Turn right at the sex shop and other audition glamour

Turn right at the sex shop

Nothing can bring one down a peg or two like an audition! Concerts? Shows? Often greeted by applause(!) and audiences to a sum of more than 5. Auditions, on the other hand, vary from small carpeted rooms in the middle of nowhere with dodgy pianos, pianists, and non existent warm-up facilities, all the way to main-stage dreams with your own dressing room, clearly outlined schedule and steward to escort you from dressing-room to stage.

I once found myself driving 6 hours to a small village in Northern Germany. The audition was for a summer season of work, and a winter tour. Multiple roles suited my voice in their programme and I was sent a time-slot, address and information as to the venue’s facilities. All seemed rather professional. What I found, upon arrival, were more than 100 singers, and at least 20 with the same time-slot. There would be no rehearsal with a pianist, and warm-up rooms were of course oversubscribed! Each singer was paying 20€ to sing. There were certainly a few others who stayed purely because they’d made so much effort getting there. Feedback had been promised, and turned out to be a horrifying ‘everyone back in to the room that sang in the last hour’ for a collective feedback session. A soprano I had bonded with, was offered a role on the spot. Alas, we found out before leaving the venue that others had also been offered the same roles in previous feedback sessions, and they weren’t looking to double cast!

With social media, it is becoming easier to suss out how serious companies are as we no longer have to rely on their websites. Since last year, I have had an agent and the level of auditions I have experienced since then, have also been, joyfully, better, and mostly at established houses. Auditions in theatres will vary in their organisation/facilities and general ambiance but there are those niche auditions we’ve all found ourselves at where none of the above exist, let alone being non-ideal.

Yesterday, I travelled for 7 hours for an audition that lasted less than 6 mins. Then travelled home for another 5. That would be a rubbish day, even if the audition went well.

Getting to the audition had even been an adventure. I have been to this town, and theatre, before but somehow took a wrong turn so I asked for directions. The answer was direct, but alas, not something I understood. I asked him to repeat and he said sex shop, I was sure. Could that be right? Was I the butt of a joke?! He is joined by a couple of friends. Joy. The direction ‘right at the sex shop’ is repeated and seems like the only directions I shall be offered. Convinced I heard wrong, I thank him and carry on up the road – completely void of shop fronts or landmarks until lo and behold; a sex shop. I turn right and what do you know, the theatre is at the end of that street. I had heard correctly, and I wager, provided some mirth for those chaps.

Reader: we had the theatre facilities for warming up but then had a 10 minute walk to the audition venue….it was too cold for snow. It sucked/I sucked/I broke one of my audition rules. They had very specific requests for repertoire, which meant I had the operetta aria of the character I was auditioning for (very character-heavy, not a beauty to sing) and a drunken song that I’ve been singing in the new year concerts. It is a perfect encore: I laugh more than I sing, but it really is not a piece of vocal prowess. Imagine the joy of such a piece in an audition. 4 stony faces. Pianist doesn’t know it. One single guffaw about 2 minutes in, and one panelist looking resolutely disgusted. The. Entire. Time.

The rule broken? Always start with a piece you want to sing. Neither piece could show off any vocal prowess or technique and I therefore couldn’t make myself believe that I wasn’t wasting all of our time by my being there. Was it the worst audition I’ve ever done? Possibly. Was it an OK audition for the role on offer? Yes, but that didn’t help me yesterday as I was so mortified.

Having sung this drunken song to big audiences, with symphony orchestra in the past weeks, I was as prepared as possible but it was still a hideous feeling. I did maintain my wish to portray the character, but there was no musical expertise to be shared :-/ not a nice feeling. Still, it’s an anecdote I shan’t forget.