Community theatre is so many wonderful things. A jumping off point for new actors, a place to meet like minded artists, a stage for theatre veterans to hone their craft, and above all of these things, a literal community and a way to bring the joys of theatre to any community. But should you audition for Community Theatre? And if so how would I go about it? Let’s talk about that. Firstly…
What is Community Theatre?
Well I can tell you what it’s not. Amateur Theatre. It can be a common misconception that community theatre is simply non professional theatre, but it is so much more than that. Community theatre is exactly what it says on the tin, a theatre for the community, by the community and made with the community in mind. And the size of these companies can range from small bands of theatre practitioners roaming from tin shed to tin shed, all the way to fully established theatre companies baked into the arts community of their local areas, with their own facilities and many times a full time crew of professional staff.
The aim of community theatres has always been to create theatre for a specific community in mind, be it to present an argument or discuss a common issue that is prevelant in that community, to invest in the social capital of that community, or to simply bring the joys of theatre and the arts itself to those who participate be it as a practitioner, or as an audience member.
Should I Audition for Community Theatre?
Well that can be a question with many variables. And they’re questions you should ask yourself before pursuing a number of creative endeavours. What is your connection to this community? Is the production something you’re keen to do? Is there a role you see yourself in? Are their artists connected to the production you’ve always wanted to work with? Can you commit the time and energy necessary to this (oftentimes) without pay? If you answered yes to any of these questions I would say: Yes! You should audition for Community Theatre. But as you embark on this project it can be a good idea to always check in with yourself and make sure these are still questions you can answer yes to, before taking the final leap.
Does Community Theatre Pay?
It can depend. Most community theatres, at least in Australia, don’t pay, unless it be to their full time staff, however this is not the rule, and there are theatres out there that will pay everyone any range of pay grades. This is an important thing to keep in mind, as I said before, before auditioning for anything, as well as community theatre. Particularly if you make the majority of your income from acting. However, with that in mind, most community theatres will be really flexible with your time, so you should still be able to work when you’re not rehearsing, just make sure you know what you’re signing up for.
How Do I Get An Audition for Community Theatre?
There’s a number of ways, and it’ll depend entirely on the audition process of the theatre, but this list should cover just about every way you can get your foot in the door.
These days, many theatre companies will place their audition notices on their FB pages, or create Instagram posts, so check out their socials and see what you can find!
A lot of community theatres will have their own websites where they’ll post updates regarding the theatre, community news as well as auditions! Every website will be different, so you’ll need to do some digging, but if that doesn’t work…
Sign up to their online mailing list! This will function like a noticeboard or a newspaper specifically tailored to this theatre company and will sometimes have audition notices.
Write them an email. Like with many theatre companies simply reaching out and asking for an audition will warrant just that. An audition, or at the very least open up a dialogue between you and the company, which will help you get in the door next time.
Pick Up The Phone
I know, I know, for phone averse Millenials and Zoomers this is a scary one, and trust me I get it, but I promise it can lead to some great things. Story time! When I first moved back home after living overseas for a few years I was gearing up to go to drama school. My singing teacher at the time told me there was a community theatre nearby which was already rehearsing, but needed more actors to fill out the ensemble. I was given the director’s phone number and mustered up the courage to call them directly. The next day I was observing a rehearsal, and the day after that I was in the cast. It was one of the most fun and rewarding experiences I’ve had in the theatre, and if I hadn’t picked up the phone I never would’ve gotten to do it! So give it a crack and see what happens.
How Do I Prepare for My Audition?
Well depending on what you’re auditioning for this will change, but most of the time for community theatre you’ll be auditioning for either a play or a musical. For a play you’ll more than likely be asked to prepare a monologue. If it’s for a classical play such as Shakespeare you should prepare a classical monologue, if it’s for something more contemporary, that’s the road you should take too. If you’re doing amore general audition and you’re able to prepare two monologues, you should definitely try to show range, such as preparing one of each!
Now for most musical auditions, you’ll be asked to prepare a monologue, a song, or both! Usually you’ll be asked to prepare a certain number of bars of your song of choice (commonly 36 bars or so on). Now just like with your audition for your play, you’ll want to aim to be in the world of the piece you’re auditioning for. If you’re auditioning for a rock opera, do something from a rock opera, if you’re auditioning for something more classical, use something more classical etc etc. You know what I mean.
There will also be times when you’’ll be asked to prepare something in particular procured by the creative team of the show.
Now here is a sort of rundown of all the things you should be doing to prepare for your audition.
Read The Play
Know the whole story that you’re telling. This will be helpful for the next tip.
Know The Context
It’s no good doing a monologue if you don’t know what the context, or ‘given circumstances’ of what you’re saying is. And it’s usually pretty apparent to the person you’re auditioning for.
Learn Your Lines
Yeah I know this one might seem pretty basic, but I would argue the first two are equally, if not more important than learning your lines for an initial audition. You’ll be surprised how often it’ll be much more important to the person auditioning you that you show them what you think of the piece you’re performing, and what your interpretation is. With that being said, still, please learn your lines.
Practice Practice Practice
Be as ready as you can be. There are a lot of folks out there who like to barely touch a piece that they’re auditioning for before the actual audition to try and keep it alive, unrehearsed and free. I will say as a caveat, yes, of course, do what works for you. But I’ve always found in the past that the more prepared I am, the more free I can be on the floor, because my mind is not busy trying to remember things and I’m able to just let go. But as always, you do you.
What Should I Do in My Audition?
Well these tips should hopefully help you out in any audition be it for film, tv, circus, cabaret or theatre of any kind but let’s take a look.
Be On Time
Be on time. Life happens, yes, but try to be on time. A good rule of thumb is 10 minutes before your call time. Not too early, but enough time to fill in a form, or warm up if that’s possible.
I know we’ve all heard this a million times, and it’s not as simple as “GET CONFIDENT”. It can get a bit old but I’d like to offer up another way of thinking about confidence on the audition room floor. Confidence in an audition is not about kicking the door in, thinking you’re the smartest person in the room, or just generally being a jerk. There’s a line between confidence, and arrogance. What confidence in the audition room is all about is confidence in your work, confidence that you are there for a reason, confidence that you may just be what they’re looking for, and confidence to be yourself. If you’ve done your homework, you’ve come prepared, and you’ve done everything you can to show up ready to go, confidence should take care of itself, because you’ve done everything you can to give your best work, and the rest is out of your control.
This one is pretty self explanatory, but when you’re in an audition you should always aim to just be yourself. The person auditioning you wants to meet you. Not a persona, not the character you’re auditioning for, just you. So much of what determines if you’re right for a role is about who you are, and what you can bring to the table. The best part about being yourself, be it in the audition room or otherwise, is that that’s the one thing that no one else will bring to the table. You’re the only person that can be you.
Again another thing that’s easier said than done. But if you know you can get a bit tense in the audition room, try to figure out why, and what you can do to alleviate that tension. Your work will be all the better.
Be open to playing! In almost every audition there will be an element of play. Which is why it’s so important to prepare. So that you can be ready to jump in, head first to whatever they throw your way.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
When I first started acting I would get so nervous in the audition room that I wouldn’t even ask for a chair. Let them know how you’d like to do the piece. Need a chair? Just ask. Would like a person to do the scene with (warm body)? Let them know. Want to start again? That’s okay too. When you’re in there, it’s your time as much as it is theirs, use it as such.
Give It Your All
Leave everything you’ve got on the floor. There is a difference to auditioning verus rehearsing versus performing, but that’s another article. That being said, try to bring everything you’ve got to the audition.
Remember Why You’re There
Knowing why you’re doing a particular project will drive your creative work. It will better help those casting to understand why you want to be there. And it’ll keep you grounded. This is particularly important when it comes to community theatre for a number of reasons. If you don’t have a drive to be doing this show, you’re probably going to have a hard time. Remember you likely won;t be getting paid, and the show is a passion project for the community it’s serving, and thus will strive if you have a passion for it too.
Forget About It
The best thing you can do after you’ve finished an audition, is to simply let it go. Constantly thinking about it and wondering what you could’ve done differently will do you know favours, and will only make you worry more, come your next audition.
So Community Theatre is not without it’s ups and downs, its valleys and troughs but performing in Community Theatre can be a fun, enriching and enlightening way for you to do what you love, hone your craft, and ultimately give back to the community. These tips should hopefully be helpful to you no matter what you’re auditioning for. If you remember these few things you should be on the right road to smashing your next audition!