The Casting Process
There is no real “season” for casting Broadway shows. New Broadway shows and some holiday shows open in October/November, with casting being done in the summer. This is why you often hear of kids going to NYC for the summer. Parents tell us that it has been slow in NYC for the last couple of years, and that theatrical shows cast year round with readings and shows in development at other times of the year as well. Some other "timing" tips: January -May is summer stock and regional theatre seasonal auditions. May-June is when the summer NYC festivals audition, specifically the Fringe festival.
You can find notices for auditions a few different places. Auditions for Broadway shows are governed by Equity. There are three types of theatre auditions:
- agent appointments
- required union casting calls (ECC/EPA), and
- open calls.
The latter two are regularly posted on Backstage (the physical paper that comes out on Thursdays, as well as the website Backstage.com), on casting director’s websites, Playbill, NYCasting, and on the Equity website (see our Resource Links section). Even if you have an agent or a manager it is wise for parents to keep an eye on the auditions out there so you can nicely remind them of things your child might be right for.
Agent Appointments: Typically, children with an agent or manager are seen via private appointments. Sometimes these occur before the EPAs/open calls, sometimes after. Appointments are a better environment for auditioning than an open call, and you also get a guarantee you will be seen. If you rely on attendance at the open call or the EPA, there is a possibility that you could wait around all day and still not get to audition. This makes it a tough juggling act if the EPAs are held chronologically first---do you skip the open calls/EPAs in hopes of getting an agency appointment? We suggest communicating early with your agent and discussing the best strategy with them. A good agent will have a sense of the casting director's plan and which auditions you should attend.
ECCs/EPAs: As a union requirement, the show will hold a "required Equity call". Kids should definitely go to Equity calls. There are two kinds: Equity Chorus Calls (ECC) for roles in the chorus, and Equity Principal Auditions (EPA) for principal roles. The Equity union requires that producers hold an open call for EPA roles every six months. Equity members sign up early and will get priority over non-union performers. Actors auditioning are seen in order, and sometimes given numbers. The non-union performers (kids and adults are in the same boat) sign in on a sheet and are only seen after ALL the Equity performers have been seen, and you should be prepared to wait around all day.
In LA and NYC, Equity members can sign up on the ECC list up to a week in an advance of the audition. In LA, Equity members can sign up for a slot up to a week in advance, but in NYC, you must wait in line on the morning of the audition to get an EPA slot. In NYC performers will show up as early as 5 or 6 a.m. to try and get a slot on the non-AEA list.
Open Calls: An open call is slightly different—they are having a true open call to see who is out there. These are the masses of people you’ve heard about, aka cattle calls. In these cases, they don’t discriminate between union and non-union actors, in terms of audition order. These are usually very highly attended. Parents tell us that it is worth going to open calls because they are great experience, and kids (unlike adults) do get cast that way!
The Audition Format
Every audition is different, but there are a few possibilities that you need to be prepared for:
Typing: this can frequently happen on ECC auditions. They will line kids up, put them in groups of 10-20 and make decisions on whether you get to sing/dance solely on your look. It’s allowed by the union, and with kids it often involves measurement for height. If an audition is doing “typing”, you child may get “typed out” and not get to audition at all.
The Triple Threat Format: A “triple threat” refers to a performer who is able to do three things: sing, dance and act. In reality, very few performers are really, really good at all three. A child usually has one strength and they just “get by” on the other two skills. They may be “actors who sing” or “singers who can move”.
Still, most Broadway auditions require performers to show their skills in all three areas.
Depending on the show, they may have performers do their priority skill first, then eliminate them immediately if they don’t cut it. In other words, if the show is heavy on singing, they will likely have kids sing first, then dance, then do an acting scene. A show like Billy Elliot, which is dance-heavy, may have kids dance first.
So how do you prepare? The answer is to take classes in advance (see our section on “Before you Audition”). By the time you arrive at an audition you should have the following in your bag of tricks:
* Singing: It is advised to have a couple of songs prepared, in different musical styles (Broadway, pop/rock, ballad, etc).
Generally speaking, you will get to perform 16-32 bars of a song for a chorus audition (often ECCs are pretty strict about the 16 bar max), and 32 bars up to a full song for a principal audition. Total audition is about 3 minutes long.
* Dance: You will need to be able to learn a routine at the audition, and repeat it right then and there.
* Acting: Have a monologue, just in case. You will be given a scene from the show. Occasionally, theatrical auditions will ask you to perform a monologue of your own at first, then give you a scene from the show later in the process.
Want more info? Here are a couple of great threads from PARF offering audition tips:
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