WE WRITE BECAUSE WE MUST: REMARKS FROM PLAYWRIGHT SARAH RUHL

I wrote a joyful speech two weeks ago in preparation for this evening. In light of the election, I found my mood had changed. Maybe your mood has changed too. As my friend and mentor Paula Vogel texted me the morning after the election, “The color of the world has been bleached.”
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What Makes a Great Audition Song?

#BuildingAudiences

…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