A Beginner’s Guide to New York Auditions

This post is slightly off-topic from my usual posts, but I think it’s important. It is a beginner’s guide to auditions in NYC.

The actual process of auditions seems very easy, but when I started in New York I realized there are very specific audition rituals which I knew nothing about! As I see more and more of my friends move to the city and make career transitions, I realized how frustrating it can be to learn how New York auditions ACTUALLY work. (Versus how it is portrayed on t.v.) So without further ado – here is MY personal guide to auditioning. (Note everything is from my point of view and my opinions, someone else may have different ideas and experiences.)

This first order of business is – Where do I find out about auditions?

There are many ways to find out about auditions. The oldest most “tried and true” way is to go to your nearest newsstand and ask for a copy of “Backstage.” They will hand you a thin little newspaper that is published every Thursday that will list auditions fit to print as of that date.

I personally have a lot of trouble with the Backstage publication, so I opt for it’s on-line version www.backstage.com  You can also look at the Actor’s Equity websiteplaybill.com, blogstage, actors access, or use Google and search the theatre’s individual websites.

NEXT!  What are you looking for!?

There are five types of auditions: Equity Principal Calls (EPA), Equity Chorus Calls (ECC) for Singers, Equity Chorus Calls (ECC) for Dancers, Open Calls, and Submissions Calls.  I will attempt to break down the procedures for each call.

 

 

Equity Principal Call:

 

This call is for singers and actors. The breakdown on the audition notice will tell you what they are looking for with regards to songs/monologues/length. As a rule, they are required to give you at least 32 bars of a song. The general rule is to keep your audition under 2 minutes.

 

How to sign into and conquer an EPA: The monitor will arrive at the EPA 1 hour before the call begins. (When the call is held at the Actor’s Equity Building, I’ve seen the sign in begin a bit earlier. The other audition centers it will always be 1 hour.) The equity actors form a line in the order that they arrived at the audition center. When the monitor “opens the call,” 1 hour prior to the start time, each actor in line, in order, shows the monitor their paid up equity card and selects an “appointment.” ”Appointments” are 20 minute time slots which you’ll share with several other auditioners. The monitor will hand you a card with your audition time on it. Hang on to this, you will need to bring it back to the audition center at your appointment time. You need to be back at the audition center READY TO GO at least 10 minute prior to your appointment. (I’ve had monitors line me up 10 minutes before my appointment!) When the monitor has lined up the group ahead of you, they will ask for all auditioners in your time slot to sign in. (Example all those in my 3:20 group my sign in now.) You will hand the monitor your headshot with the resume stapled to it, as well as your audition card. (The card will have a few blank spots you will need to fill in, such as your name.) After all the auditioners have turned in their materials, the monitor will line you up in the order they received your headshot, tell you who is in the room and what they are looking for in terms of song choices. (This information should also be on the monitors table, if you want to double check it before you leave.) You then wait your turn. When the person before you has finished, you walk in, greet the people “behind the table,” hand the pianist your music if you have any, do your thing and sparkle like the star you are, and then leave the room. This concludes your EPA and commences you obsessive checking of auditionupdate.com

 

*Occasionally there will be more equity auditioners than there are appointment slots. In this case, equity members have the option of being on the alternate list. (Sometimes, if an auditioner needs a morning appointment, but only afternoon slots are available, they will opt to take their chances on the alternate list.) The monitor will put auditioners from the alternate list on line IF someone with an appointment doesn’t show up or if the call is running faster than expected. Sometimes the monitor can get through 100 alternates in a day, sometimes they will see zero alternates. It’s always a gamble. If you are on the alternate list but not around when your name is called, your name is skipped and you go back to the end of the alternate list. Life on the alternate list can mean a lot of waiting around hoping to hear your name called.

 

**If you are EMC (equity member candidate) you will sign your name up on the EMC list. The monitor will put EMCs on line if and equity member doesn’t show up for their appointment/if they are running ahead at the audition and there are NO equity alternates left on the alternate list.  For EMC’s you must sign up BEFORE the lunch break.  After the lunch break you will be asked to sign up on the non-equity list.

 

***If you are non-equity, you will sign up on the non equity list. (This list gets a little sketchy, sometimes non-equity members will start an unofficial list that the monitor will honor, and sometimes the monitor will throw this list out when they arrive and start a new one from scratch, and only non equity members in the room can sign up.) The monitor will put non-equity on line if and equity member doesn’t show up for their appointment/if they are running ahead at the audition and there are NO equity alternates left on the alternate list and no EMCs left on the EMC list.

 

### You may arrive at an EPA at any time and get an appointment or be on the alternate list.  As a general rule of thumb, to be guaranteed a slot, arrive no later than an hour before the call starts.  During the “season” you may have to arrive two, three, or even four hours before the call begins, sometimes before the buildings open!  I suggest investing in a nice picnic blanket for these days!

Equity Chorus Call: 

There are two types of Equity Chorus Calls – dancer and singer. The audition notice will tell you which type of call it is and what you need to bring. It would be my suggestion, however, to always bring both your music book and dance clothes/shoes to every chorus call because people are often asked to stay and dance or stay and sing, even if the notice doesn’t give warning of this.

 

Another thing to take note of is, it is required that the theatre see all actors who show up at an ECC BEFORE THE CALL BEGINS, but you may take your chances and arrive any time during the call.   However, if the call is crowded, if all the equity have been seen, or if they have started seeing non-equity at an ECC, the monitor will “close the call” to equity, and you will not be able to audition.

 

How to sign into and conquer an ECC:  For both dancer and singer the sign in process is essentially the same.  One week prior to each chorus call, sign up lists are posted in the 2nd floor lobby of the Actors Equity Building . They will remain there until the equity building closes the day before the audition.  One of the boards is for boys (the list to your right) and one is for girls (the list to your left.)  The lists on top are for singer calls and the lists on the bottom are for dancer calls.  At any point during the week you may go and sign up on the ECC lists.  Everyone just puts their name on the list in the order they arrive, so those who sign up as soon as the lists are posted get the early numbers while those who arrive last minute get the later numbers.  The day of the audition, the monitor will arrive 30 minutes prior to the call’s start time and read the names off the list.  You listen for your name, when you hear it, you show your paid up equity card to the monitor, who will give you an audition card with a number on top.  The number on the top of the card is the number indicating the order in which you will be seen.  Since lots of names on the list are repeats, and lots of people sign up but don’t show up, number 310 on the list may end up being number 7.  (That DID happen to me once!  As a result, I always try to come as ready as possible, because you never know if you will be number 7 or if everyone will show up and you’re 310.)  Now, on this card you must fill out your name, the audition you are attending, your phone number, e-mail, and write your resume in the large blank spot.  Some tech savvy auditioners get mini versions of their resumes printed on paper or stickers and staple/stick them to this card to save time.

If you did not make it to the equity building to sign up on a list, do not despair!  There is usually a group of people in the same boat as you!  You form a line in the room and after the monitor has read all the names on the equity list, he will give you audition cards in the order in which you arrived.  And you will be seen!  It is the rule that everyone showing up to an ECC must get seen, either via proper audition or the infamous “typing.”

Even if you are number 310, it is highly recommended you wait around until the call starts, because sometimes the powers that be decide to “type” at chorus calls.   There are all sorts of fun ways of typing.  They can type by headshot.  They can type by lining everyone up in a room and looking at you.  They can type singers by making everyone sing 8 bars.  They can type dancers by making them do one double pirouette – or a short across the floor combination.  You never know.  It’s a new bundle of joy in every typing.  If the do type equity – NON-EQUITY AND EMC WILL NOT BE SEEN!

Back to the happy part.

For singer calls, the monitor will line up the first group, USUALLY consisting of 20 people but it range depending on the building.  He will collect your headshots and the audition cards, separated on the perforated seem.  (When you see if you will know what I’m talking about.)  The monitor will tell you who is in the room and what they are looking for.  You will wait your turn, then enter the room, sparkle like the star you are, leave, and obsessively check audition update.com  Unless of course, they ask you stay and dance, in which case you will go get changed into you dance cloths and prepare to learn a short dance combination AFTER all of the singers have sung.

For dancer calls, the monitor will find out what kind of shoes they are asking for.  (character heels, sneakers, jazz flats, ballet flats, tap shoes, bare feet, etc…)  He will then take in the first group USUALLY consisting of between 20-30 dancers, but this number changes.  He will collect your headshots and the audition cards, separated on the perforated seem.  (When you see if you will know what I’m talking about.)  Once the first group is safely in the room, the monitor will collect the headshots and audition cards from the second group.  It is impossible to give a completely accurate “the next group will be up in about ten minutes,” but they will do their best.   Sometimes the “people behind the table” will make a cut and ask certain dancers to stay and learn more choreography.  If this is the case, the dancers will learn the additional choreography AFTER all the other dancers have auditioned.  Sometimes, dancers will be asked to stay and sing.  If this is the case, you will wait around and sing AFTER all of the other dancers have auditioned.  They will tell you which type of music/how long of a cut they would like before you go in.

*If you are non-equity or EMC, you will be seen at the creative teams disgression.  If they type equity, you will not get seen.  Otherwise, they may say at the beginning of the call that they will not be seeing non-equity or they may say, we’ll see you “time permitting.”  In the latter case, you must wait around until all of the equity have auditioned and see if there is time.  Sometimes they know they can only see 20 non-equity/EMC so they will type you by headshot at some point during the call.  Sometimes it will be at the very beginning, sometimes a the very end.

Open Calls: 

To me, these are the scariest calls of all because there is no methodical order to how they are run.  Open calls mean there is no difference between equity, non-equity, and emc in the order in which they’ll be seen.  It also means, there can be complete chaos OR complete order.  Some open calls are run exactly like equity chorus calls.   They are overseen by a monitor and the first person physically present in line is the first who gets to sign up, etc…  But SOMETIMES, there is no monitor, and one person will arrive at 1 a.m. and camp out over night signing up 75 of their closest friends on an “unofficial list” which the theatre will honor.   Theatre’s may see everyone or they may type or they may cut the list off at a certain number.  It’s a hard world out there, and I do not envy those who have to attend open calls, BUT they are a wonderful opportunity for non-equity to be seen AND hired.  The best I can say in this humble blog is to please that everyone be polite, not cut, and not sign up 75 of your closest friends so those who actually arrived at 6 a.m. have a chance.  If you do see someone cutting or acting in a rude manner, feel free to call them out.  It’s your audition, don’t let anyone sabotage you.  Go in and sparkle!:)

Submission Calls:

Sometimes you might be lucky enough to receive an audition appointment via submission!  This may be through your agents, or a self submission found on a site such as Actors Access or Playbill.com.   In this case, you should arrive at least ten minutes before your audition, check in with the monitor or casting assistant, and wait until they are ready to see you.  Go into the room, present what they have asked you to prepare, and sparkle like the star you are!

 

*Submissions can be for equity, EMC, OR non-equity.  Especially if you are non-equity and EMC, I suggest seeking out as many submission appointments as you can to avoid to chaos that can result during open call.

 

That should cover all the different types of auditions you will encounter.  You should also know about a week called Audition Update.    It will become your best friend.  On it’s homepage, other actors keeps each other up to date about how crowded certain calls are, whether there are any equity appointments left, if they are seeing or have seen any EMCs or non-equity, who is in the room, etc…  There is also a callback corner,  which I have found both a tremendous blessing and a tremendous curse.  Actors tell each other if callbacks have gone out for certain shows/roles and if certain shows/roles have been cast.  I find myself checking it to an unhealthy degree, but for most normal people, it gives them a piece of mind and a little sanity in ending the “wondering” about whether or not a magical phone call will come.  There is also a bitching post where you can anonymously get your bitching out, a “Gig and Tell” where actors share their experiences working at various theaters (which may or may not influence your decision to take a contract with a certain theatre), and a resources page.   It’s a fabulous website and an invaluable audition tool!  Check it out!

 

I also thought I should include a little bit about what you should have in your audition bag aside from your music and dance cloths!  You should always bring a pen (for filling out those audition cards), extra headshots, extra resumes, a mini stapler, small pair of scissors (in case you need to staple/cut your headshot resume last minute and there are no staplers/scissors available),  and a bottle of water.

And last but not least, here is a list of the most common audition studios and a little commentary on each!

 

AEA/Actors Equity

The audition center (for the time being) is on the 2nd floor.  This is an infamous audition center amongst the non-equity crowd because non-equity are not allowed past the 2nd floor lobby.   They can’t even use the AEA bathroom, they must use the one in the neighboring McDonalds or Visitor’s Center.  (EMC can go into the lobby and use the restrooms!)  There are benches in the lobby the non-equity can sit on while they wait.  The non-equity sign-up sheets will be the wall just left of the equity girl chorus call sign-in sheets.

In the lobby you can eat and use a cell-phone, but not in the actual “audition center.”  Only water is allowed past the monitor guarding the “door.”  It is actually a very nice audition center and once equity you will come to love it.  SOMETIMES, there will be posting for free tickets to shows in this audition center as well.  As your friendly “door” monitor and they will let you know!

This building opens at 8 a.m., but sometimes there is a line forming at early as 6 a.m.!

Ripley-Grier 

MOST Ripley Grier auditions will be at 520 8th avenue, the 16th floor.  However, sometimes auditions are on the 10th floor or 17th floor and SOMETIMES they are 939 8th Avenue, so always check the call board VERY closely!  When you get off the elevators at the 520 location, you will see a computer screen with each audition/rehearsal listed and the room they are being held in.  Ripley has a really wonderful cafe!

Pearl

There are TWO Pearl studios, both used equally as often!  Pearl 500 and Pearl 519.  At Pearl 500 most auditions are held on the 4th and 12th floors, and there is a special elevator just for us crazy theatre folk!  At Pearl 519 auditions are held on the 12th floor.  At Pearl 519, bathroom space is VERY limited, so I always try to be as dressed and ready to go as possible when an audition is held there.

NOLA

NOLA also has two floors, 5 and and 11.  It can be a bit of a labyrinth but they are nice studios.

Shelter Studios

Shelter is the 12th Floor and Penthouse of the same building NOLA is in.  In the Penthouse, it can seem as though there are no bathrooms!  Never fear, just run down a level or two and you’ll find one!

Chelsea Studios 

Everyone likes Chelsea Studios because they give you free m&ms!   Before you get on the elevator, there will be paper signs posted on the wall telling you which floor  (5 or 6) your audition is on.

Telsey + Co

Beautiful space, only two bathrooms so come as ready as possible.  Go to the 10th floor!

 

 

I hope you found this a somewhat helpful audition guide!  If you think of anything else to add or have any questions, please leave a comment and I will try to address them!

March 25, 2012 |
  • Sadie’s Mom

    This was an extremely helpful article for a Mom just getting into the “biz” to help my young daughter pursue her dreams of a musical theatre life. Thank you for some basic but important information!

  • Gigi

    What an amazing and thoughtful person you are to share all of your knowledge with those of us who are unfamiliar with the NYC auditioning process. I learned so much and I appreciate you tremendously!!!!

  • Jess

    Thank you so much for this! It is so refreshing to have this info given in a pleasant way. Thanks for all the info you are fantastic!

  • Shea

    This is great ! Thank you so much!!!

  • Shea

    This is great ! Thank you so much!!!

  • Rae

    Thank you so much for this! It’s such a wonderful resource for those trying to learn a little more about being an actor in New York, and it was so thoughtful of you to take the time out of your day to do this.

  • TSG

    This is incredible! Thank you for this! Very informative! The first place I could find this info! Thank you, thank you!

  • https://twitter.com/tiniepauliniee Pauline Heath

    Great article! A really helpful Guide for Auditions. Thanks for sharing.

  • Gen

    Should non-equity dancers still sign up their name on the audition list the week before auditions?

  • Prue Brown

    This was so helpful! Thank you so much! I was looking at that Audition Update page, in the Callback section lots of people were saying ‘bump’! What does that mean?

  • Shanon Weaver

    Thanks for this…so helpful. Question–what if we are Equity but are so new we’ve yet to receive our actual card in the mail, but know our ID#? Are we allowed to audition, or must we wait for that precious, precious card?