What does it mean to raise your standards?
It means to go above and beyond. I see many performers yearn to work for theaters and pursue a career in performing, but they can’t even get a callback. After teaching many singers who are in the business, or trying to be in the business, I notice that they struggle with being taken seriously. From what I observed and experienced myself, you aren’t being respected or valued because you can't demonstrate proficiency in your skills. As a retired professional performer, I want to share my experience and then I’ll discuss some ways for you to get through your performing career without feeling awful.
Now, this is for the performer who is done with working at low-level theater places. This is for the performer who want to walk into the audition room, and everyone knows to respect them right away. This is for the performer who is done being around mediocre cast members who don’t take care of themselves and always complain about everything. This is for the performer who is ready to be working at a place that is worth their time. If you want to be seen, you need to show up and show them what you can do, not what you can kind of do. You’ll be ignored and forgotten in an instant and that’s the feeling you don’t want right? It feels horrible to see your headshot and resume get pushed to the side and you know that your chance is over. Of course, there are other factors that play into casting, but at least if you raised your standards, you can walk out knowing you did the best you could do and they took you seriously, which will make you memorable.
1. Develop A Skill From Scratch
When I first started out, I had absolutely zero skills. I didn’t know how to dance, sing, or act. I didn’t know how to dress for auditions. I didn’t know how to act when waiting in the lobby. I didn’t know how to make friends because I was so nervous and afraid of being me. Why did I want to be pursue performing if I had no skills to even do it? I knew what I felt when I watched others sing on stage. Whatever they felt, I wanted that. There’s no way I was going to be seen as a professional if my skills were not top notched. Eventually I built and advanced my skills. Not only did I feel more confident at auditions, but I now have theaters call me offering roles without even auditioning.
2. How Ticket Sales Affect Casting
Be prepared for me to be blunt. If you are new to the industry, they don’t care who you are. They already know who they are going to cast and how they are going to cast. We like to believe that everyone gets an equal chance at a part, but it’s not how it works if ticket sales are more important than giving out opportunities. It makes sense. In order for a theater or a place to thrive and stay afloat, they need to cast people who have more reputation to bring in the ticket sales, and that is how they pay their performers in return. It makes sense! However, I want to tell you that you can book a show without needing to be some celebrity or someone with a bunch of social media followers. It is possible, but it does require effort on your part.
3. How Your Skills Will Book the Show
Instead of developing your skills at the bare minimum, which I see a lot of performers do and they think they are ready to be seen as a pro, how about you raise the bar for yourself and actually excel in your skills? Why not go above and beyond and be the best at it so that when you go into an audition they can say “oh, it’s so-and-so. They are good at this, this, and this?” By being knowledgeable and proficient at your skills, you can audition more freely with more enthusiasm instead of worrying about your technique. Trust your technique, but it can only happen if you work at it.
I worked hard at becoming great at singing, dancing, and acting. I didn’t just learn how to do the skills, I dedicated a set number of hours to practicing and training so that I can be excellent at all the skills. One time, I was auditioning for a regional theater, and they asked me “how do you rate your dancing, 1 being low and 5 being amazing.” Without hesitating, I said, “I’m a 5.” Although I secretly panicked inside, I knew I had to show them that I was a 5 at the dance call or I would’ve felt like a fake. Sure enough, I booked the show. Again, I am not some famous person, and I didn’t have social media either where they can look me up and see if I could bring in ticket sales for them. Also, it’s not because I “showed off.” What they saw was that I was going to be a good addition to their team, because I was honest with my abilities, I meant it, and I demonstrated that I can carry my weight when rehearsals came.
Here's the thing. You’re not getting a callback because you’re not excellent at your skill that you claim to be good at on your resume. There are so many “good” people out there, so what makes you stand out? A lot of people will say that if you just put a lot of character into it, it’ll hide the level of your skill. That’s basically lying. You don’t want to pretend to be good at something. You need to show what you can do and do it well so that if you are hired you can keep up with rehearsals and be able to perform at peak level during performances. That is why I am telling you to level up your skills so that you own the space when it is your turn to show them what you can do. The reason why you aren’t taken seriously is because you don’t take yourself seriously. Why should they? You can’t even commit to your trainings, and it shows when you try to execute them. It costs way too much money to put on a show and then hire someone who doesn’t live up to their standards. If you want to work at the professional level, you must be training as a professional. Yes, be you and be authentic, but also be exceptional at what you say you can do.
4. Strengthen What You Lack
I encourage you to strengthen the skills you are lacking. I urge you to think about some skills you need to elevate and become proficient at so that when you go to audition, you come in like you can take on any challenge that comes your way. They want you to harmonize in 30 seconds? You can do it. They want you to sing a solo by yourself in front of others? You can do it. They want you to dance the combo again for the 5th time full out? You can do it. That’s what I want you to feel when you go to audition. It’s a great feeling! Understand that it is not about being arrogant or being overly confident. That’s annoying and that won’t get you anywhere either. It’s about being honest with your skill set. It’s about showing what you can do to help them put on the best show they can for an audience that wants to come and be immersed to escape reality. If you can confirm through your actions that you can be part of the team with your skills, you will book it.
5. Adjust Your Focus and Priorities
My approach to booking shows is through my own experience. I developed my skills from scratch to eventually be seen as a serious performer. You can get there too. You want to be the person they call, because they know that you are dependable and reliable. You just need to prioritize your focus on the right things at the moment. Maybe take a break from auditioning everywhere and work on your singing or dancing. Maybe take specific private lessons to hone your skills and polish up any kinks so that you are always ready at a moment’s notice. That’s part of making performing your career.
6. Succeed At Your Next Audition
I hope you do book the next show and that you feel great after an audition. In between shows, you should be training and practicing, building your muscles and establishing endurance. I hate hearing how performers feel ignored by casting or they are not respected by the theater. It’s definitely a mood killer. Don’t let it destroy your passion. You can take control of this. You can command respect by just proving to them how good you really are.
7. Get Training and Coaching
If you ever want more in-depth training with step-by-step guidance, you can always book a private coaching and we can discuss a plan on how to level up your skills and have theaters look at you more seriously.