Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Unified Professional Theatre Auditions--Or the best weekend ever

 I did it. I flew across the country after months of planning, arrived in Memphis, TN for the first time ever, and successfully (and within the allotted time limit) completed my first UPTA audition.

I've heard a lot about the UPTAs over the years. Especially when I was in school, it was lauded as one of the best auditions to go to, over the NETC or SETC. Originally I believed that was because it was much closer to my midwest college, but after much research I learned it was because of many other factors.

I never did attend any regional auditions in college. I had plans to move to a market and build a resume. And I, truthfully, probably didn't trust my audition 'package' to get me anywhere. Now, a few years later I can say that waiting paid off. Here's what I learned from my UPTA audition:

1. The UPTAs are the most highly attended, and most difficult to get into of the larger regional theatre auditions. They also boast that they are the largest regional theatre audition in the country, with the most companies attending to offer paid year round work.

2. The reason it is the 'hardest' to get into is because of their new policy for 'qualifying'. If I had gone when in school, I would have needed an instructor approval and would have been on my merry way. Now, there's a highly selective screening process for pre-professionals, which (luckily for me) gives first dibs on attending to Equity and EMC candidates. Though, there were a ton of soon to be graduates there!

3. It pays to be a singer. But we all already knew that. For those of us that aren't singers (or as is the case with many of us, choose not to be interested in performing musical theatre though we may have the capability) there is much less opportunity for you here. Out of the 85 companies attending UPTAs this year, 30 were also casting non-singers. There was ONE group of non-singers on my day of auditions, and when I got on stage to audition there were approximately 15 auditors left in the audience. Though 30 companies had signed on to watch us, many of them either did not stay for my afternoon, or had called back so many singers who can act that they didn't feel the need to stay and watch us--actors who don't sing.

Beale Street
4. If you aren't a singer, most people don't care that you do Shakespeare. And they don't want you to do Shakespeare. (For the record, I didn't do Shakespeare, I chose a Restoration Comedy. Though I did whip out a Shakespeare monologue for a callback--always know multiple pieces! But I digress.) The majority of the companies staying for the non-singers were for touring children's theatre. Yes, I love children and doing theatre for them. Yes, I would prefer my resume read credits that don't all come from a beloved child's bedtime story book. However, there happen to be some really cool children's theatre companies out there doing great works of literature, or who choose to do children's theatre on a more sophisticated level. Basically--

5. I learned a lot about the different styles of children's theatre. Any profitable, long running theatre company has an educational component. Meaning--everyone does children's theatre. And most of all--it's important to do children's theatre. Because, let's face it, we can't be in this business just for ourselves, and if you are then at least think about your future in this business. There won't be one if we can't help the little tikes see how important it is to support our art. They're going to be making money some day, you know? Also, it's just a great communication and coping tool. I could write endlessly about why I think theatre for young audiences is important though.

6. But I also learned about some awesome companies that are interested in hiring me for not just children's theatre. Which is what I really wanted to happen at these auditions. The best of both worlds. I'm just so happy and excited about this.

7. Yes it does suck when the Texas Shakespeare Festival stays for every group but mine.

8. This is perhaps the most important lesson: your resume is just as important as your audition. Yes there were so many college kids attending. Yes, they do get called back. But regardless of how great your audition is--what you've done so far, how experienced you are in certain areas is what makes companies look at you seriously. I have Shakespeare, I have Sarah Ruhl, I have classical literature adaptations, new works, fringe festivals, and experience as a teaching artist. This experience above all else, is, I think, what resulted in a lot of my callbacks. But I like to think it was my audition...

9. I am young in the world of theatre. My resume is longer than some, shorter than others. I have known credits, and unknown credits. But what I do know is that I know people from very few places. I need to make more connections out in the theatre world to continue to work the way I want to--which is outside of one market. I want to travel, and I want to see what theatre is like everywhere. I want to know how different companies run their business, and what it's like to work on a beach as opposed to in a barn. I want to see what builds successful relationships with a community and most importantly I want to learn how to replicate all those things when the time comes.
Best BBQ I've had outside of Texas!

10. These auditions made me look at my market in a new light. I was able to compare my pay scale here to the pay scale that other companies were offering me. It's interesting how much people think your time and your work is worth. And far more interesting how much you think your time and your work is worth. And there's the other side of that coin which is just about how much they can afford to pay you and other actors on their business model.

11. I recommend the UPTAs to anybody looking to do contract based work, who wants to build their resume, or who is tired of living in one place. Hey, most everybody offers free housing! It definitely makes you look at the world of theatre differently.

If you have any questions about the UPTAs, my experience with them, or want to share how you felt about your own experience there, please leave a comment below!

And enjoy some sight-seeing pictures!

I found this written on an old building on the same street where Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.

National Civil Rights Museum

Rosa Parks

No comments:

Post a Comment