Monday, January 10, 2011

Audition Journal #1: Chautauqua Theater Co.

I've heard of doing audition journals, but had no real reason to keep one in college. But I figure it's a good way to keep track of what works and what doesn't and how many auditions I go to, as well as a way to keep people posted on what's going on in my professional life. So here it is, the first audition of my professional life.

Date: Jan 7, 2011, 10:32 AM
Auditioned For: Vivienne Benesch, Co-Artistic Director, Chautauqua Theater Company
Pieces: Joan la Pucelle from Henry VI Part 1
Steph from Reasons to Be Pretty by Neil LaBute
Vivie Warren from Mrs. Warren's Profession (just in case)
Attire: Brown short-sleeved turtleneck
Cream short-sleeved blazer
Denim trousers
Canvas Blowfish wedges
Recent haircut

This audition was for the theater's highly competitive conservatory. Last year, the company was made up primarily of grad students from places like NYU, Yale, and Julliard. So, while my fretting the week before was maybe a little excessive, it at least had good reason.

The day before the audition, I met with my teacher, Vivian, to work on my monologues. I prefaced them by saying, "I don't like to say 'unprepared.' I like to say 'fresh.'" What we tweaked:
  • Introduction: Surprise! It's not necessary to say it all in one breath. Here it is with breath marks added: Hi, my name's Elise Soeder. ' I will be doing Joan la Pucelle from Henry VI Part I (upward inflection) ' and Steph from Reasons to be Pretty by Neil laBute.
  • Switched the order: Everything about who I was auditioning for (Vivienne Benesch, the company, and the season) pointed to classical work. Therefore, lead with Shakespeare.
  • Cut the Steph monologue in half: Again, all things point to classical. Simply make them aware that I am proficient in contemporary work.
  • Various adjustments of operatives
  • Heighten the stakes for both characters
  • Have Joan literally show Burgundy his pining country: You can turn your back on the auditors. (WHAT?! Craziness.)
  • Joan is divine and if Burgundy even looks at her, he will give in to her will.
  • Don't play humor: Steph isn't laughing so that the audience can. She is dead serious.
  • Steph is full of shit: She doesn't know what she's talking about, but pretends she does. Throw it out there.
My session with Vivian was definitely beneficial, as I was more nervous about showing my work to her than in the audition room. In this case, my nerves were directly related to knowing the person and caring about how they perceived me. I showed up 45 minutes early for my audition and, when it was my turn, I went into the room, totally nerve-free. I can't tell you how that happened, it just did (even though my teacher and mentor, Sharon, was behind the table too.)

Vivienne Benesch was lovely, comfortable, and welcoming. I slated for video, and presented my two pieces, after which she asked if I had a third, which I didn't think she would do in a million years. Note to self: always work on the backup just as much as the others. I had prepared Vivie, but flubbed a line about halfway through. After a deep breath and repeating the sentence before, I went forward with it and finished, dignity intact. She then gave me a note to work on with Joan, which was to have no fear or trepidation in showing Burgundy my opinions. We worked on it for about two thirds of the piece. Sharon assured her that I had been working on similar notes concerning freedom of body and voice and I can still go further. She had also said nice things about me when I walked in, concerning my nomination for the LMDA/KCACTF award. (Thanks, Sharon!)

In general, it was a very satisfying audition, confirmed by Sharon who suggested in an email that I consider going to Chautauqua's general audition in NYC in March. Like she said, it's a long shot, but "everything is in place, you just need to try to free yourself up and "play" more...You might try doing your pieces outdoors, singing them, dancing them." If nothing else, I have had a very heartening start to the new year and my life post-graduation.


  1. I'm glad you did well at the audition and I'm enjoying your blog entries!

  2. congrats on the audition. i can only imagine how nice it was to have Sharon there. im happy to see that your relationship has gotten so much closer, even if it is in a different way than it was as a student. love you, and cant wait to hear more!