Dealing with no-shows for training place auditions

Susan Elkin
Susan Elkin is a journalist specialising in training and education.
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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?