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Careers Clinic: Can I audition for my dream role?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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Just before leaving drama school, I got to play my dream role in a contemporary play which was very popular overseas but hadn’t yet been done professionally here. Even though ours was a student production, the response to the show, and to my performance, was very positive.

The work I have done since graduating has obviously been on a smaller scale, as I don’t have an agent yet, but I am building up my experience and credits.

I have just read that a big theatre here is going to put on a full production of the show I was in. I would die for the chance to play that role again, professionally this time. I managed to find out the name of the casting director from an actor friend but while I was asking around, other actors I know kept telling me not to bother as I am still an unknown and the part will probably go to a big name.

Do you think it is worth me taking a shot anyway?

John Byrne’s advice

There is nothing to stop you contacting the casting director about this part, despite what your friends say. I don’t disagree that producers of big shows often go for already established names as insurance, which means your chances of getting seen might be slimmer by comparison, but if we all waited until we had an absolute guarantee of success, none of us would take any chances at all.

‘Taking a chance’ and ‘going in wildly unprepared’ are two different things. Start off by doing as much research as you can on the upcoming production and the casting director involved. Is there any indication that the production will be along similar lines to the one you were already in, albeit on a bigger budget? If it is likely to be a fairly radical re-imagining, that doesn’t mean you can’t mention your previous performance when you make contact, but it helps if you know something about the context of the current role so you can tailor your pitch accordingly.

Any clues you can find about how the casting director likes to be contacted are certainly useful – it’s very unlikely to be by turning up unannounced at their office or via unsolicited phone calls or direct messages on social media. When preparing your approach, remember that it’s not how much you love the show that is likely to get you into the room, but how much confidence you can give those involved in the selection process that you are worth seeing.

Make sure that every skill and strength you talk about is reflected in your headshot, CV and showreel

By all means express enthusiasm but keep the approach professional and don’t gush or appear to be trying to guilt-trip your way into the room. Make sure that every skill and strength you talk about is reflected in your headshot, CV and showreel. Above all, don’t let the fact that you did the show several years ago stop you doing the same prep as if you were approaching it new, just in case you do beat the odds and get the chance to be seen at short notice. Do bear in mind, though, that the first audition can often be just the start of a long journey to the final recall.

What happens if you don’t get seen? Or if you do, but don’t make the final cut? I certainly don’t think it will have been a wasted exercise. In the spirit of ‘controlling what you can control’, get your pitch right and at the very least the casting director will remember you for the right reasons, which could pay off when they are casting other roles in the future – perhaps even this same role in a later production. By that time, I hope you will have more experience and marketable credits under your own belt.

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne

John Byrne is also a writer, cartoonist, performer and broadcaster. Read his advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/john-byrne

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