In On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Daisy Gamble wonders “What did I have that I don’t have?”
Daisy’s question is replayed often by musical theatre auditionees for whom the casting well seems to have dried up inexplicably after a string of successes. But there’s a variation that comes to the fore even more frequently: “What did she (or he) have that I don’t have?”
Many gracious and sincere emails have come through my inbox over the years thanking me for the opportunity to have auditioned for a given project and asking for advice on what could have been improved about the sender’s performance. Quoth Charity Hope Valentine, “There’s gotta be something better than this.” Right?
Yes, of course: there are many times when an audition could be critiqued for a less than stellar performance, inappropriate choice of song, lackluster preparation, poor outfit selection, or any number of missteps. But on occasion — perhaps not infrequently, even — my reply could also be “You gave a solid audition. Great work.”
When this response is given, it’s nearly always met with some degree of confusion: “But if my audition was solid, why wasn’t I cast? What do the others have that I don’t?” To be commended for a quality audition that did not result in a casting offer must be very difficult when you’re a musical theatre performer who’s worked tirelessly for years to improve your craft. To think that you’ve given your best and it still wasn’t “good enough” must be incredibly hard. But that thinking is not always accurate.
Yes, there are almost always at least a few tweaks that might improve the overall quality of one’s audition. But that performance in and of itself is only one piece of the large and highly subjective casting puzzle. For example, there are times when a given performer is initially cast in a significant role (a lead, even), but when another role is then cast with someone of a very different type, it no longer makes visual sense to continue with casting the first performer. This doesn’t mean she’ll be made aware of the process behind those decisions, however. In the end, she usually knows only that she wasn’t cast, leading to thoughts of “Where did I go wrong?,” and “What aspect of my audition was poor?”
Musical theatre performers should constantly seek to improve the quality of their auditions, of course. Yet, it’s also important to remember that casting decisions are made with a whole product in mind. The absence of a casting offer is not an automatic indication that one has given a poor or “wrong” audition. Too much time spent in the throes of self-doubt following auditions can result in a lack of confidence that really will impact the quality of future ones.
So the next time you find yourself trapped in the depths of “What did (s)he have that I don’t have,” remember that one day you — like Charity Hope Valentine — might just find yourself singing “If they could see me now…”