This is the second half of our New York City for Dummies series. The first part was about how to move about the City, while the second focuses on auditions. If you're unfamiliar with any of these terms, the City Audition glossary might help you. Enjoy!
1. BE ON TIME!
Auditions times in New York are taken very seriously. When it comes to ECCs and EPAs, everything is run To. The. Minute. This is good if you need to be out at a particular time to get to work, but bad if you’re the actor who’s regularly late to auditions! Get to appointments and callbacks at least 20 minutes early. At EPA’s, you are required to check in (ie, hand the audition monitor your headshot and resume) ten minutes before your audition time. If you are even one minute late, you WILL be dropped from your group. Equity monitors do not play. There will always be somebody waiting for your spot if you don't make it in time, so they can't afford to be as forgiving or flexible as they are in LA or other cities.
However, if you're the person on the wait list, this is great! As a rule, if you are within the top ten on the wait list in the AM, and the top twenty in the PM, you should hang around in case a slot opens up. If you're number 25 at any time of day, you probably have some time to go get coffee. It's different in the AM and the PM because more people are likely to hang around in the morning-- they're there already, so why not-- whereas in the afternoon, people start throwing in the towel, or they've made it to other auditions, or they have to work or whatever. The wait list moves much faster after 2:00.
2. The Different Types of Wait Lists
If you make it to an Equity audition and all of the spots are taken, you can get a spot on one of three wait lists, depending on your union status. If you're union, you will go on the standby list, and as soon as someone misses, you get their spot. If you're an EMC candidate, there's another list. If there are no Equity members on the wait list, you're up next. Then there will be a third list, the non-union list. So if nobody's on the standby or the EMC list, non-union actors will get seen. That sounds depressing, but as a non-union person attending an EPA, that third list is actually your only choice. Bummer, I know, but it does work! Non-union get seen all the time! You just have to sit all day. Bring a book. Your chances increase as the day goes on... unless they close the non-union list, which they may do. (Usually that's a sign they're not actually looking for people.)
Some monitors are really good about getting people in the room. They keep a close eye on the audition and put as many people in line as they can. So you may get a spot if everyone shows up, but if the audition is moving particularly fast that day. Like, for example, if everyone actually sticks to 32 bars, or if the creatives aren't particularly chatty-- or interested, unfortunately. Yes, many equity auditions are required, which means that the creatives already have a full list of people in mind for future replacements, or they've pretty much cast their season with returning actors from past years. That's just the way it goes. That doesn't mean you shouldn't go! Nothing is guaranteed, and a good audition may get you a callback for a totally different show in a different season. Casting directors are always casting more than one project, and everyone loves a new "find."
3. Identify yourself.
Keep your Equity card and driver’s license/ID on you at all times. Different buildings require different kids of identification at the door. Gone are the days when you could just waltz into a building without showing ID. Thanks, 9/11!
4. Your Audition Book
On audition days, you need to carry a condensed version of your audition book, containing sheet music of your best audition material in non-glare protective sheets with cuts clearly marked. Lead sheets are not professional. And don't use a tablet. New York City accompanists are a finicky bunch, and most of them HATE that. To be safe, it doesn't hurt to scan everything and put it on a USB (with your headshots and resume too!) That way, if you get a last-minute audition, you’re covered. Some studios, like Pearl on 8th Avenue, have computers where you can print out your headshot, resume and any sides or music you might need/have forgotten. Otherwise, there's probably a FedEx or Staples close by.
5. Unwritten Movement Rules One and Two
When auditioning in New York City, the unspoken, never-fails rule is that if you don't have clothes to move in, you will be asked to stay and dance. Unless you live within walking distance of 34th to 54th Street-- and in fact, even if you do-- throw some dance/movement clothes in your bag. EVEN IF THEY CLAIM THAT THE MOVEMENT CALL WILL BE HELD ON A DIFFERENT DAY. (They LIE!!! Or rather... um, plans change.) Even if it’s just your jazz flats and a pair of leggings to throw on under your dress, it’s better than being stranded in a kick line with only stilettos and a skirt.
Movement rule number two: know the moves! At dance calls for long-running shows like Wicked and Chicago, learn the audition combo from a friend beforehand. Everyone else there will already know it. Be prepared to return the favor to another friend, by the way. For more on this, read our post, Your Friends Are Not Your Competition.
6. Audition Update
New York City actors have developed a marvelous method for keeping track of audition turn-out and updating each other when callbacks and offers are out for particular projects. Check out AuditionUpdate (http://www.auditionupdate.com) so you don’t show up at the Les Miz ECC at 5:30 in the morning, only to find out they’ve already cut EMC…
7. Getting Gussied Up.
A word to the wise, especially you girls. People don’t come “audition ready” to open calls in New York City. They sit and curl their hair in the hallways. They do their make-up in the waiting room mirrors. Don’t waste your time getting ready at home. If you do, New York City will use this as an excuse to mess with you. If it's summer, the air-conditioning will be out on every single car on your train. If it's winter, you will step into a particularly nasty slush puddle, or be splashed by someone else stepping into a neighboring puddle, and end up with snow/slush all over your dress. (Watch yourself stepping off curbs, by the way, when there's bad weather. It can be difficult to judge the depth of a puddle, and you can end up in mess up to your shins. Watch the natives, and do what they do. Likewise, if it has rained within the last 36 hours, keep away from the edge of the sidewalk. Have you seen the opening of Sex and the City? That could happen to you.)
8. Where to Prepare
If you need a warm-up room on the day of the audition, most studios rent out small ones for around $20/hour, and you can get them in 15 minute increments. The AEA building would be the exception to this rule, as they simply don't have that many studios. However, they do have a barre, a mirror and a sprung (wooden) floor in their waiting area. If you need to practice sides, work with a coach or accompanist, or film a video audition, check out Shetler Studios or Ripley Grier for cheap and easy rooms to rent with or without pianos. You can also go to Actors Connection to get an audition filmed "professionally," although I much prefer the boutique setting of Calloway Productions on the Upper East Side. Kelly Klein gives terrific feedback, and she's had a lot of success with actors getting callbacks and booking from her "self-tapes."
9. Wait a Minute, Where Am I Going?
Fortunately, most audition studios are "on the grid," meaning between Houston and 59th Streets on easily navigable, numbered avenues. (In Manhattan, the streets run east/west, while the avenues run north/south.) When typing an address into Google, make sure to indicate East or West if it's on a street. If the building is on an avenue, you won't need to worry about east or west, but know that 6th Avenue and Avenue of the Americas are the SAME STREET. Most musical theatre auditions are held on the west side, which in NYC parlance means west of 5th Avenue. Broadway will be also be west of 5th Avenue, for your intents and purposes. The N, R, Q, A, C, E, and 1 trains will all put you in walking distance of where you need to be for auditions. Therefore, if you're looking for a sublet, try to find something on one of those train lines. However, most of those trains intersect others, so it shouldn't be a deal-breaker if you find something on, say, the L or the 7. (The J or the Z, though, forget it.)
For quick and easy reference, print out our audition studio cheat sheet! You can keep this in your wallet until you don't need it anymore. Happy auditioning! Let us know if there's anything we haven't covered. We're happy to create a part three!