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An Open Letter To New Auditioners in 2019

My name is Cathrine and I am a vocal coach. I was a performer on stage, a musical director for a time, and during that time and for the last 6 years full time, a singing teacher.

I run a small but pretty fierce singing school called VocalcoachSA; and my mission is to uplift and be part of making our artists internationally competitive in the art form that is musical theatre. Part of this vision is in assisting artists to work smartly and meticulously on their audition preparation and technique;with always the goal of getting the call back and then booking the job.

The calls and audition briefs are starting to come through for the upcoming season and already the excitement and panic is starting to build up. The phone calls and texts of “what do you think?” and “what should I sing?” are on the rise and I wanted to share with you what I experienced last year at this time and with what I believe is essential in making our small but fierce industry better and stronger!

Why is it that sports teams and sport athletes get so much emotional support, but our performers don’t? Especially when both careers rely on God given physical and psychological strengths? My hope that in some small way, this letter can help support you and give you courage for the year ahead.

I firmly believe that an artist can be in control of getting the first call back in an audition. But lately, we are going so very wrong from the get-go, and everyone from the producer to the agent to the actor is getting frustrated.

It starts with knowing what you can sell. Simply put: Does your product match the description in the audition brief? If NOT then you should not put your name down.

And after some careful observation I think we need to take a moment to look at what we are selling HONESTLY.

Audition Season 2018 for me started as the “let’s all be in denial about how bad we really are” year. We were desperate. And not in a flippant way. It was bone deep desperation for wanting to work and be on stage.

But Desperation is NOT a match in an audition brief. It’s a motivator and I believe it’s equally divided into 2 parts: productive and destructive. Both parts need to be explored and worked on ALL the time, but not when it comes to the physical requirements in an audition brief.

​International choreographers, musical directors and directors aren’t looking directly into making someone’s long lost dream come true. (That is usually an amazing bi-product). They are there to match what’s on paper and what’s in a vision to what’s presented in front of them. 

Either you have it potentially or you don’t. And if you don’t, then that’s absolutely fine. In my opinion the notion that a performer saying no to a brief is “bad” or “risky” is simply ridiculous.

But I’m straying here...

You ascertain that your skills match the description in the brief. Then you look at the “looks” requirements: and here we seem to somehow lose our sensibility and come up with some pretty inventive reasons as to why we should, even though we know we shouldn’t. You cannot be naïve about how you look. Either you look right for the part or you don’t. Being offended because you are too big for the part is such a waste of your energy and time. And I know because I am too fat for 99% of the parts out there.

That’s not to say I didn’t try proving this truth wrong. I insisted I go to the Cats audition in 2008. Straight after playing Tracy Turnblad (the role of a large and buxom girl). I could do the double pirouettes no just got tricky when it came to fitting in to the whole unitard thing...

But man was I motivated. Out to prove the cynics wrong. I didn’t get past the first round. I tried to look at positives by saying “at least I tried” and “can never have regrets” but actually looking back now, it affected my confidence badly. Subtly at first, but accumulative over time. I started to doubt and ask ridiculous things from myself, “Why couldn’t I be the white cat??” (Insert internal eye roll here). Looking back, what I should have done is used the R150 spent on petrol and 2 hours of time at the Cats audition and gone to a dance class to perfect my triples. And the same scenario played out many, many times with my students after the Chicago auditions in January.

I think the potentially scary scenario ahead of audition season 2019 is realizing that you may not match the briefs. Any of them. In varied and unflattering ways. It is going to happen to many of us. If not, most of us.  It is heartbreaking. Physically “eina”. It can be so destructive. And cruel. And this is when the next few career decisions that you make are so important.

What do you do with feeling this angry and bitter and despondent? With feeling so desperate?

Cue back to March 2018. The roles were being cast. Most of my students didn’t get the roles they wanted. And they were ALL upset. But then I saw a few phenomenal reactions. And this is why I wanted to write this blog.

After finding out that they didn’t get a single call back, three of my students decided to go back to class. To go back and work on what they were crap at. They looked at why they were rejected and used it as a type of arsenal in their 2018 plans.  They were all financially broke. And yet, they all managed to get to class. I don’t know how they did it, but not having money was not a good enough reason not to go.  That good old saying “where there is a will there’s a way” could not have been more brilliantly demonstrated by these actors. 

Hard discussions took place throughout this year. Discussions with agents and coaches on how to capitalize on what they realistically have to offer. And then perfecting it. Making peace with what they can’t do (quite a scary conversation) and becoming stronger because of it. Constantly going to the labour- intensive, ugly faced, sweaty classes.

Looking at this season ahead and specifically at these 3 actors, they now have the confidence to choose which auditions they want to go to and realistically work towards getting the call back. They have no guarantee of getting work, but they are now 100% in control of it all- the good and the bad that is coming up. It’s powerful to witness and I admit at times can be quite intimidating...just because it’s actually pretty cool! All the white noise is gone when working with them. The focus is simply working artistically and technically on what they want to sell and show off. Joy starts popping into sessions. Actual joy. Remember that feeling you had when you left college- all bright eyed and bushy tailed? Well it comes back!! And even my self-confessed sarcastic-dark-and-twisted mind gets surprised by how authentic it is. It’s awesome.

I always compare artists to rugby players. (I have no idea why I do this but go with me here).

Let’s look at the young and upcoming rugby player who plays provincial rugby and who is on the potential Springboks team list. The tour is to New Zealand. The young dude plays an excellent game and the selectors are impressed. His coaches are behind him and although his team lost the match, he played a great game. Selection time comes up and he doesn’t make the Springboks. He’s pretty close, and possibly right for the next tour. 

Now I don’t know a stitch about Rugby but I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t just stop training, and yell “what’s the point? They always choose the Beast and not me?!” Or maybe he does, but I know for sure that he’ll be back in the gym training harder and playing better because he knows he’s got a good chance if he continues to put in the work. And whilst the next tour to NZ is only in 6 months’ time, he’s absolutely got a plan for the next 5 months ahead.

Why are we any different? 

In fact, considering that our shows also tour New Zealand – I think we are in the exact same boat. But we sure as hell don’t treat ourselves in the same way. There are too many excuses why we weren’t selected and not enough of us returning to the gym or to the field the next day to continue to put in the training.

Go to class. Go to class. Go to class.

Train smartly! Create a support team and work with them. Use that motivation that comes from utter desperation and turn it on its head!

It’s not that we can’t. It’s that we have too many excuses why we won’t get stronger and better. Find a way and get back to class this year. Find the money to do it. It is the singular most empowering goal you can set for your career this year and is 100% achievable.

Chukkas for the season ahead and remember that the strongest gets the job!

Hope to see you all in class soon.

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