""Who Am I? I’m Jean Valjean!"
The character in a song is undoubtedly one of the most important clues to insight into the traits of a role. A character in a story has many identifiable traits that an actor can use to find suitable material for an audition. This is the case especially when auditioning for or wanting to be seen as a particular role within a show. Character traits include but are not limited to:
The most subjective of these being Character Type, because many characters can fit into multiple categories of these.
In Audition Source, I’m trying to compile a number of these common character Types that can fit into and connect with enough similar characters based on their traits. I use a number of common Archetypes, as well as a number of familiar character tropes or traits that can be identified in a multitude of characters through out musical theatre’s wide library of material. These include the following so far:
Leading Man/Lady: This one is more broad than most types as it encompasses most characters that are “lead roles” already. However there are certainly some things that come to mind when you think of a “Leading Role” type of character. Usually they are confident, a leader of some kind, larger than life, or even heroic. Some examples of a quintessential Leading Man/Lady include Curley from "Oklahoma!" or Billy Bigelow from "Carousel" and Dolly from "Hello Dolly" or Evita Parone from "Evita."
Character: Another VERY broad type is the Character type. Typically these are the comedic relief or have some more unique aspects to themselves that set them apart from the cast in a specific way. Because this can vary from character to character and performer to performer, the Character type is a commonly used term when it comes to a wide variety of roles. Examples of a Character type role would certainly include Elder Cunningham from "Book of Mormon" and Adelaide from "Guys and Dolls."
Villain: The antagonist of a story. Sometimes evil, sometimes misunderstood. It depends on the circumstances of the plot. The villain acts as a stopper between the hero and their goals. The villain isn’t always necessarily bad and can even change at times like the Witch from "Into the Woods" or maybe they aren’t explicitly seen as the villain of the story until revealed to be a villain like The Wizard from "Wicked." Always remember to consider context within a story when deciphering a character's type.
Romantic Youth: Also sometimes referred to as the ingenue. This character is all about love. They might be helplessly in it or maybe everyone is helplessly in love with them. Examples of these would be Tony and Maria from "West Side Story" or Orpheus and Euridice from "Hades Town."
Parental: They may be a parent or a surrogate for a parent. Raising a child or acting as a Patron or Matron to another character is the defining characteristic. This could include Tevye or Golde from "Fiddler on the Roof," Marme from "Little Women," or Arvide from "Guys and Dolls."
Song and Dance: This character is all about show biz! Typically they may be seen in a “show within a show” situation as a character who’s primary function is entertainment, or perhaps that is their main purpose as a role within a show such as in a song cycle or other similar piece of theatre. Examples of a Song and Dance character would be Don Lockwood from "Singin’ in the Rain," Reno Sweeney from "Anything Goes," or Ula from "The Producers."
Scholar: A scholar it could be any kind of character that has to do with intelligence or wisdom, not necessarily with school. They could be into books or computers or obsessed with religion or scriptures either way they are passionate about learning. Examples of a scholar might be Chip Tolentino from "Spelling Bee" or Henry Higgins from "My Fair Lady," Hermione from "Harry Potter" (Not a musical but a perfect example) and Vivian from "Legally Blonde."
Traditionalist: A character with a specific moral code, that might be considered by some to be dated or rooted in a tradition of some sort. A great example of this might be Tevye from "Fiddler on the Roof" (at least at the start of the story) or Javert from "Les Miserables," Aunt March from "Little Women" or General Cartwright from "Guys and Dolls."
Lustful: This character’s primary traits and themes have to do with sex, passion, pleasure and desire. They might be an object of desire or constantly desiring others. Examples of this might be Adolfo from the "Drowsy Chaperone" or Sally from "Reefer Madness."
Rebel: A fighter and passionate believer in ideals that may go against the grain of society. This character sets themselves apart in their story as a pioneer for new thoughts and or beliefs. Bobby Strong from "Urinetown" or Jesus from "Jesus Christ Superstar" as well as Jo from "Little Women" or Janice from "Mean Girls" would be some great examples of characters who are rebellious in nature.
Tragic Hero/Heroine: Not always necessarily a hero, but a character with either a tragic backstory or fate. Usually haunted by their past, or flawed by their traits which cause their stories to not get such a happy ending. Perfect examples of these could be the title role from "Floyd Collins" or Nancy from "Oliver!"
Best Friend/Sidekick: Plenty of main characters in musicals have a best friend or sidekick character who is there to offer a helping hand of some sort when the going gets tough. Typically these characters have a bit of a comedic relief or contrast to the main character in a way that is complimentary to them. Some great examples of this type include Willard from "Footloose" or Carrie Pepperidge from "Carousel."
Braggart Warrior: Usually a male role who oozes with masculinity or at the very least feigned macho pride. The most iconic Braggart Warriors include Gaston from "Beauty and the Beast" and Miles Gloriosus from "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."
Everyman: The role who longs to "be like everyone else." Their primary goal is to belong to something or the search for deeper meaning and existence. Some perfect examples include Princeton from "Avenue Q" or Ariel from "The Little Mermaid."
Comedic Romantic: Typical in a romantic comedy. This character is hopelessly in love to the point that hilarity ensues in their pursuit of it. Billy Crocker from "Anything Goes" and Elle Woods from "Legally Blonde" are some great examples for these types.
Lovable Con: Not necessarily having the best intentions at first or maybe they never change for the better, either way we love them despite their shenanigans. Harold Hill from "The Music Man" and Cora Hoover Hooper from "Anyone Can Whistle" are some of the most iconic examples of the Lovable Con.
Many characters can display a combination of these traits/archetypes.
For example, Jean Valjean from "Les Miserables" is a Leading Man as he is the main character of the story. He has a larger than life complexity and personality that most Leading Men/Ladies need to stand out above others. He also is a man of strong principals and becomes quite religious after his encounter with the Bishop, so I would also say he is also a Traditionalist. At the same time he also has a rather haunted and tragic backstory with a bitter end, so he would easily fit into the Tragic Hero character as well. These traits combined can help an actor identify other characters that maybe fit into similar categories to make finding appropriate audition materials easier. Some immediate characters who come to mind would be Jesus or Judas from "Jesus Christ Superstar", Sweeney Todd, or even the Phantom from "Phantom of the Opera" to name a few.
While archetypes and character types can be useful there are, of course, a plethora of factors at play which make some characters more unique than another. These ultimately play out through the actions they take, their inner thoughts devised by the actor, director or writer, source material, setting, and interpretation. Many authors, especially in contemporary work, never explicitly name an archetype or character type for the roles in their musicals or plays. Each character is unique in their own particular way. Recognizing these types can help an actor make relevant choices in their repertoire for auditioning for these various roles. Many good actors can play multiple types, but plenty of actors have learned to identify the type they are most marketable as when playing a role.
The main criticism to note about categorizing characters and actors by type is that it can be very subjective at best, and discriminatory at worst. To one casting director, someone may appear to be a heroic protagonist, while to another they may consider the actor to not fit their own vision of what that hero looks like and cast them as a villain or character type instead. Ultimately there are parts of the casting process that are just out of your control. Sometimes bringing a piece that someone may consider out of your own type can play off in a very positive and unique way that works out beneficially for the actor because it made that actor stand out. Ultimately, it is up to you as the actor to figure out what you do best to market yourself as the best candidate for the role you are seeking.
You can read my previous article on finding your type casting and the history of Archetypes here: http://www.jordansidfield.com/blog/whats-my-type
What are some other character types not on this list from musicals you can name? Add them to this list by commenting down below. If you liked this article, please like and share it with your friends. Thanks for reading, and as always: break a leg!
Finding the right material for an audition or your repertoire is what Audition Source is all about. The tools an actor can use to find the "right" material can depend on a wide variety of factors, categories, and variables. These factors are spread in a number of qualitative pieces of information that, with a little research and knowledge, become evident to an actor. To illustrate, I'm going to provide an example of a hypothetical audition.
Let's say for a moment you are auditioning for the role of "Adult Simba" in the Broadway production of The Lion King. Right away we can gather some of the following information from the role and the source material.
-The role of Simba asks for a young adult male to play a humanized lion. The role features songs in a tenor vocal range and an RnB pop singing style. As The Lion King is set in Africa, the show typically features a majority African American cast, including Simba.
-The show features music by Elton John, Tim Rice, and other collaborators. Other lesser known details are that The Lion King's plot has been loosely based on Hamlet and that Simba is based on the title character. It's also definitely notable that it's produced by Disney.
Any or all of this information can be used in guiding you to where you need to go to find the best material for it.
We can look specifically at the character and their story arc within the context of the plot. Adult Simba has suffered a traumatic loss in witnessing the death of his father. After being convinced by Scar, his evil uncle, that his father's death was his own fault, Simba flees from Pride Rock in shame and despair. He finds shelter and friendship with two other outcasts in an oasis far from what becomes Scar's kingdom.
In his song “Endless Night,” Simba sings about his loss and frustration over his father’s absence until it turns into a prayer of hope towards the end, showing that despite his grief, Simba's ambitions for goodness are still inside him. Simba eventually goes on to avenge his father and overthrow Scar. He spares him, but leaves him with his army, who turn against him. He also shares a romantic storyline with Nala, his childhood best friend, who comes and finds him to tell him the news about the havoc King Scar has reaped on Pride Rock.
From knowing his storyline, we can decipher a multitude of criteria that one can use to search for audition materials, which I highlight with parentheses like this: (Category).
You can look at Male (Gender) roles,
played by a Young Adult (Age).
The character is the main character in this story, so you could look for other "Lead Roles", (Role Size)
particularly roles that deal with grief and other "Dramatic" (Genres).
We know also that he is a Tenor (Vocal Range).
His (Character Types) include "Leading Man, Romantic Youth, Rebel, and Tragic Hero”
Just from looking at the character of Simba you can narrow down your search. Who are some similar characters you can think of that might match some of the criteria for the role of Simba? Leave a comment on this article to let us know!
Next, let’s look at the source materials, The Lion King. The music (Composer/Score and Lyrics) is by Elton John and Tim Rice, in addition to a huge number of musical collaborations from Hans Zimmer, Jay Rifkin, Mark Mancina, and Lebo M. Roger Allers. Additionally, Irene Mecchi wrote the libretto (Book).
The musical is also, of course, based on a Disney movie and produced by Disney Theatricals. While Disney covers a wide variety of genres, a lot of Disney’s formula and style typically demonstrate a lot of similar traits within its musical compositions and writing. So the (Genre) for most music within the piece are going to be a part of the “Disney” Genre along with whatever other sub-genres the music stylings might cover such as “Rock” and “Pop.” These sub-genres are supported by the fact that typically in the breakdowns for productions of The Lion King, the casting teams often ask actors to prepare a “brief Pop or Rock song.”
It also can be important to know what kind of skills may be required of an actor to perform a role. The Lion King uses puppetry through out the production in various levels. Simba’s puppetry is a bit more simplistic (a head piece that can be launched in front of the face of the actor to show the character is ready for combat or aggression) while others are full-on suits (such as Pumba or the hyenas) or smaller puppets controlled by an actor alongside them (such as Timone and Zazu). So having the (Skill/Talent) of “Puppetry” can be useful in your arsenal to play many of these roles. Although it may not be necessary for an audition.
Another useful bit of information can be found in looking at other actors who have played the part previously. When you look at their credits you can potentially find audition material through them. An actor’s previous roles are likely to be similar enough in type to be suitable for your audition. For example, the actor who is currently playing (Played By) Simba has also played Tyrone in “A Bronx Tale” and played Apollo Creed in “Rocky: The Musical.” If the Lion King didn’t typically ask for a pop or rock song, an actor could use a song sung by one of those characters for their Simba audition as well. You can even go another degree and see what other actors who have also played those roles have done as well by continuing to research their credits.
So with all of that in mind, you can see that if an actor does the proper research they can find suitable material for an audition by searching through all the relevant channels. This research can take a while depending on where and how you are looking, but that is where Audition Source will be useful to actors, to give them easy access to all of these points of data in a convenient and easy to streamline platform.
In the next article on Audition Theory, we are going to be taking a more in depth look at character types. Check out our other articles on this subject in the links provided below:
As always, break a leg!
Founder of Audition Source
While developing the platform Audition Source, I have had a multitude of bursts in ideas for other ways I'd love to have Audition Source be useful to the performing arts community. This article is going to be the beginning of a multi-part series on my own Audition Theory I've developed. It will help to explain why I created this site and how I structured the database within. I think breaking down these following theories will help actors make smarter audition choices.
To start I'd like to cite and develop a few definitions of terms that are used on this site. The first definition I want to address is for "audition." What is an audition? Well, I thought, who better to decide that than the good ol' dictionary? Pulled from Google's search for the word "audition," I found an excellent definition that backs up things I inherently thought already involving how to best select your material. It's right there when you read the text:
noun: audition; plural noun: auditions
verb: audition; 3rd person present: auditions; past tense: auditioned; past participle: auditioned; gerund or present participle: auditioning
late 16th century (in the sense ‘power of hearing or listening’): from Latin auditio(n)-, from audire ‘hear.’ The current sense of the noun dates from the late 19th century."
Did you see it when you were reading? The noun definition states:
"An INTERVIEW for a particular role or JOB... a practical DEMONSTRATION of candidate's SUITABILITY and SKILL."
The verb portion of the definition also shows how auditions are perceived from the casting side of it: "assess the suitability of (someone) for a role." I also appreciate seeing the latin origins of audition as well. "The Power of Hearing or Listening." I would also add on the power of sight and imagination. Since it requires the development of vision whether you are performing in or hosting an audition.
So an audition is essentially a job interview. Being a good auditioner, just like being a good interviewee, isn't a natural talent but a honed and acquired skill. It also requires a knowledge of or an access to knowledge of a wide range of material, spread across a wide spectrum of sources including on-line searches, libraries and music stores.
My goal with Audition Source is to provide actors access to knowledge about the materials they need to help them land a great job in a field they work so passionately hard for, sometimes just for the love of performing and not for monetary reasons. Whether it is paid or unpaid work, nearly everyone auditions unless you are a household name like Bette Midler, (but you know if she did audition, it would knock a casting director’s socks off.)
So let me combine both of those definitions to help reframe how I'm exploring auditions and why it supports what is utilizes in Audition Source's database.
Redefined, "Auditioning is an assessment and/or interview involving a practical demonstration of suitability and skill for a particular role or job."
With this definition in mind, a character breakdown (More on Character Breakdowns later) in an audition listing, is like a job description. This connects to a theory I have that the best way to decide what to do for an audition is to find material that uses common attributes to any of the information provided on the audition notice. This information can include any of the following categories used in the database I'm creating: Genre, Show Title, Artists Involved, Vocal Range, Special Skills or Talents Required. An actor can utilize any combination of these clues found right in the audition notice to lead them in the direction of finding good relevant audition materials that appeal to them as well.
In the next few articles, I plan to go over some of the different methods I want to help you use for picking your audition material. A lot of this is common practice for many professional working actors, some of these methods are fairly new. I plan on covering each category used in this site a reference guide. I plan to make updates to these articles periodically in accordance with new discoveries made as Audition Source grows with the help of readers like you.
To be notified when the next blog comes out, please subscribe to our Newsletter and/or like us on Facebook!
Thanks for reading, and break a leg!
Founder of Audition Source
What is an audition book? This is a large, sturdy, three ring binder used for organizing and storing your audition sheet music (and sometimes copy of your audition monologues as well. There is actually a great technique to organizing this which I learned back in my undergrad at CSU Fullerton's BFA in Musical Theatre program. It still helps me greatly to this day, and I am able to easily access the songs I need for my auditions.
I would highly recommend organizing it in alphabetical order from song title, WITH TABS, and create an index/bibliography for it. Create a word document and then list every song and monologue you plan on keeping within it in that order. Once you have finished, you can even create more index pages that separates your materials by artist, tempo, style, and more to help further categorize your audition song list. I usually try to do it like so:
Tempo - Uptempo, Ballad, Moderate
Style - Dramatic, Character, Pop
Era - Classic, Transition, Contemporary
Artists Last Names (Sondheim, Schwartz, Webber, Etc.)
Theme - (Love, Pain, Success, Etc)
While it may be timely at first, it is absolutely worth taking the time to do so. When you find an audition to go to, you can take a look through your index and more easily select the material best suited for the audition.
It may also be beneficial to keep an extra binder to bring your top three to five songs that you would do for the audition, because you never know if A) Someone in your group or right before you brings in the same song, B) your voice isn't in the best place and you have a back up that may be easier to perform that day, or C) they ask you if you have any other selections (yes, that CAN happen). It's a good rule to always be prepared.
I hope this advice comes in handy to you guys! Any other tips you might have for organizing an audition book? Let us know in the comments below! In the meantime...
BREAK A LEG!
Types have been a vital part of story telling since the art of story telling was conceived. The phrase "Type" comes from the word "Archetype", a concept developed by the ancient Greeks, who are also considered to be the forefathers of the Theatre itself. "Archetype" comes from the greek root "Arkhetypon" which essentially means "original model or pattern."
Over the many years, Archetypes have evolved to fit the realm in which story telling takes place. When the first plays were written, there were more simplistic types such as "Heroes", "Villains", "Innocent Maidens", "Servants", "Royalty" and "Gods." These types may have been put into place in a way to reinforce peoples roles in society talking of people being punished for disobeying the Gods or Authority.
As society evolved, there came more variety in the types of characters portrayed, this shift may have come from the introduction of Comedies to the stage. Playwright Titus Plautus was one of these first comedic playwrights, who created some of the first Farces, including stories that would later be combined and adapted to create the musical, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" by Sondheim. These stories introduced characters like "The Trickster Servant", "The Braggart Warrior", "The Courtesan," and "The Foolish/Lecherous Old Man". From that moment on, the character types of the theatre were fleshed out in new ways. From Ancient times to the Modern centuries, playwrights have used archetypes in their stories, from Shakespeare to Arthur Miller. Over the years of course they have become far more complex.
In the early 20th Century, Psychologist Carl Jung developed a theory involving the significance of Archetypes, later known as the "Jungian Archetypes". He believed there were 12 common archetypes in all stories, myths, and art, split into three type categories, Ego, Soul and Self, and created a wheeled diagram which had these 12 types to face near and in between 4 orientations, Freedom, Social, Order, and Ego. Read more about the Jungian Archetypes at http://www.soulcraft.co/essays/the_12_common_archetypes.html.
Today, we don't typically use the phrase "Archetype" any more, but just "Type." While in many of today's contemporary plays you don't see as generic of a character type as in the past, many of today's characters fall into pieces and categories of the previous archetypes. This is why even today, you see plenty of actors "playing the same kinds of roles" over and over. It's because they fit into a specific "Type."
Understanding character types are vital when selecting your audition materials. Yes, everyone wants to be that actor that can transform and transcend their type. However, if you are going to a cattle call, where casting directors are seeing hundreds of actors through out the day, they are typically looking for a specific type for each role. If you can go into an audition and convince a casting director that you have the ability to play a role you may not be typically looked at for, more power to you. I guarantee it is going to be much more difficult to do so, however, and could in many cases could hurt your chances at auditions. Rather than let your type be your enemy, make it your friend, take advantage of YOUR uniqueness. There is only one you, while acting is typically being someone else, a creative team will hire you because they like you, not necessarily because they like who you are pretending to be.
Want to learn some ways you can learn your type? Check out my other blog here: http://www.jordansidfield.com/blog/whats-my-type