Dealing with no-shows for training place auditions

Susan Elkin
Susan is Education and Training Editor at The Stage
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I’m still unashamedly on the subject of auditions – it is after all the audition season for schools and colleges and a lot of other people will be thinking about them too.

Several frustrated colleges have told me recently about the problem of potential students who are invited to audition but who then, without a word, fail to attend. ‘No shows’ are making life quite difficult for student enrollers in some parts of the performing arts training industry.

Well get this, chaps: If you apply for a college and are lucky enough to be offered a decent audition experience then you have, in my view, a moral – yes moral – obligation to turn up, make the best of it and learn from it. The college invited a certain number for that day, and unless it happens to be one of the diminishing number of colleges which offers only a perfunctory five minutes in the first round, you are probably depriving someone else if you accept an audition place but don’t turn up for it.

The Excellent Audition Guide by Andy Johnson has helpful tips on audition preperation
The Excellent Audition Guide by Andy Johnson has helpful tips on audition preparation

You have, after all paid an audition fee – in some cases a hefty one – in advance. If you can afford to throw that money away by not going ahead with the audition then you are giving ammunition to the people who argue that drama schools are full of ‘rich kids’ whose families can afford to fund them.

Do you really want to work in this industry? In a sense a college audition is your first professional commitment. Not bothering to appear hardly shows appropriate enthusiasm.

It is also very bad manners. And good manners and the ability to relate to, and work with, other people are key to success in all aspects of the performing arts. Being a casual ‘no show’ at the first hurdle is not exactly an auspicious start.

What can colleges do to prevent this problem which I understand, from several principals, especially of smaller colleges, is quite a serious and pervasive one? Well, I’ve often criticised the levying of high audition fees. Perhaps it is time to revise my views.

I’d be interested to see a college brave enough to try this as one college has told me it is considering. Pitch your up-front audition fee at a level, say £100, where very few students would be prepared to throw it away by not attending. Then, if you really want to charge only £35, refund £65 on the day – so two thirds of the fee becomes, as it were, a returnable deposit. And the money paid by an applicant who still didn’t turn up could be paid into some sort of charity or hardship fund to support other students.

Worth a try?

1 Comment

  1. This is my pet hate topic…and I’d be really interested in feedback on my thoughts on this issue. It is in fact The MTA that is seriously considering upping our audition fee. We currently charge £45 for a whole day audition(which includes written feedback to every applicant) – we know categorically (because our applicants fill out an anonymous questionnaire) that every single applicant that has ever walked through our doors feels that they have received value for money for their audition. We are on record saying that we cap our auditions at 250 therefore every audition place is really valuable – which makes it all the more frustrating when people don’t show up or cancel on the day of the audition (or the day before). Despite having a reserve list of people prepared to take their chances that one of our elusive spaces materialise at the last moment we invariably end up on a typical audition day with ‘gaps’. Financially we’ve lost nothing as the audition fee is non-fundable…but I resent that there were people that really wanted to audition for us who were denied that opportunity due to someone else saying that they’d attend and then pulling out at the last moment. There will always be the genuine cases of people that have suddenly been taken ill, or who have found themselves in the middle of a ‘situation’ – but they can always provide proof and we will always find a way of slotting them in somewhere else so that life’s natural ability to be inconvenient does not penalise them. What I find fascinating is that we write to all our auditionees the week prior to the audition and it is only at that point that most of them remember to tell us that they can no longer attend the day?? Had they had the common courtesy to tell us the moment they had first realised we could have awarded their place to someone else. Therefore in a bid to stop this happening we are seriously toying with the idea of charging in excess of £100 for the opportunity to audition at The MTA BUT the deal being that when you turn up for the audition we will refund you £55, so in reality the audition fee is still the same price….but hopefully it would make people think twice about just not turning up, and essentially taken an opportunity away from someone else. In line with out ‘ethical training policy’ any profits that we make from this arrangement would go straight into our Student Hardship Fund, so your inability to just be polite will at least benefit other students. It’s definitely a risky strategy as I don’t want to prevent people applying for the course because the audition is too expensive…but equally I don’t want to keep running audition days that should have 22 people booked on them with just 15 people in the room(which is what the average turned out to be last year). I’m really interested in people’s thoughts on this though

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