by Paul Russell
Is There Overused Audition Material?
“You can’t do that scene, everyone does it.”
“Never sing that song in an audition, it’s done to death.”
“Everyone and their mother murders that monologue.”
How many times have you heard the above or similar about audition material? Spoken by actors who say ‘they’re in the know’; or blathered by academics who haven’t attended a professional audition since being tenured when Cats was a West End curiosity; or whined from cranky casting zombies bitter for having to beg actors audition for no-to-low paying gigs?
There is no such thing as ‘overdone.’ A repeated monologue, scene, or song is either done well by an actor or mangled with injustice by a presenter.
Actress Laura Gurry contacted me and two of my casting director colleagues, Scott Bradley and Michael Cassara, in seeking advice on the too-oft-asked-question-by-worrisome-actors, “Is it overdone?”
Gurry, Bradley, and Cassara generously permitted me to share with you our Facebook exchange:
There was a reason I’d rarely heard “Unbridled Passion” if at all…
Oooh… auditors at the combines, say no more:
Cassara’s succinct answer shows how simple the answer is to this overwrought question.
The above, and the following excerpt from ACTING: Make It Your Business applies to any audition material be it monologue, scene or interpretive sock puppet soliloquy. Understood? Good.
“…The unwritten law prohibiting use of “overused songs” in auditions is bull. The b.s. comes from auditors and academics who are lazy listeners. I have no problem hearing countless renditions of “Corner of the Sky” from Pippin and “Anthem” from Chess. If an “overused song” is presented well, I’m a happy casting director. Reach for that money note beyond your range in “Anthem” with a screech and you’re history.
…A person’s ability to sing a song well, with great skill, should be the barometer for talent, rather than the number of times the song has been heard.
If you sing and interpret a song well, do it. But don’t become hooked on a couple of songs at which you know you kick ass. Having a songbook that covers all genres of music is key to versatility. Variety is welcomed and necessary.”
And finally: don’t let newbie-while-jaded casting personnel or ‘in-the-know’ actors stop you from doing what you do well. Go ahead and belt “Defying Gravity” from Wicked; as long as you don’t land it with an earth shuddering thud.
Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher, and former actor has spanned thirty years. He’s worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul’s taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU, and speaks at universities including Elon, Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.