Do you know when the first ever National Broadway Auditions are?

Me neither.

Because there is no such thing as the National Broadway Auditions.  But there should be.  I mean, can you imagine?  A giant event in major cities across the country where all the super talented folks from that locale could get a minute in front of a Broadway Casting director?  Yeah, it’s a bit American Idol . . . but it worked for that show, didn’t it?  Ever see Kelly Clarkson’s American Idol audition from Dallas, Texas?

Here are three reasons why I’d love to see a National Broadway Audition:

  1. To Save $

In the past month, I’ve been in meetings on three different shows who were concerned they wouldn’t find the unique talent they were looking for in New York City, so each one of these shows was planning on doing a mini-tour of some of the bigger talent hubs in our country separately.  Forever the guy who is looking to cut costs in our exceedingly more expensive industry, I couldn’t help but wonder if these shows and their respective casting directors, couldn’t team up and consolidate their audition process.  (The summer stock companies have been doing these types of auditions for years to save money and time  . . . the NETCs, the SETCs, etc.)

  1. To Market Broadway

I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about how auditions are one of the best, and earliest forms of marketing a show can do.  But mamma mia, can you imagine the press that would be generated if Broadway went all over the country looking for new talent?  And then imagine the press if a show actually found someone from a small town in middle America and gave them a shot at stardom?  And those are just the press opportunities.  Imagine the number of names and email addresses our industry could collect . . . and Facebook likes and blah, blah, blah.  It’d be a marketing bonanza.  Why?  Because both sides win . . . the individuals auditioning would love the opportunity to audition for a Broadway show and Broadway shows need the talent.  It’s the  purest form of marketing there is.

  1. To Find More Diverse Performers

I’m happy to report that there is a major effort underway to diversify our casts (as well as our staffs).  But a lot of the work done in this regard is about looking at who is in front of us.  If we want to increase the number of opportunities for people from all walks of life, then we may need to go to where they are, rather than just wait for them to come to us.  Because just waiting for who comes into our audition room is what got us to where we are now.  By having a National Broadway Audition, we’d be making sure everyone got their shot.

The success of recent Broadway events like BroadwayCon demonstrate the collective power of bringing our community together.  Auditions are the next step . . . ball change.


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  • Tori says:

    The easiest way to diversify casts and staff is to put capital into writers and producers of color and then have open calls for original casts that do not require AEA membership status.

    • NYC-ACTOR says:

      I’d agree with the first part. But do you mean produce non-Eq shows or open the auditions to NON-Eq Actors?

      I believe the AEA (though it can be weak in some cases) is our most important protector when it comes to actor rights and fairness and helping earn a fair and reasonable wage. I’ve heard horror stories (and experienced them as well) of these Non- Eq shows an seeing more and more tours go Non-Eq is disheartening. it seems the production value and the Acting Value is diminished. I saw the Non Eq tour of Rent and it was pretty, well… frankly. It was embarrassing. Screamed NON -EQUITY.

      On the contrary – producing new Equity work is what is most important because then you have the ability to raise more money, bring in a more diverse and talented cast who has the experience to bring your diverse vision to life.

      Maybe I’m color blind ( I don’t think so) But I feel like Broadway is fairly diverse now. Am i wrong to assert this? the show I was apart of was basically half Afro-American and Half Caucasian. Every Broadway show I have seen in the last 3 years has had multiple ethnicities in them. some All Black (Color Purple), Some all or mostly Asian (King And I).

      I think B-Way is doing a pretty good job with Diversity. Thoughts?

  • NYC-ACTOR says:

    I’m all for finding new talent, but I feel like there is something missing from your equation. Maybe it’s the bitter New Yorker in me that’s been pounding the pavement for the last 13 years trying to craft a career out of this, but there is something almost undignified about the idea that all that hard work wouldn’t matter because now people can just sit back and wait for broadway to come to them.

    It took me 10 years almost to the day to make it onto Broadway from the time I started off as a NY actor. I’ve met many, many actors who did it in less than a month after getting out of college, but we all have our own path.

    Maybe it’s also the romantic part of me, but there was always something about going on the journey to reach your goal that I’ve found noble, honorable and courageous. Taking that leap of faith and moving out of the suburbs, or Mom and Dad’s house to pursue your dream. Working hours and hours in shitty part-time jobs to make enough to live in NY and get to audition. Doing local theater trying to get enough credits to get in for that Equity audition, getting your card and then going on EPA’s. Maybe I’m old school, but I feel like there is something about all of that that prepares you for the long haul of a national tour or being on Broadway.

    As you know Broadway is not a one night and you are a star. You need to go out every night, Eight days a week and be able to give the same seller performance. You need to learn to pace yourself, and when to take it easy and when to take a day off to recuperate so you can keep on going. And then there is the people management and learning to negotiate your way through NY, which also can be pretty over whelming to a newbie.

    I guess the point I’m trying to make is – there is a reason why you cast actors that have resumes with work experience. Usually that means they know the job ahead. They understand what is expected of them, they are reliable.

    I know we come at this from different perspectives. You’ve seen first hand actors that have been problems for the production and those that help it move along. I’m sure there is a deciding factor in these cases, but I do know that the rigors of Broadway and what it demands not only physically but mentally are not for everyone who wants to be a “star”. And there is a big difference between American Idol where you perform a couple time a week and Broadway where you have 8 shows and then another 8 and then another 8…

    As a producer with a lot of investor money on the line would you rather have a new actor who can sing great but has never been out of their home town and never done a run longer than a month or would you go with someone who has proven themselves as a professional. Someone who knows the challenges ahead and has at the very least taken a step in their journey towards their dream?

    I don’t know the answer – and if you had asked me 13 years ago of course the younger me would say – Hell I deserve a chance! But time and all of my experience has helped me become the actor I am today. I’ve been on Broadway for three years and Universe willing I will continue to grow and book more and be back on the Great White Way again…

    Great blog! Thanks for your insight!

    • NYC-ACTOR,

      With all due respect for your well-written and honest reply, it feels like there is a presumption that you’re making that the only people *worthy* of working on Broadway – the only professionals, the only AEA actors – live in New York City. You make this case that you should have to be hardened by NY to be able to cut it on Broadway. You make the case that only those who live in NY have enough experience to handle 8 shows a week. I live in Seattle, WA as a Casting Manager and Talent Scout, and I can assure you we have extraordinary talent living and working professionally (with their AEA cards) here that can absolutely hang with the folks on Broadway. In fact, you may have heard of a little show called Aladdin, which premiered here in Seattle before moving on (and crushing it) on Broadway. Several members of that cast, Seattle locals, that went on to the Broadway production had never lived in NY. And there are so many more major theatrical markets in the U.S., with their professional, card-carrying actors and dancers.

      There’s an ironic elitism (romanticism) in your entire reply (and please know I’m not trying to be rude or argumentative…just responding to your assertions) that you must be a poor, struggling artist who lives in NY, pounding the pavement, doing your “local theater” (and why is NY local theater better than Chicago local theater or DC local theater, etc?), overpaying for your sh*tty apartment, working sh*tty jobs (trust me, NY doesn’t have a monopoly on that either), hoping and praying that you can get your big break on Broadway. Why are you (or anyone living in NYC) more entitled to get that shot, just because of your mailing address? Who gets cast on Broadway should be about talent, experience, talent, chemistry with the other performers, talent, natural charisma, talent, the right look, talent, and the list goes on and on (with a few more talents thrown in for good measure). How is it any different than me flying to NY for an audition, getting the part, and then needing to relocate for the show? Should I not have been allowed to audition in the first place without a NYC mailing address? How is it any different than a professional actor based in Los Angeles, who has been pounding the pavement for the past 13 years working for the professional theatres in LA? Isn’t that person taking “a step in their journey towards their dream.” It’s a one in a million chance for *anyone* to get cast in their first Broadway show, and, yes, you should have to work hard for it. You need to have the tenacity and the stamina and the talent. I just don’t understand this presumption that you have to live in NYC to hope that it could ever happen for you too. You do realize we’re not all country bumpkins or wide-eyed, naive hopefuls with no real-world, big-city experience just because we don’t live in NYC?

      A national Broadway audition would be, in some respects, so very tedious as you would likely be wading through hordes of hopefuls who really don’t have what it takes, but I think Ken is really on to something with this idea. Cirque du Soleil holds regular annual auditions in many major markets around the world. Perhaps “Broadway” would want to work with some of the local professional theatres and casting professionals in each city to get a curated list of potential talent, as well as…maybe…opening it up to an open call situation. There’s no doubt in my mind that you would find some hidden (and not so hidden) gems in every city on the tour with either approach – people who are working, professional actors and can’t fly to NY for every audition (or any audition) because of their schedule or financial situation; people who may not have even considered Broadway to be a realistic option, because what a risk to move out to NYC when you can get quality work that pays the bills with your local professional theatre(s). Yes, you might find some incredible raw talent with little working experience (this can happen in an open call in NY as well), but then it is up to the Casting Director, Producer, Director, and the other top creatives of the show to decide if this person is not only talented enough but will also be able to hang with a grueling 8-show-a-week schedule. Again, that has nothing to do with the geographic location of the audition or the auditionee’s home address.

      The important thing is to consider everything else that Ken points out as benefits of this terrific idea – to save $ on national searches (this is a Producing blog, after all), to market Broadway on a meaningful, national scale, and to find more diverse performers (although I’d argue there’s a tremendous amount of diversity in NYC….this point can be accomplished without the logistical nightmare of a national Broadway audition….I think opportunities of diversity come from the creators and content of the show, not who lives in the neighborhood of your next audition). Broadway is not a “locals only” club. It’s a billion dollar industry with massive national and international recognition. Why would you ever want to limit yourself to only casting from the 8.5 million people in NYC, when there are 325 million people in the US (and 7 billion in the world)?

      Go for it, Ken! (but good luck…..what a pain in the ass to pull this off). 😉

      And thank you, NYC-ACTOR, for your dedication to to your dream, and congratulations on putting in the work and getting lucky enough to make it to Broadway. People like you inspire other hopefuls to move to NYC and give it a try. More power to everyone that chooses that path.

      • NYC-ACTOR says:

        Tim –

        Thanks for that well thought out response to my comment. You do bring up some good points and after I submitted my response I did think it came off as a bit elitist.

        It’s certainly true that there is some extraordinary talent in regional theater areas. I was in one on the east coast for a few years and was making a “living” as an actor but I realized I would always have to subelement my income if I wanted to stay in that area as an actor. That’s exactly why I moved to NYC – because the opportunity for growth wasn’t there.

        Ironically, I have often found myself in other regional theaters across the country because casting directors come to NYC from reputable regional theaters for precisely the zip code and credits you were referring to. Being a NYC actor has it’s merits and like it or not does legitimize some casting directors. And having that broadway credit opens up doors. I can attest to both of those ideas. Where as when I lived in my regional city I was toking ensemble roles, when I moved to NYC I started to book principal roles and nothing had changed except for my zipcode. After I left broadway I booked more roles because of that credit.

        I never liked the idea that I had to live in NYC to book as I’ve certainly worked with incredibly talented actors from regional theater that call that home and wouldn’t think of moving to NYC. But there is a stigma that comes with being a NY Actor.

        Speaking of Seattle, I can attest that you do indeed have some fantastic actors there and looking at the old Google I see some of them are performing at the 5th Ave currently (for soon) not sure when Pajama Game opens. But you are very much correct.

        I think in the end we all (most of us) don’t come from NY. Perhaps because I put in those years trying to make it I resit the “easier” route. But I think as things change we all have to deal with that in our careers one way or another.

        I think the public doesn’t give any thought to what it really takes to put on a show, whether its regional or broadway. Those of us in the Biz do understand that and know that it takes more than just being able to have a good voice.

        To Ken’s point – and as you reminded me – this is a producers corner. The producer in me thinks it’s a good idea. Especially if you can market the shows coming to broadway from this national search.

        In my hometown regional theater market they had an area-wide audition so all the theaters and casting directors from the city and the cities near by could come and see all the actors who wanted to audition in one weekend. We all had 90 seconds to do whatever we wanted. And they would call their private auditions from there. It gave them an idea of the breadth of talent available and it was a great way for a newbie, like myself at the time, could get in front of casting directors I wouldn’t normally have been able to when I first started working.

        In the end, I think selfishly Im trying to preserve my own job (and potential jobs) and when I hear about opening it up to that many more people that just means I have to beat out thousands more for my job. A daunting task, but one Im confident I can still do. It’s a tough business either way.

        Thanks for the reply.

  • Mike G says:

    Love this idea, mostly for reason 2.

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