Thinking of auditioning for summer stock theatre in your area? Here, voice and acting teacher Liz T. shares her tips for audition success…
Summer stock theatre is a tradition that started in the 1920s, in which talented actors, singers, and dancers from the big city would perform and work on their craft for an entire summer at a local theater, very common in New England and the Midwest. Today, summer stock is still alive and thriving, and is one of the most rewarding experiences as a performer. I encourage you all to pursue summer stock auditions! Here are some tips to help you have a successful summer stock audition.
1. Research theaters
So you’re interested in performing musical theater all summer long? Terrific! The first thing you should do is research summer stock opportunities all across the country, and what shows each theater will be producing in their season. Some may do one show for 12 weeks, and others may do six different shows in 12 weeks. Every theater is different.
Remember to audition for shows and roles that are appropriate for your vocal style, age, and so on. Keep a journal of all the shows that theaters are producing this summer — that way when you go to an audition, you’ll have already done your homework and will be familiar with their season. Perhaps a theater is doing your favorite musical of all time, “West Side Story”, and you want to audition for Maria — watch the movie, read the script, and study the music beforehand, so that if you receive a callback, you are already ahead of the game!
2. Prepare for your audition
Now that you’ve made a list of the summer stock theatre opportunities you want to audition for, I suggest killing two birds with one stone! Traveling across the country to auditions can be very expensive and time-consuming. You may be able to find open call auditions in Boston, NYC, and Chicago where you can audition in a room full of 25 different summer stock casting directors at once. Many college students first start auditioning at StrawHat in NYC, NETC in Boston, MWTA in St. Louis, and UPTA in Memphis. These are great starting grounds to get your feet wet in auditioning. I suggest researching these auditions as far as a year in advance to plan for them — so start now for 2016! You will have to submit an application and a small fee for an audition spot, and these spots fill up quickly!
3. Audition, audition, audition
Now that you have your audition lined up, it’s time to bring your “A Game” and practice, practice, practice. Not only will you have to be a strong singer, but you also need to be a strong actor and dancer. So if you are lacking in one of these areas, I suggest brushing up with some acting, dance, or voice lessons before the big day. Your audition will be very quick, and you will be competing with as many as 10,000 union and non-union actors for a limited number of roles for the summer. At these big cattle calls, you will be given 90 seconds to sing your best 16-32 bars, and do a short monologue.
When picking your audition material, pick something you are comfortable with, and that you can do in your sleep (in case the nerves get the best of you!). This is not the place to try something risky. I suggest showing off your strengths, whether you are a belter, or can sing four octaves. Try not to sing a song that’s overdone; remember the directors will be tired after hearing so many people each day, so do something that’s a breath of fresh air! For help choosing just the right song, check out the video below.
Once you’ve nailed your 90-second audition, don’t go anywhere, because usually within the next hour the theater will post a long list of callbacks, which could be held that night after the dance call. The dance call can be a bit intimidating as well, but don’t stress, just do your best, and always smile!
4. Once you’ve landed the role
If you made it through your research, audition, callbacks, and have landed a role in summer stock, congratulations! Getting a role in summer stock is no easy task; many great singers audition, but it all comes down to who is right for which part. If you’re offered a role, I suggest you do some more research and ask questions like “Are housing or meals provided for singers?”, “Is there a weekly pay or just EMC Points?”, “Will I have to pay for travel?”, “How many shows a day?”, and “Will I have days off?” If you ever suspect something is not right in a contract, don’t take it, stick with your gut, and always try to contact a former singer who has worked with the theater/company before.
Finally, if you accept the role, you’ll probably have some time to prepare, so I suggest really working on your character before rehearsals begin. Summer stock rehearsals are very intense, usually six days a week, so it’s also very important that you stay healthy, including eating right and getting enough sleep.
Now go out there, do your research, audition, and land that role you want!
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons in Brooklyn, NY, as well as online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!
Photo by thepanamerican