While books have seemingly taken a backseat to everything from YouTube videos to audiobooks, they are still an invaluable resource to supplement your musical theatre education, especially when it comes to the history of the stage and the biggest names behind the biggest works.
Here are some must-read books for musical theatre performers–both informative and a great way to pass the time when you’re resting your voice.
Broadway Babies: The People Who Made the American Musical by Ethan Mordden
Recounting the development of the American musical comedy genre, this history is as entertaining as the song-and-dance productions it describes. The book features musical legends including Florenz Ziegfeld, Harold Prince, Bert Lahr, Gwen Verdon, Angela Lansbury, Victor Herbert, Liza Minnelli, and Stephen Sondheim, and explores shows with staying power like Anything Goes, Show Boat, Oklahoma!, Follies, and Chicago, to offer a rich account of a beloved but often overlooked American staple.
Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops by Ken Mandelbaum
This book explores the various how’s and why’s that led to dozens of Broadway musicals that seemed like surefire hits to flop hard at the box office. Mandlebaum is both objective and generous though, finding the positives where he can in shows whose failures could have simply been a product of bad luck and timing. Published in 1992, the book doesn’t describe the infamous Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, but after reading it, you may have an idea of why even Marvel failed on Broadway. The Vocal Athlete by Wendy D. Leborgne and Marci Rosenberg Musical theatre can push the human voice to its limits, and The Vocal Athlete is written specifically to help performers meet the high demands for a sustainable career on stage, providing ideal tools and exercises to help preserve vocal wellness. When it comes to taking care your most important asset, you’ll want all the help you can.
How Sondheim Found His Sound by Steve Swayne
This highly-praised book is a biography of one of Broadway’s biggest icons–Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist behind works like Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, Follies, and Sunday in the Park with George. Knowing Sondheim’s work and what makes the artist tick is key to understanding the very nature of Broadway, and Swayne’s book is a perfect way into his world and understanding how one of the greats came to be. The Complete Phantom of the Opera by George Perry
The Phantom of the Opera has cemented its place in Broadway history as an iconic musical, but its roots go much farther than Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 masterpiece. This definitive account of The Phantom of the Opera recounts the history of the work from its historical origins to Gaston Leroux’s classic novel that inspired Webber’s version, as well as the story’s other incarnations in between. All of this is supplemented with beautiful photography that include images from the production itself.
Up in the Cheap Seats: A Historical Memoir of Broadway byRon Fassler
Up in the Cheap Seats is a truly original take on Broadway, looking at it as a fan from the ground up, or rather in Fassler’s case, from the cheap seats down. By imbuing the history of Broadway and hundreds of its productions from the personal point-of-view of an actor in his youth, along with the dozens of people he met along the way backstage, the book gives a memorable but relatable and unique take on the musical theatre scene from a heartfelt place of true love.
We all have an idea of how our voices sound, but the idea doesn’t usually match the reality. Most people are surprised and even sometimes horrified by hearing themselves in a recording. In fact, only 10 percent of the people in the world are able to recognize their own voice when it’s played. But if you’re a professional singer or hoping to become one, you’re probably used to hearing yourself and have taken special steps to improve your vocals. Nevertheless, you’ve noticed that your voice doesn’t sound the same in different microphones, and sometimes the results can be quite alarming.
So the first thing to realize is this: different microphones are manufactured and calibrated to suit a variety of needs. The type of microphone to use will depend a lot on your genre of singing, the accompanying musical instruments used, location, and the result you’re aiming for. As the world’s only musical theatre program that creates fully-produced, original movie musicals, NYFA’s Musical Theatre School offers students the opportunity to record their vocals in state-of-the-art, professional studios. But what if you’re looking to do your own project on the side, or have booked an outside job? This guide will help you adjust your singing voice across different microphone and help you determine the best ones to pick for your next recording session.
1. If You’re Using A Condenser Microphone
If your music is focused primarily on your vocals or acoustic instruments, this is the microphone for you. However, a condenser mic is more prone to sibilance, so when you’re singing something which has a lot of S and F sounds, you can either use software to mask it or sing at an off-axis angle. Alternatively, you can do the “pencil trick,” which basically involves tying a pencil over the mic’s diaphragm with a rubber band that splits up and diverts the high frequency vibrations. 2. If You’re Using A Dynamic Microphone
This is a cheap, all-rounder alternative to the former that is good for vocals, drums and even recording guitar amp. However, one of the chief drawbacks is the “proximity effect.” This means that if you sing too closely to the mic, there’s a perceptible low-end boost in the frequency response. You can counterbalance this to some extent by using a pop filter or omni-directional mics. 3. If You’re Using A Ribbon Microphone
These are extremely expensive and extra sensitive and are perfect for those who want to bring a vintage vibe to their music. If your music involves piano, strings or woodwind, or if you’re singing in a choir, this is your best choice. Whether you’re recording your voice for a music project or for a musical film, there are two more very important things you can do to improve and adjust your voice for the mic… 4. Work With a Vocal Coach
As you already know, hearing your own voice is vastly different from the way others hear you. Getting a trained vocal coach to oversee your singing lessons is very important, as they can help spot new areas of your vocal work that need attention, and direct you to new techniques and skills. Not only will a professional vocal coach make sure you hit the right notes, you’ll also have an objective, outside perspective to help you practice better posture and breathing as well as how to adapt your techniques when you’re singing in a studio or live. 5. Control Your Vibrato
Most of us tend to have a natural vibrato, but professionals must learn to control and harness vibrato at the right time for best results. A vibrato can be similar to having an accent, and with regular practice you’ll be able to control and manipulate the rhythms and add more style to your singing. Finally, remember that singing is a performance. For any show to be successful, your emotions must be real and you must enjoy what you do. Happy singing!
Let’s not sugarcoat it: it isn’t easy to break into the musical theatre industry, and nobody is going to hand you a leading role in a Broadway show on a silver platter…
… but there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
Below you’ll find a breakdown of numerous professional jobs in musical theatre (along with their ballpark salary expectations, career paths and difficulty of attaining paid work). The good news is that many of them lead into one another, creating a multitude of routes into the musical theatre job you’re aiming for.
Some require prior training at musical theatre school while others rely more on on-the-job experience (and a little bit of hustle). Learn more as we explore:
Jobs in Musical Theatre: Work, Salaries & Career Paths
Front of House
We figured it would be sensible to start with front of house roles given that it’s often the starting block for many a good career in musical theatre. It’s often menial work – selling tickets or refreshments and/or showing people to their seats, for instance – but hey, it’s a start.
Front of House Career Path: See a job listing calling for front of house staff, prove you’re capable of serving patrons, and away you go.
Pros: In some cases, you get to see the show for free (or at least get discounted tickets.)
Cons: Doing the same thing, ad infinitum, often without pay.
Front of House Salary: It depends on the theatre (and its location), but the hourly rate can vary from being totally voluntary to $15 or $20 at the top end. A front of house manager earns around $35,000 on salary.
A musical director generally works under the lead director and producer, and acts as a conduit between the upper management and everyone else. However, after the rehearsals are wrapped up and the show’s run begins, the director/producer tend to take a backseat. At this point, the musical director will work with the stage manager (see below) to keep the entire production on track thereafter.
Not to be confused with a theatre director, who runs the venue itself.
Musical Director Career Path: Many musical directors start of as musicians first and foremost such as violinists or pianists, working on small productions before being tasked with leadership roles. Attending musical theatre school can accelerate this, and needless to say music lessons in a chosen instrument (or many) is almost essential.
Pros: If you love mixing creativity with logistics, this is the job for you.
Cons: A lot of responsibility, not a lot of credit.
Musical Director Salary: Between $40,000 and $60,000 dependent on experience and production level.
A broad term to refer to the head honcho who ensures everything that under the remit of the musical director (above) runs smoothly. The checklist of duties can be huge depending on the production: blocking, cues, lighting, scenery, props, and scheduling and reporting to the director and producers are all part and parcel of the job.
Stage Manager Career Path: As with the musical director, a stage manager typically starts small and works up. A deep understanding of everyone’s role on the team is essential, which typically requires formal tuition at musical theatre school.
Pros: The job satisfaction is huge, given that you’re pretty much solely responsible for putting on a good show.
Cons: You don’t know the meaning of the word pressure until you try being a stage manager on a big production.
Stage Manager Salary: Generally paid on a per-weekly basis of anywhere between $0 and $3000, depending on production size.
One of the most nebulous terms in both musical theatre and film, a producer can be expected to wear many hats during the course of a show’s run, but is primarily in charge of raising funds, managing said funds, and sometimes hiring personnel. The producer is usually the one to have discovered the script and initiated the production.
Producer Career Path: Business savvy is arguably more important than performance skills, but having an eye for this is also vital. Being rich helps a lot, too.
Pros: In a nutshell, the payoff can be huge (financially speaking)
Cons: You can also bankrupt yourself and/or your production company really, really easily.
Producer Salary: No reliable averages exist given that earnings are almost always royalty based, so we’re talking about a range of millions to negative millions.
Theatrical Makeup Artist
As you can imagine, being a makeup artist for musical theatre is a slightly different discipline to makeup artistry for models, photoshoots, and other types of beautician work, since it often calls for quite dramatic results under the harshest of lighting conditions.
Theatrical Makeup Artist Career Path: Given the technical knowledge necessary, it’s rare for makeup artists to have no specialist training in this area (though not entirely unheard of). A strong portfolio is also mandatory.
Pros: A lot of opportunity to unleash your creative prowess and work with a varied group of performers.
Cons: The overheads can be quite pricey when you’re starting out and having to purchase a lot of materials on your own dime.
Theatrical Makeup Artist Salary: The average hourly wage reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is pegged at $30, with a mean average annual of $58,000. Obviously, this is just a ballpark figure for those working freelance.
An essential role in bringing a musical theatre production to life, choreographers are responsible for a very important part of the show: working out exactly how the talent should move when on the stage (and that is usually more than just the dance routines). Like makeup artists, choreographers have been a part of the industry since the inception of theatre in Greek antiquity.
Choreographer Career Path: Formal tuition isn’t strictly necessary, but nearly all choreographers are trained dancers and go on to work either on a self-employed basis or via a dance company. Occasionally, the director doubles up as the lead choreographer on a production.
Pros: If dance is in your veins, there’s nothing better than being the person who creates the routines.
Cons: Expect outrageously long, 16 hours work days with a lot of traveling for work. Dance-related injuries are also common.
Choreographer Salary: Averages around $50,000 per year, but with the caveat that earnings can go up or down depending on freelance work available (if not signed with a dance company.)
Dancers, Actors and Singers
Working directly under the choreographer, directors, and stage managers are the main event: the people who the public have paid good money to see. This more generic entry covers a wide swathe of skill sets and different disciplines, with some members being proficient in just one or many.
Career Path: Entirely depends on your chosen field. Naturally, a dancer should seek expert dance tuition and a singer should undergo vocal lessons in order to maximize the chances of being hired. For a well-rounded education in all of the major skills, attend musical theatre school.
Pros: The thrill of performing, of course!
Cons: It’s one of the most competitive fields in entertainment. You could be flying high one moment, then struggling to find work the next. Also, the work itself is a lot more grueling than a lot of people are prepared for.
Talent Salary: Thanks to the Actor’s Equity Association, the minimum you should be paid is $1,754 per week if you’re on Broadway. If you’re off Broadway, this drops to $500 per week. The good news is it’s a growing industry with average wages rising with theatre profits.
As the title suggests, a scenic carpenter’s role is to create sets and structural elements of the production as requested by the production manager. Scenic carpenters typically don’t paint the set pieces themselves (which falls under the scenic artist’s remit), but may be required to also work on rigging in smaller productions which don’t have a budget for two separate professionals.
Scenic Carpenter Career Path: Simply put, proficiency in carpentry is required. Formal qualifications are usually requested given that poor structural work can endanger lives.
Pros: There’s a lot of job satisfaction to be had when you finally get to see the finished set, in action, that you helped create from the ground up.
Cons: Explaining for the hundredth time why that design might look good on paper, but it breaks numerous laws of physics in reality.
Scenic Carpenter Salary: Nearly always paid on a freelance, hourly basis and not much better than other low-grade stagehands at $8-$10 per hour. This can go up to $20-$25 per hour if managing a team.
Very few musicals can operate without a team of wardrobe staff, and costume attendants make up the bulk of this workforce. Tasked with making sure costumes fit the stage talent, keeping them in good condition between shows, and helping actors in and out of them during the show, a costume attendant may also be responsible for choosing the costumes themselves. However, this is usually the duty of the wardrobe supervisor (whom costume attendants report to.)
Costume Attendant Career Path: There isn’t a strict route into gaining work in the costume department of a production, and many who do so came from different stagehand disciplines. Skill with couture is obviously a prerequisite, and formal fashion training can help you climb the career ladder quicker, but otherwise it’s all down to your portfolio.
Pros: Getting to work with pretty much the entire team, from fellow stagehands to the actors, right up to the director. It’s a great job for learning many facets of musical theatre.
Cons: Work can be sporadic at best, but on the days you are requested, expect long hours.
Costume Attendant Salary: The hourly average as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (specifically for theatre) is reported as $26.80, which is only a shade below the same role in motion pictures at $27.02.
Along with scenic carpenters and costume staff, lighting designers fall under the umbrella category of “theatrical technician.” Lighting designers work hand-in-hand with light board operators, the former planning everything out in advance to match the artistic vision of the show, while the latter makes sure that plan is followed on the night.
Lighting Designer Career Path: A highly technical profession, lighting designers either learn from a very basic level in an amateur theatre setting, or undertake full training in electronics or another related field. Working as an associate LD under a lead designer is a good way of cutting your teeth in the industry.
Pros: The skills you’ll learn are highly sellable, even when you’re not working the theatre circuit (think music concerts, photo shoots, etc.).
Cons: It’s an under-appreciated art form.
Lighting Designer Salary: A healthy $50,000 per year on average, but that’s across the whole industry (not just theatre). Light board operators, on the other hand, earn substantially less; only around $10 per hour on a freelance rate, for a national average of $30,000 per year.
As a voice/theatre student in college, I auditioned for many musicals for the university theatre company and for summer stock theatre. I wasn’t as fortunate as students are today. There was no Internet with helpful articles to read. I had to rely on books and instructors to assist me and teach me how to properly audition. I think my best teacher was the audition process itself. Mantra for the day: The More You Audition – The Better You Get!
I will list some helpful hints for auditioning but the most important thing to do IS audition for as many musicals as possible. Don’t worry if you THINK you’re not right for any part. You never know what the director/producers are looking for! Even if you are NOT cast in a show, go to the next audition. Each audition will make you better, more confident and it will be easier to go through the process.
As a producer/choreographer I watched for the confident, well-dressed and best prepared people. THOSE were the ones I chose for call backs. The following suggestions will help you prepare for your audition.
When you call to schedule your audition time, make sure you have nothing else planned for that day. Ask where, when, the exact time, how long is the audition time and what you need to bring to the audition. Find out whether you’ll just be singing or if you need to prepare a monologue, if you will be reading dialogue and if you will be dancing. Generally auditions are two to three minutes long. Make sure you have a monologue that shows your strengths and is a minute in length. Your music piece should be sixteen bars of a piece that shows your range. Dance auditions are usually held separately and later after the individual auditions. If you are required to dance, bring appropriate clothes and shoes.
Acquaint yourself with the musical you’ll be auditioning for – either read the script, watch a movie or video, check the Internet, YouTube or attend the show. If you’re auditioning for summer stock, find out the theatres attending and do some research as to what they’re planning for their summer schedule. Be informed. Your audition will be better if you know what part you want. You will be confident and have a better audition.
Make sure your resume is up to date and have a professional head shot. Your resume should be one page and your head shot should be attached and look professional. That is the first thing a producer/director sees. Make a good impression. If you’re not sure your resume or head shots are correct – do your homework and research it. Prepare your music. No large books. Remember – it should be only 16 measures. Photo copy the piece, tape it together accordion style and make sure it is easy to read for your pianist.
Prepare a musical piece that is in your range and that you feel comfortable with. Do not prepare a piece from the show you are auditioning for unless you are asked to do so. Find something that might be similar.
DAY OF AUDITION:
BE ON TIME!!! DON’T BE LATE!!! I can’t emphasize that enough. Arrive at LEAST 30 minutes before your scheduled audition time especially if it’s an open audition. Check in, know where you are auditioning, ask where the restrooms are and where, if any, is a warm up area/green room.
Dress appropriately. Ladies – don’t dress like you are going to the club. “Ho” dresses, deep cleavage, micro-mini, 7 inch spike heels do not impress. Dress in good taste. Be comfortable in your attire so that your audition exudes confidence. Gentlemen – baggie pants around your behind, old tee shirts with brand names spilled across them and baseball hats are NOT what you should wear even if YOU feel they might be part of the “costume” you will wear for the show! Jeans are acceptable unless they are so TORN you look like you ran through a leaf shredder! Use common sense when dressing for an audition.
Come warmed up. Rise early, sip warm (not hot) water with lemon and honey, stretch, vocalize and breathe. Our bodies are stiff in the morning. Early auditions are a beast but you can conquer them with a good attitude. Avoid caffeine, dairy, energy drinks, soda and heavy foods. Tell yourself you will be great! Positive thoughts. Avoid worry! Arrive EARLY! Find a place you can warm up. Run scales, mouth exercises and other warm up techniques taught by your instructors.
PROFESSIONAL HELP FOR A GREAT AUDITION:
Look and act confident as you walk on the stage. Watch your posture. Slouching and shuffling indicates lack of self confidence. Keep your shoulders back, walk tall, head held high and step confidently on stage. As you take your position center stage, smile, address the producers with “Good Morning (Afternoon)” or “Hello” and announce your name, your musical piece you’ll audition with and/or monologue piece. Indicate to the pianist you’re ready. Take a deep breath just before you sing your first note. Begin! Don’t tap out the beat or snap your fingers for the pianist as you begin to sing. You should’ve gone over your music in the brief moments you had before your audition. Doing that on stage is unprofessional. If for some reason the pianist doesn’t play your music exactly as you indicated or you forget your words, just breeze over it, keep going – finish with a smile and a thank you and leave with confidence. Don’t say “Stop”, berate the pianist or make excuses. That was for high school – leave it there – this is professional theatre.
Do not have gum or a throat lozenge in your mouth. Sing with expression. Don’t overdo hand or arm motions or try to dance. Don’t grab your clothes or play with your fingers or hands. Just SING. Use your technique that you have learned and do the best you can. With the monologue, keep the stage movements simple and unencumbered. Don’t try to stage the entire monologue. The producers/directors want to hear your voice, projection and interpretation of the monologue. Make sure your have TIMED your audition to the required time given. Nothing worse than going OVER the timed limit. It shows unpreparedness and can annoy the auditioners. There are others waiting.
After your audition, smile, nod head in a bow of thanks and/or say “thank you”. Indicate the pianist in a gesture of thanks then walk confidently off stage. Quietly thank the pianist, gather your music and return to the green room to wait for call backs. Present a good attitude. Accept any part you are offered as an opportunity to grow and learn.
Study with a professional voice coach, take acting lessons and “be a sponge” – absorb the world around you and learn from each experience. Have a great audition – hope you get the part!
99% of the time, that resume and headshot will be the only opportunity you get to land a musical theatre audition. With that in mind, here’s how to get yourself ready for the big time.
1. Obey the 10 Second Rule
Bear in mind that you need to convey what you’re about in no less than 10 seconds – this is the average time a director will glance at your CV.
As such, make sure everything’s easily visible at a glance. You shouldn’t pack things too close together or use a ridiculous amount of words in describing anything. Strong headings to separate areas of your resume are also useful.
2. Education is Everything
This section is paramount to those who don’t have a huge amount of on-stage experience: the name of a reputable musical theatre school and any formal training and/or qualifications can speak volumes, so do list anything applicable here.
This includes instructors who have helped you over the years, since a good recommendation — especially in lieu of experience — is worth its weight in gold.
3. Don’t Forget Understudying
If you performed a role that you understudied, do list that as a credit on your resume with (u/s, perf.) next to the name of the role. It is important to say that you were the understudy, as someone could have seen the production and known you were not the person cast in the role.
Understudy roles are ideally best replaced with full credits if at all possible, though naturally these will come over time.
4. Skills to Pay the Bills
Ah, the special skills section … tantamount to being asked to talk about yourself, many people struggle with this and some even neglect it entirely.
Don’t. This is the one area in which you get to really set yourself aside from the crowd, although you might have to think outside the box and consider that you might have many unrelated skills that are actually relevant to a production.
If you speak other languages, you can say you are intermediate or advanced, anything less is not worth listing. If you have the ability to do physical tricks, list the most difficult that you are completely comfortable with, and always be prepared to do these in the room if asked.
Musical instruments are especially useful, and again should only be categorized as intermediate or advanced.
5. Not Everything is Relevant…
Naturally, you don’t want to put anything on your musical theatre resume on that may hurt you in a casting environment. Numbers are generally bad for resumes; this includes weight, address, and age. You can give an age range that you normally play, but you never have to give your actual age. If you are an adult and asked your age, you can reply with “over 18” and the age range you usually play. As long as you leave a bit of wiggle room, sometimes it’s better to let the people on the other side of the table decide what they think you are.
You also don’t need to list absolutely detail about yourself and every role you’ve ever been. Sometimes, blank space is preferable to black ink…
… and hopefully, with a killer CV, you’ll land some excellent musical theatre auditions and be able to fill the blank spaces with only enviable credits.
Clothing can be a ridiculously stressful thing to deal with before you go in for an audition. You have enough to worry about with trying to give your best performance possible in the room, so your clothes should really be the least of your worries. It’s important that you look good, but musical theatre auditions focus much less on what you’re currently wearing than commercial auditions do. You have some room to be comfortable and feel like you’re able to give a great performance in what you’re wearing. Here are a few tips to take the stress out of finding your audition attire.
Keep It Casual
You don’t need to dress like you’re going in for a corporate interview here. Your clothes shouldn’t be a wrinkled mess, but you also shouldn’t be wearing business attire to an audition. A good pair of jeans can go a long way, and it’s worth investing in a pair for auditions alone. Women can get away with pretty much any clothing option, as long as it isn’t too revealing. This isn’t the place to wear a short skirt or low cut top. Nobody wants to feel nervous that something may be revealed that shouldn’t be, and it distracts from focusing on your talent. Guys, leave the ties at home, they aren’t for auditioning. It is an interview of sorts, but the room is mostly interested in seeing you in clothes that fit to see what your body type is like.
Dress For Yourself
Speaking of body type, dress for it. You are you, so come in as the best version of yourself that you can be. There is no point trying to mask or bring out a feature if it is something that you simply don’t have. If you’re the right type for the role, you’re the right type, and if not there’s not much you can change. This is one of those things that every actor has to deal with, and that will take time. Just remember that while you may not be the right look for one role, there are others who don’t fit the ones you are great for. Make the body you have look as great, and feel confident with the person you are. There’s nothing more obvious in an audition room than someone who is uncomfortable in what they are wearing.
These are important. You don’t want to be too casual, but don’t wear something that looks totally out of place with the rest of what you’re wearing. It’s great if you’re athletic, but the running shoes really shouldn’t be your top choice for the audition room. The same can be said about flip-flops, leave them for the beach. For both men and women, boots can be a solid option that looks nice while giving you the added benefits of physically keeping you grounded in your performance. Be careful that you don’t wear anything too bulky, or anything meant for hiking, just keep it simple with a nice pair of leather boots. Men can also dress down a pair of dress shoes with jeans, which can really bring together an outfit. Heels are sometimes necessary for an audition for women, but not if you aren’t able to remain stable walking and performing in them. An audition will become extremely awkward for people in casting if they are afraid of you falling over. If you don’t feel completely confident, stick to flats and chances are nobody will even notice.
Your hair can either be something nobody notices, or one of the most distracting parts of your audition. You need to make a choice with your hair, whether it’s up or down for women, it needs to be kept out of your face. The same goes for men with long hair when it can become distracting during a performance. You shouldn’t look like you just rolled out of bed, so take the time you need to get yourself ready. It should be something that was handled at home, and not something you are dealing with in the audition. Hairspray is a great tool, and expected to keep you from spending time messing around with keeping things under control.
Really the most important part of all of this is to just feel good in what you’re wearing and be confident. You will give a better performance when you don’t feel uncomfortable or worried about what is on your body. Look good, feel good, and you’ll have a better chance of breaking through your nerves and giving a great performance.
Finding the perfect songs for auditioning can be an insanely difficult thing to do. The number of places to find sheet music can be overwhelming enough before even beginning to look at the content of a song. Here are a few tips about the good, bad, and ugly when it comes to finding good musical resources for actors.
This seems to have become the go-to site for sheet music online, and is definitely one of the most popular search results. While there are definitely pluses to having a ridiculous amount of music at your fingertips, there are some downsides to this mega music library.
-Selection is massive. If you’re looking for pop, rock, or relatively well-known musical theatre pieces, they will probably be here.
-Transposition is available on a lot of pieces here. Be sure to check before you buy if you need it in a different key!
-Limited chances to print your music. This is fairly standard, but definitely a downside from owning the piece in another format. Make sure you get the key right, or you’ll be wasting one of your chances to get the music you bought.
-Lots of accompanists really don’t like music from this site. The accompaniment can be extremely sparse, and there usually aren’t chord markings written in. You can also be totally thrown off your music when transposing, to the point that it may be impossible to play. If you’re unfamiliar with music, have someone who knows his or her stuff look over your piece to make sure it’s fit for an audition.
A lesser-known option that is fairly similar to MusicNotes. Their selection isn’t as big, but you’re sometimes able to find pieces of more obscure musical theatre and jazz here. It’s definitely worth looking at if you’re unable to find the piece somewhere else.
-Lots of musical theatre. They have a good collection here with some more rare pieces that happen to be great material
-Online Sheet Music Viewer software. This could be considered a good or a bad thing depending on what you like. You download the software to your computer where you can track the changes you make to the music. You literally have an infinite number of transposition options, which will allow you to make sure it’s a perfect fit for your voice.
-You won’t find everything here. The selection isn’t as great for pop music, and you’ll probably have to head back over to MusicNotes for certain pieces. A real problem if you were depending on the great transposition options available here.
-You have to download software. It takes up room on your computer, and requires a bit of jumping between the Internet and the program.
-Limited printing. Same case as MusicNotes, but the customer service is great about giving more chances if you mess something up.
-The transposition can get MESSY. The endless options are a blessing or a curse when people with less musical options can place music in ridiculously difficult keys, not realizing the number of changes that occurred for the pianist in making the song a vocal fit. Again, this definitely requires a musical friend to look things over. It’s easy to miss a key change in a piece that looks fine, and to end up sabotaging your own audition.
This site has anything brand new in the musical theatre world. You won’t find any of the classics here, but if you want the most modern material being written, this is definitely your place to find it. New composers, new music, and a totally new sound of musical theatre are all here for you.
-Brand new material! Most of the things you find here had a life in a cabaret somewhere or in an off-Broadway show. This means your friends, casting directors, and professors probably haven’t ever heard the piece before. It’s up to you to keep interest on you though when performing music nobody has ever heard.
-Young writers aren’t always good writers. Some music you find here will be GREAT, and possibly new go-to songs in your book, but other music will be sloppily written and often have poor lyrics. Try to look up videos of the song on YouTube to see if you can get a feel for the music before purchasing.
-Some of this music is inappropriately written, to the point that it can be dangerous to sing. The range on some of these pieces is incredibly high, written for specific professional voices that originated a role. You are responsible for your own vocal health, and need to make sure you’re singing pieces that keep your voice in a safe place.
Bonus! NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY DIGITAL GALLERY
This is a sight that definitely fits a specific need, but if you’re looking for old sheet music this may be the only place to find it. Located here, the New York Public Library has uploaded nearly 400 pieces of music from musicals, plays, and movies created between 1892 and 1923. They will be scans of original sheet music, so you may need to have someone with digital music software clean them up a bit if needed, but you can find some real gems here. These are the pieces nobody has ever heard by some of the great musical theatre composers in their earliest days. It’s worth the hunt if you take the time to look!
If you plan on being a musical theatre performer, your audition book is one of the most important things you’ll own. You need to fill your book with the right cuts for nearly every audition. While finding the perfect song is something a performer has to do for his or herself, the way to construct your book doesn’t have to be a mystery. Once you know what you’re looking for, you can begin the hunt for the perfect pieces.
What Your Book Needs To Be
Your book should be a three ring binder that is not too big, but also not too small. Stay away from anything over 3 inches or under 1.5 inches, as they become difficult for the accompanist to handle. All music should be organized by section or alphabetically, really whatever works best for you as long as there is a method to the madness. If you’re asked to find a piece, you’re going to want to be able to find it quickly. Music should be clearly labeled, and markings need to be very clear on the music itself. Plastic page protectors are the standard, and the non-glossy version will insure that your accompanist is able to see under any lighting.
What Should Be In Your Book?
Your book needs to be your best current material. Current being the key word, as you could be asked to sing any piece that you bring with you into the audition room. If a director isn’t hearing exactly what they need from you, it is common for them to ask what else you have brought. This is why your book needs to be comprehensive enough to cover all the bases. Cuts can either be 32 bars or 16 bars, and having one of each for a song will allow a selection to be more versatile for auditions. Keep in mind that a 16 bar should be around 30 seconds, and 32 bar cuts closer to a minute.
Categories are as follows:
Contemporary musical theatre – uptempo and ballad
Classical musical theatre – uptempo and ballad, at least one Rodgers and Hammerstein piece
Pop/Rock/Country – a mix of two or three pieces showing off pop vocal styling, tailor these toward different types of modern shows such as Rock of Ages or Rent
Jazz – consider having a blues piece as well as an uptempo jazz song depending on your vocal abilities
Go-To Pieces- these should be your two most polished 32-bar cuts, usually an uptempo and a ballad
Comedic – one or two pieces that you know are funny, whether it be the writing or the way you are performing the piece
Disney – Disney songs have a very specific feel and vocal styling, if you’re going to audition for a Disney show you should have one in your book
Each of the categories listed above have their own specific vocal styling to go with them. It will not help you to have a classical musical theatre section in your book if you choose to sing it in the style of contemporary musical theatre. You need to keep these styles separate, and know your abilities before going into an audition. Directors are often frustrated by auditions where the actor chooses to do a piece in a style that is not helpful for seeing them as a possible option for a role. It is your job as an actor to familiarize yourself enough with the show you are auditioning for, in order to sing a piece that is appropriate in both content and style.
What Songs Should You Sing?
While the number of songs in each style you should have in your book is a debatable issue, having two pieces usually keeps you in a safe range for auditions. You never want to be the actor that doesn’t have anything the director is interested in hearing. This is also a reason to keep your book organized, as you may need to pull something out very quickly in an audition setting.
As an actor, the content of your book is up to you. Finding the cuts that fit your personality and type will be one of the most difficult things you have to do, but once you find something you will know that it feels like a fit. While having a song option enter your realm of consciousness is something that is sometimes out of your control, there are many aspects of your book you can stay on top of. Mark your cuts clearly and cleanly, or you’ll end up with an angry accompanist, and you never want that. Practice your material, keep things looking clean, stay prepared with pieces for any audition, and eventually every song in your book will become as easy to go back to as your favorite few cuts.
The art of teaching dance is as much a craft as learning dance technique itself.
Many dancers choose to go into the field of teaching for a variety of reasons. Dancers are often passionate about their art, so teaching allows them to stay active in the field if performing opportunities are not present. The ability to share and pass dance knowledge to others and especially younger generations is important in continuing dance education worldwide. In general, there are also often much more teaching opportunities readily available than performing jobs. Education in any field is important—people want to learn and it is important to have good teachers available!
If you do decide that you want to become a dance teacher, there are a few things to consider. First of all, you must have plenty of experience not only as a dancer, but also in your training. You must be physically fit, have good stamina, and plenty of patience. You will be required to demonstrate technique and movement regularly, as well as break things down to make those you are teaching understand. It is important to train in several styles of dance, so that one day you may be able to teach those styles as well. Styles of dance that teachers are often sought after for include ballet, modern, hip-hop, tap, jazz, and more.
Some other things to consider include where and who you want to teach. If you have grown up at a particular dance studio and wish to stay there, often times these studios will hire and train their students to become teachers who have danced there for much of their lives. However, if you wish to embark on a journey outside of your home studio, you will most likely require additional training.
Here are a few examples of places and populations you could teach:
1. Creative movement to young children
This will require not only training in early childhood development, but also how to take dance and turn it into fun, creative, body awareness building games and exercises. You must be patient and willing to deal with behavioral issues with children. This is a growing field at many dance studios as a way to expose children and even parents to dance outside of the more technical field of ballet. Additionally, there has been a rise in independent companies who offer their services in school systems and daycare centers as a way to get children active and creative through movement.
2. In the school system
Many public schools today offer magnet arts programs in addition to adding dance to physical education curricula. Most public schools will require a teaching certificate within your state for the grade level you wish to teach: elementary, middle, or high school. There are also college dance education programs that will help you achieve these standards. In addition to the public school system, there are also private schools and boarding schools that focus on the arts or value them in their curriculum.
3. College dance programs
Most college and university dance programs will require their teachers to have a Master’s degree in dance as well as the appropriate experience under their belt. These programs are extremely comprehensive and cover all aspects of dance: technique, performance, choreography, kinesiology, technical theater, dance history, and of course, dance pedagogy, or the study of teaching dance. If you decide this is the route for you, you will likely be able to get several courses of student teaching experience as an undergraduate and graduate student to prepare you for life as a college professor.
These ideas are just a few of many places you could potentially teach dance. School systems and universities are great options because they offer stability through regular income, benefits, and more. However, should you decide you would rather be an independent teacher, there are still many options. You could teach at various studios, book workshops nationwide or globally, or teach at summer camps, dance festivals, or dance intensives. If you build a following, you can even create your own intensive program.
Most settings that you can teach in will also offer repertoire concerts or recitals. This is a great way to keep your creative mind sharp through regular choreography. Sometimes, there may even be opportunities for you to perform as well. Teaching is a great career to make out of dance because it is very well-rounded and truly involves all aspects of the dance world.
Ultimately as a teacher you will be evaluating the technique of your students and should offer positively reinforced feedback and criticism. Your coaching techniques will enable your students to attain their goals in dance. It is important that you must also inspire your students, whether they are young, unseasoned, or experienced performers. When motivation levels of students are high, they are able to perform to the best of their abilities in their shows or auditions. You can share the joy of their successes, and also, be a support to continue their craft even if they make mistakes or do not make an audition. It is essential as an instructor of dance to always keep the passion burning brightly inside for yourself, to share with others as your gift.
Setting dance choreography can be a daunting task. Whether you are a new or seasoned choreographer, you may find yourself at a creative block during some part of the process. These are perfect opportunities to be daring and think outside of the box!
Use whatever challenge you are facing to create something new. Choreographing is a work of passion and expression that can be rewarding despite difficulties that may arise.
Often times when people think of dance, they may imagine traditional ballet and jazz dance. In these more traditional forms, the choreography may follow the music exactly and use a structure such as ABA – theme, variation on the theme, and repetition of the theme.
However, if you are choreographing in these genres or another one altogether, breaking this mold can provide satisfying results.
The elements of dance include shape, space, time, and energy. These are important to consider when creating movement for your piece.
Different use of these elements can produce varying results when choreographing. Be conscious and aware of how you use them – they can open up doors and also cause our creative process to come to a standstill. Use them wisely!
Here are some choreographic ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
1. Choreograph in a non-linear fashion.
Instead of starting at the beginning and plowing all the way through, why not start in the middle? Or, begin working with several movement phrases and just see where it takes you.
2. Use improvisation as an impetus for movement, phrases, or overall dances.
You can improvise as the choreographer, or have your dancers improvise for you. Videotaping improvisations can also be very helpful. If you love improvisation or perhaps envision your final work being slightly different each night, you can even integrate improvisation into your piece!
3. Choreograph without music.
If you ever feel stuck choosing music, or you are working with a composer creating an original score, try choreographing without music at first. This will create a dramatically different effect on the relationship between the dance movement and the music. This works particularly well with more ambient, sparse soundscapes.
4. Look at the basic elements of your dance: shape, space, time, and energy.
You can create entire dances based on one element alone, or use these individual elements to create variations on your dance phrases. Step back and brainstorm ideas about each element through writing. Then, explore your ideas through movement.
5. Choose to create a piece outside of the theater, or in a nontraditional space.
You could make a site-specific work in a park, or produce a concert in a black box theater to help break up the frontal monotony of theater dance work. In these nontraditional venues, the audience is often given a new perspective from which to view dance because they are more up close and personal. There is little to no barrier between the dancers and the audience in these settings. The audience may get a 360 degree perspective or simply sit somewhere very close to the dancers.
6. Break your typical movement mold.
If you tend to move a certain way and create dances that all contain similar movement qualities, challenge yourself to create a movement study in ways that oppose your natural habits. You can create an entire piece off of this idea; or, use it as a way to contrast your movement in other choreographic works.
7. Incorporate post-modern dance techniques.
Test your limit of what dance can be. The post-modern dancers of the 1960’s used pedestrian movements such as walking and everyday gestures to make entire pieces. They also incorporated spoken word, video projection, and more.
8. Make your work multi-disciplinary.
If you ever feel stumped for ideas, consider how you can use other art forms or something seemingly completely unrelated to dance to create a new dance work. For example, you could incorporate live music or live painting into the dance. Another idea would be to work with a scientist or anthropologist closely on a topic that interests you to base movement from.
9. Mesh genres.
Have you ever thought about making a hip-hop Nutcracker? You could use modern dance techniques in a musical theater piece, or ballet in a tap number. The possibilities are endless.
10. Use chance methods.
Choreographer Merce Cunningham pioneered this method. There are multiple ways to use chance methods when choreographing. You could roll dice or use the I Ching as he did. Another idea would be to pull ideas, numbers, etc. out of a hat and use that for sequencing, phrasing, or anything else.
11. Consider the end result.
What will the costumes and lighting look like? These are two essential elements that can lend a great deal to the final product. Your movement and ideas may even be inspired by particular costuming and lighting ideas as well, so do not leave them for the very end! They could even be a starting point for an entire dance.
Think of your mind like an open book when you start the choreographic process. Just as a writer may get writer’s block, try to open another door instead of continually trying to open a locked one. This does not mean that you are giving up, but rather trying something new. When we can free ourselves creatively, the rewards are plentiful that we are creating a work that expresses our deepest potentials.
The dance world today is comprised of many dance styles. But whether you study hip-hop, contemporary, tap, or jazz, there is always something you can learn from a ballet class to incorporate into your other techniques.
Ballet technique is like taking your vitamins. Even if ballet is not your main focus, the practice of this fundamental style will surely supplement your dancing. It will help you maintain and improve your overall technique, coordination, body awareness, musicality, and more.
Ballet is like the mother of all dance techniques. Most Western styles of dance today can be traced back to ballet and its codification has been extremely influential in all styles of dance.
Many dance techniques borrow from ballet’s French terminology. For example, the basic foot positions such as 1st position, 2nd position, etc., and words such as plié and tendu are used in most dance classes. Learning these basics in a ballet class and practicing them regularly will give you a greater understanding of the language used to describe technical movements in all kinds of dance. Additionally, other techniques outside of ballet will also codify their style, so it is important to understand the difference as well as the reference point.
Almost every style of dance will include pliés and tendues in their warm up. Other techniques, such as jazz or modern dance, will also borrow terms such as pirouettes or battements to describe turns or high kicks. However, the way in which they are done may differ between styles of dance.
Taking ballet class in addition to your other techniques will always give you a good base line of overall dance technique.
Ballet is linear; emphasizing form, extension, and lightness in the body. This can clearly translate well into certain styles of jazz dance and modern dance (such as Horton or Graham Technique).
However, other styles of dance, such as release technique, hip-hop, and others, will require you to throw out all of that ballet technique. But knowing these opposing techniques as a dancer will only enhance your movement quality, enabling you to become a more versatile dancer.
Ballet is also a structural technique that has a defined form and general class outline. When you work at the barre, you generally perform each exercise on the right and left side. The same is true for the rest of class—petit allegro, adagio, and grand allegro.
In other techniques, less time may be spent on balancing the coordination of both sides of the body, as more time may be spent on larger center combinations. However, this structure of balanced body integration is essential to being a well-rounded dancer. When you are working towards leveling out your flexibility, strength, and coordination of right and left sides in ballet class, you will be able to adapt to choreography in any discipline with ease.
Ballet dance is also a great way to train your musicality as a dancer. Musicality is your awareness of the music and rhythm while you dance. It goes beyond just staying on the beat of an eight count phrase; musicality emphasizes how you can accent the music accordingly through your specific movement. Musicality training will help improve your sense of tempo (i.e. whether something is fast or slow). It may also determine whether something is performed sharply or more fluidly depending on the rhythm or melody of the music. This will enhance your ability to understand different movement qualities in the body that may be asked of you outside of ballet.
Use Ballet To Improve Your Modern Dance Technique
So how can you use ballet to improve your skills in other dance techniques?
Take a ballet class at least 1-2 times per week if ballet is not your focus.
Become familiar with the terminology in ballet and recognize when it is used in other disciplines to describe a similar movement. Understand the differences between the techniques. For example, a ballet pirouette (turned out) versus a jazz pirouette (in parallel).
Use the class to notice imbalances between your right and left sides, and work to improve them.
Let your ballet class time be a time to work on your personal dance technique, without any of the embellishments from jazz or modern dance.
Train your body and mind to become familiar with ballet musicality. Classical music is the basis for much of today’s contemporary music just as ballet is the basis for much of Western dance forms. This basic musicality will help you adapt to more complex rhythms in other styles.
Ballet paves the way for success as a dancer since it is the backbone of many dance techniques. It keeps the body strong, supple, and agile. Ballet will help any other movements in other disciplines look clean, clear, and polished. Turns, jumps, leaps, extensions, and other moves will improve and look better in performance. Use ballet as a tool to become a stronger and more well-rounded dancer.
Author: Aaron Ramey, Instructor, Musical Theatre Department, New York Film Academy
Performers often forget that our bodies are our instruments. On top of that, the voice is not just a sound that comes out of your face. It is a tiny, highly complex muscular system requiring conditioning, exercise and proper care to ensure the ability to perform at the highest possible level even under emotional and physical stress. Here are 7 tips to help get you started on the road to great vocal health — or perhaps to get you back ON the road if you’ve had recent difficulties.
7 – Don’t Be a Hero
Often we find ourselves in a position where we feel the need to save the day. We can’t possibly be sick or the whole show will just go to hell in a handbasket. We need to divorce ourselves from this concept because it can only lead to injury or, just as bad, dependence on emergency steroid treatments that should only ever be used as a last resort. If you’re getting into the run of a show and you’re finding that a particular song or scene is causing you any vocal trauma, i.e. it still hurts the next morning or your tone sounds less clear and connected than usual, see an ENT as soon as possible. More specifically, seek out an otolaryngologist (or vocologist) as they are a subset of ENTs that focus on the singing mechanism and elite levels of function. If you’re in rehearsal for a show and you’re finding that a part of your voice isn’t working as it should (maybe your head voice has disappeared or perhaps just a few notes of your mix refuse to come out) seek the help of a qualified vocal technician/therapist as soon as you can. Addressing these issues as they happen will help you identify bad habits early and hopefully avoid them in the future.
6 – Sleep
The importance of sleep cannot be overstated in regard to its effect on vocal health. Without proper sleep, our vocal mechanism doesn’t have time to recover from the previous day’s exertion – just like after a workout. If you wake up under-rested and have to dive back in to a show, rehearsal or shoot day without proper recovery time, you run the risk of vocal injury. Your voice is just like the rest of your body in that sleep is our recovery time.
5 – Nutrition
Many people underestimate the impact that our diet can have on vocal performance. Personally, I find that if I have even a small amount of dairy, I immediately begin over-producing mucus and my tone becomes phlegmy. Not cute. Also, I’ve noticed that if I eat something spicy and the performance I’m giving is highly physical, I can end up with acid reflux that makes it painful to do my job. Pay attention to how your diet affects your ability to rehearse, warm up, and perform. Is coffee too acidic during a full day’s rehearsal? Does dairy or citrus create excess mucus? If you eat something spicy before bed, is it still with you in the morning, making it difficult to prepare for the vocal demands of the day? Pay attention to these things when you’re about to perform. If you notice some vocal difficulty, take a look at your recent diet (solid AND liquid) and see if any changes might be in order – at least when you have vocal work to do.
4 – Mind the Smokin’ and Drinkin’
Ah, vices. These two, in particular, are worth mentioning here because they can directly affect your vocal capacity. Alcohol dehydrates the body, which means less moisture in and around the vocal mechanism. Obviously everyone will have differing levels of sensitivity here so the key is to be self-aware. As with your diet, do you notice that you simply cannot produce a quality sound at a 10am rehearsal if you had more than 2 drinks the night before? Which is more important to you? As for smoking, there really are no two ways about it. Smoking directly diminishes your lung capacity and thus, your ability to create a vibrant and beautiful sound. In addition, the toxins in smoke GO DIRECTLY OVER YOUR VOCAL FOLDS and literally poison the tissue over time. While stopping smoking can require some recovery time, the dangerous effects of the toxins will diminish as the body heals. So unless you want to sound like Tom Waits, don’t sing and smoke – period.
3 – Warm. Up.
This seems like a no-brainer, right? The fact is that many people don’t warm up at all, warm up too little, or warm up incorrectly. Understand, too, that warming up vocally applies just as much to speech as it does to singing. Think of your warm ups as your vocal conditioning. It’s the training runs you do in preparation for your marathon or your gold medal final heat. Every warm up should take you through your entire range. Start gently at the bottom of your range at an easy volume with tall, open vowels. Then move up through your mid-range maintaining an easy volume level. When starting into your upper register, begin in light falsetto moving upward. Then bring your falsetto as low as you possibly can, maintaining the falsetto placement until you just can’t bring it any lower. Now you can start with the louder, chest-ier sounds into your belt. Always with tall, open, rounded vowels. Find your favorite consonant exercises as well to get the mouth working. This system works equally well for singing and speaking projects.
2 – Know Thy Allergies
Allergies can be hellish on vocal production. If you’re in an area of the world that isn’t familiar to your immune system during allergy season, local flora, grasses, and mold can be especially hateful. Talk to your doctor to find the best medicines for you. Personally, I’m a fan of Xyzal and similar prescription meds because they actually stop the body’s allergic reactions from happening at all rather than damping down the reactions after the fact like many over-the-counter remedies. Local, organic, minimally processed honey can also be very beneficial for helping the body create antibodies to the local flora. Lastly, I’m a HUGE proponent of the neti pot. It literally rinses collected allergens out of your sinuses. If you’re uncertain about the local water supply, definitely use distilled water or boil tap water before using the neti. But I swear to you, it’s God’s gift to allergy sufferers. Some friends of mine prefer the nasal rinse that you squirt up your nose, so look into that if the neti mechanics just don’t work for you. Either way, sinus rinse is the BEST.
1 – Vocal Budget Awareness
Sometimes we forget that your voice is very much like your bank account on payday. You have a limit to the amount of money you can spend until you get paid again. Think of your vocal budget as the amount of vocal energy you have at your disposal for a given project. Depending on the vocal demands before you, you may have to conserve your budget to get through the work. If you’re doing a vocally demanding performance or rehearsal process, you cannot vocally afford to be talking loudly at a live music venue, screaming for your team at a sports event or what have you. If the performance requires it, you may actually have to shut up for a day or two after exertion to allow your vocal mechanism to recover. Your vocal budget may change over time. Investing in solid technique will bolster your vocal savings (see what I did there?) and give you a bit of a cushion in this department. Building stamina leading into demanding jobs will also reap rewards. The more prepared you are for the demands of a role, the easier it will be when they add all the glitz, glamor and audiences.
BONUS TIP – Not All Lozenges Are Created Equal
A lot of people who use their voices professionally have their own favorite treats for maintaining throat lubrication. Some swear by potato chips (something about the fat content), others like a little dark chocolate or candied ginger. But we’re talking about lozenges. In many theaters across the country you’ll find Ricola. However, in my opinion, they really do nothing at all for the voice. They aren’t mentholated enough to clear the sinuses and the sugar actually creates more mucus. The lemon-honey ones are better, but not much. I prefer Thayer’s Lozenges. They contain slippery elm which is a natural demulcent (an ingredient that thins excess mucus in the throat) and are preservative and gluten free. I also like Grether’s Pastilles as they are not too sweet and contain a high quality glycerin to help keep the throat moist and pliable. The Grether’s are a little hard to come by unless you order them online. Thayer’s can be found in most health food stores. Happy Lozenging!
Finally the day has arrived. The opportunity you have been waiting for is here. Years of musical theatre college and training have led up to this moment. You love what you have read about the play, you’ve learned the songs by rote, and you have heard great things about the director.
You have been preparing your lines for the audition and you feel you know and identify with the character and are desperate for the opportunity to step into the role. But as you step onto the stage and face the audition panel, you clam up, blush and start to sweat. Your mouth dries up and none of the words come out. What is going on?
Stage fright – or performance anxiety – is something you should be prepared for so that you can deal with it when it happens, or possibly even prevent it happening altogether. But it is not something that just happens to beginners. The most famous of actors have had to cope with it, on stage, in front of their audiences, ad libbing their way until their lines come back to them. If we take a look at some of the world’s best-known actors and stage performers we see that it is a problem which many have had to face in some form at some point in their career.
Crucified in Polyester
The reason for stage fright is pretty obvious: fear of failure in front of an audience.
Earliest Known Footage of Carrey Performing Stand Up
Jim Carrey was put off performing – almost for life – after a dreadful experience as a stand up comic when he was 15. “It was horrific,” he said, looking back. “My mother dressed me in a polyester suit, which was a big mistake. At the club they loved nothing better than for somebody to come in who definitely wasn’t hip. Then they’d proceed to destroy them… to basically skin them alive on stage.”
As the audience chanted “Crucify him!”, the club host repeated into his microphone, “Totally boring.” It took Carrey two years to get back onto a stage. But it’s a good job he did, otherwise he may have missed out on mainstream Hollywood success decades later.
Kim Cattrall on Stage Acting
Confidence appears to ooze from Kim Cattrall, who grew up in both Canada and Britain. But she has also had acting moments that were plain tough. Playing Samantha in Sex and the City she had to film a naked photo shoot scene. She says it took her weeks to prepare and even then: “I got on the set for the scene and I had a really hard time doing it. I had to go back and take a few minutes and sort of get into the skin of Samantha in order to be that open.”
Another Kind of Anxiety – What Will the House Think?
Eighty-one year old actor William Shatner may be best known as Star Trek’s Captain James T. Kirk, but he started out in theatre college and went on to perform Shakespeare. Of his own stage fright, Shatner says “my fears are not the primitive, ‘I’m afraid I can’t talk’ kind of fear that young actors have.” Instead, he said ahead of the show that he feared tickets would not sell.
Shatner Being Self-Critical of His Craft
Though his recent biographical play Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It went down well abroad, he said he felt standards in New York were higher and was anxious about how the New York audience would accept him.
So if you are concerned about your performance for one reason or another, you are in pretty good company. In fact, public speaking – in all its forms – is reported as the most common fears amongst adults. Luckily, there is plenty you can do about it:
Breathing deeply and visualization are one of the most common tips. And this is not just something to try when anxiety strikes, but should be part of the preparation for any role. If you’re undertaking musical theatre college you’ll be familiar with some methods already, but there are many books and websites which can help.
If you don’t already have one, consider keeping a small item about your person which you always take on stage. Far from superstition, it can give you a genuine psychological edge just knowing its there. Richard Burton is said to have always worn something red, for instance.
Focus on Your Material
Always keep in mind that the audience are there to see the material being performed, not the people performing it (unless they’re celebrities). Rather than focusing on your stage fright or the audience in front of you, devote yourself 100% to the material and songs you’re delivering; not only will it ‘take you out of yourself’, but it’ll make for a better performance and you’ll end up enjoying the experience more.
Although imagining the audience isn’t there works well for most people, that can manifest itself with bouts of ‘shoe-gazing’ as you nervously block out anything beyond the edge of the stage. If this sounds like you, try the opposite: whenever the audience applauds (or laughs on cue, or some other positive signal), acknowledge them with a wry smile or small salute. It’ll help break that nervous barrier between both parties, and remind everyone involved that you’re all part of a communal event designed to entertain.
Brew Some Tea
Do you suffer from butterflies before heading on stage? Ginger and peppermint tea are proven to help settle your stomach, and simply the act of taking five minutes to quietly sip some tea can help you get your head in the game.
And remember, a little bit of performance anxiety is quite natural and is good for you. It is the fire that lights up your performance and makes you shine.
Auditions are a fact of life for the dancer. They are your chance to show your skills and talent to a panel of judges. Whether you are auditioning for college, a dance company, or an entertainment position, they can feel overwhelming to prepare for. Here are some tips to help get you on the right track.
1. Practice Regularly
Take dance classes in different styles consistently. During your classes, take your training seriously so that your technique is in peak form. Perform each combination in class to its fullest potential and take corrections in stride, employing them immediately. This will help condition your body and mind to the rigors of the audition world.
Know what style of dance you excel in, and then try something completely different. You never know when a choreographer is going to throw some ballet into a hip-hop routine these days. Versatility is a sought after quality in a dancer.
It also helps to take new classes regularly; that way you are continually testing your mental ability to pick up choreography quickly.
2. Gather Your Information
Be informed about what you are auditioning for. Are you auditioning for a Swan Lake role, or a music video backup dancer?
Learn as much as you can about the role or company you are auditioning for beforehand. Find out if there is a fee to audition and be sure to bring it with you. Then, find out if you need to bring or submit any documents. If the audition requires a resume and headshot, start to prepare the required documents.
Make sure your resume highlights your strengths and recent accomplishments, and includes your name and phone number. Also be sure to mention where you have trained, who you have studied with, and performance experience.
Your headshot should be a professional photograph. Some auditions may also require a full body photo. They may require you to apply and send this information in advance; others may want you to bring printed copies that they can keep.
Increase your cardio health through running, biking, or swimming. Lift weights to increase your strength for partner work. Do yoga or Pilates to stretch, strengthen your core, and focus your mind. Be patient to find what works for you.
This will help you get through a long audition. Cross training also keeps you in physically good shape, so that the judges are seeing your best self when you audition.
4. Be Healthy
Get plenty of sleep in the week and night prior to your audition.
Maintain a plentiful and balanced diet. Focus on eating whole foods rather than processed foods as much as possible, especially the night before and day of the audition. Have a good, healthy, and filling meal the night before your audition, but don’t overdo it.
Eat a light meal an hour or so prior to your audition. This is very important so that you can function to your highest ability when auditioning. Drink plenty of water regularly.
5. Dress Appropriately
Be smart about knowing what you are auditioning for. A ballet role is going to want to see you in leotard, tights, ballet slippers, or pointe shoes. A hip-hop role will allow you to express your personality through your outfit.
If appropriate, wear something that helps you stand out in the crowd. Be edgy, but, keep it clean and neat. Inquire if you have any questions about the dress code. Bring the correct dance shoes as well.
6. Be Prepared for Anything
This may mean choreographing a short solo piece, participating in a group class, or performing an improvisation.
Find out if the audition will require a solo, and prepare by choreographing in advance. You can choreograph it yourself or have someone else choreograph it on you if you are more comfortable with that. Make sure your choreography suits the style of the audition and also shows off your technique and artistic ability. Practice your solo regularly.
This also means to bring back up supplies such as hair bands, bobby pins, band-aids, extra water, other dance shoes, knee pads, or anything else you think you might need.
7. Arrive Early
Give yourself time to check-in and warm up. A good, thorough warm up is essential to any dancer being able to perform at their best. Take time to center yourself, stretch, and move, even if they are giving you a warm up in the audition.
This time will also help orient you to the studio space. If you start to feel nervous, take a few deep, slow breaths to calm yourself down.
8. Be Positive
Remain lighthearted and natural if you begin to feel nervous at all. Channel your nerves into enthusiasm for the choreography.
The more you can allow your talent to shine through your dancing ability, the closer you will be to landing the job! Be there for yourself and your desire for the job.
There is no need to compare yourself to others, so leave your judgment at the door. Be optimistic in the time leading up to the audition and bring that passion into the studio with you. Be yourself, relax, and have faith in your abilities.
When the time comes to audition, focus your mind on the present moment rather than what the results will be.
Auditioning is a skill that should be practiced often and will improve over time. Remember to learn what you can from both good and bad audition experiences. Remain hopeful in yourself and dedicated to your craft to continuing growing as a dancer and performer.
Following these tips to prepare for a dance audition will give you the confidence you need to succeed. And remember…you have already done most of the work through your training!
Some of the best-known songs in popular culture come from musical theatre, and even people who do not frequently patronize musicals recognize songs such as “Memory” and “The Sound of Music.”
Indeed, musical theatre is big business, selling millions of tickets each year and grossing high profits. Breaking into such a highly competitive business is difficult, but not impossible. Here are some tips for prospective musical theatre actors.
Take lessons. Natural musical and dancing talent is important, but there is no substitute for formal training. Voice lessons can help you project your singing voice and increase your stamina, both of which are vital to performing onstage. Learning an instrument, especially the piano (and the theory that goes along with it) can make you an even more versatile and intuitive performer, not to mention that playing piano at an audition may give you an edge.
Make a video of your performance. Practice is important, but seeing your performance on video will help you spot any problems or flaws, especially in a dance routine. Have your friends watch your video to see if they spot any potential problems. Digital cameras are inexpensive and allow you to quickly make videos and upload them to a computer for viewing and editing.
Have a good portfolio. This is essential for breaking into musical theatre. At the very least, have a resume and several headshots ready when auditioning. Also consider having a website, Twitter account, and Facebook page to create an online presence. Provide videos of you acting, singing, and dancing in various styles on your website to show your range. On your Twitter account, follow current and potential contacts in the theatre business. Update your Facebook page frequently to showcase your ongoing work, and create a dedicated page for your work if you don’t want to mix it in with your private life (or life outside of the theatre).
Attend a college or conservatory. A conservatory emphasizes performance, whereas a college emphasizes the academic study of theatre and music. Majoring in theatre or music at a traditional college will provide you with a well-rounded academic degree, but attending a conservatory will provide you with hands-on performance experience. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which learning goals are best for your intended career path, but either side of formal tuition will be superb benefit in breaking into musical theatre on a professional level.
Be prepared for your auditions. This sounds obvious, but there are many things to consider when going to an audition.
Many theatre auditions require candidates to perform a short monologue, that is, to assume the role of a character and express that character’s thoughts out loud. Famous monologues include “Don’t Let Me Be Normal” from The Fantasticks and “Tuna Fish” from Laughing Wild. Audition monologues are generally no more than two minutes.
“Don’t Let Me Be Normal”
Have a variety of songs ready for auditioning. If you do not want to use the audition’s accompanist, have a recording ready to accompany you. If you do use the attending accompanist, provide him or her with clear instructions about your chosen songs. Avoid accents and imitations, as well as complex songs. The aim of a singing audition is to demonstrate your voice and range, not to show off or sound like someone else.
Dress appropriately. You do not have to wear a suit or formal dress, but do not wear jeans and sneakers. Wear comfortable clothes that allow you to move but still look neat. For dancing auditions, wear dance clothes as opposed to t-shirts and sweat pants.
It’s a highly competitive business and there is no magic formula for successfully breaking into musical theatre, but following these tips and being prepared certainly won’t hurt your chances of advancing your musical theatre career.