Category Archives: New actor



Why Hate Art?

Admit it – you hate Art. You’re an American, right? Then, you must hate Art. Even if you, yourself, are an artist like me, there’s something about it that bugs you, isn’t there? The evidence is clear: American people don’t like Art.

Just look at the “Populous President, number 45 – as soon as he gets into office, what is one of the first things he tries to do? Right: eliminate the NEA. (National Endowment for the Arts) Was that because it’s a big expensive program and a major drain on the budget that he is trying to balance? Well, no, it’s actually the opposite.

The NEA’s budget is a fraction of a percent to the country’s total, and could easily be covered by a few less trips to Mar-A-Lago, or the First Lady living in the White House for a week. So, it couldn’t be that.

So, why cut the NEA? We are left to conclude that #45, the People’s President, just doesn’t like it. And he knows the American people don’t like it either. (Though he did buy a painting at a charity auction once, but of course he did not pay for it himself. He used the funds he’d collected from others, to go to charity. And the painting was a portrait of himself, so it was a good marketing investment.)

Before we look further at why, let’s look at this specific case of the NEA. This agency give annual grants to major arts organizations, like the Kennedy Center. Perhaps your only interest is in your local community theater, an after-school drawing program, or your kid’s marching band. You’ve never even been to the Kennedy Center.

Your interests are small potatoes and not on the NEA radar. But wait, the NEA does fund other organizations, like the Southern Arts Federation and state arts councils around the country. They do disperse small grants to small programs in local areas. But why else should you care about the NEA?
Well, those big Arts organizations, like Kennedy Center, rely on those grants. When deprived of the NEA grants, try to make up their budgets by going after the other foundations, corporate sponsorships, and donors that were the small programs relied on. Suddenly, the marching band get “Sorry, nothing left this year.’ from a foundation that supported them for 20 years. The kids are forced to turn in their tubas.

So, again, why do we hate Art? I’ve boiled it down to 3 major topics:

  1. It looks like fun. (People shouldn’t be paid to have fun.)
  2. Anybody can do it, can’t they? (I did lot’s of drawings in kindergarten.)
  3. It’s a luxury, not a necessity. (You can’t eat a symphony.)

Okay, discuss.

(Yeah, I really am going to leave it like that for now. A lot more can be said about these three points, both for and against, and I hope to say some of it in future posts, but for now, I want to hear what you have to say. AND YES I AM THANKFUL THAT THIS BILL WAS EVENTUALLY VOTED DOWN, BUT THE FACT THAT IT WAS EVEN UP FOR DISCUSSION IS A SYMPTOM OF A BIGGER PROBLEM.)

Mary McGinley is a theatre artist. She creates and directs plays. She also teaches acting and coaches actors in acting, Shakespeare and auditioning. (Which is how she got the nickname of Audition Physician.) She spent a large portion of her career on trying to sell Shakespeare to people who just don’t like Shakespeare. We think that left her bitter. She is currently organizing an Agit-Prop Theatre group to perform at protests in the NJ/NYC area. If you are interested in joining, contact her.

Learn more about the NEA here:
Check out the next Blog March blog, by Celia Tan, here:



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Your First Audition (Part II)

This blog is a continuation of the topic brought up by a new actor’s question: “What should I expect at an audition?  How should I prepare?

We all have to start somewhere, right?  And many of us started our acting experience by working on plays in school or community theater.  I did theater is college and community theater before grad school and moving out into the professional world.  So, I know what it is like.  In the first part of this article I talked about musical auditions.  Now I will talk about straight plays.

Please note that in my blogs I refer to actors who audition as “auditionees” and directors, casting directors or producers who hold auditions as “auditioners.”

If it is a non-musical play, they may have asked for a prepared monologue.  The auditioners should state this in their announcement.  If you are preparing a monologue to audition with, don’t leave it till the night before to work on.  In your nerves, you will forget it.  Bring a copy of it with you, in case you need to refer to it.  Have it handy, but do not have it in you hand as you perform.  That will make the director think that you can’t learn lines.  As far as what monologue to pick, I will discuss that in another blog entry.

If the notice does audition note does not state that they want a monologue, chances are they will have people read from the script for the audition.  This is called a “cold reading.” If possible, try to read the play beforehand so you have an idea of the story and characters.  If it is a published play, it might be in your local library or you might get information about it online.  The auditioners will give you a page or two from the script.  This is called a “side.”  Try to get there early so you can get familiar with “the side.”  Don’t worry, you will not be expected to memorize it.  You will be expected to understand it to a certain extent.  If you don’t, it’s okay to ask questions.

Now, on to what to expect. When you first arrive, look for a desk where people are being signed up on a list.  The assistant signing people up may be able to answer questions about the play, if he’s not too busy.  Ask him where you should wait until it’s your turn, then find a quiet corner to study the script.  Make sure you can still hear when your name is called. Expect to be there a long time.  Try not to have other appointments scheduled causing you to make time demands to the assistant.  You will come off as a diva.

Now, we come to a big difference between professional and community/college theater.  In professional theater you wait in one room and audition in another.  You audition one at a time, or possibly in pairs.  You don’t see what the other auditionees did.

However, in many college and community theaters they have one auditorium and they make everybody sit in it.  I suppose they do this for convenience sake, but it is a terrible idea.  Everyone auditioning is nervous.  To sit and watch other people doing the same thing as you are about to do only serves to make each person twice as nervous.  Plus, then the actors start copying each other, which only serves stifle their own instincts.

Let me take a moment now to plead to directors of college and community theaters to stop this practice.  It hinders the casting process instead of helping.  Actors, if you find yourself in this situation I suggest the following.  Nicely explain to the stage-manager or assistant that you have a cold and don’t want to be rude by coughing in someone else’s audition, so you will wait on the other side of the door.  Make sure he has your name so he will know to come and get you when it is you turn.

Once it is your turn, be ready and willing to do whatever is asked of you.  If they ask you to do it again, but differently, don’t be discouraged.  This does not mean that you were wrong the first time.  I could just mean that the director wants to see a different side of you or if you can take direction.  And if she asks you to do something wacky like kick off your shoes or crawl on the floor, do it.  She may be testing your willingness to be part of the team

After you are done and been told you can leave, (they may just say “Thank you, next”) you can hang in the back of the auditorium to watch others audition.  That can be a very informative experience.  If, however, other auditionees are not waiting in the auditorium, then you must leave.  Whatever you do, do not wait around, hoping to get some feedback from the director.  It will mark you as an insecure beginner.  It might just lose you the part.

I’ll have more on these topics in future blog entries and my upcoming ebook “The Zen of Auditioning.”  Watch for them.

Break a leg!

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Your First Audition (Part I)

This is the first part of an article for the first-time auditioner.

As I was organizing material for this blog, I came across a question from a young person who asked: “What should I expect at an audition?  How should I prepare?”

That made me realize that my blogs so far might be ahead of some of my readers, so let me take a step back and focus on advice for someone who has never auditioned before.  We all have to start somewhere, right?  And many of us started our acting experience by working on plays in school or community theater.

So, even though it’s been many years since I worked in those venues, I will try to remember the set up.  I can give you some idea of what to expect.  Also, I hope to give you some tips on how to prepare.

In general, dress nicely, like you would for church or a business interview.  You may think you want to look cool and nonchalant by wearing grungy clothes.  But that just tells the auditor that you don’t have respect for the audition.  Don’t worry about dressing “in character” but dress appropriately for the style of play.  (No low cut dresses for children’s theater, please!).

Look over the announcement for the auditions.  It should tell you what to prepare.  For a musical you will need to sing and dance.  This means that you should have sheet music for 2 songs that you are prepared to sing.  Pick show songs (not Pop songs) that show your voice off well.  It’s best if you have gone over them with your voice coach so that you know they are in the right key for you and are used to the accompaniment.  (Don’t expect the accompanist to transpose it for you!)

One song should be slow (a ballad) and the other should be something fast (“up tempo”).  Decide which one you can sing the best and bring the second in case they ask for something else.  As you progress as an actor you will develop a repertoire of songs to use at auditions.

Chances are that there will be a big crowd of hopefuls at the audition. The auditors may not have time to hear both songs; perhaps not even one whole song.  So, you can be prepared for that by picking out the best 16-measure section of your song that really shows off your voice and range.  Mark it clearly for the accompanist.  Be prepared to just sing those 16 bars.  BTW, the theater company should provide an accompanist, you don’t need to bring one.

For the dancing section of the audition, there will be a choreographer there who will teach groups of people a short routine.  After you’ve had some time to learn it and practice it, they will probably have you do the whole routine in a group.  Later they may ask you to do it individually.  Make sure you wear clothes you can move in that are not too baggy.  You want to look nice.  It’s okay to bring a change of clothes and shoes with you.

Well, that’s all for today.  In my next blog I will talk about what to expect at the audition and auditioning for straight (non-musical) plays.

Break a leg!

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