To many Yalies, the beginning of a new school year means reuniting with old friends and making new awkward acquaintances, move-in day and shopping period, going on FOOT and not going on FOOT and being totally OK with it. But to some, it means just one thing — another Dramat Fall Mainstage Musical. The auditions for this autumnal spectacular are always well-attended, thanks to the allure of the big budget, the professional director and the considerable on-campus clout. Check the Dramat archives for the audition sign-up sheet from 2008’s “The Full Monty” and you may see the scrawled name of one, then baby-faced writer/actor/singer/singer/songwriter/interpretive dancer. (I didn’t make it past callbacks, even though I insisted it was just too cold in the audition room.) But never in recent memory has there been so much buzz about an upcoming musical since the Dramat announced last spring that its fall mainstage would be RENT, a show so important I would have used caps lock to write the name even if it weren’t written like that on the poster. So if you’re planning on swinging for the Dramat fences this audition season, here are a few tips to consider before throwing your theatrical hat into the ring.
Do Your Research
It’s a good idea to be as prepared as possible. Read the whole script. Listen to the soundtrack. Watch the movie. Listen to the movie soundtrack. Did you know Rent was based on an opera? In French? Look it up. Read about New York. Read about the early ’90s. Read the real estate section of your local newspaper. And maybe most importantly, do some background on the director, young and restless Mike Donahue. Walk in and tell him how you really enjoyed “The Animals,” his staging of an electropop album at Club Oberon and you’ll already have a leg up on the competition. Obviously, lie whenever necessary.
Show ’em Your Pipes
Picking the right song can make or break an audition. So rather than giving yourself undue stress at an already stressful time, why not just get to the heart of the matter? The music in RENT is all about belting, right? My advice is don’t pick a song; pick a note. Avoid the hassle of memorizing lyrics and photocopying sheet music, find your best tone and sustain that bad boy for 16 bars. Remember, the higher, the better. If your voice cracks, it just shows you got heart.
Open the Flood Gates
A lot of acting coaches will say not to cry during auditions, as a note of caution. Well I say in this case, throw caution to the tearful wind. RENT is an emotional rollercoaster, so your best bet is to show the people behind that long table that you are a sensitive and emotionally raw performer. Come in with water in your eyes and don’t stop until you feel weak from dehydration. That’s when you’ll know you’ve got them right where you want them.
Start incorporating the characters’ lifestyles into your own. Fabricating your own junkie persona is a great start. Eat and sleep as little as possible to really get the look down. Maybe wear one of those headset microphones around for a few days before. Worst case, people will just think you’re an early Pundit tap. According to the character descriptions available on the Dramat website (www.dramat.org, bookmark that shit) many of the roles are noted as being “self-destructive,” “aloof,” or “self-involved and flaky.” What I take from this is that the best way to show the production team you are really committed to the show would be to show up a few hours late to your audition, or not at all. That will show them you really, really want it. Other characters are described as transvestite street percussionists, so take that as you will.
Do It Yourself
Maybe you’re a little intimidated by the sparkling slew of Dramat regulars. Maybe you get the stomach flu the day of your audition. Maybe you just don’t feel like walking to Crown Street. Still want to do RENT? You can! Just apply for a Sudler Fund and put up your own production, maybe the weekend before. Since the University Theater will be unavailable, try to reserve one of the other large spaces on campus, like Trumbull’s Nick Chapel or the Calhoun Cabaret. (Unfortunately, the Berkeley Multipurpose Room is already booked through the semester.) Or take a cue from the floating dance parties and perform every song at a different location. “La Vie Boheme” at the Women’s Table. “Out Tonight” at Toad’s. “Seasons of Love” in that creepy stairwell where they put up decorations every month behind Commons. The production value won’t be the same, sure, but you can take more theatrical risks.
Just Have Fun!
But not too much fun. And if you do get there late, you will have to put a nickle in the Tardy Jar.