Musicians Acquiring Muscles!!!

I’ve decided it’s time for this blog to go back to its roots and focus on MUSICIANS.  Up to this point, I’m been very fortunate in getting my dancer friends to share their dance and audition secrets, and I would like to say thank you one more time to all of them!  I hope you found their insight helpful.

NOW I would like focus on three musicians trying to get into shape and expand their physical horizons!  Well, two and a half musicians that is.  Candace Chien, Eva Parr,  and myself!  (I’m the half!)  Eva is a trained opera singers with a gorgeous voice.  Candace Chien is a classical pianist studying at Manhattan School of Music.  I’m a dancer and musical theatre actress who at times dabbles in the classical music world.  For the next two months, I would like to chronicle our adventures as we attempt to get into shape while navigating the treacherous seas of day jobs, rehearsals, budgetary woes, old injuries, and ennui with the elliptical at the gym.  Hopefully our adventures will inspire you to up your own physical activity and give you fun creative ideas of how to do so while staying within your own boundaries, whatever they may be.

So, for this entry, I would simply like to introduce you to Candace, Eva, Hannah, and myself (who I’ve actually spoken fairly little about I believe.)

 

CANDACE

 

 

Musical “profession”:

I am a classical pianist, and a soon-to-be graduate from Manhattan School of Music’s masters degree. I also teach, both group and private piano lessons and am preparing for international chamber music competitions with my duo partner-violinist.

Proudest Music Moment to Date:

I think one of my crowning moments in my musical career thus far was my most recent participation in our school’s Eisenberg-Fried concerto competition. I had practiced for accuracy, and integrated good technique to a new level, in order to give a creative and musically compelling performance. It was a definitive moment of barrier breaking – almost as if the rest of my life and career started from then on.  (To see a video of Candace playing in this competition – click here! )

Why do you want to incorporate more physical activity into your routine?

I am extremely unaware of my body. If one asked me to move certain muscle groups, I would look at you in obvious confusion. One of the troubles that many musicians have is tension. If I am aware of what’s going on in my body more, I am better equipped to identify tension that may be causing technical issues in my playing. I certainly also don’t mind a healthier lifestyle (and setting an example for a significant other who is a bum) and toning up over all.

Fitness goal:

Not sure, really. I think if I can get to do something regularly, not wimp out, or trip, fall and injure myself, that’s a win.

Biggest challenge in achieving said goal:

Doing it, and not wimping out or out-prioritizing it with practicing, cooking, eating, cuddling, TV or Facebook or something.

Maximum you would like to spend on fitness per week:

Again, not going to get ahead of myself here. I’d like to set a low goal like, 2 hours of organized practice (like a class), and maybe another 2 spread out in my own personal practice chunks.

Favorite exercise you have to tried to date:

Yoga was nice when I was going more often, if only because it was great for quieting the mind. This is also tried with wiffle ball, but the reason I like wiffle ball is because I like yelling at people, but that’s a whole other story.

Exercise you most eager to try in the future:

More dance! I think it lessens my general inhibitions with my body.

 

EVA

 

 

Musical “profession”: 

Operatic mezzo-soprano

Proudest Music Moment to Date:  

Performing the role of Cherubino in Amore Opera’s “Le nozze di Figaro”

Why do you want to incorporate more physical activity into your routine? 


Being reasonably physically fit does a lot for my self esteem, and like anyone in the performing arts, I have confidence issues that can come between me and my performance.  The more confident I am in my own skin, the more likely I am to give a better performance and then be able to challenge myself to that next level.  It also goes without saying that in this industry, appearance does factor in with talent and hard work.  I want to present myself as a well-rounded package- as well as fit into those pants-role pants.

Fitness goal: 

I mostly want to tone up overall, and I’d be happy losing 3-5 pounds.  Being able to WEAR and feel comfortable in all of my clothes at any time is essential!

Biggest challenge in achieving said goal:


My crazy schedule and my tendency to snack on baked goods.  When I’m rehearsing for a show (or two), most days are 13 hour days and I can only dream about the fun fitness classes I’d like to go to.  So I cry into my blueberry muffin.

Maximum you would like to spend on fitness per week:

$40

Favorite exercise you have to tried to date:


Salsa dancing!  I’m also a fan of Zumba, pilates and yoga.

Exercise you most eager to try in the future:


Other/all types of ballroom dancing!  I’m also curious about kickboxing.

 

 

 

MEGAN

 

 

Musical “profession”:

Musical Theatre Actress

 

Proudest Music Moment to Date:

Learning and performing the soprano chorus to Bizet’s Carmen with Amore Opera.

 

Why do you want to incorporate more physical activity into your routine?

In musical theatre, dance is incredibly important, as is how you look in a leotard.  I would like to expand the genres of dance and movement that I feel comfortable in and look better in a leotard.

 

Fitness goal:

First off, I would like to say that I do not weigh myself.  I used to obsess about every singe pound and feel chained to my scale.  It was a horrible feeling for me, and I feel like I did not enjoy life, nor was I at my most svelte figure to date.  My fitness goal is slim down slightly, build up my core strength, and explore new movement styles.  In the past, I’ve been very dedicated to ballet, contemporary, and “theatre dance.”  I would love to try some latin, ballroom, swing, aeriel silks, and surprise myself with what my body can do!

 

Biggest challenge in achieving said goal:

Money.  I wish I had $89 to put down for a ballroom dancing class, but alas, I do not.

 

Maximum you would like to spend on fitness per week:

ABSOLUTE tops is $72, but am aiming to strive for $54.

 

Favorite exercise you have to tried to date:

Ballet!  I also love Zumba with Danielle Pierce!

 

Exercise you most eager to try in the future:

Aerial Silks!

 

Sonic Yoga

Today, I tried Yoga. It’s not technically my first time trying yoga. I’ve taken some classes at gyms and one class at Yoga to the People (where admission is donation based – making it super affordable for the financially challenged.)   I’ve always found it boring, but recently  a lot of my friends have been raving about their yoga experiences so I decided to give it a second try.

In an attempt to avoid the crowds and stinky mats provided by Yoga to the People, and in hopes of finding a much more attentive instructor than those at the gyms I tried, I decided to dish out $18 + $1 mat at Sonic Yoga  I took their Vinyasa Flow 1 course.    I was inspired to try Sonic mainly because of this incredible video they posted!

First off, I should say, I can totally see the appeal of yoga, especially for people living in the crazy brutal jungle that is NYC.  For an hour an 15 minutes, a group of us sat in an “energy free” room (there was no air conditioning or heat, the lights were off, everything was illuminated via candles, and there was an exceptionally talented guitarist/singer providing the perfect music to accompany us.  We massaged our hearts, exhaled our negative energy, meditated on how we could give back to the universe, and moved very slowly and calmly as we stretched our muscles and moved our bodies in low impact movements and poses.  Some people around me seemed to expunging all of their stress through their strong exhales, and really digging the meditations and praying to the Hindu gods.  Some people were working up a tremendous sweat, and one girl was pushed so far to her limit that she fainted!  (We all then prayed she would be o.k.)  That was a scary moment.

I, however, was hoping for a more rigorous workout.  Perhaps it would have been better if I had tried a harder level.  I found that after the class I felt slightly more stretched that normal, but not as though I had made myself a stronger or more svelte being.

My experience was that I arrived 11 minutes before class started.  I walked up to the desk to sign in, but I had to fill out paperwork, which they needed to process before I entered.  They told me to go away and come back.  By the time the class started, my paperwork STILL had not been entered into the computer.  So, after the class started I was handed what had to be the SMELLIEST yoga mat I have ever seen, and walked in to the most CROWDED yoga studio I’ve ever been in.  It was more crowded than the one Yoga to the People class I had taken, so I was a bit miffed I had paid $18 for the exact experience I was trying to avoid – smelly mats and crowded studios.  I was squeezed between two girls who were already on their backs in their first meditating position, and there really wasn’t enough room, so our knees kept banging one another.  As I am not a fan of superfluous touching, this made it very hard to find my inner peace.  Also, most of the class was spent face down, so my face was in constant contact with this extremely pungent mat.  (I seriously question whether to not these mats are ever cleaned.  If you go – BRING YOUR OWN MAT!  It appeared that they had cubbies where you could leave your mat instead of carting it back and forth in the city.)  This smell of the mat, and my constant questioning of it’s hygienic qualities, greatly diminished my experience.  Our teacher, was on a personal mission to make us leave a smaller footprint on the earth, and kept having us meditate on how we could use less plastic (NEVER BUY WATER BOTTLES!  I guiltily stared at my plastic Starbucks water bottle.), paper towels, shopping bags, etc…  I wasn’t really digging this either, because it made me have a guilt complex instead of relaxing into the moment.  It felt a bit preachy, even though I doubt it was meant to be.  I’m fairly certain my “footprint” is way larger than it should be!

However, it did feel nice to actually massage my heart, some of the positions provided a really refreshing prolongated stretch, which I never seem to have time to do, but desperately need.  The teacher provided wonderful modifications to make the moves and poses more or less challenging to meet each individuals needs.  There was also an extra “spotter” in the room, who would walk around and make sure everyone was o.k.  At one point, a few people went into some extremely impressive handstands, and the teachers all offered to provide “spotters” for anyone who needed/wanted it.  Despite the crowd and smelly mat, the class did not seem like an hour and fifteen minutes.  Because the class truly did have a great flow, time flew by.  If I was looking for a meditation session, and brought my own mat, I would highly recommend this class.  However, I love building my core strength, and at least pretending I’m getting my body “bikini ready,” so I’m still a pilates girl!  Can’t wait until my schedule clears up enough to take another class!

Brittany Bohn’s Audition Advice

It is so wonderful to be able to share with you the audition advice of Brittany Bohn, who is currently tearing it up at the Goodspeed Opera House as a swing in their production of MAME!  I met Brittany doing MY FAIR LADY at the Westchester Broadway Theatre.    She was always such a breath of fresh air to be around – up for anything with the most positive sparkling attitude one could imagine.  She was a dressing room cheerleader who easily endeared herself to all!  In addition to being one of the most beautiful dancers I’ve ever had the pleasure to worth with and/or watch, she has a gorgeous voice!  Gorgeous enough to score her the Eliza Doolittle understudy position!  It was such a joy to watch her work on that role during rehearsals, and I hope one day audiences will be treated to her Eliza Doolittle!  Without further ado – here is Brittany Bohn’s audition advice!

 

 

 

Can you share a little bit of your dance background?

I first began performing in my living room to The Lawrence Welk Show and other oldies with my neighbor who we called Grandma Lorie. After we moved when I was 5, I didn’t start studying dance with a studio until I was in the 4th grade and that started a 9 year run with a dance studio in Atlanta called the Vista Grove Dance Centre. I studied ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, hip hop, lyrical, theatre dance, etc… In 8th grade I decided to go to a performing arts high school where I was exposed to modern dance among the other styles I already studied and the world of theatre and other art forms. From there I went to Point Park University for a BFA in dance with a Jazz emphasis and a minor in musical theatre. I performed in the concert dance shows but focused mainly in the musicals. My favorite experience in college was performing as Louise in our production of Carousel. I’ve performed with the Pittsburgh CLO, Westchester Broadway Theatre, The Little Theatre on the Square, Atlanta Lyric Theatre and will be seen at The Goodspeed Opera House in April.

Where do you like to stand during auditions and why?

A dance audition to me is a place that I feel the most comfortable with my abilities. I make sure I get to the front because that’s where I focus and work the best. Everyone is different, you have to figure out where you have to be for yourself. When I’m in the front I can see what I’m doing compared to what the choreographer is doing and I have room to do it. In saying that you should always be respectful of the other people around you, even though it seems like we’re fighting for our lives sometimes. It’s never ok to get there after someone and stand right in front, just try in a respectful way to get out on the dance floor as quick as you can. If the back is where you like it, sometimes it can be roomier than right in the middle. Whatever you do, don’t hide in the back because your afraid.

What do you wear to auditions?

I personally wear tan tights, tan Laducas, and a hot pink strappy leo. You should wear what you feel hot in and what shows off your lines. You shouldn’t be thinking about if your hair is gonna fall down or adjusting your leotard. Everyone has their own style they feel comfortable with, so show your charisma.

Do you have any advice on picking up choreography quickly at an audition?

Don’t psych yourself out, breathe and tell yourself you know what you’re doing. Then if you’re struggling: pick up the style and feel of the choreography first then concentrate on the big picture and last focus on the details. They say it’s “ok” to have little mess ups but if they don’t see you understand the style of movement they don’t have anything to go off of. Ex: Charleston doesn’t mean lyric ballet…

 

 

Would you suggest asking the choreographer questions if you are having trouble in an audition? If so which kind?

I’d wait until they ask if anybody has questions and then limit yourself. They will probably go over everything they’re looking for so pay attention. There are good questions and opportunities however to show them that you’re thinking of details or acting. It’s fine to ask them to show a small part again but speak up and be specific on what you’re talking about. Also pay attention to other people’s questions- DO NOT ask the same question someone else has. APPLY THE CORRECTIONS THEY GAVE YOU FROM YOUR QUESTION!!!

If you were to recommend one style of dance for a singer who moves to study – which would it be and why?

BALLET or MODERN fundamentals. And don’t just take class that you’re comfortable with. But then again, go boost your confidence with a style that you love when you’re feeling down.

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!

Tara Sweeney Audition Advice

I am proud to present another addition to our audition advice series – the beautiful Tara Sweeney!  I met Tara during MY FAIR LADY at Westchester Broadway Theatre. She is one of the most beautiful and versatile dancers working in New York today!  Without further ado – here is Tara!!!!

 

 

1. Can you share a little bit of your dance background?
I started dancing at the age of three…competition dance for the most part. I fell in love with ballet and began training in ballet full time at the age of 8 with the Somerset Ballet Company. From there, I trained with North Carolina School of the Arts, Kansas City Ballet School, Ballet School of Chicago, and the American Ballet Theatre. I went to college for a degree in ballet at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. I left after my freshman year to dance with the Blue Springs Ballet Company as a Principle. Then, I decided to do musical theatre.

2. How has your approach to auditions changed over the years?
When I first started to audition for musicals here in New York, I would only go to dancer calls but would always be cut right away. Then I decided to try going to singer calls with the hopes of being asked to stay and dance. That worked…and I booked my first professional show. Over the years, I have returned to going to dancer calls mostly but if there is a show I really want or a role I really want…I go to EVERY call…singer, dancer, and EPA.

 

3. Where do you like to stand at auditions and why?
If I’m at a dancer call, I really like to stand in the front row, somewhere close to the middle. If I have to stand to the side, I always choose the side where the production team is. I do this so I can interact with the choreographer. When at a singer or EPA call, I stand in line with the piano. This is because I don’t want to stand too close to the production team so they aren’t uncomfortable.

4. What do you wear to auditions?
Ultimately, it depends on the show and the role I’m going for…if its something specific, that is; however, I do have my go-to audition outfit. For dancer calls, I have a 3/4 sleeved dark green leotard that I wear with black tights and warm up shorts that are stripped (navy blue, dark green, and black). For singer and EPA calls, I have a light green BCBG dress that hits right below my knees and has a bit of a flare coming from the waist. I pair nice black heels and a nice soft black cardigan with the dress.

5. Do you have any advice for picking up choreography quickly at an audition?
My advice for this is to take class…go to BDC or Steps and take class. It’s working the brain and helping it get more comfortable at picking things up faster. As for in the audition room, my advice is to focus. One of the reason’s I stand front and center is because I can see the choreographer and his/her feet and I can focus more easily.

 

 

6.Would you suggest asking the choreographer questions if you are having trouble in an audition? If so, which ones?
I absolutely suggest asking questions!!! This gives you one on one time with the choreographer. It shows that you are paying attention and want to get it right. I always try to ask at least one question about the combination. You can ask questions regarding arms on a turn or leap, if a foot is flexed or pointed, if a leg is in attitude position or in arabesque! As long as it has to do with something that you actually are confused about, ask away.

7. If you could recommend one style of dance for a singer who moves to study, which would it be and why?
I firmly believe that, when it comes to musical theatre, all forms of dance are important. But if I had to choose one, if would be between ballet and theatre jazz. Ballet is the basis of all dance…it comes into play in EVERY style you would do in an audition room. Even tap. But theatre jazz is what you will be doing most of the time in the room. When it comes down to it…take whatever you find more fun and then you are getting more out of. It will show in the audition room.

8. Which classes do you take that you feel are most helpful for auditions?
I take ballet on a regular basis. It keeps me fit and it keeps my technique strong. I also enjoy it with all my heart.

9. What is the best audition advice you’ve ever received?
Relax and try and have fun. When going into an audition room, you have to know that the people behind the table want you to succeed! They want their search to be over!

 

“Series of Five”

Core Strength. Where does one even begin?

Core strength is, without a doubt, the most important tool you can acquire for any kind of physical activity. It allows you to control your movement in a way that both aids in the execution of the activity and prevents injury. If you can control your core, the choreography for the arms and legs will come easily, as well as weight shifts and maintaining your balance. Additionally, core strength gives you those amazing looking abs that everyone wants during bikini season.  What’s not to love?

The best exercise series I have found to help with my core strength has been the pilates “series of five.”  Aptly named, the “series of five” is a series of five exercises aimed at working your internal obliques, external oblique, and transverse abdominal muscles.  To learn more about the wonderful anatomical world of  abdominal muscles, please visit this link.

Once again, the incredible Cara Chapman has come to help me put together a series of videos to help you learn the “series of five.”  (Note: one of the best things about the “series of five” is that they can easily be done in your living room while watching t.v.!)  So without further ado, here are the five exercises, followed by a video of all five done together as they would be in a pilates class.  Enjoy!

 

SINGLE LEG STRETCH

Single Leg Stretch

 

DOUBLE LEG STRETCH

Double Leg Stretch

 

SCISSORS

Scissors

 

LOWER LIFT

Lower Lift

 

CRISS CROSS (I warn you – this one is brutal!)

Criss Cross

 

COMPLETE “SERIES OF FIVE”

Complete “Series of Five”

Upper Body Strength

In my last entry, I linked you to Michelle Obama showcasing her very impressive upper body strength by executing 25 gorgeous push ups! In doing so, she earned my eternal respect.

You see, I’ve always had upper body strength problems. My strength lies in my core and my legs, while my arms are willowy and noodle-like. In fact, I’ve never successfully done a proper push up! This is maybe information I shouldn’t be admitting to blogosphere land, but I did. Judge me as you will.

Michelle Obama inspired me, however, and I sought to improve my own upper body strength. I turned to my friend and fellow pilates instructor Cara Chapman to help me on my quest.

The first exercise she suggested I conquer if the basic pilates plank. Here she will teach you how you can also master the plank!

FORWARD PLANK

She then talked me through my own set of upper body exercises – which I completed with difficulty and a completely lack of grace. If you would like to play along and try Cara’s upper body workout – here is our video!

Megan’s Great Attempt

Lastly – Cara decided to show off her supreme upper body strength with the side plank. If you are feeling extra brave, you too can join Cara in the side plank!

Side Plank

And that is our upper body workout post!  It will most likely be a while before I give our First Lady a run for her money in the realm of push ups – but the journey of a thousand mile begins with a single step!

Dancing Makes You Smarter

Here is yet another article about the benefits that physical exercise, more specifically dance, can have on your brain!

USE IT OR LOSE IT: DANCING MAKES YOU SMARTER

by Richard Powers

For centuries, dance manuals and other writings have lauded the health benefits of dancing, usually as physical exercise.  More recently we’ve seen research on further health benefits of dancing, such as stress reduction and increased serotonin level, with its sense of well-being.

Then most recently we’ve heard of another benefit:  Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter.  A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one’s mind can ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit.  Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages.You may have heard about the New England Journal of Medicine report on the effects of recreational activities on mental acuity in aging.   Here it is in a nutshell.

The Reason for Recess

As I was reading this week’s edition of TIME magazine, I can across this article by Alice Park called “The Reason for Recess” that briefly touches upon how physical activity may be extremely beneficial for your brain to achieve its top performance.  I thought it might be a good article to share as we start the new year and we are busy making our resolutions.  Perhaps to become the best musicians we can be – we should also get out there and move our bodies!

Happy New Year!  

Here is the text to the article which I cut and paste.

The Reason for Recess: Active Children May Do Better in School by Alice Park.  

First Lady Michelle Obama is constantly promoting her “let’s move” message to Americans, and she may be onto something. Physical activity does the body good, and there’s growing evidence that it helps the brain too.
Researchers in the Netherlands report that children who get more exercise, whether at school or on their own, tend to have higher GPAs and better scores on standardized tests. In a review of 14 studies that looked at physical activity and academic performance, investigators found that the more children moved, the better their grades were in school, particularly in the basic subjects of math, English and reading.