“We are looking for every actor that walks in the room to be the answer for us,” casting director Kate Boka says of the audition process. “I think people often see casting directors as the big scary judge behind the table. But I want to have someone walk in the room and do something great and think, ‘Oh my gosh, this is it! What a great discovery!’ On our side of the table, we are constantly rooting for actors to do their best work.”
Working with casting director Carrie Gardner, Boka is the casting associate for the Broadway, national tour, and Chicago companies of “The Book of Mormon.” And on Saturday, Nov. 17, Boka will be at Backstage’s annual Actorfest NY event to hold a special round of auditions for all three productions of the Tony-winning hit show.
Like any other Broadway musical, Boka looks for great singers who are also great actors to join the “Book of Mormon” cast. Triple threats who understand and appreciate the show’s specific comedic tone tend to succeed. The bottom line, Boka says, is that “terrific singers who have a great sense of comedy and the style of the show” will stand out.
Here are some of Boka’s tips to help actors do their best work in the “Book of Mormon” audition room.
Trust the process. “Casting is very subjective. This is a creative business. If it’s meant to be your gig, it’s your gig. And if it’s not, it’s not. Just be who you are and do the work that you do best, without trying to be something you’re not or trying to anticipate what you think we might be looking for. Be able to walk out of the room and say, ‘I did the best that I could. I’m either right for this or wrong for this. They’ll either like me or they won’t.’ ”
It’s not personal. “There are a lot of factors that go into casting that have nothing to do with you as a person, or your talent, or how well you sing, or any of that. There’s plenty of stuff that is completely beyond an actor’s control. Being okay with that is important.”
Treat the CD like a human being. “I’m a person like everybody else. Yes, I sit behind a table, but you don’t have to try to impress me. Come in and be yourself.”
Don’t stand too close to the table. “I need a little bit of space to get perspective and see someone in a scene.” (Don’t hide at the back of the room, either. Just pick a middle distance.)
Be nice to the accompanist and assistants. “You don’t know who they’re going to be in five years. That’s true across the board. I think an actor’s reputation, both as a person and how they are to work with, is something that is weighed just as heavily as how well they auditioned for a certain part.”
Respect everyone in your life and your career. “An important part of the reputation and brand that an actor builds for themselves is how they interact with and work with others. Even though this is New York City, it’s a small town, and if word gets out that someone has been unkind or disrespectful, that has cost people jobs before. So it’s super important.”
Of course, Boka knows that even the best advice is easier said than done. “It’s hard to walk into a room with someone sitting behind a table, staring at you, taking notes about you as you’re doing your big scene,” she says. “Actors have to drop all their walls and pour their hearts out every time they walk into an audition room, and that’s a really hard thing to do.”
Boka understands the stress of auditions because she began her career as an actor. She originally moved to New York to audition for musical theater, before discovering her true calling as a casting director.
“I have a lot of compassion and empathy,” Boka says. “Having that experience and walking into the audition room myself, I know what it feels like to be on that side of things and to wonder, ‘What are they thinking? Do they like me? Did I do that wrong? Did I pick the wrong song? Should I have done a different monologue?’ With all that second guessing, usually an actor gets in their own way. And what I wish they could know is, You are here because this is what you love to do. See this as an opportunity. You have a captive audience. Get out of your own head, throw all that stuff away, and just know that you have a great opportunity here. I’m not here to judge you and belittle you. I hope that it goes great for you, because that means that it goes great for me.”
Kate Boka will be holding auditions for “The Book of Mormon” at Actorfest NY on Saturday, Nov. 17. For more information and to register, visit Actorfest.com.