1.09.2010

The Last Post

Yes, you've read the title of this entry correctly.  This is my last blog post.  No, I haven't given up on the industry, though the rounds of trial and rejection can become tiresome now and again.  I haven't quit blogging either, though there are times when my fingers become shaky with all the keystroking.  (Is that a verb?  It sounds kinky.)  Instead I figured, with the advent of the new year, it was time for some rejuvenation.  So I am proud to say my bloggy adventures as the professional auditionee are continuing in a new location!  Visit professionalauditionee.com, where you will find all-new blog entries (as well as all the old ones).  Those of you that have subscribed to the feed will continue to be fed.  (The feed was recently redirected.  If you think it's not working, would you let me know?  Thanks!)  I can also report that aleciabatson.com has been refreshed, though it is still in beta.  You may find changes will be made now and then, but by and large things are good to go, which is why I'm sharing it with you!  (Hmm.  Perhaps too many idiomatic expressions in that last sentence?)

Thank you so much for being such faithful and supportive blog readers, and I look forward to sharing many more adventures with you this year and in the years to come.  Happy new year!

12.22.2009

Herding Voices

Today I auditioned for a couple of voice over spots. The audition was held at a studio I've worked at before and which I like very much for the professional and efficient standards upheld there. Any other time, I'm in and out in 15 minutes or less. Unfortunately, today's audition was anything but systematic. Because it was organized by an outside party and not by the studio itself, the typical procedures were irrelevant and there was a bit of waiting around. But, I waited patiently, chatting from time to time with friends I saw there and meeting some new folks, too. An auditionee at the casting call introduced himself saying, "Hi. Are you Alecia? I follow your blog." That was an unexpected surprise.

A few of the audition oddities included:

  • not signing in at the regular desk. Instead, we signed in on a separate sheet in the kitchen, where we were corralled by the casting associate.

  • rather than grouping the auditioning talent and having them read a spot together in entirety, each auditioned individually.

  • though the copy had multiple characters and since we auditioned individually, a representative from the casting director's office read opposite us inside the soundbooth in a rather hushed tone. I had to keep reminding myself to speak up and not mimic the reader.

Admittedly, I found frustrating the fact I was asked to prepare all the female parts in the spot only to arrive and be told I would only be reading one. Really? Are you kidding? Why not have everyone read for every potential role?, I thought.

So be it. I read for only one of the characters and I tried to make her as interesting as possible. Secretly, I was disheartened because I had more fun preparing the lines of another. Even so, I was politely complimented on my read upon completion and I hope that bodes well.

12.17.2009

Non/Conformist

I am somewhat of a nonconformist.  At the same time I am a rule-abiding traditionalist, believing rules are in place to provide structure, consistency, regularity and safety.  This past Sunday, my good friend (and fabulous tenor) Julius gave me a kick in the pants.

"What I want to know is why you aren't auditioning more.  For singing, I mean." he stated directly.

I reminded him of the various negative experiences and comments I've received from a variety of voice auditions, indicating that I find acting auditions to be much more open-minded and less judgmental affairs.

"It shouldn't matter what I wear or what I do in these auditions," I protested.  "I'm there to sing and they should only be considering my singing.  I'll wear whatever they tell me to wear when they hire me!"  I think adhering to the well-known but unpublished parameters of classical music auditions (e.g., wearing a dress or skirt when singing "female roles"; wearing a skirt or dress when auditioning because I am female; donning trousers for "pants roles"; no props) is limiting to the art form and detrimental to the potential of the auditioning talent.  So, I try to bend those rules.  The acting and character development is as important to me as the singing and I hate standing there as though I'm giving a recital.  I have a friend who is a marvelous soprano and I often liken the size of her voice to that of a Mack truck.  She doesn't audition for things because she is larger and finding a skirt or dress that fits well is quite a challenge.  She wears pants all the time.  There are many opera companies who are missing out on a tremendous talent as a result.

"If they want a skirt, wear a skirt!" Julius continued.  "Not playing by the rules gives them just cause to say they don't like you even if your singing is wonderful."  It is unfortunately true that panelists adjudicating vocal auditions are apt to dislike talent for any minuscule reason, especially if they don't know the talent, and I had to begrudgingly admit that Julius had a point.

"At least tell me you'll consider it." he added.

I am.

12.11.2009

It Can Pay to Read

I had the good fortune to be invited to write a guest blog for SuchAVoice, a voice over training and production company.  It was initially published on Thursday, 10 December 2009.  Following is the original tale.



I am a classical singer by training. It is common for bulletin boards in the hallways and corridors of conservatories and schools of music to be papered with recital posters, concert listings and calls for auditions. So, it’s not unusual to find instrument- and score-laden students poring over them interestedly. One day, as I was doing just that, I noticed a rather boring-looking flyer on pink paper calling generically for “3 men and 3 women”. A telephone number was listed at the bottom of the sheet. Perhaps someone is trying to assemble an a cappella or early music ensemble, I thought. I called up to discover, in fact, it was a company holding auditions for a radio commercial. Having never done anything of the sort before, I thought, What the heck!, and agreed to audition.

The copy was sent in advance so I had time to prepare, and I showed up to the Production Block studios at the time and date requested. I landed the job after that lone audition and it turned out to be more than the typical, first-time voice over gig. I was selected to be the first and only National Female Voice for what was then dot-com-phenom Collegestudent.com. (Collegestudent.com has since merged with Student Advantage.) Such serendipity led to the recording of multiple national spots over a two-year period for this “local, online campus community”, which was not only wonderful in-studio experience, but also contributed to the beginnings of a high-quality demo reel. (As an aside: the first spot we recorded was deemed so risqué that 50% of the markets in the nation wouldn’t play it!)

With this experience under my belt, I used my demo reel to market myself to voice over agents, acquiring my first representation with db Talent. I also contacted recording studios to find out if they maintain their own talent libraries and requested to be placed on file with those that do. Given the types of jobs I began working early on, it became clear to me that my industry niche was quirky, college-cool, but my singing background enabled me to expand that to include foreign languages and accents. Since that initial, unexpected audition, I’ve had the good fortune to record for a variety of corporations, including Time Warner Cable, Reebok, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Gozaic and Adobe, working on varied projects like telephony systems, industrial videos, television commercial demos and, of course, radio spots.

I look back on my entrée into a voice over career in astonishment. Voice over had certainly never been part of my grand life plan and, truthfully, I had not heard of it when I made that fateful telephone call. However, I cannot deny I am pleased to have been one of those bulletin board-reading students because being so truly changed my life.


Alecia is a professional actress, singer and voice over talent working in Boston, Austin and New York.  She actively blogs about her career as a “professional auditionee.” Visit her web site at aleciabatson.com.

12.10.2009

Character Study

Typically I take classes as a way to maintain and improve my skills, and I look to the professor or instructor as the primary guiding influence. However, recently, a studio acting class I'm in regularly took an interesting turn.

This time around I was truly challenged to identify with my character in the scene I had been assigned, which is a good thing. If I'm not challenged in studio, then work in the real world is out of the question. It's not that I didn't understand the scene, but finding the inner crux of my character proved to be a larger hill to climb than I had anticipated. My primary hurdle was age-related. The character I played is at least 15 years my senior and identifying life experiences to utilize as affective memory tools proved difficult for me. Substitution is an instrument I could have used more effectively.

The acting dilemma I faced was nothing in comparison to the drama and turmoil prompted by another actor in class, though. The rather uncivil attitude, cavalier nature and churlish ilk brought by this person was nothing less than galling. It distracted all from the focus of class and elicited a stream of tedium that made me sincerely hope things would end presently. However, I soon learned to watch closely. Watch this, I said to myself. This is good stuff. Analyze and internalize this. You will be able to use it in the future. And that's just what I did. It made class much more interesting and I look forward to being able to pull out for my own use the flaws, quirks and sensibilities that made this actor tick.

Here are some of the lessons I took away:

  • Work to further ratchet up the stakes. It increases tension and drama.
  • Search more deeply to find a way to connect to something that may be foreign to personal experience.
  • Establish a deeper internal comprehension of the character. Spend more time "in" the scene.
  • Don't allow the drama of one's life to overshadow the instructional functionality of class for others.
  • Argumentative behavior can be ineffective and damaging.
  • Listen. Don't talk (unless acting).
  • Watching others can be an excellent ordered exercise.

12.07.2009

A Christmas Commercial (But Not Mine)

In September of this year I had a satellite-feed commercial callback for a spot with wonderful potential.  Six of us were called back and, frankly, I would have been pleased if any one of us had gotten the gig.  Unfortunately, the ad agency decided to go with Los Angeles-based cast, perhaps for financial reasons.  I just saw the finished spot this morning.  It's for Target.  This could have been me!  (Oh, and originally the gift was a sweater.)


12.02.2009

Comfort and Consequence

You may recall that yesterday, I was questioning my music selections for a relaxed audition.  Well, I met the organist yesterday morning--a lovely fellow he is.  Friendly if a bit talkative.  I told him I had brought a variety of music with me and seemed pleased, stating he had hoped I would do so.  He suggested we go through the selections chronologically.  We began with a John Donne text set anonymously in the 16th Century, followed by an opera aria by W. A. Mozart, Ophelia's "Mad Scene" from Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet, and then some 20th Century art songs.  We skipped the Bach Magnificat.  I was surprised at how calm and at-ease I was, and the relative effortlessness of my range given my complete lack of warm-up prior.  Adrenaline can be a great thing.  Perhaps thinking of this audition as a non-event was beneficial, as well.  After all, there was no role or position at stake.

After our little sing-fest (he sight-reads well), he said he likes me.  I began to speculate.  Could that mean he likes me solely as a person?  Does he mean to imply he doesn't like my voice?  He also said he liked to work with people whose voices he could flatter with his playing.  Could he think he wouldn't (or won't choose to) flatter my voice?  We parted on good terms and I had no expectations anything further would come of our meeting.

Today I sent him a note thanking him for his time and to my surprise I received a lovely response in which he likened me to Mado Robin, and volunteered his services for recital performance and composition of new works.  Very kind compliments indeed!  My brain is whirring with excitement and I'm looking forward to future musical prospects.