This morning, a section of my Facebook feed was filled with people discussing the general auditions at the Guthrie. They had recently been announced and, not long after the sign-up form went live this morning, all available slots were full. A very good friend of mine missed the chance to sign up while another landed a spot due to taking the day of work to be on Minnesota Playlist and have access to the form as soon as it was available. For the many people who didn’t even land a spot, all I could do was scroll through their disappointed responses and feel… well, angry.
Being entirely second party to this – I don’t audition for my work and, while I’m a Guthrie employee, I work on an entirely different level – I still found this frustrating. It shouldn’t be like trying to get Adele tickets to get an audition slot. Now, it’s likely that extra slots will be added or a wait list may be created (as those who can’t make the audition may free up their time slot). But the issue is beyond this one scenario and one theater in the Twin Cities – it’s a problem that seems to be popping up again and again.
Everyone should have the chance to be seen and heard at the audition level. Yet it seems more and more frequently that that’s harder to come by. There is a lot of talent in the Twin Cities and I like to compliment how intimate the community feels for the number of people involved. But I grow concerned when the opportunities don’t match the spectrum that’s out there. There will always be more people auditioning than possible parts – that’s a fact of theater. When there’s not even enough space to audition, not even a chance to get out there at all, that becomes a different kind of problem. It’s being stuck in tough situation of not having immediate access to audition information, it’s not having the experience or connections to be “in the know,” it’s not having the space on an online form for your name. Auditioning is supposed to be a level playing field, but does it always? It seems a lot more difficult for those who are new to the field or have more independent theater work rather than having worked with several large organizations or worked consistently at certain theaters to break out of whatever bracket they’re stuck in.
As the theater community continues on its current growth spurt, it of course gets more difficult to be seen. With the Fringe Festival being larger than ever, it’s a becoming a different kind of festival, with fewer small venues and fewer opportunities for new theater groups to showcase their work. And with more discussions of Broadway becoming focused more on commercial theater rather than creating new works – something even Stephen Sondheim is concerned about – it’s becoming a general issue throughout American theater in how to bring visibility to actors, playwrights, and shows alike that are new and different.
From my own vantage of trying to create a space for myself and to fill a void I see but others may not, these frustrations related to auditioning are familiar. But I’m used to it – dramaturgs don’t audition. I don’t have the same path to finding work. So it seems doubly troubling that many actors are being kept out of the audition room by limited sign-up space that has nothing to do with whether they’re good enough for the part or available for the audition. Is it simply not enough time? Are there not enough hours a day to see all the people who want to audition in order to make requirements for casting? Are there not enough people at theaters throughout the cities to watch everyone and make decisions? Or is there a certain kind of favoritism in how information is spread, allowing certain actors advantages because of the experiences over those who have different experiences, a fault not of the actors but how the community operates?