It’s official!! If you watched my what’s in my audition bag video, you know that I auditioned for Evil Dead the Musical this past week, and if you follow me on Instagram or Tumblr you’ll know that I’ve been cast as Cheryl! I’m super excited. Cheryl is the younger sister who starts off as a sweet, easily spooked college girl who then gets turned into a foul mouthed demon- so a little different from what I usually play! I’m super excited (and now I have three shows to do in the next three months…yikes!!)
This is going to be a tale. Hold onto your butts, kids.
So…starting at the beginning. Early on at Star Tours, I met a cast member who told me all about this theatre group he started and how he eventually wanted to do the musical Carrie. I was intrigued! Auditions were posted in February and I signed up. I wore one of my favorite little black dresses and sang “Dead Girl Walking” from Heathers for my uptempo and Olive’s solo from “I Love You” from Spelling Bee for my ballad. I got an email a few days later saying I was cast as the understudy for Chris. I was ecstatic. I hadn’t done theatre in four years at this point (that’s another story- comment below if you want to hear it!) and this was perfect. I would get the chance to play a lead role, since I was getting one guaranteed performance, but it would be so much less pressure than if I had been cast in the role full time. I went to the first read through and was super excited.
And that’s when everything took a turn for the worse.
Our first rehearsal was a music rehearsal. We did not have a music director. Or a keyboard. For our first rehearsal we practiced the opening number, “In,” by singing along to the cast recording. Which is okay, but no one knew what we were doing, and that is a tremendously complicated song.
Our next rehearsal was choreography. This is when I discovered that the director, while passionate, had absolutely no idea what he was doing. The choreography was stupidly complicated, but without any technique. Not even any counts. And he couldn’t remember his own steps, so they changed every time. It was an absolutely frustrating experience. The best way I can describe the dance style was “middle school girls making up a music video during a sleepover.” It was bad, y’all.
Things continued to go downhill. The director had temper tantrums that left him tomato-faced and crying. The stage manager coddled him. The cast was all trying their hardest but were given incredibly poor direction. Tommy and George dropped out and had to be replaced (George was now played by a girl who did her best to disguise herself as a boy).
My favorite incident (and the term favorite is extremely…sarcastic) was what we Carrie survivors call “the 9/11 incident.” We came in to block the big prom death sequence, and the director was hopping around telling us that he “knew exactly how he wanted the scene to go” but somehow he “couldn’t find the words to explain it,” so he was going to show us a video.
He then proceeds to show us videos of 9/11 set to the music of Kelly Clarkson and Avril Lavigne.
Short version- the cast revolted. Half the cast was in tears and the other half was shocked into silence. Several people left the room. The director had a temper tantrum. He then gave us a non apology, saying he didn’t realize we would react like that, and then immediately started rehearsal. He kept telling our Carrie to “sing out, why aren’t you singing out?” Well, she was still crying, that’s why.
Rehearsals continued at this stellar pace until about maybe two months before the show opened, when the director realized that the understudy for Margaret hadn’t shown up for a single rehearsal since our first read through, and he asked me to take it on. Since I am a people pleaser who was also desperately eager to use her expensive theatre degree, I said yes. It was a trial by fire, but I managed to learn the part.
Flash forward two more weeks. We still don’t have our backing tracks. The director had maintained since day one that we were going to have a local rock band (unnamed) and a local recording studio (also unnamed) make our background tracks for us. Turns out he expected these resources to donate their time and talents and record this entire three hour score for free. Yeah, that was never going to happen. So in the meantime, we’d been rehearsing with illegally downloaded karaoke tracks and the original Broadway cast recording. Our Carrie asked what we were going to do instead. Our director had no idea.
Around this point, Carrie and Tommy both dropped out. I honestly can’t even blame them. Here we were, doing a show with questionable staging and even more questionable legality (let me also point out here that we never received actual librettos for this show, just PDF files) and since both of them had ties to professional theatre communities, they didn’t want to be attached to this show. The Carrie understudy stepped up to take on the role full time (and did a really nice job, I might add) and the director cast himself as Tommy (complete with varsity jacket that he bought from the girls’ section of Forever 21 and a wig that he claimed “made him look just like Zac Efron.”) Oh boy.
The music problem was finally solved by the stage manager and her husband feeding the sheet music through a program that read the music into midi files. Yes, midi files. We were singing along to a Geocities website circa 2003. It wasn’t good, but at least we finally had the full score.
Around this time, the stage manager realized she was in over her head with costumes, so I jumped in (please refer to the above paragraph: people pleaser with a theatre degree). I revamped costumes, did alterations, helped people find new pieces, and most importantly, remade the Carrie prom dress. The original costume was this horrendous monstrosity of crinkled chiffon and salmon satin that did not fit either of the Carries (and it itched too). This poor excuse for a garment was cut as a princess seam dress with no waistline and with Juliet sleeves- poofy on the shoulders, tight to the wrists. And it made both Carries look dumpy; this was no ethereal life-changing pink prom gown. (The stage manager claimed the dress was supposed to look like the book description of the gown, but if the book was written in the 1970s but the production is set in modern day it just doesn’t work. It doesn’t.) Also, the plan was to have a hero dress and a destroyed dress, and to “take in the dress with safety pins” to make it fit the Carries.
Now that we only had one Carrie, I took one dress, took off sleeves, cut down the neck and the back, hemmed the whole thing by several inches, and finished the seams so they wouldn’t itch. I then used the Colette Crepe pattern to make two dresses of pink sheer voile, with a pink grosgrain sash and pink bias trim, to put over the old dress. One dress was the hero dress and the other was destroyed; all it took for Carrie’s quick change was to pop the magnets at the waist of the pretty dress to take it off, slide the destroyed dress on and fasten those magnets, and boom! Good to go. Carrie loved it, and the soft pink looked suitably simple and prom-y.
Also, the girl playing Helen found out she was getting a new job without the show dates guaranteed off. Guess who was now playing Helen? And guess who also volunteered to clean up the choreography for multiple dance numbers? (See again: people pleaser with a theatre degree.)
We finally moved into the theater for our May performances. I got to run a couple of scenes as Chris, a couple of scenes as Margaret, and one scene as Helen. Cool, cool, it’s fine. I also assembled my own costumes for each character, because at this point the stage manager didn’t care.
My first performance was as Margaret. That’s when I truly realized how much I loved that role. I would play Margaret again in a heartbeat. I have almost no pictures, but for my main costume I wore a peasant type blouse with navy and red embroidery, an ankle length navy skirt I made out of a sheet from Walmart, a schlumpy gray cardigan, my character shoes, and my old rectangular glasses. I also clipped in my eBay weave, gave myself a Kim Davis poof at the forehead, and braided my now long hair over my shoulder. For the finale scene, I undid the braid and left the glasses backstage, and wore a white flannel nightgown.
Here’s the kicker though. I was backstage at the top of act two, running my lines for my next scene to make sure I knew them, and the director runs past in his ridiculous wig. “Hey,” he whispered loudly. “We’re not using the prom dress you made. Okay, thanks!”
Turns out that despite keeping the stage manager and director in the loop and getting their approval for everything I did for the prom dresses, they decided that it didn’t “match their vision” and not only were they not going to use the costumes, they weren’t going to reimburse me. I was furious. Carrie was furious. It was a shitshow. The best part was that they decided to yell at me about it at length before I went onstage as Chris.
Oh boy. So for Chris I wanted to go for “prep school bully.” After all, it’s established that her dad is a wealthy lawyer, right? So I wore a cute little white lace dress and a navy knit blazer, and a pair of floral knockoff Doc Martens. For act two, I swapped out the blazer for a cropped denim vest.
I was truly excited about playing Chris, but the problem was I wasn’t given adequate rehearsal time. I knew my lines, I knew my blocking, but I had never gotten the chance to rehearse “The World According to Chris” in the space with the new midi file background track. As a result, I got way off from the music, which made me forget my blocking, which made my voice crack and wobble. I got offstage after the number and burst into tears. Luckily my Billy was the kindest guy and gave me a huge hug, and the rest of the cast was super understanding and supportive. But I still felt awful. I had never done anything like that in my whole history of performing. The rest of the performance went off without a hitch (other than accidentally smearing my red lipstick all over Billy’s face during our makeout scene at the beginning of “Do Me a Favor,” but that was hilarious).
By the time my performance as Helen rolled around, I did not care anymore. I wasn’t going to stress myself out for this show or bend over backwards for a production team that didn’t care. I hadn’t even had the chance to rehearse as Helen- I learned the dance for “Do Me a Favor” literally half an hour before we opened the house. My costume was a super comfortable black and tan striped tank, denim shorts, black converses (from my Tina Belcher cosplay) and my Rey cardigan from the Her Universe line. For prom I wore a black and gold ChiChi London dress from Modcloth that I wore the Oscars the previous year with my character shoes. And bless the rest of the cast, because they all helped me through the show, whether it was reminding me to take a prop off or guiding me to the correct exit. It all worked out in the end.
And then when the show closed I slept for about fourteen years because dear god, I hadn’t breathed in a month.
A few weeks after the show closed I met with the stage manager to give her some costume pieces. We had a nice chat (because after all, I didn’t like her as a stage manager, but I had nothing against her as a person) and I asked about some of the upcoming events; she promised she would let me know.
Less than twenty-four hours later I received a nasty email formally kicking me out.
So that ended my brief and exhausting career with that particular acting group. I actually met with them a few weeks later to talk things over, because I was convinced that I could help them with my theatre background. During the talk it dawned on me that it just wasn’t worth it. The director- who sulked through the entire conversation and said very little- made it very plain that he had no plans on listening to anyone who might have more training and experience than him. It was his way or the highway.
Joke’s on them, because despite the “you’ll never work in this town again!” attitude, I have indeed worked in this town. So far I’ve done six more shows in the year since they kicked me out, and they got in trouble for trying to do an unauthorized production of a Very Potter Musical. I think I’ll be just fine.
Overall, I’m glad I did Carrie. I learned a lot. I learned not to spread myself too thin, especially for people who don’t appreciate it. I learned that I have it in me to play a lead role in a musical (I’d only ever been a minor soloist before). I made a lot of friends- I’ve done shows with both our Carrie and Freddy, and the Sue understudy, Helen, and Billy are still good friends of mine. I’d still jump at the chance to perform in Carrie again, especially as Margaret. But I also learned to heed those red flags when they pop up. A lead role is not worth dealing with a questionably legal production.
When I was thirteen years old, I stormed downstairs and dramatically declared to my mother “I’m going to major in theatre!”
She did not look up from her coffee. She just said “yeah, I figured.”
A childhood and adolescence of performances brought me to major in theatre, although, for a myriad of reasons, I ended up attending my third choice school. (It’s a long story). All in all, the school was not a good fit for me and I should have moved on, but I slogged it out and got my degree.
My freshman year I played Mrs. Paddy in The Curious Savage. That was so much fun. It was student-directed, and the two seniors directing were both great people and great directors. They decided to set the show in the ‘80s and we all had a blast. It was a great first collegiate experience.
My sophomore year I played Marcy in Snoopy!!!. No, it is not You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and yes, the three exclamation points are necessary. Marcy isn’t necessarily in the show proper, but the director added several ensemble members and based us off actual Peanuts characters.
I wish I could find my photos from my university’s production of The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds, but unfortunately I only got the hard copies and they’re lost in a box somewhere! I played Janice Vickery, Tillie’s rival at the science fair. I only had one scene (I ran sound for the rest of the show) but it was a great long monologue that involved me carrying a cat skeleton onstage. And it was a real one; we borrowed it from the science department.
My theatre department put a lot of emphasis on children’s theatre, so I ended up performing in two children’s plays. One was a retelling of the Three Little Pigs (I played the stick pig, who was also a beauty pageant contestant) and the other was a series of short plays about St. Kevin and his animal friends. Super cute, super fun. We even ended up traveling to Wales and performing the St. Kevin play for several local primary schools.
I also did several laboratory productions during my classes, but my absolute favorite was playing Dora in Equus. Oh my god, that was an amazing experience. Equus is still one of my favorite shows and I would love the chance to play Dora again.
My senior year, though, I still hadn’t gotten a lead role in a show. I auditioned for our production of Guys and Dolls, hoping for Adelaide. I went to the callback (even made an amazing royal blue and black wiggle dress for it!) and guess what my feedback was?
“You were great, you were the funniest one there…but you’re too fat for the part.”
I was crushed. I was still cast as General Cartwright, and worked hard at the part and tried to make it a good experience, but I was so sad to not be cast as Adelaide, even as the understudy. It also clinched my role in the department- it dawned on me that I was only ever cast as small children or middle-aged-to-elderly ladies.
My biggest role, right before I graduated, was Miriam Goldman in Beau Jest, which is a super fun romantic comedy. I played the mama with the big personality, and it was honestly a lot of fun, especially since I had good friends to play opposite. It was by far the best experience I had as a college student.
Overall, my college experience wasn’t the best for a lot of reasons. The school and the department were just not good fits for me, and I should have found a different school once I realized that they had pigeonholed me. There’s more to the story (comment below if you want to hear the entire story about my college theatre experience!) but at the end of the day, I learned a lot of lessons and graduated. And now I can move on!
I’ve been doing a LOT of auditions lately and I thought I would share what I carry around in my audition bag! I’m starting to get a little more used to making videos, so I hope y’all like this one. I did forget to mention one key thing though- I always bring some kind of snack with me! For my double audition at Disney day, I had a Body Armor drink and a granola bar. It was really helpful, honestly. It kept me from getting too hangry before I was seen.
Leave a comment below if you’d like to see more about auditions, my upcoming rehearsals, or anything else theatre related! And tell me what you carry in your audition bag!
I’m going to be honest. Writing bios for playbills are the worst. There’s just something so uncomfortable about writing a short paragraph all about yourself in the third person (she says as she writes a blog about her personal interests, but I digress). However, while writing a bio might make you feel weirdly braggy, they’re so great in the long run. Not only does it give the audience more information about you and where they might have seen you before, but you never know when there might be a director or producer in the audience who likes your performance and can get more information about you from your bio. It might lead to your next role!
I’m going to show a couple different examples- a high school student actor, a college graduate actor, and a college student tech. At the end, I’ll show the finished bios, and then a couple of my own that I’ve used before!
In order to write your bio, it’s easiest to start small and gather your information first. There’s a few crucial things you’ll want to include, and then depending on your word count, you can add more information from there. So first, the important things.
Education and Training: Are you currently in school? Are you studying a specific field that pertains to theatre? Or are you taking classes or getting coached? These are all good things to know. Also, do you work in a theatre related field? It could be anywhere from working as a professional actor to helping out at your local dance studio. Write it down!
Previous Roles and Previous Work: If you’re an actor, this is where you can list some of your past productions. Highlight your most notable roles, and your most recent ones. this is a great time to say that you played Gabriella in HIgh School Musical last year, but maybe not the time to say that you played Tree #3 in your kindergarten play about photosynthesis. If you’ve been in a lot of productions, pick three to five favorite shows. If you need to narrow it down, stick to your most recent and your most local roles.
You haven’t played any notable roles? List just the shows you’ve been in. And what if it’s your first role? Then say it in your bio that it’s your first role! Audience members will be impressed by your big debut.
If you’re listing tech work, start by saying other shows that you’ve worked in the same field. If you’re the lighting designer for this show, start off by saying other shows you’ve designed lights for, and then move into other productions you’ve done tech before. Always start by listing the most recent work, because then there’s a better chance audience members have seen your work before.
Special Thanks: Is there someone you’d like to thank? List them! Mom and Dad for driving you everywhere? A friend for helping you run lines? Your director, choreographer, or music director for casting you in the show or giving you extra coaching? This is a great time to acknowledge the people who have helped you get to where you are. A lot of people will slide in inside jokes or special nicknames as well, just to make it more personable.
So now that you have your important information, it’s time to actually sit down and write out that information. You need an opening sentence, which 99% runs along the lines of “so and so is so excited to be in what’s-it’s-name.” You think I’m kidding, open a playbill and count how many times you see the words “excited,” “ecstatic,” or “thrilled” in the first sentence of the bios. But do you know what? It works! Feel free to use it if you can’t think of anything else.
Then take the information you have and write them out into sentences. See how easy it is to formulate your bio when you have your info? It all just sort of pops into place.
Once you’re done, count how many words you have. Sometimes you’re required to stay within a certain word count; sometimes you can write as much as you want. Err on the side of short and sweet. Too many words can come across as too braggy, and also you never know if your bio will end up being too long to fit in the program. Sometimes the playbill designer will edit it down for you, but I have seen bios that have cut off mid sentence. Shorter is better!
Once you’re satisfied with your bio, let a friend look over it for grammar and spelling errors. Nothing will be sadder than looking at the program on opening night and realizing you wrote “they’re” instead of “their,” or spelled your own name wrong. Best to get that second pair of eyes to take a look at it!
So here’s a few examples of what a bio can look like:
And just for fun: here’s a couple of my recent bios.
I hope this was helpful! Comment below if you have questions. And show me your super cool bios!
When my sister was in high school, she played a Bird Girl in Seussical, so of course I went to see her. I had never heard or seen anything from the show before, but I figured it would be cute. I walked out that night convinced that Gertrude McFuzz was now a dream role.
I didn’t think I would ever have a chance to play her, but a friend of mine at work kept telling me about this theater he worked at, and how he wanted to propose Seussical for the upcoming season, and that I needed to audition. Everything finally fell into place, and I can safely say that it was the most nervous I’d ever been at an audition. At this point, I had never been an actual lead in a musical, outside of understudying for Carrie, and there were a lot of talented people who came in. I sang Teen Fiona’s verse from “I Know It’s Today” and was asked to stay to read from the script, and then sang some of the music for Gertrude, Mayzie, and Sour Kangaroo. It took several agonizing days- almost a week!- to hear back, but I was cast as Gertrude, and I literally burst into tears.
Playing Gertrude was both one of the easiest and hardest roles I’ve ever played. On one hand, I knew the show backwards and forwards coming into the rehearsal process, and I understood exactly how I wanted to approach playing the character. On the other hand, I got really anxious about singing. Really anxious. I was a mess. Luckily, my friend Cara was the music director and she was literally the most amazing coach, and I made a lot of improvements.
I also had one of the most fun casts I’ve ever worked with. It was a really hilarious group of people, and I’ve been lucky enough to do multiple shows with several of the cast members now.
The opening weekend was fantastic. I was in great voice, I felt fantastic, and both my brand-new boyfriend and my family from Nashville were able to come see me. It was amazing!
And then I got the flu.
I thought it was just allergies- I have so many of them, after all. But I was feeling worse and worse, and I eventually dragged myself to urgent care. And sure enough- I had the flu. While I was playing my dream role.
My sweet boyfriend took good care of me and I spent a lot of time resting my voice and sleeping, but I was still not up to par. Luckily Gertrude is a character role rather than, say, Christine Daae, so I could use some raspiness and squeakiness, but I was miserable. I could usually get through act one, but I had the worst time battling through “All for You” in Act two. Luckily, I had three fantastic Bird Girls to back me up, and my Horton was literally the most patient and sweetest person I could have possibly worked with. In the end, I got most of my voice back, even though it didn’t sound as good as I would have wanted it to, and I still got to play my dream role.
I also got to make my costume for Seussical! The costumer and director both agreed, as long as the dress was in a sort of 1950s style and lavender. With those parameters, I had plenty of freedom! I looked at a lot of 1950s children’s party dresses and simple Lolita outfits. Gertrude is the plainest of the birds; I didn’t need anything fancy or detailed, but I knew the kind of shape I wanted.
I ended up using Simplicity 8324, their Alice cosplay pattern, but simplified it a lot. I eliminated the pinafore and a lot of extra ruffles and trims and cut everything from a very soft lavender linen that I originally bought for a Rapunzel cosplay (which still hasn’t happened, oops). The underskirt was made of white muslin, but I cut it differently from the pattern. To cut down on bulk at the waist seam, but for maximum fluff, I cut the base as a circle skirt, and then added a 10″ long ruffle to give the skirt more volume.
During the first dress rehearsal I realized I wasn’t getting the right amount of poofiness, so I added my trusty Malco Modes petticoat underneath. I also realized I needed shorts, since my skirts were short but I was moving so much! Because they would be visible (especially when I rolled across the stage at the beginning of “All for You”) I used Simplicity 8154, a lavender bedsheet from Walmart, and lace from my stash to make a pair of bloomers.
The director wanted most of the characters in converse sneakers, so I bought a lavender pair on Poshmark. Initially my hair was going to be down and curled, with a white bow, but I looked entirely too much like a contestant on Toddlers and Tiaras. After the first performance, I bought two small bun forms and put my hair up in two high buns, similar to the original Gertrude in the Broadway production. For makeup I used a lot of purples from my Wet n Wild Petal Pusher palette and my Urban Decay palette, and I combined several lip color to make the perfect pinky-purple lip. Comment below if you’d like to see a hair and makeup tutorial!
The most important thing, though, was my tail. Or rather, tails. If you haven’t seen the show, Gertrude has a plain one feather tail, and she thinks that Horton the elephant will notice her if she had a prettier tail. The cool girl of the jungle sends her to get pills to make her tail grow, and Gertrude ends up with a tail so long and heavy she can’t fly. So you can see how this was a challenge.
For the one feather tail, I made a big butt bow out of the same lavender linen that fastened to the back of my dress with one large snap in the center. Attached to the bow was one long, slightly scraggly peacock feather that stood straight up from my back. It was the right combination of sad and wimpy, but still noticeable from the audience.
The first time Gertrude’s tail grows is onstage, in the middle of the song. When I constructed the white petticoat layer in the dress, I added a pocket with a zipper closure in the seam between the circle base and the ruffle. Inside the pocket I sewed three feather boas. At the right point in the song, one of the bird girls took off my bow and single feather while the other two unzipped the pocket and pulled out the other boas. It was a great moment that worked really well onstage!
As soon as the number was over, I ran backstage to put on what we affectionately called “the mega tail.” I built a reinforced belt that wrapped around my back, and I attached four keychain loops along the belt. The tail itself was a panel of lavender felt that I backed with canvas to make it sturdier, and then I attached a whole slew of feather boas- some from the theater’s shop, some from the dollar store, and some from Joann’s. I also hot glued individual brightly-colored turkey feathers to pipe cleaners and added them to the ends of the tail.
At the top of the panel I had four large loops from large hook and eye sets. So when it was time to switch, the bird girls (or whoever was handy backstage) would stuff the growing tails back into the skirt pocket, zipped it shut, and hung the panel onto the keychain loops. It worked so well! My first attempt I used large hooks, but the panel kept popping off when I moved. With the locking loops, the panel stayed in place and moved with me easily.
The downside? It was heavier than it looked! All in all it was fairly lightweight, but I ended up wearing it for about an hour and a half straight. It rested right on my lower back, so it weighed me down a bit, especially during the end of act one when I was running around a lot. I also got super sweaty, not going to lie. It helped that the reinforced belt was strapped and overlapped over my lower back, which gave me a good base, and the four points of contact distributed the weight evenly. They ended up designating a chair to be my “tail chair” backstage. It was tucked away in a corner, out of the way, (since Gertrude doesn’t do much in the middle of act two) and I draped the tail over the arm.
I also could only take bathroom breaks when someone took my tail off. Usually I waited until act two- in the beginning, Gertrude is onstage for a few minutes in the beginning, so after that I would run backstage, have someone take my tail off, run to the bathroom, and then have someone put my tail back on. It was a little chaotic!
Productions usually vary, but I ended up keeping the tail on for the beginning of “All for You.” At the top of the scene I snuck through the audience with my tail trailing behind me and army rolled across the stage (tangling the tail around me). During the song, Gertrude dramatically recounts her process of getting her tail taken off. So as I sang the “pluck pluck pluck- ouch, it hurt a lot” bit, the bird girls popped off my mega tail while one of them snapped my one feather tail back onto the back of my dress, just in time for me to turn around to sing “and suddenly Gertrude could sail” and show the audience that my one feather was back. The Cat took my mega tail offstage, and that was that! In our total fifteen performances, we were able to do all my tail transitions without a hitch.
I’m hoping to do a video showing the three different tails and how they work, and a makeup and hair tutorial for Gertrude, so comment below if you’d like to see those, or have any questions about Seussical!
(I also made the puppets for the Cat to use in act two! They were a super quick project made from clearance tee shirts I bought from Target and some scraps and buttons from my stash. I didn’t use a pattern, but they worked pretty well!)
I already have two shows lined up for 2017- in January I’ll be in another PRT ten minute play, playing Peggy in Welcome to Intercourse, and in March I get to go back to Moonlight as Hattie in Kiss Me Kate! I’m so excited!!