This was my second year participating in the UGA. My first experience at the UGA was 3 years ago and is a bit of a blur in my memory at this point. I remember some vague terror creeping in while I tried to concentrate on my monologues and warm-ups while people got pulled away for their turn on the stage one at a time. I sort of remember what the stage looked like, I definitely remember that one line I didn’t get quite right during my audition. The most clear thing in my memory is getting a pile of nachos from Gorditos and pigging out on them in my bed once I got home after I was done. Those nachos were glorious.
The Unified General Auditions (UGA) is a once a year event hosted by Theatre Puget Sound. The UGA is a way to be seen by the top theatres, film directors, and talent agents in the Pacific Northwest. Basically, it’s months worth of auditions condensed into one week. For an actor, it’s a great opportunity both to be seen and to work on your skills auditioning. You get a certain amount of time based on whether you are an equity actor or not, as a non-equity actor I got 2 minutes. In that time you get up on a stage in front of a theater filled with industry professionals and act your heart out either doing monologues or singing or trying to do both in the span of a few minutes.
I was actually fairly pleased with my first UGA audition. Mostly that it was a big scary thing that I went and did anyway. For the next few years I considered doing it again but I was either in shows or otherwise engaged enough that I didn’t feel I had the time or energy to prepare. Also, it was still an intimidating to do. This year everything lined up just right, and I’ve made a pact to go do as many big scary things as I can, so I signed up and did the UGAs for a second time.
Preparing for any audition starts with what I consider the hardest part, finding the right material to audition with. The search for the perfect monologue. There are monologue sites and monologue books and monologue forums, and probably monologue podcasts and YouTube channels though I haven’t gone there yet. In the end, the best material I’ve found are from plays I’ve done or seen that I felt a strong connection to. So I collected a pile of monologues from plays I dug out of my “plays I liked” collection and took them to my partner, who is picky in the best way, and started reading each one to him. He’d give it a second or two and if it didn’t catch his interest he’d just say, “No, next.” Having someone who isn’t familiar with the play hear it is useful because in an audition there is such a short time to make an impression there’s not room for “well, maybe it’s ok if…”
Typically in an audition you do two contrasting monologues, dramatic and comedic. After going through all my material, I had a dramatic monologue that I loved from Almost, Maine by John Carriani, but no comedic monologue had passed muster. Comedic monologues are the hardest thing to find for me. I don’t know of much worse than trying to do something funny and having NO ONE LAUGH. Comedians, I tip my hat to you. On a whim, my partner and I decided to watch a comedy on Netflix to see if we could find something there, and within 15 minutes there was a scene that had me almost jumping out of the bed because I loved it so much. Thank you, The Little Hours.
After finding the material to work on, I got to work. Memorize, look at the moment before and the subtext, look for changes in tactics and power dynamics. You know, all the stuff they teach in acting classes. Once all the behind the scene work is done, ok it’s never done, but once I’m happy enough it’s time to take it in front of a test audience. This year I was lucky enough to see a post from the Eastside Actors’ Lab about an audition workshop they were running before the UGAs. Working on an audition in front of random friends and family members is great, sometimes less so for them, but if you have the chance to attend a workshop, do it. It’s a great chance to make big choices and take risks in front of an audience and get really useful feedback on your work.
I loved the workshop run by the Eastside Actors’ Lab. They gave a really useful rundown of the UGA process, general do’s and don’ts, and I find watching other actors do monologues is a great way to hone your own audition. In the same way that hindsight is 20/20, watching someone audition gives you insight to what works and doesn’t. I worked on my piece, got feedback, and left the workshop focused on what I wanted to do for my audition. I knew what needed work, and what I had to change. One change was dropping my second monologue, sorry comedy. It turns out 2 minutes was just not enough time to do both without feeling rushed or getting cut off at the end, so I chose my strongest piece and went with it.
The morning of the audition. By this time I felt very prepared so my morning was simply me getting myself into audition gear; curling my hair, putting on the clothes I chose the night before, doing some warm-ups, and generally feeling excited to get in there and perform. That’s one of the great things about finding a good monologue that really resonates, you get to perform that role for an audience. I arrived at the audition early and the time flew by. Next thing I knew I was standing behind the curtain getting ready to walk onto the stage. I walked on, introduced myself, did my monologue, thanked the auditors and walked out. Whoosh. I walked right out of that theater to my car and stopped for the first time that day. Maybe you can tell by my face, I was really satisfied with the work that I had put in.
In the end, we all get ready in different ways, so knowing what kind of preparation you need to feel confident and in charge of your performance is crucial. I find knowing that you are auditioning for a whole theater full of professionals really helps to narrow down what works for you as an actor, both in the pieces you perform and how you prepare. I’m definitely planning on doing the UGAs again next year and guess what, they are no longer a big scary thing. Still going to go eat those nachos after though.
Check out Theatre Puget Sound for more information
Check out the Eastside Actors’ Lab for other workshops/classes