A few months ago, I posted some advice to actors on my Facebook. I called them “Directors’ Secret Hints for Auditions,” or something like that. They were, over all, fairly well received. In the weeks since, it occurs to me that maybe I haven’t done enough, so I’ve created a new blog category called “Director’s Notes.” In the Director’s Notes, I’m going to dole out the pearls of wisdom I have gathered over 20-odd years on and behind the stage.
Mind you, I am an amateur, and my experience is on the amateur stage. Professional directors play a different game and have different rules and expectations. Don’t walk away thinking I’ve given you the keys to the Winter Garden, because I haven’t. Hell, even other amateur directors will probably have different needs than I do. I guess what I’m saying here, is that this is my opinion, and while I’m trying to add in what I’ve observed as an actor or set monkey, as well, ultimately, every director rules their own stage, and if it comes down to a conflict between what I write here and what they say there, they win.
That being said, let’s start this little odyssey at the beginning with
The top third of your résumé should be filled with the sort of information that directors need to make their decisions.
Your Photo The upper-right corner should display a 2″ by 3″ photo of you that is clear and recent enough that you will be instantly recognizable (including your current hair length and color). Don’t worry, most publicly-available printers can handle that level of detail. You could pop for the 8 x 12 on the back, but, unless you’re serious about making the jump to professional, that’s a lot of money for a photo the director probably isn’t going to look at.
Your Name This should be pretty large (I suggest 18-24 point type) and in bold. Your name and current appearance are the most important pieces of information you can include on an amateur theatre résumé, and they should both be right there where the director is looking, If he has to hunt around for too long to find out who just made his heart stop in that three-minute reading from Da, he’ll forget how amazing you are and move on to someone else.
Your Contact Information Nobody wants your address. With very few exceptions, the only reason any director cares where you live is if you’ve volunteered to host the closing party.
What they do need is you primary phone number. Unless you’re a luddite like me, that’ll be a cell phone. If you have one, you may want to include a secondary phone number where a message can reach you. Don’t use your work number.
You’ll also want to include a reliable e-mail account. Unless you want to send friend requests to everyone too drunk to say, “no,” when the AD showed up with scripts, this will be the main non-voice contact between you and the director. I advise having an e-mail separate from both your work e-mail and your main personal e-mail. There are plenty of free hosts out there where you can do this.
Your Description Why describe yourself? because there is information a director needs that can’t always be conveyed by your photo. He’ll use this info for a wide variety of decisions (or reminders of decisions he made when he saw you on his stage). This is an objective description, so it’s easiest to keep to quantifiable facts.
I want to say your race isn’t that important, but it can be, if the script calls for a certain race and that isn’t immediately apparent in your photo. Use your best judgment; if someone gets mad because you did or didn’t include your race in a description of yourself, then they’re the one with a problem. Your sex is necessary, however, and is not always easy to discern by a photo (or even a casual live glance).
You must include your age. I mean your actual—right now—age. Don’t tell him what age you “look” or what ages you “can play,” because, I can tell you right now that you’re wrong. Just give them your correct age and let them decide whether you’re Willy or Biff Loman.
By the same token, your current height and weight are also essential. I am 5’9″ and 240 pounds, and no amount of wishing or skilled acting will ever make me 6’1″ or thin (yeah, okay, I can get thin by correcting my eating habits and getting more exercise, but I don’t see that happening). Be honest, with yourself and with the director.
Optionally, you may include your clothing sizes. The director won’t use this for the audition, but the theatre’s costumer will appreciate the advance knowledge.
Your Curriculum Vita
Acting Experience This should be a borderless table listing no more than six roles you’ve performed in the last six-to-ten years. Your most recent role should be at the top, and this is the last role you played, even if you played the punching tree in Pocahontas. The rest can be favorites, or roles you feel were significant in some way, but no more than six.
The role info should include, the year, role, play, and theatre or troupe. The exact date isn’t important. If you played multiple roles, list the one with the most lines or stage time, or just say “multiple” or “various” if they were equally minor (I was the punching tree, but I was also the sitting rock, so maybe…) Be honest. Most director’s won’t be overly impressed with a CV loaded to the gills with plum roles, but they will be put off by obvious bullshit.
Other Theatre Experience If you don’t mind doing background work instead of (or, in addition to) being onstage, list what you’ve done before. You should have at least one entry for each position you’ve held, even if they were in the same show (unless the jobs are closely related–say set design and construction). The only exception is if you were the director. A director has to fill in where he’s needed, and if you ended up running lights for two thirds of a show’s run because your light person couldn’t wait three more weeks to go into labor, you still only get to list yourself as having directed.
Other skills Do you have a good voice? Have you been told this by someone other than your mother? Put down singing. Otherwise, don’t put down any skill that you have not been trained to do or can’t back up somehow. No one cares if you can play “Stairway to Heaven” on your pawn shop guitar; what the director needs to know is if you can play second guitar on “Two Tickets to Paradise” from the sheet music. You can’t choreograph if you haven’t at least taken dance classes, and you can’t juggle if you can’t keep three balls in the air for longer than it takes to say, “Oh, crap.”
Other skills are great, and sometimes (rarely) can be the difference between a great role and “thanks; we’ll call you,” but you have to actually have those skills, or you’re just shooting yourself in the foot. I’ve learned enough stuff to get by in shows because the director was more interested in actors, but I wouldn’t call them “other skills”.
And that’s it. That’s your résumé. If it goes beyond one page, you should edit it down, cut out duplications in the “Other Experience” section, or cut “other skills” entirely. In the end, what you want is a single page that the director can look at and go, “Oh, yeah. That’s the guy.”