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Auditioning for Life




By Suzanne Spellen
If you have ever trained for a life in the performing arts, then you will be familiar with auditioning. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who truly liked to audition. I know plenty of people who are used to it and can do it well, but that doesn’t mean they like it.
Auditioning is one of the most voluntary acts of vulnerability out there. Depending on what you are auditioning for, you must stand up in front of a group of strangers, sometimes really important people in your field, and in the space of ten or so minutes, convince them that not only are you a special talent, but that you are THE person for the role, or the production company, or whatever the goal.

You must channel your nervousness into positive energy, you need to have the material you prepared so ingrained in your brain that no matter how much your stomach may be churning, you can, in a few seconds, get out of yourself and become the character attached to your material. It doesn’t matter if it’s a monologue from a play, a solo dance piece, a musical theater number or an opera aria. You must then perform, remembering words, music, and choreography, and on top of that, be outstanding. Not much to it at all!
It’s not just your talent or skill that is being examined. Those strangers are also looking at YOU, your physicality, your ability to move and express yourself through your body and gestures. Casting people also try to get a glimpse of your personality from your audition material and short conversations. Are you someone they can work with – will you take direction, or do you think you know more than they do? Will you get along with the cast and crew? Or are you a special star, diva or divo, who is going to make life hell for everyone for the length of whatever you are doing? Everyone’s suffered through those people.
We all audition in life. It begins in childhood and goes on from there. There’s always that point when you present yourself to others in order to make friends, to join cliques or clubs, sports teams, college admissions, job interviews, and even dating. We may not think of these activities as auditioning, but the act is primarily the same – we are putting ourselves out there, hoping to be accepted and welcomed and to succeed.

I remember the first activity I had to audition for, it was the elementary school chorus. I was in third or fourth grade. The chorus was not a required activity, it was an elective. The group performed at assemblies, special events, holiday concerts, etc. The chorus teacher was also the music director for the high school chorus, as K-12 was all in the same building. When she came into the room and announced tryouts for chorus, most of the kids in my class took part, I loved music and was right there with them.
I don’t remember everything about the audition, but it involved her finding out if we could follow along in tune, what our voices sounded like, and any other rudimentary musical skills. Part of it also included singing a piece of music – an easy, already-known tune, like “Row, row, row your boat.” When she got to me, I failed miserably. I didn’t make the cut.
My Mom was crushed. She knew I could sing, I sang at home and in church. I sang along with the radio. How could I not make the chorus? I wasn’t as upset as she was because those kids who didn’t make it had an extra period where we stayed in the classroom and could read or play board games while the rest of them were in chorus. When the weather was nice, we got to go outside.

It turned out that I wasn’t tone-deaf or untalented. The reason I didn’t get in, my mother found out, was because my voice was too powerful and loud, I wasn’t blending into the rest of the chorus. Mom told me that I needed to sing more quietly and blend in with everyone else. The next year, when chorus auditions came along, I sang gently and sweetly, and I got in. The rest of my musical journey through school was smooth, I sang wherever in whatever I could.
(to be continued in Our Time Press, April 6, 2023)