A Smart Performer is a Successful Performer

Blog: A Smart Performer is a Successful Performer

Posted On by Matthew Taylor Strote, Education Associate

When it comes to training in the world of musical theater, performers never really stop learning and refining their craft. This is a business that demands that the artist constantly refine their skills. Here at Signature Theatre, we do our best to help performers expand their tool belts of knowledge. One of the most effective ways we have to do this is through one of our summer programs, Overtures: The Summer Musical Theater Institute. Now, we could sing the praises of the Overtures program till the cows come home but I think our time might be better spent sharing some of the facts our amazing faculty drop on a daily basis.

Audition Presentation with Matthew Gardiner, Tracy Lynn Olivera and Mitchell Hébert

Let’s be upfront, auditions are scary for most everyone. There are nerves flying all over the place and an unnatural vibe of competition in the rehearsal room. This is not the type of environment most people would probably want to hang out in for “fun.” Unfortunately, if one wants to be a performer they must chop through the thick jungle of anxiety that is the audition. As the Overtures instructors constantly stress, directors and casting associates want to cast you. They want the next person that walks through the door to be the one they need for their show. So, the best thing a performer can do is bring their true, talented, friendly self into the room and give that to the director on the other side of the table. As Signature’s Associate Artistic Director Matthew Gardiner often states, it is best for performers to choose audition pieces that show off their personality and that they are a living, breathing human being.

Tap with Bobby Smith

As Bobby Smith said in his recent tap master class, “If you can clap it, you can tap it.” Anyone can tap. All human beings have a natural internal rhythm inside of them, going at all times of the day, a heartbeat. With tap dancing, it is just a matter of channeling that internal rhythm through hands, legs, ankles and feet. Find and feel that rhythm and let it consume you as your feet take you on a journey around the rehearsal room.

Business of Show Business

As Signature Theatre’s Associate Artistic Director Matthew Gardiner sat down with the 2015 Overtures class this past week, he explored a number of professional concerns and questions that all performers face. What should a resume look like? How do I get the best look for a headshot? How should a performer inquire about auditions? Keep it simple: be upfront, honest and interested. More often than not, performers think that spectacle is the only way to get eyes on them and their resumes. But as Matt said, we want to know that you can perform the part and be an open and willing artistic collaborator on the given project.

Vocal and Dance Flexibility Workshop

Every musical theater performer dreams of being a triple threat—that rare (but increasingly necessary) performer who’s equally skilled at singing, dancing and acting. Many may only identify as a “double” or “solo threat.” Regardless of the number of strong skills a performer thinks they possess, they should audition and perform with an aura of flexibility and fun. In a recent workshop led by New York City based choreographer and movement coach Erika Shannon and vocal coach Jen DeRosa, one principle that was stressed was, “Don’t dodge the dance call.” This can be applied to acting and singing as well when it comes to auditioning and performing. If a performer does not identify as a strong dancer, that does not mean they should check out or simply try to “get through” the dance call. Do the dance call full out! Try your hardest and be willing to make a mistake. The worst thing an actor can do in an audition is flub a step or note and get so frustrated with themselves that they sabotage their own confidence as well as the directors. Casting directors do not want to put performers onstage that will shrivel up and cry when something small goes awry. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Move on, don’t look back and keep selling the world of the performance. The same thing can be said when it comes to the singing side of performance. Be flexible. If part of a song is not working for you or challenging in a particular section then there may be a specific physical adjustment you as a performer can make. Perhaps it’s an old injury, posture or your neutral stance. Whatever it may be, being open to adjustment both physically and vocally will not only help but help you land the part.

Dance with Karma Camp

Luckily enough, Overtures was able to land its longtime Artistic Associate Karma Camp for a single day dance masterclass. Believe it or not, Karma helped create Overtures 13 years ago with Signature’s Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer. As Karma took the students through an intense warm up and a partnered bit of choreography from Hello, Dolly; which she was awarded a Helen Hayes Award for. One of the major lessons Karma pushed throughout her time with the students was to try and learn as many approaches and styles as possible. If you have a chance to take a class and learn something, do it! You’re only doing a disservice to yourself by not experiencing ballet, samba, rumba, tap, break dancing, hip hop, modern, jazz and musical theater. Get out there and learn as much as you can for as long as you can and the connections you make along the way will help you land opportunities for many years to come.

Come see these amazing young performers apply all they’ve learned throughout Overtures on June 27 at 11 AM in the MAX Theatre here at Signature Theatre. Tickets for this showcase are free.