The Audition Notebook

A few years ago, I read on a theater message board that people should have an audition book; that is, a binder where you write down (a new page for each) every show you audition for, the theater, the date, the director, the parts you read for (or sang for), the song you sang/the reading you gave, people you met at the audition, feedback, and the final result.

I keep it in a loose-leaf notebook, and I’ve found it to be pretty useful, especially for musicals in re: what songs work better than others, audition cuts, etc. If I’m cast I write the name of my character and what numbers I was in (in a musical).If I’m not cast…well, at least I auditioned! Auditioning practice is always good. It’s also useful to have names, places, etc. for when you re-audition for a company–you can refresh yourself on names, and you know what sort of reading/song to give, based on your previous experience.


Theater bookshelf: Ideas for Actors

I really shouldn’t go to Half-Price Books, because I always find something and end up spending money.

However, this book was really worth the $8 I paid for it.

Ideas for Actors, by Jon Jory, will best benefit a theater actor (musicals aren’t really covered), but all the tips and tricks are fantastic for actors of all stripes. It’s divided into several sections: Text Study, Technique, Movement in Space, Words, Strategy, Comedy, No-Nos, People Stuff, Building the Role, Veterans, States of Being, and Stations on the Line (which includes “Opening Night”, “table work”, etc. This is really helpful section!). You can read the book straight through, or use it as sort of an encyclopedia of tips. Anyone who’s interested in improving their craft would benefit from reading it.

The Angel of Music


Most actors remember that pivotal show that opened the magic of theater to them.

He’d get us center, orchestra seats for any show coming to town so as a kid I’d be watching Phantom of the Opera with my jaw to the ground. I was like ‘This is what I’ve got to do! I have to do this!’

–TJ Thyne (AKA, Hodgins on Bones)

For me, it was The Phantom of the Opera, and I imagine a lot of kids my age (20s/early 30s) feel the same way, either about this show, or Cats, or Les Miz. And for me, it started with the music.

Sierra Boggess as Christine

I don’t even remember how I got the tape. (Yes, tape, people) First, it was the highlights tape. My best friend, Anne, and I loved it so much we’d listen to it on our walkmans on the bus ride home from school. Pre-Internet, it was harder to find out show tidbits, but I bought The Complete Phantom of the Opera and devoured every detail, from the show’s inception to the libretto. Then I got the complete recording–two tapes, four sides. I learned every note of every part.  I could sing the octet “Prima Donna” in a split-personality way, alternating rapidly between prominent melodies, or just sing any one line.  I practiced it in my bedroom. I learned that the high D at the end of the song “The Phantom of the Opera” was recorded, so the actress didn’t have to sing that high every night.

The show was coming to town after my eighth grade year. Anne and I were dying to see it, but my parents and I had missed buying tickets, so we were pondering going to Toronto (where the show was playing all the time).

Then we got lucky!

The run sold out so quickly that they added more weeks. And my mom got tickets for August 14, at 8:00. In the front row.

I was dying. I was dead. I was convinced heaven could not be better. My next door neighbors had seen the show, and when I went over to baby-sit their kids, I leafed through the glorious, white-covered and red-tasseled souvenir program like it was a sacred text. Oh, Christine’s dress at the end of Act I! Oh, the final trio! I wanted to be Christine, tossed in a love triangle between the richer-than-God childhood sweetheart and the tormented musical genius (who was slightly crazy).

The Day came. I wore an emerald dress, embedded with discreet sequins, and heels. I bought my very own souvenir program. We were escorted to our seats.

“Watch out that the chandelier doesn’t fall on you,” the usher said as he seated us.

What? Fall on me?

OK, I knew the chandelier fell. But I didn’t think it would fall on me. Great. Thanks, Mr. Usher, you have ruined the first act for me, I’m now worried about being decapitated!

When the chandelier rose up at the end of the prologue, it was so close I could touch the beaded strings. And until the ballet from Il Muto, I was enchanted. Then I remembered–chandelier.

I scurried off to the bathroom, thinking I’d get out of it that way. The ushers told me to hurry back, I didn’t want to miss the chandelier! (Yes, yes I did) One of my indelible images of that performance is the female ushers, in their white shirts and black skirts, sitting on the stairs, peering through the box openings to watch the action onstage.

I made it back in time for the beginning of the Rooftop Sequence. Oh, my little 13 year old heart was taken by “All I Ask Of You”, and the Phantom’s tormented reprise from the Angel that towered above the proscenium.

And then the chandelier fell. Slowly. I have to say, I was somewhat disappointed in that–I wanted some sort of thrill to it, some sort of danger! Oh well.

I still remember the names of the leads that night. I remember being entranced by Raoul, soaking wet behind the portculis, and his shirt unbuttoned as the garrotte hung around his neck. How Meg finds the mask “and picks it up in her small hand.” How did he disappear like that?

Phantom, for me, was the beginning of my real love with musical theater.

The benefits of video and photography

(especially during the rehearsal process.)

It took me a long time to be able to watch myself on video. I use to hate how my voice sounded, so I tried to avoid re-watching the tapes of shows. But now I see them as a really vital tool, especially in the rehearsal process.

Some folks tape rehearsals, to get a sense of sound and look, and when people post these, I make sure to watch. Sometimes I see things I can fix–like strange hand movements, or jerky gestures. Or things that need tweaking–like a facial expression in a photo. Photos, especially, can demonstrate how if you drop focus for just that one moment, things look weird!

I’m getting better about listening to my voice on playback, so that’s promising. Part of it is I’ve had 29+ years to get used to how I sound on tape, and part of it is I like my voice better, because I’ve grown into it. It’s not quite so odd hearing it from a 29 year old as it is from a 12 year old. 🙂

So if you have the chance to study video/photography, GO FOR IT. Even though it can have some cringe-worthy moments, it’s great to see what the audience is seeing, and you can adjust appropriately!

“The Era of Ragtime had run out”

“…as if history were no more than a tune on a player piano. But we did not know that, then.”

The Little Boy, “Epilogue/Finale”

The Immigrant Chorus Women


And with that, ’tis done. Ragtime–and summer musical–are over for another year. Some of these people I will see between now and next summer, but most of them are summer-only folks, and seeing them is part of the summer musical tradition. The HAC show next year is Cabaret, so I’m not sure if I’ll be auditioning for it. I can sing all the major female roles (ROCK the contralto-ness, people), but I’ll have to see what else is going on. I try to do at least one musical every year, but I’m picky about them. I want to have music I can sink my teeth into, or a show that’s going to be lots of fun–preferably both, like this year. It was a LOT of hard work, but it paid off in spades when we got a standing ovation every night!

So now I’m pretty “not busy”, theater wise, until the fall. I’ll still post here, but it’ll be on more general theater/voice/music stuff, as opposed to show-specific posts. There will be stuff on voice, acting, pointers, all sorts of goodness, and probably more ragtime photos. 🙂

So, the final fan club list:

  • Chris B.
  • Andrea G.
  • Tiffany
  • Bill
  • Mom and Dad
  • Robin
  • J.R.
  • Bryan (my brother)
  • Kelly Z.
  • Matt Z. (These two are siblings, and my cousins!)
  • Sarah N.
  • Missy, Katie and Sarah

Thanks again to everyone who came out! We had more than 1,000 people see the show over three days.

Consistency is key…

And with that in mind, we turned in another great performance, to another standing ovation! Tonight’s crowd was even more enthusiastic than last night’s, which definitely keeps our juices flowing onstage. 🙂 (As does doing awesome numbers like “The Night That Goldman Spoke At Union Square.”)

And a sweet bonus: My friend Abby got engaged on stage after the show! I knew he would ask soon–they’d picked a date, booked the church, and she was reading bridal magazines, but apparently there was some snafu with the ring, so she didn’t have that yet. Well, the ring story? Total lie. 🙂 Tonight her fiance told the director (who told us), that he wanted to do it onstage after the final curtain fell. So we all knew it was coming–but she tried to leave the stage! Ha! I pulled her back and he came out with the gorgeous ring. We yelled. Loud. 🙂 It was lovely.

Ain’t love grand? 🙂

So that was tonight–the middle show of the run. And tomorrow is the last show. I am really going to miss this piece when it’s over.

Additions to the fan club:

  • my parents (well, duh. :-P)
  • JR, a friend of mine from church (he’s engaged to another friend of mine from church)

Tomorrow my brother, his girlfriend, and two of my cousins (who drove down specially from the ‘Burgh!) will be in the audience. And then we’re going out to dinner!

And, again–you have one more chance to see this show! 3:00 tomorrow! Go to church and then come see us! We will make you laugh, we (may) make you cry, but we will definitely make you cheer by the end!

Happiness is…

A Standing Ovation!!!!!

The first one I’ve EVER gotten.

I am thrilled, humbled, incredibly pleased. It’s so nice to see that sort of awesome audience reaction! We had a great crowd tonight, filled with friends, and from beginning to end, it was EPIC.It was such an amazing, enjoyable experience. Truly a thing I will remember forever–raising my head after my bow and seeing people standing in the seats, applauding. It filled me with joy!

And now, for a tradition: The Listing of Emily’s Fan Club! This is friends of mine who come to see the show! Bold print means they have seen all my shows (well, since 2008, anyway). They are dedicated. I’ll be adding to this after each night:

  • Chris B.
  • Andrea G. Thanks guys!!!
  • Rita and her daughter Hannah
  • Tiffany
  • Bill

You have TWO MORE CHANCES to catch the good stuff!


What’s in the bag

Every show, I have a show kit–aka, a duffle bag or a tote bag. This contains:

  • Shoes (if needed–sometimes the shoes are the property of the theater and stored there, but usually I”m responsible for my footwear).
  • Hose/socks (depending on costume)
  • Second pair of hose/socks
  • Hair kit, which contains bobby pins, small claw clips, hairspray, brush.
  • Make-up kit, which includes a blush palette (Bobbi Brown) so if other people need makeup (like men or kids) I have options for them. And of course my makeup brush bag!
  • Extra make-up sponges
  • Makeup remover towelettes, for wiping off makeup mistakes, street makeup, or quickly cleaning brushes.
  • Any costume pieces I am responsible for, like a shawl, if I’m not keeping it at the theater.
  • Reading material (my Nook (AKA, Jane), or paperbacks, or magazines. Or all of them.)
  • Beverages (some sort of water)
  • Throat lozenges and hard candy (in case I need a sugar hit during Act II)
  • My camera! I love to get backstage shots. 🙂
  • A toothbrush and toothpaste–you never know….

I also always keep a “vital” make-up kit in my purse, so I’m never totally without blush, mascara, brow pencil, lipstick, or powder.