10 Talent interviews choreographer, Robin Calvert, about the do’s, don’ts, how’s and why’s of auditioning.
Welcome to the 10 Talent Blog/Vlog! A bit about myself… I am Sarah Matton, Founder and Director of 10 Talent Management. Over the past decade I have worked professionally in the field of musical theatre. I’m also the Co-Creator of the only temp agency for dance teachers in Canada, Quick Ball Change. I’ve been inspired to start an mini series vlog to share my knowledge as well as speak to those who work professionally in the industry. This is just meant to be an informal chat so we can hopefully all learn something and I hope you enjoy!
YOU CAN WATCH THE FULL VIDEO INTERVIEW AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS BLOG POST!
I’m so excited because today we’re speaking to someone who’s been on both sides of the panel. She’s performed, choreographed, done many renditions of the musical Anne, and she’s also a graduate of the Ryerson Theatre Dance Program like me. So thank you so much and welcome Robin Calvert.
1 | So Robin, I believe auditioning is a skill. Do you agree and is there anything we can do to hone our skill?
Auditioning is definitely a skill, and the only way you get better at it is by doing it. So practice makes perfect. I think it’s the only way to get past the nerves. And I think the nerve part of the audition is the hardest skill to get past because you need to be able to relax your brain enough, to soak up the choreography quickly, and not panic. And I think that when I’m teaching, the biggest thing I talk about is how to quell that panic.
2a | How many shows have you choreographed now?
2b | And do you have a favourite show? Is it Anne?
Anne is obviously near and dear to my heart. I’ve been doing it for 15 years now this season…but I would have to say my very favourite show is spring awakening. I love that style, that contemporary style that you can create with the people that you have. You know, very Stephen Hogget “esque” who is my favourite choreographer ever.
3 | When you’re auditioning do you already know what you’re looking for? Stylistically or a look? Do you have an idea of that or are you open to something completely different to blow your mind?
I am usually open. There are certain shows that are specific like Anne for instance, because of the age range of the characters for instance. You need adults to be a certain height. Then you have the kids or the students of Avonlea need to then be shorter to then perceive them as younger, and they also have “kid” kids in the show. So height plays a huge factor. But that being said it can change from year to year depending on who our adults are, and also what the second show is because in Charlottetown it runs in reps, so there’s a second show to think about. If I do Beauty and the Beast, it’s more technical. If I do Anne it’s more athletic. But I always love to be surprised, so I try to keep a very open mind.
4 | If I’m a 5’7” dancer do you think I should still go out to these auditions for Anne? If I’m not looking like a kid should I not represent myself at all?
Oh, a thousand percent, go to every audition you can. One, they get to see you. Most choreographers in Canada do more than one show, and work for more than one company. So if you blow their mind, you may not be right for that specific show. But they’ll be like “you know what they’re going to be perfect for Beauty that I’m doing at Drayton.” You know what I mean? So I think it’s super important to go to every single audition, and even treat it like a class. You’re going just to work on those skills.
Another thing I would suggest, going back to practicing is go to New York if you can. I suggest everybody does it because you can sometimes audition three times a day. And I think it takes that panic, not panic but that worry that you’re not going to get that one job. Just because there’s not that many auditions in Canada. So when you’re in the states, you can go and maybe one audition’s not that great and you’re not going to worry, “Oh god, you know Charlottetown’s never going to see me again because I kind of blew that audition.“ You can go and just be free and just hone those skills. And I did that right away and I spent 6 weeks there and it was the best thing that I did. Think of it as free class. You’ll take that pressure off of yourself.
5 | How important do you think someone’s audition outfit is? When I auditioned, I probably wore the same thing to every audition: purple bodysuit, little black skirt and I wore that to every audition.
Super important. I just did a round of auditions about a month ago. And I think we saw two hundred non-equity girls and when you go back two weeks later, and think, “Oh what was that girl, what does she look like?” I’ll always make a little notation “red bodysuit” and it just gives people a memory and it makes people stand out from the crowd and I think that’s super important.
6 | If I’m auditioning for a specific show like Rocky Horror, should I go as the character? If so, can I go too far with that?
You absolutely can go too far. My advice is always be the essence of the character, not the character. Give them the idea that you can be that person. But I suggest not going too far with it.
7 | How important is someone’s resume? Usually when we are doing our final dance call, our headshots are all lined up so you see where we are. Do you flip it over? Make notes? What are you looking at?
I think the resume is important once you get to that second round. It can make you stand out. I kind of turn it over to see what the training was. What sort of show’s they’ve done, and which roles you’ve done. Have you mostly done ensemble? Are you understudying characters, because it also means that maybe I won’t see you for the next round of dance call but I may look at your resume and think well they’ve already done a character so we should call them in to sing. Maybe they fit somewhere else. I love seeing things like that, but my favourite thing is special skills. When someone comes in to sing, it gives you something to talk about and it makes someone relax, open up and talk about something they are confident in and you also see these little tiny things that maybe people could do that you could use in a show that you maybe haven’t thought of. So I love those little special skills. That’s my favourite section of the resume.
I think personality is just as key as skills for me. It’s a long season a lot of places and you want to put together a really cohesive supportive company. So if you get to see someone’s personality that to me is just as important as how great a dancer they are.
8 | What is your opinion on giving feedback? Now with social media, I’m sure you’re very easy to reach. Plus, you have a lot of friends in this business so I’m sure it can get a little bit dicey sometimes. What’s your opinion on that?
I personally don’t love it when people reach out for feedback. I would rather they go through their agent so you keep business and personal separate. I think it just is easier. It’s really hard to not take things personally, and if you have that layer in between it really is helpful and you know I have students who will sometimes reach out who are just starting to audition, don’t mind that at all. You know if you’ve just graduated Sheridan, it’s your first audition, you know, what could I do better…that’s kind of the one line I am ok with that. But I don’t love mixing business and personal relationships.
9 | How important to you is it that people go in and get it right, get your style, get the lyrics down right away? The rehearsal process is very quick so we have to be able to pick up stuff quickly in a two week process, for you how important is that?
It’s not important to me at all. I think that I see more personality when someone kind of messes up a step and they continue through, and how they deal with that. I see more of what a person’s going to be like in the room. And you can tell if someone’s an amazing dancer, they just may not pick it up in the fifteen seconds they get to audition. You can also tell, there’s a fine line, if they can’t remember three phrases strung together then you know they are not going to go with a three week rehearsal process.
10 | Call Backs. Do I wear the same exact outfit? Do I make all the same choices? Do I create new choices and show you variety? What’s your opinion?
One thousand percent wear the exact same thing, make the same choice, that’s why they called you back. Then it’s the opportunity for the Director and Music Director to step in and give you a new direction and see how you deal with it. But you’ve been called back for a reason, they want to remember you as what you did the first time.
11 | What do you think the biggest mistake people make in an audition room?
Do not apologize. The biggest thing is we walk in and apologize immediately, we rush over to the piano, get our music there and we’re like, you want to get through it. And take your five or ten minutes. Take your time. They want to see you; they have five minutes. Everyone has five minutes. Go in take a deep breath. You want to do your best. They also want you to be the best person for the job. They want you to be the person they’re looking for. And just do your audition, and no matter what happens don’t apologize. Just do it, say thank you and leave the room.
Side note from Sarah: That’s a good one because we really do. We apologize for everything even when it’s completely unnecessary. Also, I think it’s important when people go in, you can see in the room when people almost have the job already. They go in with a sense of calm and a sense of ease and you can tell the difference as well. Almost not being at a 10 out of 10, maybe…we’ve talked about this before you know on the opening night be down at a 7 out of 10 so you can maintain control.
Absolutely, you don’t want to go in and be vibrating at a crazy level. And that’s finding that calm. Taking deep breaths. Relaxing…especially when you hit an opening night. That’s when people get hurt. That’s when things go wrong. So as part of an audition, as part as performance level you really want to try to tone it down a little bit. Still have that amazing energy and hold it tighter, instead of being crazy and out there. And when I see that at an audition, that calm and confidence, I know that is going to relate directly to how they perform in the show. Especially in a short time period.
12 | Anything else you can think of in terms of how people can get calm, or training, or things that you don’t see in an audition room that you’d like to see more of? Any advice you can give to those who are auditioning?
I think my biggest advice is continue to work and hone your skills. No matter which stage you’re at, there are always things you can learn. So you know I’m in a show, I’ve got a contract for 10 months still take class. Now’s the perfect time because you have the money. Go. Continue to train up your voice. And I think the best thing about getting older in this business and continuing through is the amount of skills you can gain is way above and beyond what you thought you could ever do. And it will be better than what you ever thought was possible. If you just continue to push and train, you’ll go from great to amazing to unbelievable to being on fire and you will never stop working. So my biggest thing is never stop training. There’s always things to learn. Get to class.
13 | Get to class… Do you think it’s equally important to train as a triple threat? Nowadays as opposed to training with what we know already?
A triple threat is key and actually to be honest most people actually need to be a quadruple threat now a days. Because if the small amount of work. No matter what you think, if you’re a dancer, continue to work your voice because a lot of times it comes down to who can cover. There’s you know that small ensemble now has to cover the lead and the types of musicals that you do now, there’s a lot of pop rock musicals. Even Rock of Ages is still a musical theatre piece but it’s rock music. You have to sing rock music. You have to sing classical music. A lot of shows you have to be a musician now to get into. Even though you still have to be an amazing dancer, singer, actor. So, I think try and hone all of those skills.
In closing | Robin, thank you so much. I wanted to interview you because I think you’re incredible. I think you’re doing a lot of amazing work right now. And you’re such a strong, powerful woman. I think you’re an inspiration to a lot of us. So thank you for taking the time. I think we are going to inspire people to hone these skills, take class, and get better so they can be working for you.
Top 10 Takeaways
#1 Go to every audition you can.
#2 Wear something memorable.
#3 Be the essence of the character.
#4 Keep resume and special skills up to date.
#5 Show your personality.
#6 Don’t use social media to reach out.
#7 Instant forgiveness when you make a mistake.
#8 Wear and do the same thing at callbacks.
#9 Don’t apologize! Own the room and take your 5 minutes.
#10 Keep training!