2017 Unified General Auditions – Auditor Survey results

Every year we allow our auditors to give feedback on what they liked/disliked about the annual Unified General Auditions.  Over 50 auditors filled out the survey – this is valuable information for future UGA actors, containing information about how best to prepare for your 2018 audition.

While this survey contains a lot of great information, each specific opinion should be regarded as exactly that – one person’s opinion.  Getting positions from 50 different casting directors means the results contain many contradictions – for example, one auditor may say “never do Shakespeare at the UGA” while another may say the exact opposite!

Organizations/Individuals included in this survey:

ACT Theatre; Annex Theatre; Big Fish NW; Book-It Repertory Theatre; Fantastic.Z Theatre; The Fern Shakespeare Company; Forward Flux Productions; Harlequin Productions; Island Shakespeare Festival; Latino Theatre Projects; The Lesser-Known Players; Live Girls!; MAM; Pacific Play Company; Parley; ReAct Theatre; Seattle Playwrights Salon; Seattle Unity; Sound Theatre Company; Taproot Theatre Company; Theater Schmeater; Theatre9/12; Twelfth Night Productions; Writers and Actors Reading & Performing (WARP)

Independent Directors:
Alan Becker; Robert Bertocchini; Christopher James; Jason Laurvick; Alexandra Lawrence; Marissa McCown; Sonya Shaw

We attended this General to cast for projects occurring between: (Please check all that apply)

March – July 2017 38%
August 2017 – January 2018 68%
2018 or beyond 40%
We keep headshots/resumes on file for currently unscheduled projects. 72%

How many 2017 UGA actors potentially fit a future project of yours?

10 or less actors 17%
11-25 actors 47%
26-100 actors 19%
We keep all or most headshots on file 15%

What were the most surprising, enjoyable, memorable moments from actors?

  • Actors that chose the most active material stood out.
  • Actors who brought a well-polished, rehearsed audition with material that suited them. A great overall presentation was captivating!
  • Actors who fully committed to their choices were always a delight to watch.
  • Actors who just went with it if something went wrong
  • An actor sang I’ll Make a Man Out of You from Mulan. The accompanist stopped I guess when he thought he was supposed to but the actor kept on going. Unphased she proceeded to sing the rest of the song acapella and even did different character voices and movements. That is the kind of bold, interesting and funny choice we want to see.
  • Diversity in monologues was prevalent. Less “rage” monologues. Unless you’re Jackie Gleason Yelling isn’t acting.
  • I always enjoy when actors I’ve seen for years show growth and development.
  • I appreciated the comedic monologues that were done well.  I always remember the actors that make me laugh out loud.
  • I enjoyed moments when actors really took a chance and went for it.  [name] was a huge standout for me.
  • I love the moment when an actor really makes a huge transition between their pieces.  I love the surprise that the second peice is indeed a contrast in every way and reveals a surprising ability of the actor.
  • I loved seeing the singer/songwriter who came out.  I think that’s the beauty of general auditions is how inclusive you are to people who may not fit the mold, but want to participate in the theatre community.
  • I thought some of the most enjoyable moments came from those actors who met with some unforeseen circumstance – the wait-lister who stepped into a slot without an accompanist comes to mind, although he wasn’t the only one – who just ‘rolled with it’ with a sense of humor and grace.
  • I thought the screening that TPs Did was pretty good this year– the day I was there only one or two were what I considered not ready for prime time. ALso, a very good accompanist this year–glad we donated to help support that.
  • Loved actors who were prepared and gave us the best of themselves.   Also, picking pieces that kept them within their allotted time.
  • Many moments the quality off the work was high
  • Moments where actors channeled the energy in the room and used it to add power to the character’s intention. It was clear whose energy was focused and deliberate. Those were the moments that rang the most true for me.
  • Seeing actors again after several years had passed and witnessing the maturation that has occurred is very enjoyable.   Some of the  clothing choices actors wore for character were surprising.    One of the older (age-wise) actors exuded 3 times the amount of authentic energy as many of the younger actors…inspiring!
  • The actors who had fun!
  • The display of courage,
  • The most enjoyable moments were the genuine ones.  Only some actors have mastered authenticity.
  • Truthful moments of discovery. When it was fresh and in the moment. When the actors were discovering something new and sharing it with us.
  • When someone with high skill does material that’s unusual, that’s super fun.   But I also liked when I saw a young novice doing a piece that seemed really well suited.

In a General Audition like this, what factors make an actor stand out?

  • Commanding the stage (I’ve been on both sides of the table and I get that it is scary, but if you want to command a theatre, you first need to command the audition room.  This is YOUR time.  Own it.–Make big bold choices–you must stand out of hundreds of actors.
  • Being able to relax
  • Being completely comfortable in front of a group of auditors.  I’ve been on both sides (actor and auditor) of general auditions such as these, and realize how scary they can be, but the more an actor can come out and command the room the more likely I’m going to keep their headshots.  I’m not saying do something big and crazy like start undressing (I’ve seen that at generals in another city), but realize that we see hundreds of people so actors need to stand out!
  • Being in their true voice; Physicality ; Emotional connection to the  work
  • Being prepared, energetic, and relaxed.  Speaking their name out very clearly. A very minor thing….. moving the chair back when they used it.
  • Being well prepared and having a well thought out presentation.  Being comfortable with your pieces and making strong choices, and having the piece timed well so you aren’t rushing past valuable moments.
  • Confidence. Big bold choices. Really just making any kind of choice. We are there for 4 days. Entertain us. Even if you fail, fail gloriously. You’d be surprised how many people remember that stuff, and I’m of the opinion that it is better to be remembered then totally forgotten.
  • Contrast and range.
  • Does the actor “take the stage” so many actor seem to apologize for being there (in their bearing, body language). The other word for this might be presence.  For vocal picking a song that show off their strengths, not weaknesses.
  • Fully prepared pieces, brief, confident introductions, and full deliveries of both pieces.
  • Hrm.  Because I came in with a very specific list of things I needed, the actors who stood out to me were just the ones who had those things:  a solid vocal instrument, and fearlessness/ease with the audience. That’s extremely easy to spot, whether the performer is having a good or bad day.  It’s sort of like whether they’re wearing a blue shirt or not, so it’s not something they can particularly manipulate.  If I spot it, then I go to the resume and see about their training, do we know anyone in common that I can ask about them, are they local, etc.
  • I like to see how an actor moves, and in particular how he or she moves as different characters. Having been on both sides of the table, I understand well that the limitations of the stage audition make it very difficult for anyone to present his or her work completely and in its best light- however, I really take notice of the actors who take risks that are useful within the given format – for example, choosing two very divergent characters who moved and spoke differently. It helped me better understand the actor’s range and spoke to a willingness to experiment and take risks.
  • In this particular case, I was looking for specific types in specific age ranges. What stood out to me were monologues where the character shows an emotional arc, or changes somehow during the course of the monologue. Monologues where the character just told stories were less interesting and convincing.
  • It is noticeable who has worked through their piece with a timer and really practiced.
  • monologue choices, what they are wearing (look professional and choose flattering clothing), a sense of humor, intensity
  • Professional presence, i.e., not dressed in jeans or tennis shoes. Clear and well-paced introduction of their name and their selections. Selection of audition pieces that are appropriate for their age, body image, skill level. Contrasting audition pieces that demonstrate some range.
  • Professionalism. Dressing for a job interview. Timed pieces, neat HS and Resume.
  • Range, and ability to project …imbue their character.
  • Showing originality and range of characters and/or emotions.  Just like a performance, I’m looking for someone to take me out of my headspace and into their world.
  • Take your time and don’t try and cram material that doesn’t quite fit into the allotted time slot.
  • The ability to appear relaxed and engage with the audience.  The actors who entered and said “hello” like we were a group of their friends, immediately had and held my attention.
  • Their ability to connect to scripted material and play an objective.  Often actors pick narrative “stories” because they are longer passages of text.  I want to know an actor can effectively engage in the give and take that is required with an actor/character in a scene.  I want to know that they can focus their attention on a single target outside of themselves and make that target of their focus all important.   I like more of a “scene” than a “monologue” which is so difficult because there isn’t another actor/character present.  So I look for their ability to understand that basic concept.
  • Those who took their time and didn’t try to rush too much material into their time limit, they didn’t feel rushed.
  • Training and experience – you can see it almost instantly in an audition. Would love for women to abandon victim or passive monologues- in exchange for monologues where they are active
  • Two things jump out.  1st is Confidence.    By that, I don’t mean the well rehearsed, properly professional sort of confidence one presents because they know “how to audition”.   I mean REAL confidence, the kind that emanates from those who are present, prepared and comfortable with their audition material.  2nd is when an actor is able to completely inhabit one character and then switch seamlessly to inhabiting the character of another monologue. For a moment, it’s like watching a real life Sybil until you realize they’re into their 2nd piece.
  • versatility — showing 2 or more pieces that are different.
  • When they make eye contact with us right away. When they are comfortable talking to us as themselves.  When they choose pieces that reflect who they are.
  • When they took the stage and had confidence and commanded the room.  A burst of energy is ALWAYS good..   

You saw a lot of headshots and resumes.  What were common mistakes actors might want to avoid in their headshots and resumes?

  • Double check the formatting of your resume and the resolution of the photo you sent.  If the resume is hard to read or follow your credits and experience might be ignored.
  • Extreme close-ups; also very few or very ‘silly’ things listed as skills on a resume. Legitimately unusual skills are interesting, but silly or self-deprecating ‘skills’ (i.e: “napping”, “falling”) don’t add anything to a resume. Conversely, those who only list one or two skills might well consider expanding just a bit to include areas of talent but not expertise – for example, if someone is not necessarily an expert drummer, but has even minimal skills and/or experience as a percussionist, I would absolutely love to know that.
  • For those who have recently moved, please list most recent or local credits first; that way we know where we may have seen you!
  • Having Film, TV, Radio, Industrial etc. at the top of the resume so you had to search for the theater information.  So not creating a resume appropriate to the audience.
  • Headshots that were obviously 10yrs or more old.
  • Headshots who don’t look like the actor I’m seeing get discarded without a second thought.
  • I didn’t really notice any mistakes.  But he more professional the headshot the better, a lot of them seemed very casual, like they were taken with a camera phone. But I can understand that professional photos are pricey.
  • I didn’t see as many as some of the auditors.  I don’t have an opinion on this. 🙂
  • I don’t actually look at the head shot/resumes unless I see what I need in their audition. I’m glad I do it that way because there are many times that what I saw on stage is very different from what’s on paper.  Since my audience gets no prep info, I want the same chance to feel the first impression.  When I DO look at the resume, I’m looking to see that things are truthful and make sense.
  • I only use headshots to remember the person and if I saw them.  I just want them to look like the person, but I understand actors need to feel this is a positive representation of them.   For resumes, I really REALLY want to know where they studied acting and theatre, what their skills are and who directed shows they have done.  So much good information is gleaned from this.
  • If you want to sing in shows, then please put your voice-type and/or note range on your resume along with height, weight etc.  (If you don’t know it, get a musical friend or teacher to help you determine your range and voice type.)
  • It’s better to have fewer stronger roles than a ton of roles that don’t mean anything to us. Be selective about what you put on there.
  • It’s not always necessary to list every single thing you’ve done, unless you haven’t done much and need to.  Whatever you put on your resume, make it legible and easy to read and follow.  We often don’t have a lot of time to peruse everything you’ve done, so, if you’ve done a lot, list what you feel represents you best and what you’d like to be considered for and leave it at that.
  • List their agency. Be HONEST about their resume credits, height, weight (not essential for most of us). Format resume in 3 easy to read columns. First column Production, Second Column Name of Role (theatre) or type of role (film, tv, industrial, etc), 3rd column producing entity. Do list special skills, languages. Do list training, schooling.  HEADSHOTS ARE ESSENTIAL. A good headshot is your #1 marketing tool. Without a headshot, you are not appropriate for submission to many professional jobs. You need to LOOK LIKE YOUR HEADSHOT NOW! A snapshot is not a headshot. Can’t afford a headshot? You can always contact community college and college photography classes and offering to model in exchange for a headshot. A headshot should be in color. A headshot should look the way you do now.
  • Make sure you look like your headshot. Yes you want to look your best, but you still need to look like you. For a theater audition you should have a resume that features your theater experience, not you tv, film and industrial shoots.
  • Non -professional headshots.
  • Not being back dated,
  • Not including information on their resume about where they live and/or their availability for local productions if not Seattle-based.  Headshots that may be good portraits but that don’t show much personality or make a positive, direct personal connection. Not including training and/or education information, especially for younger or less experienced actors.
  • Not looking like themselves.  Don’t get me wrong having a different haircut, color, difference in facial hair is ok, but an actor must look like their resume.  It is their business card.  If a headshot is 10 years out of date, or an actor is 20 lbs heavier or lighter then they need a new headshot.  Additionally, please have your headshot professionally shot–there are plenty of professional headshot photographers here who are relativity inexpensive.  An actor may think they look great in an iPhone shot, but we auditors look at headshots all day–we can tell the difference. Having an up to date headshot and resume is part of an actor’s job.  If an actor isn’t willing to invest in current headshots, that tells me that actor is not a professional because they are not doing part of the job of being an actor.
  • Out of date headshots.  Having different hair or facial hair is one thing, but if you’ve gained or lost over 10 lbs you should get a new headshot.  I also saw headshots that were years out of date.  Headshots are your calling card–it must look like you. -Not having a professional headshot–we look at these all day, and can tell an iPhone photo from a professional photo.  Headshots can be expensive, but many photographers offer deals several times during the year.  Part of your job as an actor is to have a headshot–invest in a good one every year.
  • Out of focus- the unnecessary backdrops. Is it for a date site or a professional theater?
  • Several headshots made the actors less attractive (for no apparent reason) or were a bit out of date.  Also for those who are local to Seattle if there is some way they can state this on their resume or TPS could checkbox it that would be great.  Several companies cannot house actors from Portland and while this is on the website – several auditors mentioned it would be super helpful to know while we are actually watching an actor audition to have that information upfront
  • Spelling errors.  Be sure to proof read your resume, even if you ran the spell check.  Also, double check the spelling of anyone’s name you  list as having worked with.  It’s a detail… an important and respectful one!
  • They should all put their own phone numbers and emails on their headshots and resumes.  It would be helpful if they had their agent listed as well if they have one
  • Use a current headshot that looks like you. When actors used an old headshot where they had a different appearance, it a) caused me to have questions about why the actor chose to do that, and b) was often disappointing, as I was expecting to see someone who was the age of the actor in the headshot photo.

General comments you wish to make to actors who may want to do the general auditions in the future.

  • This is your chance to shine and show me you are a professional.  
  • Please do not bring a Coffee Cup onto the stage.  Water if you absolutely must (but with only 2 minutes you really shouldn’t need it unless you have been ill). Please leave the drinks in the greenroom
  • Please do not chit chat before your piece.  Nor do I need to know why you’ve grown a beard, dyed your hair, etc.  Name and number please (or here in Seattle name and pieces)
  • If doing Shakespeare, please only do it if you are a professional Shakespearian actor.  Additionally, please choose a monologue not a sonnet. 
  • Please do not use a chair as a scene partner–it is incredibly awkward.  
  • Please do not direct your monologues to the voms direct them to us in the audience
  • Please do not use any accents of any kind.  This is a given in most Cattle calls–we want to hear YOUR voice.  If you have dialect work on your resume, I can call you in to hear a dialect. Additionally, when doing accents you are not only putting on an accent but you must honor the culture of that accent–when you do a poor accent, you are dishonoring that whole culture.   As a Southerner, I found myself getting incredibly offended at the amount of ‘southern yokel’ accents that were happening.  When you choose to do an accent you generalize an entire group of people–be careful that you aren’t offending them
  • Please, if singing, practice your song with an Accompanist–songs which may sound super easy are not (I’m speaking specifically of Sondheim and Jason Robert Brown).  They are not only difficult to play, but often the cast recording is different than what is on the page.  ALWAYS practice with an accompanist.
  • Please do not turn around before or between your monologues. I want to see you transition into another character.
  • Please don’t make a joke before you introduce yourself. When you say, ‘I’m going to be the only one you remember’ that immediately turns me off. Say your name and number and start the pieces.
  • Please do not apologize either before or after a piece.  I don’t care if you are sick. As an actor, you must perform while ill.  Additionally, if you apologize that tells me you think your work wasn’t good–why am I watching then?
  • If you can’t sing your song through a cold, mono, the plague or an earthquake, don’t choose it for your audition piece because something on the day (be it nerves, weather, sickness) is going to prevent you from hitting the money note. Pick a song that you can still sing during ANY circumstances
  • Don’t look down–I’m in the nosebleeds and if I can’t see your eyes, that tells me you won’t be able to do my style of Shakespeare
  • Please strike the chair if you use it
  • After 10 years of seeing auditions at TPS, my biggest disappointment is seeing, year after year, the same actors who have not grown or evolved.  This is because, unlike New York, Chicago, Los Angeles actors, Seattle actors do not take class or work on scenes that stretch their talents.  Being in shows only reinforces your strengths.  It makes no sense to be an actor “only during shows;” your talent needs nurturance and challenge at all times.
  • Always do two monologues or I can’t tell if you can change
  • Avoid accents! Do not go on after “Time” – Shows me the actor is disrespectful and undisciplined. 
  • and yes…no break up monologues and “here’s the deal”…Jerry Seinfeld type monologues–
  • Consider your internet presence. I always look people up the net before pursuing them. I’m sure not everyone does this, but I do. Partly, it’s because I don’t do callbacks, I just offer people a singing gig, so I need to be certain I’m willing to try working this person. So, what I want to see is lots of evidence that they exist, and the range of their interests and personae as performers.  I especially like it when folks have lots of varied stuff on Youtube, even crappy phone vids from college shows, I love those.  I realize “don’t scrub your footprint” is the opposite of what LA agents tell their people, so maybe my view is super weird, but I swear it works for me.   So far this time,  I hired five people, in no small part because their internet trails.  [name] has tons of church vids; [name] plays keys and does good indie originals; [name] plays badass electric guitar; [name]’s got three little vocal samples that show me he’s green but growing; and [name] is ALL over youtube.  If a performer has no internet footprint, that’s worrisome.  Where is it?  If I am on the edge of a pursue/don’t pursue choice, and they have no footprint, I’ll choose not to.
  • Dare to be bold
  • Do not say “fuck” more than once. If you are going to swear, make it a moment.  Also if they have the opportunity, find an audition coach or work with fellow artists in the community to work on your monologues with you.  A lot of them lacked energy and pace.
  • Don’t do Shakespeare or other classical pieces unless that is a personal aspiration or strength. Too many auditioners follow the typical format of one Shakespeare and one contrasting contemporary pieces. It’s okay and preferable to play to your strengths and do two contrasting pieces from the same category.
  • Don’t try to cram your pieces to fit the time limit. Select pieces that easily fit those limits. It is better to finish before time is up than to race to stay within the limits and/or get cut off.
  • Present yourself as a professional. Dress and groom appropriately. Your audition starts as soon as you enter the stag, not when you begin your pieces. Similarly, it ends when you exit the stage.
  • Don’t feel required to confine yourself to standing on the “X” center stage. We are looking for stage actors, and if you can, you should show us a little bit of how you can move around and use the stage.
  • Having been on both sides this year, remember that the auditors are excited to see and aren’t there to judge.  Relax, be yourself, and remember a smile goes a LONG way.
  • Hire a coach or ask a friend to time your pieces and give you feedback.  Keep your introductions short and to the point, we aren’t interested in hearing about your playwright, character context, or why you chose them. We’re here to see YOU.
  • I find monologues that have disgusting or disturbing content a complete turnoff (and we specialize in ‘edgy’ shows.) And it always saddens me to see people making mistakes (running over time, addressing the audience generally when the monologue is directed at a specific person, talking to an empty chair, doing that weird U-turn thing at the transition, dressing sloppily, etc.) that are listed in pretty much any and every basic how-to-audition guide ever written. Everyone taking the stage at any audition anywhere gets major points for bravery; but making these kinds of mistakes speaks to a lack of preparation at its most basic level. Just Google “what not to do at an audition” and don’t do those things.
  • In my notes, I looked for “Face” –can they use their face to project proper emotion and “Pace” –do they understand the piece they choose?  Can he or she pace the words properly to the meaning within the monologue? Especially in comedy and “Stage” –does the actor use the stage with their audition?
  • No small talk and chit chat prior to starting your audition. Just come in and do your thing. I’m interested in your acting, I don’t care if your charming or witty as a person. When auditioning, talk to your audience, not a chair, you look foolish. If you intend to use a chair or a block, set it up before you begin your audition. Never bring your tea or coffee in with you. I know it’s Seattle, but you can go without it for 3 minutes. If you’re singing pick a song that is easy for the accompanist and don’t use this time to try out new songs you’re not confident with. Don’t bring in Sondheim or Jason Robert Brown, they’re just so difficult for an accompanist. If you’re going to sing a commonly done song you’d better knock it out of the park. Girls please stop singing Vanilla Ice Cream. I’ve heard it a million times. 
  • I live Shakespeare. I run a Shakespeare Company and I would love to see more of it. However, unless you are experienced with it and you know what you are talking about don’t do Shakespeare. If you do it well it can showcase that you can do anything. But if you do it poorly it can showcase that you simply haven’t done your homework.
  • Once you’ve chosen what you are going to wear to audition in, check to make sure it will actually work with any blocking or other movement you’ll be doing.
  • Over – prepare.
  • -Please do not bring cups with you on the stage–unless you are seriously ill and need a water bottle, you most likely can go 2 minutes without water.  I saw an actor bring a coffee cup onto the stage.  That is a sign of unprofessionalism and immediately turns me off casting the actor.
  • -Please do not attempt an accent during a General audition–I want to hear your real voice.  If I want to hear an accent, I’ll call you in.  The amount of accents, especially Southern accents was incredibly surprising.  Additionally, I was not only surprised by the amount of Southern accents executed poorly, honestly, as a native, proud Southerner recent to the PNW, I was quite turned  off by what was in 98% of the cases a caricature of a Southern accent and found it quite insulting. Remember, when doing an accent (which should never be done in a general anyway), you take the responsibility of doing justice to the culture of the accent you are taking on.
  • Please make sure you get very good quality coaching for auditions that focuses primarily on the acting in the audition pieces.   Take time to ground yourself and be present. Don’t rush through the piece to keep from getting called on time — fewer and more meaningful moments is so much more impactful.   I also want to see a beat change or an adaptation that you make to something coming at you from your “scene partner”  (not really there but you believe in them just the same).   Keep your focus.  It is a challenging situation, but if you can make it about the action and playing of a scene, the audition can be very impressive.
  • Relax, have fun, trust yourself.
  • Remember that we are on your team!! We want you to be great. Show us your joy. Show us your heart.
  • Remember to act with your entire body at points.  Choose your movements carefully as they can also distract if you do too much but remember we are seeing your entire body.  Actors that embody their character instead of just “play it” or “do it” immediately stand out from the crowd. I saw a lot of dead arms and acting only from the face and neck.  Don’t forget to ask yourself how the character holds their back, how they walk, what idiosyncratic ways they might use their arms…
  • Stay within your allotted time.   Don’t worry about the audience.  We really are on your side and want you succeed.  You don’t need to try to be good because we are also wanting you to just be yourself.
  • Too many monologues from “Gruesome Playground Injuries.” In general, more interesting monologue choices would have helped.
  • When all else fails, have fun.  Have the time of your life. You get two to three minutes of complete and undivided attention from directors all over town.  How do you show everyone who you are as an artist through your performance?  Take any nervous energy you have and put it into the acting. Be present  and know that the hard work you’ve put in for your audition will come through as you are completely in the moment, with us, performing your heart out. ♥
  • Work hard,don’t force,
  • You are here to Act/Sing. The long personal monologued intro is distracting from the work you are here to do.

Want to be involved in the 2018 Unified General Auditions?  Click here for more information!

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