Singing Performance: Exploring Story and Physicality Part 1

If I’ve heard this once I’ve heard it a thousand times. I’ve said it myself and I don’t think there’s a singer out there who hasn’t. What’s with this odd and disturbing phenomenon?

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Rehearsal Technique for Theatre Auditions: Bringing Your Work To Life – Part 2

“It takes two to speak the truth: one to speak, and another to hear.” – Henry David Thoreau

Pam Berlin and Billy Carden work with and direct some of the greatest theatre actors of our generation. They share many insightful observations about the theatre auditions and the rehearsal process in the accompanying video to this text. In Part 2, several compelling ideas were discussed.

As a theatre director, I find it necessary to be obsessed with a character’s intention during the rehearsal process. “I want” is the fundamental building block of story. It creates conflict and dramatic interest. When actors are not specific about what they want, when they don’t play ‘I want’ with urgency and high stakes, the work is dull and vague.

However, intention isn’t played in a vacuum. Actors that play tactics to get what they want, but are oblivious to how the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of their tactics are received are missing the vital connecting point that allows live theatre to be a powerfully transformative art form. It is in the exchange between actors – acting and reacting, speaking and listening, that the living connection to the present is forged. Uta Hagen said, “the work you do is directly proportional to the quality of your listening.”

The wonderful meditation, mystery, conundrum, and perhaps rarely achievable goal of the actor is to fully occupy both doing and being; acting and listening. Having the discipline to return to the touchstone of given circumstances and being very specific about place can create a grounding in action that makes the “I want” inevitable. This attentiveness to given circumstances and place can create a fertile place for the dance between doing and being to flourish. It is the hallmark of great acting and truly live theatre.

Hosts Tell All, Part 1

In this first part of “Hosts Tell All” I had a chance to sit down with Jeannie Mai, Brian Corsetti and Lance Smith, three hosts that I greatly admire. I had the pleasure of meeting Jeannie several years ago when I was casting for E! and Style. Jeannie recently told me she was living up in the Bay Area, yet drove down to LA whenever we called her in for an audition – which back then, was often. Who knew she ever drove so far… yet she always bounced into the room, full of personality and positivity. Her personality was infectious. I completely understand why Jeannie is so successful today. Read more

The Callback

The most important thing for an actor to remember in a “callback” is to be consistent. The Casting Director “called you back” after your pre-read audition, because they liked what you did in the room with them. All too often, an actor will get excited about a callback and will go home and work on it and change things. When the actor comes to the callback with all their new ideas, they are unrecognizable to the Casting Director. The actor has changed the original choices they made that got them called back in the first place. So, consistency is key.

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Rehearsal Technique for Theatre Auditions: Bringing Your Work To Life, Part 1

Tips for Theatre Auditions

Watch as Executive Director Maurice LaMee and theatre luminaries, Pam Berlin and William Carden take a careful look at the heart of theatre performance – The Process – from the rehearsal hall to the stage.

Director Pam Berlin (Faculty – Rutgers University; Endpapers (Variety Arts Theatre); Steel Magnolias (Off Broadway); To Gillian on her 37th Birthday (Circle in the Square downtown) and former President of the Stage Actors and Choreographers Union (2002 – 2008).

Artistic Director and Actor William Carden is former Artistic Director of HB Playwrights (NYC) and the current Artistic Director of the Ensemble Studio Theatre (NYC), William has also worked extensively with theatre legend Uta Hagen.

So you got the job. You’re excited to get started and you want to make a great impression. This is a particularly natural and appropriate place to want to begin a rehearsal process. This instinct to impress, however, is often contrary to the work that needs to happen in rehearsal and the preparation for that work that should take place before rehearsal.

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MTT Hosting Reels, Part Two

In my previous article, I discussed some of the do’s and don’ts of hosting reels. In my video, “Hosting Reels Part Two” found at, I show you what I think is an example of a good hosting reel in its entirety. It’s from a great host, Brian Corsetti. Brian starts off with his name and get right into a couple solid standups. Even though his standups are short – about 7 seconds long – I can immediately see that Brian has good hosting skills.  His standups also vary – he goes from riding a motorcycle while delivering his standup to donning a tux on the red carpet doing an entertainment piece. Immediately I see his range and as a Casting Director, that’s important for me to see — especially if I may only watch the first 30 seconds of a reel.

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The Pre-Read With The Casting Director

The pre-read with the Casting Director is usually held in the Casting Directors office. You are usually being “pre-read” by the Casting Director because she doesn’t know your work or has not seen you do this kind of part before. This office is often a small room and you usually see a lot of other actors waiting in the lobby. I always say the lobby of the casting office is your first line of defense. You will see all those other actors just waiting to sabotage you. You must stay mentally focused in the lobby to avoid the pitfalls of self sabotage. You see the actor across the lobby that you recognize, you notice what the other actors are wearing, and you hear the casting assistant on the phone checking the availability of a “name” actor for the part you are auditioning for. And you say to yourself…”I’m never going to get this part. That actor has a lot more experience than me!”

Make sure you stay focused in the lobby on your own choices and avoid the chit chat with other actors. Get into the mental focus of an athlete. When your name is called enter the audition room with CONFIDENCE. This is where the audition starts…from the moment you walk into the room.

Please make sure you do not enter the room in character, but in a hybrid state of being a focused actor ready to go as well as a pleasant person open to whatever the Casting Director throws your way. If chit chat happens make sure that when chatting is over, you take your 5 to 10 seconds to get back your mental focus before you start the scene. Making as much eye contact with the Casting Director or whoever is reading with you during your audition is key. I hate the word memorize, because actors who try to “memorize” the scene usually are constantly searching their heads for the right words during the audition, instead of thinking what their intention is in the scene. But, KNOW IT. Please remember, we don’t audition you to see if you can memorize lines. We audition you to see if you are at all right for the part and want an actor to come in prepared with their own unique choices. Hold the scene in your hand in a comfortable way and glance down and grab the line if needed. The best auditions are the ones when you forget the paper is in the actors hands.

The Casting Director has been hired by the Producers to find the cast for their pilot or series. They can often be hassled, under slept, and with a lot of pressure to hurry up and find the cast. So walking into the pre-read with the Casting Director can sometimes be filled with mixed signals. The Casting Director may have just gotten off the phone with the Network Casting office saying they don’t like their choices so far. The Executive Producer may have just called and said they have written all new sides and want all the actors to have the new material in the session that starts in half an hour. So understand that the Casting Director can be pulled in many different directions between the Network, Studio, Producers and Director. The actor views the Casting Director as their “gate keeper” to getting into the ballgame, I know. But know that the Casting Director can often unwittingly be their own worst enemy by falling victim to this tug of war. Hear me when I say…the Casting Director wants you to be “IT”. They want you to be the one to solve their problem. So even if you get thrown a hostile glance or they are not even looking at you, be focused and ready to go when you walk in the door.