Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Audition Process by Jonathan Argue

I bet you are wondering just how we do audition people… Auditioning new members for an improv company is different than auditioning people for a play, for example. In the case of a play, the characteristics of the people you are looking for is pretty much set by the script itself, and the person who is directing the piece.
Male, female, young, middle aged
Does the cast look “good” together?
Do the brother and sister characters “look” like they are related? (If they are supposed to be)
…and the list goes on.

At the end of the run, you generally don’t have any obligation to continue working with your cast… which could be a godsend if any personality / philosophy differences developed during the run.
For the purposes of an improv company, specifically the Impromaniacs, we audition with a long term perspective in mind.

Well, in improv, as in life, there are no “pre-set” scripts – we have to learn to work together (almost to the point of reading each other’s thoughts) in order to tell a coherent story.
This level of team takes time and dedication to develop, and generally requires a high degree of trust between members of the team.
Yes, to the Impromaniacs, trust in each other is paramount.
Now, I’m not saying that we need to be BFFs, but at least we need to be able to work together without driving each other crazy all the time.
Sound like a cult? A clique? A club?
Well, no, we’re not. Although it might seem that the needs of the group outweigh the needs of the individual members, we do strive to meet halfway.
But I digress.

Back to the audition process itself.

It’s a multistep process that starts out with the initial audition. We invite people to join us for just under a 2 hour workshop. We brief people on the philosophy of the company and let them know the things we are looking for – which are primarily the ability to function as part of a team.
We also let people know that callbacks are based on a unanimous vote. That’s right; every member present for the audition has to agree to callback an auditioner. They are given the opportunity to voice any concerns they may have regarding an auditioner and discuss with the Impromaniacs members present (this, by the way, takes place after the auditioners have left). It is essential that everyone that is invited back for callbacks does not make any of the members feel uncomfortable or unsafe. We may be “iffy” on some callbacks, in which case the Performance Director(s) ask for issues to watch for with auditioners and to see if the issues are resolved (with coaching) over the next three workshops.
“Next three?” you ask. Yes, the auditioners we decide to callback, are invited to return for the next three workshops. Not only is it a chance for Impromaniacs members to get to know them better, and perhaps more importantly, it’s a chance for auditioners to get to know the Impromaniacs. Can they fit us into their schedule? Do they like improv? Do they like the Impromaniacs?
After all, we’re not about to force people to stay. If a member is generally not enjoying their time with us, then maybe it’s time to move on.

At the end of the three workshops, again the Impromaniacs decide through unanimous vote who is offered membership. At that point it’s up to a combination of the Managing Director and Performance Director(s) to contact each of the auditioners and advise them of the result.
Overall, I am told the process is a stressful one to go through… but beyond trying to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for the auditioner, I am not sure it should be changed.
On the other hand, I never had to experience it for myself as I designed it in the first place.

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