you time to personally examine habits, choose when and when not to use those habits, explore techniques and grow into a more versatile actor. But if you’re just out to have fun – go for it! Ok – enough about that!
For my students and others who have a bit of theatrical experience head to Choosing a Monologue!

Musical Theatre - Where to Start

Musical Theatre - Where to Start

First of all - Listen. Listen to musicals. I continue to be amazed that people venture into the world of Musical Theatre but don't know much about the canon. You must know your material as well as your craft.
Knowing  Wicked, Next to Normal and Avenue Q - is not enough. So today before we "Figure out Your Voice Type". Ask -"Should I take lessons" (The answer is yes and btw more voice teachers to come but check out the ones I already posted) "What song should I sing?"" What should I have in my audition book?" "How do I talk to an accompanist?"  "What should my audition cut look like"....oh yes many posts to come!

Before all that a SHORT Quiz / homework. Ready?

Sondheim and Webber: Is there really fan rivalry? ( don't know who these two are? hmmm)

Who is Patty Lupone?

Who is Mandy Patinkin?

Who is Sutton Foster?

Ok - if you know the cannon - come back later this week. If not - here are just a few OH so few musicals for you to listen to and get to know. I believe all of these are before the 90s. Here we go.

A Chorus Line. (Every Little Step is a great documentary to go with this)
   This is the first musical I fell in love with. Sadly I was cursed with movement dyslexia and will never be a dancer.

Into The Woods, Assassins, A Little Night Music
Anything Goes
Fiddler on The Roof
Show Boat
The Secret Garden
Grease (The Musical - not John and Olivia much as I love them!)
West Side Story

This is just a starter course - smaller than an appetizer. Seriously - if you don't know these musicals hop online and read about them. LISTEN to them. Go see them if you have the opportunity.