Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Auditioning for Improvisation

Currently at Columbia College, we are in what is known as "J Term." The "J," I am quite certain, stands for January. Being on semesters at Columbia leaves a huge month-and-a-half holiday break. J Term is a way for students to make some extra credit and boost their grade point averages while taking courses that are geared towards their majors. The classes are longer than usual, but also fewer in number, like a summer term.

Last year, I proposed a class in how to audition for improvisation. The class works on two fronts. For those uninitiated in auditioning for a Second City or a ComedySportz, it takes the mystery out of it. For those just plain new to the audition process, it provides information and an application opportunity to give yourself more of a professional edge. If I am auditioning for a show and I narrow a choice down to two people of similar qualities, I'm going to go with the one who came across the most professional.

Here are a list of audition guidelines compiled from my own experience on both sides of the table...

- Unless given specific instructions on when to arrive, arrive fifteen minutes early. Too early, and you might be an unintended inconvenience for the hosts. Too late, and it's disruptive. If you stroll in right on time, you have not allowed for any information sheet you need to fill out or any processing they might need to do with your headshot and resume. Most adjudicators like to have a chance to look over your headshot and resume before you enter the room.

- Make sure you have a contact number for the people you are auditioning for. If you are going to be late, CALL! If you are unable to make the audition, CALL! Nothing worse than scheduling a slot and not showing up. Even if you have just changed your mind about auditioning for that particular group, CALL! You don't have to tell them why, just that you are no longer available.

- Improv auditions are often held in groups. Connect with the people you are auditioning with. This may mean simply meeting them, but could also mean playing a quick circle game before going in. Another reason to arrive early.

- Bring a good pen. More than likely you'll need to fill out an information sheet and more than likely the pen they'll provide you is a piece of crap ballpoint with toothmarks. And fill out the info sheet honestly without trying to be funny. The audition is your opportunity to show you can get laughs through quality improvisation.

- Bring a calendar in case they need to consider your availability.

- Bring a current headshot and resume. The headshot should look like you. A pleasant smile is fine, no need for your headshot to be wacky. The resume should clearly state your name, contact information, and stage experience. Make sure plays are separate from improv. Don't lie and don't joke on your resume. Your headshot and resume are a little piece of you.

- Dress like you care. Business casual is always a good way to go. You look nice and comfortable. Make sure you are wearing something you feel at ease moving around in and, crawling on the floor in, if called to. Avoid ratty jeans, big heels, noisy shoes, flashy clothing of any kind, t-shirts (period) and hats. NO HATS! It hides part of your face, reads like you are uncomfortable and lacking confidence and, for women especially, it means you are probably a nut.

- If you don't know, ask. Improv games come by many different names. If you are asked to do a game you have never heard of, ask about it. And then jump in big. Even if it is a game you have never heard of or played before.

- If you are asked a question about yourself, just answer honestly. No need to try to be funny.

- This goes without saying for most of you who read this, but don't bring props. Yes, this has happened to me.

- Don't try to socialize with the adjudicators. If you know one of them, a little smile or nod is fine, but keep your demeanor friendly and professional. Come in, do your best, then leave. Don't hang out afterwards! And definitely don't ask how you did!

- If you run into the people that ran the audition later, don't ask about the audition. If they have information to tell you or ask you about, they will. If it's at a bar or restaurant, give them their space and privacy.

- Take care of yourself after the audition. You didn't do as bad as you think, but you also didn't do as well. Some retrospection on how you did and could do better is fine, but don't dwell on it. Go hang out with friends, go to work, go to a movie. Move on with your life. If you do have a relationship with one of the persons who ran the audition, it's okay to graciously ask them for feedback, but wait a few days.

Ultimately, what the judges are looking for is subjective. If you show up like a pro and demonstrate solid, basic improv skills, you have a better shot than most.

Let me know in the comment section if you have an addendum to this list.


Yesterday, I asked...

"David Binner of Doylestown, PA almost had a disorderly conduct charge added to a $5 parking ticket when he did what?"

33% said "wiped the ticket on his ass"
- If I were the cop, I would then make him eat it.

22% said kept "cursing at his grandmother"
- You never know. She may have deserved it.

No one said "plowed into the cop's car as he sped away"

45% got it right with "wrote an obscene message on his check"

According to the AP, a man who wrote a vulgar message on the memo line of a check he used to pay a $5 parking ticket has apologized in writing, leading police to drop a disorderly conduct charge against him. Clerks were offended by the message, and the disorderly conduct charge was filed because the comment was obscene, police Chief James Donnelly said. Yep. David dropped the F-bomb on his memo line. I always wondered what people used that for. I wish those people in the VISA check card commercials would insist on paying with a check and use the memo line to tell all those Busby Berkley shoppers to fuck off.