Navigating the Audition Process: Tips for Musical Theater Success

Navigating the Audition Process: Tips for Musical Theater Success

Embracing the Rollercoaster of Rejections

It was a devastating moment. After a grueling seven-hour callback over two days, I received the news I had been dreading – a resounding “no” from my dream company, San Francisco-based Robert Moses Kin. This was my second audition with RMK in as many years, and my second rejection. I was crushed.

“When I didn’t get it that time, I was pretty devastated,” I remember vividly. “I separated myself from the company for a while. I took a six-month break, during which I was also injured.” That time away, however, proved to be a blessing in disguise. It gave me a much-needed sense of perspective and left me feeling refreshed. After recovering from my injury, I auditioned again – and finally landed that coveted spot in Moses’ troupe.

My story is not unique. In the world of musical theater, getting told “no” time and time again is often the norm. “These days auditioning two, three, four or more times isn’t an anomaly – it’s often the norm,” explains Houston-based musical theater dancer Courtney Chilton. “In this industry, you get told no all the time, so auditioning is your job.”

Depending on the specific corner of the dance scene you inhabit, you might actually spend more time auditioning than you do on actual contracts. Learning how to weather the emotional storm that often accompanies repeated rejection is a challenge, to be sure. But doing so can ultimately lead to those fulfilling opportunities you’ve been dreaming of.

Shift Your Mindset and Embrace the Grind

Consider the story of Ashley Kasunich Fritz, a Radio City Rockette. She auditioned a total of six times for the Rockettes before finally getting accepted in 2011. Now in her 13th season, she says that six auditions isn’t actually that uncommon in the Rockette world these days.

“The choreography is so specific, and there’s not a ton of rehearsal time, so you need to be able to match other people right away,” she explains. “It’s the nature of the beast.”

Courtney Chilton, a cast member and dance captain for regional and touring productions like South Pacific, Mary Poppins, and Elf, has faced similar odds. She remembers periods when she would book about one in 50 auditions. “And that was pretty good,” she says.

In musical theater, where a casting director may see hundreds of dancers for a single part, the competition is especially fierce. Knowing that going in can help temper the frustration and disappointment when you find yourself auditioning repeatedly.

“Though it’s important to be as prepared as possible for any audition, recognize that there will be many variables directors are considering as they make selections – some of which are unrelated to your dancing,” Chilton advises. “A casting director may need something or someone hyper-specific at a particular moment. That doesn’t mean you aren’t right for the company or show – it just might not be your time.”

Embracing the Power of Persistence

Despite the prior rejection, being a returning auditionee has its perks. There’s the familiarity with the company or show’s people, process, and choreographic style. The accompanying confidence that comes with that familiarity. And the opportunity to demonstrate your tenacity and dedication by coming back.

Both Chilton and Julie Branam, director of the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, agree that in most scenarios, directors look favorably on returnees.

“You’re building familiarity and building relationships,” says Chilton. Branam concurs, “I love seeing dancers come back. I love to see when a dancer has really worked and is improving and is getting it.”

Kasunich Fritz remembers getting cut in the first round at her first Rockettes audition, but making it further and further through the process each time – a trajectory that helped boost her confidence. “The director could see where I started and where I progressed to,” she says. “Going through the process multiple times, they really get to know you.”

Additionally, getting face time with current company members and fellow auditionees can help demonstrate how well you work with others. It can also provide you with much-needed social support as you navigate the audition process.

“I saw other dancers who had auditioned multiple times as well,” Kasunich Fritz recalls. “You start to build a community. Since the dance world is small, it creates friendship and camaraderie.”

Weathering the Emotional Storm

It’s natural to feel disappointed when you get that dreaded “no.” But remember, one rejection does not determine your worth as an artist or your future in the dance field.

“Acknowledge your feelings and figure out self-care strategies that work for you,” Chilton advises. “The people in your support network – from friends and family members to fellow dancers – can be powerful boosters as you get back on the horse, offering a sense of perspective and affirming your talent and worth.”

Find your people. Find your friends. “Find someone who is going to go get a cookie with you after the audition,” Chilton suggests.

In the end, stay focused on what drove you to audition in the first place. “If you give up right away, you’re only hurting yourself,” Martins says. “It pays off to keep on going back, especially when it’s a company you feel connected to.”

Applying the Lessons Learned

When you’re auditioning for a company, show, or program for the second, third, fourth, or fifth time, applying the lessons learned from your previous rejections is key.

Here are three tips for setting yourself up for success as you audition again:

  1. Reflect and Refine: Take some time to honestly assess your previous auditions. What went well? What could you have done better? Use those insights to refine your preparation and presentation.

  2. Embrace Feedback: If you’ve received any feedback from the directors or choreographers, take it to heart. Use it to identify areas for improvement and showcase your adaptability.

  3. Project Confidence: With each subsequent audition, you’ll gain valuable experience and a deeper understanding of the process. Lean into that confidence, and let it shine through in your performance.

Remember, the dance world is small, and being professional in your approach can go a long way. Stay focused, stay resilient, and keep putting yourself out there. Those dream roles and companies just might be waiting for you, just around the corner.

Rehearsal Readiness: A Key to Audition Success

Of course, nailing the audition is only half the battle. Once you’ve secured that coveted callback or spot, you’ll need to be fully prepared for the rehearsal process.

Being able to pick up choreography quickly, retain notes, and collaborate effectively with your castmates are all essential skills. Approach each rehearsal with the same dedication and enthusiasm you brought to the audition room. Stay focused, be responsive to feedback, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Ultimately, the journey to musical theater success is a rollercoaster of highs and lows, triumphs and rejections. But with the right mindset, a healthy support system, and a relentless commitment to your craft, you can navigate those ups and downs and emerge victorious. So, keep auditioning, keep learning, and keep believing in yourself. Your moment is coming.

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