Taoblog: Auditioning the Judges

Why Didn’t I Pass?

It all depends.

In my experience, the audition process to join an improv troupe or theater ranges from the precise to the opaque to the downright clique-ish. Before you audition, you might want to assess the organization in that light.

I’ve judged auditions in more than one theater, on numerous occasions, in numerous formats and situations.

In some, you basically have to please the artistic director. That can be fraught with unknowns. In others, it’s a panel of judges — often directors. Or it might be a tryout for a small troupe, and that can be like trying to join a fraternity or sorority. The whole process can be a Dark Art.

It can be hard to try to game the system when you audition, because there might not really be a system. You try to do grounded, supportive scene work; be intelligent; be a solid team player. You don’t pass. But the guy who did the funny accents, shouted over everyone, put on a clown show — he made the team. Or, it could work just the opposite, and the judges turn their noses up at the scene-stealer and nod and smile at the generous, levelheaded one.

Maybe a judge just doesn’t like you because you’re kind of a weird outlier of a person. Maybe that’s exactly what another judge loves about you.

My advice for navigating this minefield where the mines keep moving around: Do it all.

Revel in your weirdness, but also do some grounded, mainstream scene work. Be the quiet, supportive one, but also show your brash, energetic side. The judges will see the thing they like and forgive the rest. Basically, show them your range.

And it doesn’t hurt to watch the team’s performances often, so you get a sense of what they are all about. And if you do, introduce yourself. Often. We are not dealing with logic here. We are dealing with human beings.


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