What Makes a Great Audition Song?


…because if they’re not coming, we’re irrelevant.

I recently attended a “Twitter Chat” (my first) with marketing directors from some of the largest regional theatres in the country as well as many other interested parties like myself. It was a fascinating conversation to see what’s working for some as opposed to what works for others. Below are some key points that I took away from the chat that anyone can appreciate.

Logistics is a huge barrier to attendance – our job is to make it as easy and welcoming as possible for people to join us

  • Parking, hassle, travel time, dinner, planning with friends. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. (I’m not sure how this can be overwhelming, but for some I guess…)
  • Even with low prices, people are always looking for discounts (a discounted ticket now, could mean a full price ticket later)
  • Most of our starting ticket prices are $10-$25 > The perception is often that it’s higher
  • LIFE stage is a huge factor in attendance. There’s a dip in the 35-45 year old demographic.

We purposely choose diverse artists (gender/race/age/experience) to reflect and attract diverse audiences

One key strategy was to partner with leaders Millennials trust like (beverage brand names and other non-profits)

We do a lot with survey data, learning why people come to our theatre & what they’re looking for out of the experience (Key word = EXPERIENCE)

  • Conduct focus groups and surveys to see how populations match or differ with national research
  • This research then informs artistic content and marketing strategies (smart)

We want them to come early, stick around and grab a drink. We want to be the best place to talk about the show after. (Not the bar down the street)

We do see revenue from social media, but it’s not the same as a 4-star review. And we invest heavily in video, FB ads etc.

  • If we had a marketing staff, we would totally do this. (Then a marketing staff is what you need. They can’t come if they don’t know about it!)


21 Things to Make Casting Directors Happy in the Audition Room

Casting directors are your advocates and your champions. Your work reflects on us. Your wonderful work makes us look good and gets that role cast. Your disconnected, tentative, muddled work does nothing for anyone. We need you to be great. We’re here to host your experience and shepherd you in, not hold you back. We want to share in your excellent work.

Casting directors await you on the other side of that door – the door that you can seen as a gateway or a barricade. While you turn it into a horror movie, it’s your stage, not a torture chamber. Whether it’s a pre-read for an associate or a full-blown director/producer callback session, this is your time, your experience. This is your opportunity to do exceptional work. Enter the space and do the work for yourself, for the gratification of the work itself, and yes, to collaborate with the other creative people waiting to figure it out with you. They can’t do it without you.

Here are some choices (and they are choices) to make any casting director truly happy in the room.

1. Accept the invitation with grace and enthusiasm. You were requested to be here as our guest.

2. Come to work and not to please or get our approval.

3. Enter with certainty. Don’t give up your power as soon as the door opens.

4. Play on a level playing field. We’re all figuring it out. Together.

5. Make no excuses whatsoever. Leave your baggage outside. Better yet, at home.

6. Make the room your own. It will make us so much more comfortable.

7. Ask questions only when you truly need answers. “Do you have any questions?” is usually another way of saying: “Are you ready?” You aren’t required to have one.

8. Know your words and understand what you’re talking about. You don’t have to be totally off-book, but if you’ve spent quality time with the material, you’re going to know it.

9. Do your homework on the project. This includes knowing all the players and the show or film’s tone and style. Read all the material you can get your hands on.

10. Make choices and take responsibility for the choices you make.

11. Don’t apologize. Ever. For anything.

12. Know what you want to do and do it. Then leave yourself available to make discoveries. Know that your homework is done. Now let your preparation meet the moments.

13. Don’t mime or busy yourself with props, activity, or blocking. Keep it simple.

14. Don’t expect to be directed, but if you are, take the direction, no matter what it is. Understand how to translate results-oriented direction into action.

15. Don’t blame the reader. Make the reader the star of your audition. According to my teaching partner Steve Braun, you should engage fully no matter who’s reading those lines. Likely your reader will engage – at least somewhat – if you show up.

16. Make specific, personal, bold choices. We want your unique voice to bring the script to life.

17. Stillness is powerful. Understand how to move and work in front of the camera – eliminate running in and out and getting up and down.

18. Require no stroking, coddling, or love. We’re there to work. Don’t take it personally when we’re not touchy-feely. Know that we love actors and that’s truly why we’re here.

19. Understand that you’re there to collaborate. You’re being evaluated in terms of how you serve the role and the material. It’s not a verdict on your personhood. Judgment is something you can control.

20. What you bring in reflects how you’re received so bring in joy, conviction, and ease, and our hearts will open.

21. Share your artistry above all else.

Remember that we’re all human in those rooms, and you can affect us on an emotional level. It’s what we all really want. That’s your job. You being fully present, truthful, personal, and vulnerable is going to give us the ammunition we need to champion you with all our hearts. We all desperately want you to do great work. We’re rooting for that every time you walk into the room. You show up and do your fullest, deepest work, and we’ll slay dragons for you and follow you anywhere. And man, we’ll be so happy doing it. You have the power to make that happen. For you. For us. For the work. Hallelujah!

Risa Bramon Garcia

6 Skills Young Arts Managers Need to Have

Posted Apr 2 2015 by  Shane Jewell in 

The great and powerful...arts manager!

More and more students have started to contact me, asking if I have time to talk to them about arts management. Some are even arts or dance management majors. I have found most of these students woefully unprepared for a life in this field. They’re often taught history, philosophy of the arts — not what’s actually expected of you in an arts management career. I thought that I would give my perspective, then, for what this life is really like. Some of this may seem negative, but if you’re the right person for the job and it’s truly your passion, it can be more gratifying than any other career and you’ll be unable to envision yourself doing anything else. READ MORE

Leaving home: youth theatre must leave mum-and-dad audiences behind

Testing themselves away from the unconditional support of home-town audiences is vital to help young performers really gain confidence

The home-town audience for work made by young people can be incredibly generous, ready to ignore flaws and support every youthful indulgence with laughter and applause. So determined are they that the cast succeed, that even the quality of the production itself can feel like it doesn’t matter, as if it’s just a byproduct.

The atmosphere can be so partisan that anyone in the audience without a vested interest can be left feeling thoroughly confused by the reactions of everyone around them, as if they’ve strayed into some not-so-secret society. Worse, the audience’s misplaced generosity can do unwitting damage to the young performers themselves: they emerge post-show feeling thoroughly rewarded for a performance that the creative team then has to delicately unpick to improve on its faults and failures. READ MORE

Inconveniently, Subscriptions Still Sustain the Arts

Many in the arts industry say that the subscription model is dead. But if it were dead, wouldn’t it have just disappeared by now? Organizations like the Guthrie Theatre, Washington Pavilion, Hollywood Pantages Theatre, and Houston Ballet are experiencing a subscription resurgence and renaissance. Depending on your point of view, these organizations are seen as a last gasp of a dying model, or proof that, despite the arts industry’s best efforts to kill it, subscriptions are still viable. READ MORE

The Rise and Fall of the Season Ticket Buyer [and what to do about it]

In the 1970’s, the idea of a “season ticket” in the arts really took off. Arts organizations were able to bring ticketing revenue and cash in ahead of the performance (which is when they actually are incurring the cost of the production), encourage loyalty and reduce risk. Ticket buyers were incented by discounted tickets and the promise of the best seats in the house. It seemed like a win/win.

That is, until the economic downturn in the early 21stcentury. Many arts organizations have seen ticket buyers less and less willing to commit to a season package and pay up front. Whether it’s the uncertainty of the economy or a desire to be more selective with their time (and only see the productions that appeal to them, vs experiment with the entire season), the loss of season ticket revenue has exposed arts organizations to additional risk and vulnerability. You create a season, you pay for the sets, designs, performers and marketing…and you have no way of knowing until opening night if anyone is going to come. Further, this creates a cash issue as the organization has to pay most of the bills for the production before they see much of the ticketing revenue.

So is it the end of season tickets? Hmmm, maybe not.


Good Missions for Arts Organizations

In order to qualify for tax-exempt status with the IRS, nonprofit organizations need to express a mission and purpose that has a public benefit. This is the essential bargain being offered by government: we allow you to avoid paying taxes on the proceeds of your work if you can suggest how and why your organization’s work will provide real and tangible benefits to individuals, communities and/or society as a whole. It seems like a good deal to me. Organizations that have an outward-looking mission should earn this exemption, while those that are only doing what they do for their own benefit should not. READ MORE