Improv Theater Auditions (more thoughts)
First off, a sincere congratulations to all of the people who made a harold/house/sketch team recently (as of May 2013). If you have not made a team, please feel free to look through my previous posts:
You did not get on a UCB Harold team
Improv is a Sports-Rock album (a take on how I think the auditions should be run)
If you’ve made a team:
- Don’t complain about your team like a dick: I don’t care if there’s someone you don’t like, the structure of the shows, your coach, don’t do it. If you must, say “There are things you need to work on as a group.” and that’s it. This was a team put together by the Theater you auditioned for, NOT by you.
- Don’t walk around like an arrogant ass: Reminder, you’re paying to play. Just because a small group of people think you’re good at improv doesn’t make you God’s gift. Bad attitudes breed more bad attitudes and you’ll be chucked off the team in a second (at least I would HOPE so).
There are some of you out there that have auditioned for the “lesser” theaters that are not UCB/Groundlings. Let me be clear, I DO NOT Think these are “lesser” theaters in any way, shape, or form, but I’ve heard you people talk about them as such and it’s not f*cking cool. You decided “I guess I’ll audition for the teams.” and you got on. Please do us all a favor and turn down your placement on a team. You do not deserve to be on a team. Your spirit is not in it and your attitude is gross. Please go away and go do whatever you need to do to get on whatever theater is best in your mind.
Those who didn’t make it or were REMOVED from a team:
- You don’t suck. You don’t suck. You don’t suck.
- Go email or approach the judges and see what you can do for the next round (FYI: they may not remember your exact audition).
- Do a gut check and see if you want to continue with improv. It’s ok to take a break. Reminder, you’ll save money if you take some time off (and I know most of us aren’t rich folk).
- Improv is an artform and you can only continue to grow and change with it, if you are willing. It’s hard not to take this stuff personally (I’m a broken record), but you have not died or lost someone you’ve loved. You’ve been punched in the gut emotionally and now it’s time to step back and see what you want to do from here. These audition rounds are a good time to do a check in to WHY you’re doing improv and what it gives to YOU.
Folks who were removed from a team, I’ve been there. It’s the worst. I think it’s much worse being removed from a team than not making one at all. It’s like “Eh, we tried you out, but no thanks.” Really listen to your gut right now. I know it’s hard, but your gut will really help you figure out what to do next. Do some free writing or go ramble in a forest to figure out what you need. You need to think about YOU and not what (fill in the blank) theater wants from you.
I’m not funny. I am funny.
Comedy is subjective.
What I think is funny may not be funny to someone else.
Who I think is funny may not be funny to someone else.
Who I think is a great improv player may not be to someone else.
I make some people laugh.
I make some people frustrated.
I blow some people’s minds.
I bore some people’s minds.
There have been a lot of auditions happening (and still happening) in the improv/sketch world here in L.A.. Some hearts were broken, some became numb, some became enlightened. Remember that it’s ONE groups’ (maybe only 5 to 20 people) feedback on your work. It’s ONE moment you had at that time.
Have more moments.
Get more feedback.
Do it because you feel it in your bones to do more.
& feel free to make yourself laugh.
Five Hundred UCB
Before I get into this write-up, please see my post after the 2012 UCB-NY auditions (no, I didn’t audition there too). You did not get on a UCB Harold team I did not get a callback. Out of 10, I would’ve scored my scenes as 7.75 and 7.25 This year, I believe I would’ve needed to score a 9 or 10 because… over 500 people auditioned for UCB-LA this year. FIVE HUNDRED!!!! I am very happy with the way my 2012 UCB-LA Harold audition went. Could it had gone better? Of course. Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the work I did in that room. Had been on fire and killed it, I would’ve gotten a callback. Doing great, solid scene work that isn’t mind exploding can only get you so far in these incredibly competitive auditions. Having a good mindset before and after these auditions is very important. I think one huge advantage (aside from having done improv a long time) is I am an actor. I audition a lot. Actors tend to audition much more than we book. You need to go in the room, nail it, get out, and forget it. I also think that my mindset is in a much different place with improv than it was even a year ago. I am having a lot of fun with improv. All these teams, drop in rehearsals, last minute shows, are so damn fun. I’m signed up with an awesome indie improv class and just signed up to start classes at another theater. Why? Because I really love doing comedy, performing, and improv. It’s also starting to bleed into my writing more than it has before, which is making me very happy. Again, I don’t mean to sound like a broken record but if you’re not having fun, please, for yourself and others, Stop Doing Improv. Take a break. Come back to it later. Don’t torture yourself. Do what feels light and fun and good. I’d also like to mention where UCB started (and improv in general) and how far it has come. It was a much smaller performance group that expanded to a show and then a theater in NY that no one heard of. It’s grown into an awesome platform where people can harness their craft and grow as improvisors, writers, actors, and artists. Don’t forget about the community you are a part of. It’s much more than just one theater or one location… Improv is Everywhere you guys. Like, really. No, but seriously. Improv Everywhere takes what is fun about improv and blows it out to a grander scheme. It’s pretty genius. And anyone can do it. Remember that you’re already part of something (improv) that is really cool and can be done on a small scale, with your friends, wherever. Be you. Have fun.
I love improv
I loved improv when I first did it, but I didn’t even know that’s what I was doing. Improv. I just knew that it was fun and I made a lot of people laugh. When I started taking classes in improv, I got really into it. I’m not sure I loved it anymore as much as I really wanted to figure it out. I have a bit of a perfectionist thing and I wanted to get it “right” for a very long time. I tried everything. I used to do a lot of big moves that would occasionally freak out my team mates. I would do only “supportive” moves and not own anything for myself. I would do straight man to a point where my point of view was lost as a person/character. I’ve been kicked off of teams, kicked people off teams, started teams, ended teams, coached teams, you name it. I’ve been doing this improv thing for close to 9 years, and NOW I love it. I have my UCB-LA Harold audition coming up and I am nervous about my nerves. I get really heavy and feel like it’s hard to move around. This was very problematic as a cheerleader and it leads to very base scene work. For some reason, even though I love doing 2-person scenes, I get nervous in these auditions when they’re being reviewed. I feel like getting to do a Harold is much more freeing and I have more of a chance to shine. This week has been a bit of UCB cram week and it’s a little silly that I’m cramming, because I already do a lot of improv. I have been asked to join a lot of teams and am currently on more than 3 performance teams. Some rehearse, some don’t. I average about 10 shows a month with rehearsals 3-5 times a week. While this UCB cramming isn’t necessary, holy cats, it’s so much fun. Sure, some of these audition-prep workshops can be heady and each teacher has been focusing on different things but, the laughs. I love doing a scene and feeling that I know I’ve got it. I’ve got the scene, the relationship, the grounding, but I’m not even thinking about any of that because it’s just FUN. Confidence and freedom are irreplaceable gifts. I’m grateful that I am feeling comfortable in both. My goal for this audition: KILL IT
Improv is a Sports-Rock album
First off, let me say THANK YOU UCB-LA for having us email in our Harold audition application!!!!! Holy cats. That’s way better than standing in line for 8 hours and maybe getting a slot.
Yes, the UCB-LA Harold auditions are almost underway. The audition process, as I’ve experienced from the past, goes as such:
- You enter the room with 7 other auditioners
- The judges give you a suggestion
- One by one you do A-C pattern game
- You initiate/receive one scene, the judges edit
- You receive/initiate one scene, the judges edit
- You go home and wait for a callback
Last year, they asked for a headshot, resume, and a list of teams you’re currently on and have been on in the past. This year they asked for that (except they omitted former teams list) AND where you’ve performed AND who you’d like to audition with. This is all great, but it still comes down to how you do in the room. You need to stand out from the crowd.
This is where my theory of Improv is a Sports-Rock album comes in.
(yes. that’s my fancy artwork below.)
We talk about Longform Improv as a sport. “Good Game” is a commonly term used. Describing an improv scene is almost like describing a play from a basketball/football game. You root for the whole team, but still have your favorite players and love it when they make a great move.
The art of longform improv is a rock album. I heard a teacher say this once, and it absolutely, totally makes sense. If you look at your favorite improv show, it plays very much like a really good rock album. Remember how old school rock albums had songs in a particular order? The really good albums played much like an entire play. Each song is it’s own scene but is totally related to the next song in the album, and then it all comes together in the end.
Harold members of the Improv “Sports-Rock” are difficult to find. You need all different kinds of members to form each team. You can’t have 3 lead singers, no drummer, and 5 trumpet players or 4 quarterbacks, 3 nose tackles, and no running back. You have to find members that can play all different kinds of positions to make the team “sing” in it’s own.
That’s why I think these 1-off auditions are not great. The theaters know they’re not great. I think the theaters should have scouts. These scouts (and no one would know who is or isn’t a scout…at least not at first) would be given a list of members’ names to look out for and catch their shows. This way they can see players at their best and can see if they’re growing, what their weak spots are, and if they can shine in an upper-tier group. I would love it if they would pick their favorites and do all-star shows, where they cast members of a team, and then do 1-off shows. Maybe they would get one rehearsal? I dunno, but it would be fun if they put random teams together ever couple of weeks and see how certain folks work with one another.
This is my lil’ improv audition dream. Until then, I’ll keep having fun with the teams I’m on and will be set to “kill it” in my 1-off audition.
Not yet, but close
I like to keep these posts as one-off opinion catchers, but so much has happened lately that this entry will be more of a journal-blog.
Improv can be a rollercoaster, you have a great show, then a bad class, then a bad rehearsal, then an amazing class, then a bad show, then a great show… I believe that it’s all about timing. I’ve been having a string of great shows and classes lately. There are a few not awesome things that have happened, but for the most part, I’ve been feeling really good about how I’m coming into improv.
I just recently had my audition for iO West and I did not get on a team. Yes, I know they say it can take multiple times to get on a team but I know 3 friends that it was their first time and they got on, so it’s not unheard of to get on a team with your first audition (and all those people desearve to be on a team, I think they’re great). I am disappointed that I didn’t get on a team, but I did audition with 100 degree fever and was trying not to fall down. What I hate about that is that it is an excuse. I have played sick before and done great, so being sick shouldn’t stop me. Now I know that sounds like I’m being hard on myself, and I am. I focused on 2 things in that audition: 1. stay grounded 2. be supportive. For me, I know I will get good scenes by doing that, but not amazing scenes. Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve….I should’ve gone for committment. When I committ fully, game, relationship, justification all come very easy to me and I didn’t do that. I went for the soft landing. Had I reviewed my notes from both my iO west and UCB teachers, I would’ve reminded myself that is where my golden improv lies. But I didn’t. I was dizzy and sweaty and wanted to sleep, which lead to dizzy (but grounded!), sleepy scenes.
I told a friend of mine about this recent audition and she said “It wasn’t your time.” She’s totally right. All the times I never made a UCB team, I’m actually grateful for. I know that sounds crazy cheesy, but it’s true. If I had made a UCB team early on, I would’ve never gone to the Magnet Theater and studied with Armando, I maybe would not have pursued acting, I probably wouldn’t have ever left NY. I probably would’ve just stayed in NY and been on a team and that’s it. I maybe would’ve done the writing teams. Not making an iO West team is what it is, it’s not good or bad. The timing didn’t work out and I accept that.
4 days after iO West auditions/callbacks, I get a facebook message with a cryptic note. Moments later, the Del Close nominations are announced and I’m one of the nominees for “Student of the Year.” I’ve been doing improv for since 2004 and this is the first time I’ve been awarded for going to class. Amazing! I was just thinking before I got this nomination “What am I doing? If I don’t get improv now, will I ever get it?” The nomination to me means that my teachers recognize the work that I’m doing and that I’m getting good enough work to get props for it. I AM improving. I AM getting it. Acting, improv, stand-up are all crafts with primarily a 10 year over night success story At Best! Some people shoot for the stars overnight and can get them, but for most of us, it takes a while.
It really is about the journey, it really is about enjoying the stuff you do and the people that surround you. If you don’t like what you’re doing, stop. I you like doing what you’re doing but you’re frustrated, look at what is frustrating you and turn it around. There are so many facets to life and we get stuck on looking at the shitty part of it when there are so many other things going on. I just keep thinking…
My time will come. And it’ll be awesome.
In the meantime, I’m going to appreciate the current awesomeness that surrounds me.
How’s it get any better than this?
I Feel So Good Like
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I wasn’t going to enter this contest. Then I was thinking about what made me happy. My first thought was my dog. I was going to do a whole dog video (which I still might do). I was thinking of walking her, having my friends play with her, jumping around. Jumping around made me think of this improv warm up. You start by shaking one hand and say:
Oh I feel so good like
I knew I would
(you eventually build on this warm up by shaking your other hand, then your hips, then jump around, then do it in different characters, etc…)
This made me really happy. My friend Lex Morales loves this warm up and introduced it to me a long time ago when we were in an improv team in NY. We’re reunited and on a different improv team here in LA and he recently jogged my memory of this awesome warm up. I think this warm up sums up improv in a pretty awesome way. You play around, you’re free, you make open choices, you don’t have any judgments, you have a lot of fun, you make instant best friends with anyone who joins you. It’s great for group mind, it’s great when you’re sad, it’s improv and it’s you. There are definite highs and lows in improv. There are people you are going to love and hate. In the end, you’re really only going to remember the good stuff (well, and some really terribly bad stuff that you’ll probably laugh at). That good stuff usually has to do with good friends. Thanks to improv, I have a lot of really cool and awesome friends. That makes me happy.
You Cannot Break Improv!
You did not get on a UCB Harold team
Grats to all who got on a UCB-NY Harold / Lloyd team! Good on ya!
For the rest who didn’t get on a team, how was your audition?
Terrible. I expected not to get a callback.
Terrible. At least I got a callback.
Awesome! But my callback was awful.
What just happened?
Don’t beat yourself up
It’s really not worth it. Ok. Beat yourself a little bit, then snap back and realize that you live in NY and you have time to do one of the coolest hobbies ever. Improv. Or, if this is your career choice (improv performer, teacher, coach, actor), this is just one more step toward your awesome journey.
If you’ve been doing this a long time (like me) please don’t take it personally.
My last UCB Harold audition was here in L.A. I thought I had it in the bag. I didn’t even get a callback. I cried my damn face off, curled in a fetal position, eating chocolate, which smeared all over my face and frizzy hair till I was blue. Then I chilled the eff out and realized, “I’ve been having an awesome year. Why do I care about this?” I care because it’s not just about being an actor, I care because it’s hanging out with people I know and like and to have a blast being funny. I didn’t get on a team or a callback because I was not what they were looking for, or my timing was just not on at the audition, or because the some of the judges have no idea who I am, or something. Who the hell knows. And that’s just it. Like ANY audition, you will never know. EXCEPT know that they ARE rooting for you. They ARE your fans.
Let’s be real. I was upset. I wanted to know why, especially since I had really good friends on the judges side rooting for me. So I asked why?
Because they’re looking at 100’s of people and you have to shine to get noticed.
You don’t have to make uber magic, but you do have to stand out. Think about it. There’s 5-20 judges watching maybe 10-20+ hours of improv of 300-500+ people. In a row. Barely any breaks. You know who they’re going to remember? Those people who stuck out. They might get bummed if a friend or intern or someone they really like didn’t shine. I have no idea if they give second chances to those folks. If it’s anything like casting a commercial (I worked in advertising), then no or rarely. That person better have a really good name and track record to be called back from a bombed or so-so audition.
On a scale from 1-10, I thought my last audition was about a 6.5. I think you’d need a 8+ to get called back. But this was my best audition. My first scene killed (and my scene partner got on a harold team. Yay!). My second scene, bleh. I should’ve been able to save that bleh and turn it into a Woot! But whatever. I can’t get stuck in the past and neither should you!!! It’s done.
Now ask “Why do I do this?”
I really really really love making people laugh. It’s my favorite thing ever. I love that I’m always discovering something new in my classes, teams, and shows. I love that it makes me a better actor. I love that improv introduced me to acting. I love that my best friends are improvisors (and some former improvisors). I love that I get to play on stage and it’s seen as something awesome and brave. I love that I get to be creative all of the time. I love watching my friends succeed on stage, TV, and film. I love that this is so much damn fun and this is my job. How does it get any better than this?
Just like a weird or mundane character in an improv scene that we feel stuck in, ask why. And then ask, “What’s right about this I’m not getting?” It’s not good or bad that you’re not on a Harold team, it’s just something that’s happened. You’re not a good or bad person for not getting on a Harold team, it’s an experience you had that you get to chalk up to another moment in life.
Stay in the now. Keep hanging out with your pals. Without hurting yourself or others, have a drink or eat a bunch for one night. Then puke it up and live on. You never know what else is possible.