Shades of Talk: Auditioning while Black
Shades of Talk is honest conversations about being a person of color in the performing arts. We offer insight, helpful tips, and hopefully some laughs. In our first episode, we talk about our audition experiences as Black women in The Arts, and provide some helpful advice about auditioning from local directors in our community.
In this episode, we have the entire Shades of Talent family which includes Kendra Christel, Nkere Richards, Lynette Burton, and me your host, Erica Roberts. The four of us all met and bonded while rehearsing for Hairspray the Musical in the Summer of 2018. When it comes to the performing arts, we each have varying levels of experience, but a common factor we all have to endure is auditions. I started the conversation by asking each of the ladies about their personal experiences auditioning for Hairspray. While we all came there with varied expectations, we agreed that because Hairspray calls for a diverse cast including African-Americans, we all hoped to see other faces that looked like us.
I then went on to ask for their thoughts about how much responsibility they believe it is of directors and theatre companies to recruit more people of color for roles that are not ethnic specific. Kendra expressed that it is a shared responsibility between both parties, stating that we as actors of color need to go after those roles, however, if a production team wants to ensure they have a diverse pool of actors and actresses to cast in their production and that pool doesn't come to them, they need to actively seek what they are looking for.
This led me to my next question on whether the women felt theatre was changing and moving towards more diversity and inclusion in both casting and types of productions. Lynette believes it is not only theatre that's progressing in that direction, but other forms of art as well. Nkere agreed that it is changing, however, we as people of color must be active and present to further the movement.
Next I wanted to switch things up and talk about the audition process, asking each member to share how they personally prepare for an audition. We all agreed that preparation is key but each of us had unique tips to offer. Kendra prefers to memorize her character sides for auditions, making it easier for her to connect with the casting panel without having to hold anything in her hands. To prepare for those intense musical numbers, Lynette likes to utilize cadence exercises from her military training to help build stamina, and Nkere gave us some humorous insight on what not to do for an audition based on one of her past experiences.
Prior to filming this episode, I reached out via Facebook to a local community theatre group asking for any audition advice from the casting side. I was floored with the amount of feedback. Many directors weighed in and offered advice on such things as experimenting with characters and reaching outside of your comfort zone, being a team player with your castmates, handling mistakes or mess-ups during an audition, tips for working with an accompanist, and of course dealing with and learning from rejection. All great advice and a perfect way to wrap up our first episode of Shades of Talk. We hope our viewers enjoyed this segment and will join us for more topics in the future.
*Shades of Talent is a grassroots movement started by four women with a passion for the performing arts. Our mission is to encourage and promote the awareness, participation, and casting of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in local theatre.*