All posts by Stephen Purdy

Why Going To Local Auditions Is The New Black

WHY GOING TO LOCAL AUDITIONS IS THE NEW BLACK

I’m aged enough to remember when scores of regional theatre companies came to New York every year, sometimes twice to multiple times a year, to audition actors for their season and even on a show-by -show basis. Those were great days; a bevy of hungry hopeful performers would religiously congregate at a table in a diner somewhere in Manhattan (you could afford to live here then) around a (hard copy…believe it or not) of BACKSTAGE and plan their auditions for the coming weeks. They’d take out their calendars (we called them “planners” then) and scribble down the theatres and shows they would audition for and often navigate how they’d get from one studio to the next on the same day to be seen at as many auditions as possible. This sometimes took a great leap of logistical ingenuity but by God where there was a will…they made it happen.

It was also a time when, by way of example, it seemed that every strip mall in Florida housed a theatre (not many will remember “Musicana” or the “Broadway Baby Grand” but some will. I cut my teeth as a musical director at both. It was rough-and tacky- but I learned a lot.) Smaller cities than New York didn’t necessarily have a large pool of local talent to pull from in those days so they would come to NYC to cast their shows. Even the cities that did have a large amount of local talent would come to New York because, well, it was the thing to do. There was nowhere like New York.

And then 2008 happened.

Theatre corporate funding dried up as the financial crisis hit us deeper than many ever imagined it could. Private donors stopped giving as much to keep theatres aloft and reserves dwindled. Federal and state government agencies, along with steadfast local officials, long a mainstay of staving off theatrical insolvency, pulled from back to out altogether. Patrons didn’t have as much expendable income and “destination” spots where theatres thrived as nightlife became much more localized, exclusive, and harder to come by. Many theatres closed citing “no money, no shows.” Communities suffered. Performing artists suffered. We all did.

The theatres that kept on keeping on, whether by the grace of God or a healthy subscription base that didn’t wane, did so (in many cases) with larger local talent bases. Performers began to leave New York, opting instead to live in more affordable (and sensible) living environments. Many of the “bigger” theatres were never in jeopardy, but many (mid-size, underfunded, start up, destination, and so on) theatres disappeared into the night in nary more than a puff of smoke during the months and years following the impact of the crisis. Many theatres stopped coming to New York to audition more than once a year. Many stopped coming at all, relying on the local talent aplenty and the “they’ll come to us” philosophy.

So where does that leave actors now? It’s a daily occurrence in my studio for my pro actors to arrive gloomy-eyed, citing the lack of New York auditions for them to attend. A reading I’m doing next year drew close to 1000 submissions. For a reading! 1000 submissions! Even in the Spring when things ostensively “pick up” it’s been a slow few years.

What to do? How to survive?

Go to the local auditions. Most theatres have them. What are the advantages of doing this? Let me count the ways:

You’re much more likely to be seen.

You’ll probably get to sing more than the dreaded 8 or 16 bars.

You’re more likely to be seen and heard as a human being and not a number.

You’ll not have to deal with a phalanx of bodies at Pearl Studios, (let alone the elevators or…for God’s sakes someone please fix this..the overly friendly security guards there.)

When it’s 13 degrees outside someone will let you on. Love those volunteers!

How to do this?

Go to the theatre websites and ascertain when the local auditions are and what the requirements are. Know the theatres within driving distance from NYC. There are PLENTY of them.

God invented Zip car for a reason. Join.

Oh…let us not forget: it’s ALL a TAX WRITE OFF! Win win. All that equals a victory lap in my book.

Stephen Purdy is the author of MUSICAL THEATRE SONG: A COMPREHENSIVE COURSE and two forthcoming books on Musical Theatre published by Bloomsbury. He is a vocal and audition coach for New York performers and is on musical theatre faculty at Marymount Manhattan College and Rider University. He regularly presents masterclasses around the globe.

You and The Cold Call Cowboy

 

You and The Cold Call Cowboy

I used to be a stockbroker. For three interminable years. From the get-go I was mandated by my mentors to study a book (whether it’s still in print I don’t know for sure) called “The Cold Call Cowboy.” It was a sales techniques book written by the so-called “cowboy” himself. Apparently this guy was so effective at “cold” calling his sales prospects that while all the junior brokers around were being incessantly hung up on by those they called, the cowboy had magic techniques and a quick silver tongue that enabled him to keep the prospects on the phone. And he made a lot of sales. His technique wasn’t hard to understand. He was simply different than the last annoying cold caller and those being called appreciated his original and entertaining approach.

Dutifully, I read the book. And it helped with my sales techniques. It occurred to me then and screams in my head now more then ever: This is the simplest way for actors to get the callback and, with some luck on your side, book the job.

The idea is simple: as an actor do what others don’t do. This applies to your audition material, but it is mostly about the choices you make in the room to set yourself apart. I coach a lot of people for auditions and I can say with no hesitation that the reason actors fear being “different” and making bold choices with their material is that they don’t want to “be judged” by auditors as “too off-the-wall.” Don’t be so sure. Casting directors and creatives LOVE (within reason of course) bold but honest, fearless choices from you. Notwithstanding the size of the space you are auditioning in where sometimes adjustments must be made, go big or go home.

As we approach a new audition season I challenge you to accept what I say as truth and find what is truly unique about what you can bring to your audition material and from yourself as yourself. You may be surprised at what happens.

Stephen Purdy is the author of “Musical Theatre Song: a Comprehensive Course” available at bookstores and online everywhere and is a NYC based voice teacher and coach. Reach him at nyvocalcoach@gmail.com. Facebook: Stephen Purdy Vocal Coach and Author Twitter:@purdyvocalcoach

 

Why Aren’t You Working?

Why Aren’t You Working?

Stephen Purdy

Years ago I ran into an actor friend that I like and admire on the Upper West Side in New York City and I asked him the perennial question we theatre people tend to slip in after the pleasantries: “Are you working?” His reply resonates today as much as then: “I’m always working” he said. “I’m just not always getting paid for it.”

This time of year can be frustrating and confusing for an actor if you didn’t book a summer gig. So you’re not “working?” You should still be “working.”

True, you may have spent three months auditioning your tail off, getting so close and then not getting the call. Your may feel crushed at the outcome. You might even be questioning whether this is the life you want. But you can’t take a vacation from your craft.

Coaches will offer soft, encouraging phrases like “Don’t worry. Your number will come up.” But I, as a coach, don’t believe that can be a truthful universal response. I’d love it if all my students would eventually book, but I know that not all will. Whether or not they will book a show is more often than not predicated on how hard they’ve worked to “deliver the goods” in the audition room.

I have a student who I love and adore who didn’t book a show this summer. I believe that by and large it’s the voice that is holding this student back. The student has heaps of talent and wide appeal but the voice simply isn’t strong enough to be competitive yet. The student vowed weekly summer lessons in May. It’s mid July and I haven’t heard a peep. Other students come to their lessons the way others attend church: every week nearly without fail. It’s about priorities.

You always have to be “working”. You can’t wait to begin fixing the holes in your technique when audition season is up and running or near-approaching. It’s the reason baseball players have spring training well before the season starts. If you begin working to fix your technique issues, up-ing your vocal game, going to dance classes and getting your book and audition presentations rock solid once auditions begin it’s too late. And there will be another actor standing beside you in the line who has already done the work. And that’s the person that I place odds on.

Invest in yourself. The returns can be astounding.

So what are you doing this summer?

Stephen Purdy is the author of Musical Theatre Song: A Comprehensive Course published by Bloomsbury and a vocal teacher and coach in New York City at Marymout Manhattan College and privately. Visit stephenpurdy.com and follow on Twitter: @purdyvocalcoach and Facebook: Stephen Purdy Vocal Coach and Author