Friday, April 20, 2012

Steve Jobs and theatre

I am reading as many books as I can on leadership/leaders etc.  Currently it's the Steve Jobs bio that has me enthralled. Amazing ideas have been coming to me and I am learning lessons.  He was so good at seeing "trends" and markers and then using his passion for design, technology and art to literally change the world.

I love the saying Jobs quotes by Wayne Gretzky (the hockey player) "Skate where the puck's going, not where it's been".  I think of that when some of the old guard want to say "That's not how a theatre is suppose to be built".  We need to skate not only where the puck is going, but we need to lead the way to the goal. Be there before the puck gets there and slap that thing home solidly.

One thing I am noticing is the trend of theaters to use video submissions to narrow down their choices before they have live auditions.  There are many theaters doing this now to save on renting a room and hiring an accompanist for three or four days.  I still advocate a superior casting director such as Jamibeth for Broadway auditions and for that final narrowed down field of applications from videos and from agent submissions for the final round and Equity auditions.

But my point is, that if we, at colleges, are training our kids to do great live auditions, we should also be training them to do great video submissions.  Because if I, as the artistic director, have to sort through 500 video submissions in the two hours I have allocated for that task, I will not be able to indulge them all, even if I give a one-minute time limit per video.  That time adds up!  So if you want me to watch your entire video and then love you and then call you in for a live audition, you better make sure it's creative, well lit, and sounds good.  Not like something you made in a closet.

Perhaps casting directors could be hired to do that initial viewing of the videos because, again, Jamibeth knows immediately what is great just from a few bars. She is trained to look at folks that way.  She narrows folks based on their resumes and headshots quickly.  So to have a casting person do that for videos makes sense.  If you were in Denver, you could just  hire a NYC casting person to help you because the submissions are digital!  Then the artistic director is freed up to do other things and just see the final choices. Kinda like when we do commercial auditions. Or online dating.  Ah theatre is just catching up. I get it!

But I don't care how pretty you are, if you are in the shadows and I can't see your face. I don't care how nice your voice is if it's distorted because you taped in a room with bad acoustics. I can't tell how well you act if you move outside the frame of the video too often.  So many college kids have MAC computers, like I do, and are pretty darn tech savvy, but not all of them are. So shouldn't colleges offer a class on how to make stunning video submissions and great YOUTUBE channel offerings?

When I was in my 20's there wasn't the Internet to post any type of self promotion, so I bought a bunch of Cheryl's prepackaged, individual cookies, small boxes and put my cassette tape with a few short selections together and mailed them to artistic directors saying "By the time you are finished eating this cookie you will have heard my audition/promotional tape. I hope you enjoy both. Please let me know if you would like to hear me for an audition for your upcoming season".  I actually got called in by a few.

My point is, you must be creative and use technology at the same time. Like Steve Jobs.  Theatre is not going to, nor should it, get less technological. So keep up for pete's sake, those of you training folks and those of you learning the craft.

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