How to prepare for last minute auditions
We all have those days when things just don't go our way; sleep through the alarm, can't find our work tie, burn the toast, miss the train to work, the list really does go on. And in these types of situations, we tend to lose our focus, trip over our own feet and stumble our words getting in a complete fluster and panic that we may have gotten ourselves into a lot of trouble. A performer can often find themselves in this exact state when an audition arises that is the next day, or even the same day, that we were just not expecting. This panic like state quickly takes over and we find ourselves too nervous to even think of our own name let alone remember what appropriate songs or monologues are in our reps.
However, the difference between being late for work and a last minute audition, that every performer should remember, is that with a last minute audition we are in complete control every step of the way. One cannot control if a power cut happens and our alarms reset, or if the train happens to be early and we miss it, but in complete contrast, we can control everything that happens in our auditions and everything that happens beforehand and leading up to that dreaded walk in the room.
So, for example, imagine you are getting home from that very stressful day at work after missing the train and being late with a stomach still gurgling from the mornings burnt toast, and we decide to check our emails. One comes through, and lo and behold it is from our agent or casting call pro, saying that we have an audition and would like to be seen for the role of Jimmy or Jane in an off west end production of 'Crackin' corn the rock opera'. Oh great! We think. Finally an audition, a chance to break free from this hellish part time office job and to be back on that stage. We start to get excited and a large grin appears across our face to which every other commuter pulls a strange look at as they just don't understand. But wait, as we scroll down the casting breakdown, we see that the audition is the next morning. That's right, it is now 8pm on the overground home, and the audition is at 11:40am the next morning. The grin begins to fade, the palms get clammy, our heart begins to beat faster and faster as though it's about to implode, our breath shortens, our vision gets blurry and we suddenly need the toilet more than ever. Thoughts like 'What can I sing? What monologue can I do? I haven't been to a jazz class in ages I'm going to fail that dance call', begin to race through our minds. The train won't get you home until 9pm, you're going to have to wake up at 8am to get to the audition on time and so you're going to have to be in bed by 10:30 at the latest to wake up and not sleep through your alarm. That gives you an hour and a half, taking off time to cook and make dinner, maybe an hour maximum to prepare yourself. Oh dear.
Okay first thing is first, step one is to breathe. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and focus your mind. As mentioned earlier, this isn't a broken toaster, this is you and your life. You are in complete control and there are no factors that say you are not ready for this audition. If you panic and lose control now, how do you think the audition itself is going to go? Not very well. So take a second, centre yourself and continue. Read the breakdown you have been sent; as this is a new never performed musical, there is nothing about it anywhere on the Internet and all we have is what we are told in this email. Familiarise yourself with the show according to what you've been sent and the character you are auditioning for. Okay, you can see it's a rock opera, so think about it, you've had your training, you know what songs you have sat at home in that rep folder of yours, either that or you have watched enough youtube clips / listened to enough soundtracks to know a lot of songs by heart, so think about songs you know / have that would fit this genre. This is an EXTREMELY important factor, and I cannot stress this enough, never EVER take a song to a last minute audition that you thought "oh this would be amazing, I'll learn it tonight". This is a huge mistake. You're going to be nervous as it is last minute, so you need to take a song that you know backwards. You need to be so comfortable with the material you take that you could recite it double time as a dramatic speech from end to beginning in the style of patti lupone. This is because you don't need any extra stress in these situations, and you need to again, be in complete control, so if you were to take a song you learnt that night, you could forget the lyrics, forget the melody, and most importantly you simply haven't spent enough time on it to know the character know the through line and the journey of the song, and you just will not do it justice. So take a song that you can pull out of the bag amazingly with no preparation at all, even if it slightly differs from the genre, take it. If they ask for a pop/rock ballad and all you have available is a cheesy pop ballad, take it. If you know it well enough and you are a good performer you can simply adapt your vocals to make it sound more rocky, give it that edge they are asking for. At the end of the day at these early stage auditions all they want to know is that you can sing and have the appropriate technique and sound that they are looking for, you can learn something new for your recall if you really must. But for now, stick with what you know.
Now that your song is sorted, despite it being slightly different to what they're asking, you have it so you no longer need to panic about that.
Now, the monologue. Remember, you don't know the show or the character, all you have is the breakdown. Again, my biggest piece of advice is take something you know!!
Don't google monologues for men and learn something new! Don't do it! It will only mess up your performance.
Just like with the song, most well prepared monologues (all from published plays I hope) that you have, will be prepared well enough for you to be able to adapt it. Adapt your character to match that of the breakdown. Think about what is being asked of you, and think about your most prized monologue. How can I change my intentions and thought processes in this monologue for it to still make sense, for it to still be entertaining, but most importantly, for it to fit he character brief. There is no point in doing a quick flick through plays you have in the hopes you will stumble upon a monologue that is perfect for the character that you can quickly learn in that hour you have. Think about it, would you rather go and see a show that was made in an hour by people who thought, "oh it's fine, this speech is similar to mercutios, I'll learn it now and do it it will be fine", or one that has had hours of thought and preparation behind it? Exactly. They just want to see that you are an intelligent, quick witted and brave actor. Not that you can replicate a brief they have in front of them. If they see that you are a versatile competent actor, they will start to imagine what you could do with the script they have, and they will love you.
Perfect! You have your monologue and your song, and you've thought about how they can fit the brief, and you've rehearsed them both through a few times. Now, the dance.
You can't prepare the dance call, this is the section that is slightly out of your control, as you just cannot predict what the choreographer is going to throw at you. How fast will they teach it? What style exactly is it going to be? Will there be enough space? Will I be able to pick it up? All of these questions and more may run through your head, but you need to forget it. A dance call in ten minutes time is the same as one in four days. You cannot prepare anything and there is nothing you can do apart from warm yourself up appropriately, and be on the ball. Focus, do what you need to do to learn the routine as fast as you can, don't worry about how high that boys leg is above his head, or how perfect her box splits are, just focus on yourself, and what you can do. If you pick up the routine, then smash it in the groups section. Give it your all. If you don't pick up the routine, smash it in the groups section, give it your all. No that was not a mistake in my typing, I meant to say that. To elaborate, what I mean is, you can only do what you can do. You can't become an expert ballet dancer in this hour you have, you can only be what you have taught yourself to be up to this point, so go in there and do everything you can do. If you can't quite get the routine, do not panic, have fun with it and perform it as though you were on a west end stage. If they see that you are a good mover regardless, and you got most of the routine apart from that one turn, then they are more likely to hire you as opposed to if you got everything apart from that one turn, but missing that one turn ruined your life and you hate yourself. Just have fun! If you are confident and happy with what you do they may very well give you a chance at a recall, and if you smashed your song and monologue as we have talked about before, they may take that into consideration and call you back in simply because you were brilliant at those two rounds. So just think about it, if you give your all there is nothing you can kick yourself for afterwards when you leave.
So to conclude, do not panic. You are in control. In order to smash that last minute audition you need to remain in control for as long as you can for as many rounds as you can. Despite not being able to predict the dance, you can predict everything else if you already know exactly how that song or monologue goes, and you can do well! Believe in yourself and know that you know your material. There is no need for putting yourself through the unnecessary stress of learning new material the night before the audition, so take in what you know regardless of the genre and adapt it to fit the brief. Give yourself more time to rest that night and wake up feeling fresh and ready, don't go to bed running through lyrics / text in your head, causing you to panic because you forgot a line so had to run to your music and go through it again. If you lose sleep your body will be tired the next day, and you will have more chance of losing control.
If you do everything I have said, you can get home at 9pm from work, cook a nice dinner, maybe even have a bath, and get into bed knowing that you can just take that song you know you perform well and just give it a more rock feel, and you can take that monologue you've performed thousands of times through drama school and you've worked on countlessly, because you know it well enough to give it the feel of an 18 year old corn farmer named jimmy as opposed to a 25 year old man who is a virgin and is in love with his cousin. You can do it! Have confidence in yourself and what you can do, you are more likely to get a recall this way than if you attempt to learn new material and mess it up. And then this way you can learn better material for the recall that is two weeks away rather than the next day, and you will be playing jimmy or jane in a new rock opera before you know it!