Tag Archives: theater kids

Young actor shares audition tips

By guest blogger Aaron Zweiback

Being a young actor myself, I know how stressful it can be to audition. Sometimes you aren’t sure what to perform, sometimes you get nervous and don’t do your best, and sometimes the competition just seems too talented. That is why I am writing this article: to teach aspiring young actors how to navigate the audition process, and to give them some useful tips.

The first step to auditioning effectively is to be aware of the calendar for upcoming shows. A website that I have found very helpful is durantcom.com, which shows the auditions that are occurring locally. If you have any friends who are also into theatre, make sure to stay in touch with them and share information. Also, make sure you are familiar with the current “season” that is going on at certain theatres that interest you, so you will know what shows will be featuring kids’ roles.

Lto R: Sam Primack (Ralphie) and Aaron Zweiback (Flick) in "A Christmas Story" at Phoenix Theatre

Another important rule to live by that will help you tremendously on your path to a successful career is to always have a monologue and song “in your back pocket” (memorized). This way, you can be completely prepared and ready for an audition if you make an impulsive choice to try for a role but don’t have much time to prepare.

Frequently learn new songs and monologues, because some directors will get bored if you audition for their theatre with the same material more than once. It can be hard to read the minds of directors, because some hate it when you sing a song from the show you are auditioning for, but others don’t seem to mind. You should definitely think about the mood of the piece you are auditioning with, and see if it matches the mood of the show or the character you are hoping to play.

Now, if you are going to try to pursue acting, you must have the essential “tools” for the auditioning process: a photograph of you from the shoulders up (a “headshot”) and resumé (also called a “CV”) are almost always required. You can pay a professional photographer to make you look legit, ask a family member or friend to take some pictures and print them at Costco or a camera store, or even use a school photo that would appeal to a casting director.

Make sure your headshot is recent, so that you don’t show up looking completely different from the picture you are submitting. As for a resumé, simply type up all of the shows you have been a part of and the roles you have played, as well as the years and the theatres in which you performed them.

I have noticed that many young actors worry that they have no experience and therefore nothing to offer. If you feel this way, you can launch your career by attending workshops and camps, and by auditioning for as many theatres and directors as you can. Most of the professionals in town know each other, and they actually encourage actors to learn from their colleagues in different programs. I myself have performed on the main stage and/or participated in summer workshops at Phoenix Theatre, The Phoenix Symphony, Valley Youth Theatre, Childsplay, Desert Stages, and Paradise Valley Community College.

I have also watched my friends act in plays and musicals at Spotlight Youth Theatre, Greasepaint, Arizona State University, and Nearly Naked Theatre, and I hope one day to have an opportunity to perform in those venues as well. It is also tremendously productive to work with a singing, acting, or dancing coach. Choreographers like Molly Lajoie and Katie Casey have given me dozens of new dance steps that I can use on stage, and singing coach Toby Yatso has been hugely important in helping my voice mature.

L to R: Aaron Zweiback (Flick) and Sam Primack (Ralphie) in "A Christmas Story" at Phoenix Theatre

Finally, the most important thing to keep in mind when auditioning is always to keep a positive attitude, regardless of whether you win that part you’ve always craved. Casting a show is a matching process: if you don’t get a role, it does not mean that you did a bad job at the audition or that you have no talent! It simply means that the director didn’t feel you fit the part as well as someone else did, which is something you can’t control.

And if you “only” get cast in an ensemble role and feel discouraged that you didn’t get a bigger part, instead you can celebrate that you were accepted into the show at all. That old saying really is true: “there are no small roles, only small actors.”

I hope these tips have been helpful and that you will use them the next time you audition. I’ll see you at the theatre!

Note: Both Zweiback and Primack are currently performing in “Gypsy” at Phoenix Theatre and Zweiback shared with me that they’ve been cast in “The Color of Stars” with Childsplay. Zweiback attends Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix, and is also performing in The Phoenix Symphony’s “Green Eggs and Ham.”

Coming up: Art meets architecture, A journey home, Gaga for dance


Signs your child is a theater geek

There’s a summer camp in the Catskill Mountains that’s been turning out true theater talent for 26 years. “Stagedoor Manor” has inspired a film, Tony Graff’s “Camp” — as well as a book, Mickey Rapkin’s “Theater Geek.” I’ve been reading the book all week, a part of my self-imposed Tony Awards withdrawal program.

With no other plans for Friday night, Lizabeth and I enjoyed sitting at the kitchen table together making up our very own “signs your child is a theater geek” list. Some are inspired by our favorite shows, some by the musings of friends and others by things Lizabeth used to do as a child.

You know your child is a theater geek when he/she…

Insists the family vacation in “Oklahoma!”

Asks about auditioning for the soccer team

Says teachers mistake their “directing” gift for bossiness

Names the family cat “Deuteronomy”

Asks for “Spamalot” in every sack lunch

Can’t understand why there’s no “Choreographer Barbie”

Starts a fresh diary by writing “Act 1, Scene 1”

Adds “The Book of Mormon” to their summer reading list

Brings Broadway Playbills for show-and-tell time

Says their favorite U.S. president is “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson”

Refuses to leave the house without their “Pink Ladies” jacket

Enjoys using four-letter-words like “B-A-R-D”

Plays with dolls that do frequent costume changes

Sends their Princeton application to “Avenue Q”

Has stuffed animals named “Elphaba” and “Evita”

Answers your questions with “Anything Goes” instead of “whatever”

Whistles “Springtime for Hitler” when studying WWII in history class

Asks if they can “stage manage” the next family reunion

Says their favorite teams are the “Sharks” and the “Jets”

Tries to win friends by singing “Popular” for school talent night

And finally, you know your child is a theater geek when she enjoys spending Friday nights writing “theater geek” lines with her mom. I ♥ theater geeks!

— Lynn

Coming up: In search of Snoopy & Woodstock, More “Blue Bike” adventures, Phoenix Art Museum reveals their new “PhxArtKids” gallery, Art Adventures: Phoenix Public Market

Pondering potlucks

Like moms and dads across much of the country, I spent a portion of yesterday preparing for a Memorial Day barbeque with family. The tiny television atop our kitchen counter top was tuned to C-SPAN so I could see ceremonies taking place at Arlington National Cemetery.

A burger best not barbequed

Several graduation ceremonies were also broadcast Monday on C-SPAN, including one from May 22, featuring alumnus William E. Lowry, Jr. speaking to the 2010 graduating class of Kenyon College in Ohio.

I wanted to run straight to the computer, find a transcript of Lowry’s remarks, and e-mail them to my oldest daughter on the occasion of her leaving the nest to live on campus.

I resisted, suspecting they’d be dubbed mere maternal interference or grossly under-appreciated for another decade or so.

As Lowry eloquently tackled topics from the value of diversity to the importance of networking, one simple phrase grabbed my attention—Eating from the same table…

The evening before, Lizabeth and I had joined the cast of Greasepaint Youtheatre’s “The Sound of Plaid” for their post-strike potluck. Although she wasn’t in the cast, I’d volunteered to help with food as needed.

More fun with food

My assignment that night was pasta salad and veggies—which left me wondering whether a theater muse somewhere was seeking revenge for the times I’d made grub favored by my meat and potatoes loving boy only to discover most of the cast was vegetarian.

The cast graciously welcomed Lizabeth to sit and eat with them at the long picnic tables set out at Greasepaint Youtheatre (the former “Stagebrush Theatre” once home to the Scottsdale Community Players). I enjoyed the company of fellow theater parents.

It reminded me that most theater kids, in a day and age when so many discussions are divisive and derogatory, are genuinely inclusive people. It’s a quality they’ll carry into their own families, workplaces and communities—and I’m grateful.

Let's pig out!

Still, like Lowry’s remarks, their readiness to embrace others is often under-appreciated.

I recall the first potluck Greasepaint Youtheatre held following its affiliation with Phoenix Theatre. The invitation came to cast members and families via Robert Kolby Harper (associate artistic director for Phoenix Theatre and artistic director for both Greasepaint Youtheatre and Cookie Company).

Before long a mom of one of the teen cast members suggested to Harper that we nix the potluck since several of the cast members already had a post-strike tradition of taking to a local eatery together. But Harper held firm (something he always manages to do in a fun way), and the potluck proceeded as planned.

I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results as “Oliver!” cast members from tallest to tiniest gathered to share fresh salad, homemade Italian fare and more—including the traditional sheet cake that’s usually big enough to feed the cast several times over.

Still think presentation doesn't count?

I learned a few things about theater kids that evening, including the fact that they’re a health conscious bunch—something I found surprising considering the bounty of brownies brought by stage moms and dads.

I was also reminded that everything seems better with beautiful packaging. The hit that night was a pasta salad presented in a deep Mediterranean inspired bowl, which made my more practical presentation of pasta salad in a tacky storage container on Sunday feel all the more underwhelming.

I tried for pretty presentation at the post-strike potluck for “The Laramie Project” a few months ago, but found that chaos trumped my creativity. The fresh raspberries I’d brought for topping dainty round brownies never made it that far, although the kids did manage to find my can of whipping cream, using it to embellish all sorts of edibles.

Whip it, whip it good!

I made some more mental notes. These theater kids are creative. They think outside the box. And when in doubt, be the mom who brings the whipped cream. Sometimes it’s just that simple.

I signed up to bring snacks a while back for one of ASA’s “Smile” rehearsals, and carefully stocked a cooler with yoghurts, fruit, nuts, veggies and cheese. The cast member I ran into while dropping them off seemed less than enthusiastic.

Winner of the 'Miss Popularity' contest

Turns out the mom who signed up for Monday ordered oodles of pizzas. For the kids, I think, it was all downhill after that. And so I offer another tip: Be the Monday mom. Or the pizza mom. Or the mom who confuses snacks with supper.

No matter that my veggies and pasta salad weren’t a big hit at the “Plaid” potluck. We simply saved them to share with James’ parents at our Memorial Day feast. Like many of today’s grandparents, they were born during the Great Depression, so no food ever goes unappreciated.

Today I’ll be enjoying a morning gathering of fellow ASA volunteers. I’m only tasting, not toiling—which will truly be a treat.

Still, I may have to stop on the way for a wee bit of whipping cream…


Note: Arizona’s own Childsplay theater company coined its name at a potluck in 1977–click here to learn more.

Coming up: Potluck perspectives (answering the burning question, “What does your potluck style say about you?”)

How lucky you are

I’ve long wanted to pen a post about the nifty nature of theater kids, but it’s sometimes hardest to write about the things we hold most dear. 

Last night I attended the Phoenix Theatre/Greasepaint Youtheatre “2009-2010 Season Spotlight” at Greasepaint Theatre (formerly Stagebrush Theatre) in Scottsdale. 

I realized, as various company and show directors presented ‘extra mile awards’ to cast member from 2009-2010 shows, that I had only to capture the spirit of their words to craft a post worthy of the youth I so admire. 

“Oliver!” director D. Scott Withers praised his pick for ’empathy that rises to almost heroic in this day and age,’ recognizing the cast member for his warm and gracious inclusion of even the youngest and least experienced actors. 

‘One of the things I love most about theater,’ shared Withers, ‘is the way each cast is like a new family.’ 

A. Beck, director of education for Greasepaint, shared her ‘philosophy of arts and theater education,’ noting her passion for works that ‘live and breath beyond the walls of the theater’ and the importance of theater that ‘blows life into the individual, the group and the community.’ 

She hailed the role of theater in helping youth develop a sense of responsibility, respect for self and others, and the power to use their own voice—describing theater as a ‘fantastical art’ that challenges artists and fuels their integrity. 

‘To be a good artist,’ reflected Beck, ‘is to be a good member of our community and our world.’ 

‘These performers don’t just memorize lines or learn songs,’ said Beck. ‘They really dive into the educational and dramaturgical elements of each piece.’ She’s delighted that many cast members from Greaspaint’s “The Laramie Project” are now involved with human and civil rights at school and in the larger community. 

Maren Mascarelli, who directed Greasepaint’s production of “The Laramie Project,” began by describing the remarkable transformation of cast members, many of whom auditioned for the show only because they were ‘tired of doing musicals.’ Her award went to a young woman she described as ‘the heart and soul of the show.’

Cambrian James, the director for Greaspaint’s final show of the season (“The Sound of Plaid” playing through Sunday), took the stage to reveal his reaction the day he first saw Greasepaint perform: ‘Holy cow! These kids are better than any adult I’ve worked with!’ 

Never mind, quipped James, that he had to teach them about record players and ’50s icons like Marilyn Monroe. His award went to a cast member he described as ‘absolutely fearless’ in the face of learning music and choreography for 20 songs none of them had ever heard before. 

Before the presentation of volunteer awards to three individuals and one family (Go Bates!), Greasepaint welcomed graduating seniors and alumni to the stage for a preview of their 2010-2011 season (which includes “The Wiz,” “Romeo & Juliet,” and “Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”)–even singing one of my favorite Broadway songs: “Close Every Door.”

After the event, folks lingered in the lobby to enjoy food and reconnect with friends from various shows. In a failed attempt at small talk, I asked a mom and daughter whether they’d seen the final episode of “Lost” the night before. 

The answer reminded me of another trait I admire in theater folk. ‘We don’t watch much TV,’ said the mom. ‘We’re just too busy.’ (I’ve seen just two episodes of “Lost”–the first and the last.) 

Lizabeth and I hit Gelato Spot on the way home, listening to Broadway show tunes via Sirius XM radio. They were playing the cast recording of “Seussical” when a song called “How Lucky You Are” struck me as the perfect reminder of the many gifts the theater has brought to our lives… 

So happy to be here./Think of life as a thrill/And if worse comes to worse/(As we all know it will)/Thank your lucky star/You’ve gotten this far…/We’re here in this beautiful theatre/And you’re in the first row! /How lucky to be in the theatre! /More lucky than you know! 

–Lynn (AKA “Backstage Mom”)

Note: Too bad the casting directors for “Glee” weren’t in Monday night’s audience because one of the performers, Brian Wible (now at Boston Conservatory) should be on their speed dial in case Matthew Morrison (who plays Mr. Schuester) decides to take a day off. Wible could easily hold his own on stage with the likes of even Lady Gaga, whose music (and more) will be featured on tonight’s episode of “Glee” titled “Theatricality.”

Coming up: A preview of ASA‘s fall musical production of “Lucky Stiff”–a 1988 musical described by Music Theatre International as a “zany, offbeat, and very funny murder mystery farce.” Tony Award winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty hold music, lyric and book credits for both “Seussical” and “Lucky Stiff.” Stay tuned…

Update: To enjoy a review of Phoenix Theatre’s current production (“Always…Patsy Cline”), click here.