Want to increase your chances for acting employment across the country? Every year, regional combined auditions, attended by hundreds of theater companies and job generators such as theme parks and production companies, give actors, dancers, designers, and other theater professionals and students the opportunity to strut their stuff. You might have to take a road trip, but here are five of the biggest and best combined auditions for performers serious about advancing their careers.
For more information regarding audition dates, application deadlines, entry fees, eligibility requirements, and audition tips, visit each organization's website.
MidWest Theatre Auditions
Where: Webster University, St. Louis, Mo. (home to the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis)
Who can audition: Equity and non-Equity actors are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Performers who wish to be considered for musicals can sing a song, but all auditioners must prepare at least one non-musical piece. Optional dance auditions are also held each day. Designers, technicians, and stage managers can schedule interviews as well.
Why it's worth the trip: About 50 summer stock companies, year-round theaters, and graduate programs, such as Arena Stage (Washington, D.C.), Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre (Arrow Rock, Mo.), Carnegie Mellon School of Drama (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Kentucky Shakespeare Festival (Louisville, Ky.), and Utah Shakespeare Festival (Cedar City, Utah) attend, offering professional positions and internships.
New England Theatre Conference
Where: Natick, Mass.
Who can audition: Auditions are open to non-Equity members and Equity membership candidates; Equity members are not eligible to apply. Applicants must be college students or adults 18 or over. Producers are interested in seeing young performers as well as mature, adult talent with professional experience and/or experience in community or summer theaters, for both seasonal and job-in employment. Companies also interview musical directors, designers, and applicants for technical and staff positions.
Why it's worth the trip: Theaters who participate in New England's oldest and largest combined auditions offer both job-in and full-season employment, as well as apprentice and intern positions and Equity membership candidacy programs. An average of 50 companies are represented at these auditions annually. Casting companies and professional theater training companies and conservatories are also represented.
Southeastern Theatre Conference
Where: Locations vary; 2012 auditions were held in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Atlanta, Ga. (Auditions are held each spring and fall.)
Who can audition: To be eligible to audition as a professional, performers must be 19 or older, must not be enrolled in school, and must have had a minimum of two paid professional theater jobs since completing their training. Dancer auditions are held separately at the spring auditions. Students, including design and tech candidates, are able to qualify for their own spring and fall sessions to audition for undergraduate and graduate programs. Students and adults can also attend professional screening auditions in their state to qualify for spring professional auditions, if they do not meet the criteria.
Why it's worth the trip: SETC conducts one of the country's largest and longest-running combined auditions. More than 30 professional theaters attend fall auditions to see about 200 actors, and the spring auditions host more than 90 companies, who audition more than 800 actors. SETC's Professional Auditions draw stock and repertory companies, cruise lines, outdoor festivals, children's theater companies, touring companies, theme parks, and more that offer professional summer and/or full-time positions.
Where: New York City
Who can audition: Auditions are restricted to non-Equity actors, singers, and dancers. Performers must be at least 18 years old.
Why it's worth the trip: Applicants are screened to match the needs of the attending companies, the majority of which tend to cast for musical theater. In 2011, at least 700 participants were seen by more than 30 companies, including Hersheypark, Ivoryton Playhouse, New London Barn Playhouse, Surflight Theatre, and RWS & Associates. Eighty-five percent of auditioning actors received callbacks. The auditions are taped, so theaters are able to review auditions as needed and companies that did not attend can see the talent. Actors can also get a copy of their audition tape, to use for future submissions. Also, your headshot and résumé will be posted in a searchable online database that StrawHat member theaters use to cast their seasons. StrawHat also provides audition advice, an online bulletin board for questions and networking, and access to information about its member theaters.
Unified Professional Theatre Auditions
Where: Playhouse on the Square in Memphis, Tenn.
Who can audition: Preprofessional auditions are available for students who will be graduating from an undergrad program, and regular auditions are for more experienced performers. Equity and non-Equity performers will be seen. Production personnel with an undergraduate theater degree can also schedule interviews. All applicants must be available for work year-round.
Why it's worth the trip: Companies that register to attend UPTA are required to offer either paid year-round employment, paid job-in employment, or paid internships. Between 80 and 100 theaters, theme parks, and cruise lines from across the U.S. attend each year. Past participants have included Busch Gardens, Clemmons/Dewing Casting, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Texas Shakespeare Festival, and Dollywood Entertainment.
Daniel Lehman is a staff writer for Back Stage. Follow him on Twitter: @byDanLehman