Master musical theatre audition lingo

Thinking about attending your first musical theater audition? You’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed. But don’t let the anxiety of a new experience get in the way of performing your best. We’ve come up with a list of terms that’ll help get you prepared and confident for the big day.

ECC: An Equity Chorus Call (ECC) is an audition for ensemble performers who are part of the Actors Equity Association union.  Non-union dancers can attend these calls, too, but will only be seen after the union dancers and at the discretion of casting.  All dancers, regardless of union status, can be seen at open calls.

EPA: An Equity Principal Audition (EPA) is an audition for a show’s leading roles.  Union members sign up for an appointment time and come in to sing their piece of music.  Again, non-union actors may be seen if time/casting permits.

Headshot: Your headshot is an 8×10 color photograph of yourself from the shoulders up.  Your headshot should be professional and polished but still look like you (i.e. not overly made up or with different hair color).  Your first and last name should also be printed clearly on your headshot.

Resume: Your resume gets stapled to the back of your headshot.  Your first and last name appear at the top, followed by relevant contact information—phone number and email of yourself or your agent (do not print your personal address on your resume).  You can include stats like height, vocal range, and hair/eye color.  Below your stats are your credits—theater shows, commercial work, or other performances you’ve been in. At the bottom of your resume, you can also note teachers you’ve studied with, intensives you’ve attended, and any special skills you might have (baton twirling, aerial work, pointe work, etc.).

Ballet/tap cut: Sometimes a choreographer will start an audition with a preliminary “cut” to trim down the hundreds of auditioning dancers.  The choreographer will teach a short ballet or tap cut to check for good technique (usually a pirouette, rolling shuffles one at a time, or a quick across-the-floor combination).

Slate: If a director asks you to slate, state your first and last name and anything else they ask for (height, representation, etc.).

Book: Your book is your binder full of sheet music.  Make sure that your music is properly notated (where the accompanist should start and finish, etc.) and contains songs of different genres—contemporary musical theatre, pop/Rock, up-tempo, ballad, and standard musical theater.

16-bars: When you audition for the singing portion of a musical theater show, you’ll present just 16-bars (about 45 seconds) of a song to the creative team.  If there are a lot of dancers that have to sing, casting might ask for just 8-bars of music.  In either case, make sure your cut of music shows off your vocal chops and also tells a bit of a story.

Swing: A “swing” is a dancer who covers many or all of the ensemble tracks in case an on-stage dancer is out of the show.  If you’re auditioning for a swing track, be prepared to pick up choreography quickly and to reverse the steps on the other foot.  The choreographer is looking to see how you think on your feet as well as how you perform the combination.

Character heels: Many auditions request that female dancers wear character heels—2-3-inch dance heels. Popular brands include LaDuca, Capezio, Bloch, and SoDanca. Practice dancing in your character heels in class so that you feel comfortable in them before you attend an audition. It’s always a good idea to pack ballet shoes or jazz flats just in case.

The more comfortable and prepared you are for an audition, the better you’ll probably perform.  Remember to pack your dance bag the night before, get a good night’s sleep, eat a nutritious breakfast, and arrive at the audition early to have time to check-in and warm-up. Hopefully, the lingo above will help take some of the stress off of your next audition. Break a leg!

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