Beth Noelle.com Pure of Heart. Fiercely True. Radiantly Alive.

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Beth Noelle
PATH of Authentic Voice

Auditions. The unavoidable and, oftentimes, unsavory part of the wonderful world of musical theater. Here in Portland, auditioning isn’t nearly as brutal as it is in New York. The song Climbing Uphill from The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown spells it out with unsettling accuracy.

My first audition was in 1977, in the auditorium of Sunset High School in Beaverton. Miss Barry, my grade school music teacher and the first of four significantly supportive and influential music teachers during my K-12 schooling, suggested I try out for The Sound of Music. I had no idea what to expect and decided to do it. Why not?

I’ll never forget walking into that, from my wee-self perspective, ginormous room and onto that expansive stage. Musty-cool theater smell and air filled my nostrils. The chairs, seductively squeaking as various people went from seats to stage, back to seats again. That gorgeous red velvet curtain hanging so majestically. I felt uncommonly comfortable and at home there. Who knew? I did get cast, as Brigitta, the smart-ass kid. I know, big surprise. It was a wonderfully life-changing experience, although I did lose my girlfriends over it. One of my closest friends also auditioned and didn’t get in. She decided to give me the silent treatment for the rest of the year and encouraged my other friends to do the same. That sucked pretty hard, but I had caught the bug. What price, bliss.

Beth Noelle in 1979

Soon after, I auditioned for Oliver at, the no longer existent, Portland Civic Theater. I didn’t get cast, which spooked me and I didn’t audition for anything again until high school. Since then, I’ve stumbled and waltzed through many an audition and have been involved in numerous musical theater projects as either a singer/actor, pianist, or musical director.

Over the past few days I’ve been auditing a city-wide audition extravaganza. Multiple people, theaters and companies gathering together to hear hundreds of hopeful auditionees. It is an intense experience to witness the inner workings of so many “God, I hope I get it!” people and take in their resultant outer presentations. My heart bleeds for all who show up and can’t help but wish to impart some guidance to support their courageous endeavors.

Although I am by no means the world’s foremost authority on auditioning and auditing, I do think that my many years in the trenches have provided me insights that can be and have actually proved to be, via my own experiences and those of my clients, helpful to all concerned.

So here it is. Beth’s audition suggestions for not only surviving but thriving, while navigating the process of auditioning. Take what you like and leave the rest and know full well that I most certainly practice what I preach, with varying degrees of success, right along with you!

Let’s start with appearance and move on from there...

Ladies, leave your stilettos at home.

Really. Unless you’ve mastered the art of walking with those things on your feet over a wide variety of terrain (see various video tutorials on YouTube!), leave them at home lest you scuff and clomp like a Clydesdale. There are plenty of other shoes out there that are stylish that will also allow you to walk with grace and ease. And, shoes of black, neutral or subdued in color. Please. If you are wearing bright red shoes, I’m going to be looking at your feet most of the time... wondering where I can get a pair of those babies!

My, your skirt is short.

Yes, it’s good to see those beautiful gams, but keep your skirts just above your knees. I feel like an old granny saying this, but even if you’ve got spanks on under that skimpy piece of fabric... yeah. People hear 80% with their eyes. Offer minimal distractions from what you are there to actually showcase.

On being a woman.

I don’t know that there’s any way around this. It is a sad and unfortunate reality that men auditioning are judged differently than women auditioning. Men receive comments about their voices and/or their acting ability. Women? How cute, how pretty, how sexy. How attractive, or not. Yes, that. The dress that did or didn’t work, etc. This is not an isolated incident. All the more reason to get your skill set down and lead with that.


Jeans? Really? Grape FANTA shirt, really? (OK. It was a cool shirt and I wanted to know where to get one, to pair with the red shoes I took note of earlier... I wonder if that’s what he wanted me to be thinking about, though). Dress up a bit, would you?

Audition material and the person who’s covering your butt.

As a seasoned accompanist I cannot stress this enough. If you’ve got me as your accompanist, I can pretty much play anything for you and I’ll be with you like a fly on paper. This is not a guarantee, though, with many accompanists you’ll encounter. If you’re smart you’ll choose a song that any hired accompanist can play on sight and handily (pun intended) play well. Don’t throw them some complex piece of crazy. If they fuck up, guess who looks bad? You do. We, the auditors, would much rather hear you sing a simpler song and really sing it well with your accompanist right there with you. Put the Sondheim, Guettel, and Jason Robert Brown back on your shelf. Immediately. You’ll be doing yourself an enormous favor. If you really want to do that stuff, bring an accompanist you’ve rehearsed with (paying them well, of course), if it’s allowed.

In addition, when putting your music together, collate it in such a way that your player has minimal page turns, i.e. double-sided. Unless you’ve got only two pages of music, which is not uncommon when you’re only singing 32 bars or less, in which case then put the pages side-by-side, i.e. no page turns at all.

I’m not a big fan of sheet protectors, either. Depending on the lighting in the room, you don’t want your pianist to have to be wrangling pages to deal with the glare coming off of the plastic.

And for the love of Goddess, PUT YOUR MUSIC IN A BINDER!!!! Not one of those flimsy, flexible binders, but a hard-cover, .5-1” round rings binder rather than one of those newfangled D-ring atrocities. Otherwise, [insert ugly, worst-case scenario here].

Louder is not necessarily better. In fact, it almost never is.

Good Lord. Yes, I’m glad to know that you can belt. Clearly, you can. Please don’t scream in my face for 2 minutes. Show me you’ve got it, then back off. Show me your tender. Show me your subtle. Give me a wide range of dynamics, color and texture. Yes.

Bring your body along with you.

So, yes. You might have great chops and you might have a great time step. That’s not enough. Are you connected with your body as your instrument? If not, do something about that. Dance classes are fine and dandy, but I’m talking about being comfortable in your body, to the point where you could do your audition... naked. Yes, naked. If you and your body are at odds, let the healing begin. Take a yoga class. Take Movo:Dance with me. Do anything that will foster loving intimacy between you and your body.

Never think you’re a shoo-in.

I don’t care how many shows you’ve been in, if you’re best buddies with this or that director, the ‘darling’ of this or that company or how wonderful you think you are. Approach every audition with humility and as if it’s your first time being seen and heard, caring very much about what impression you are making. Presumption will be your undoing. Who are you now? Are you actively growing as an artist. Or, are you calling it in? Don’t do that.

Peek-a-boo — I see you, too.

Yes, we who audition are submitting ourselves to the scrutiny of others who will decide if we are ‘worthy’ enough to work with or not. But guess who is also scoping things out? We are. When you are auditioning, realize that you should be checking out who you’re auditioning for as much as they are checking you out. Do you want to be working with these people? Maybe so, maybe no. Choose wisely.


Get this. Some people are going to like and/or love what you have to offer. Some are not.

Recently, I had a couple of auditors sitting right behind me and after every singer they’d start yacking it up about them with great authority. Most everything they were saying I thought was complete bullshit. Simply do your best. Worry not the rest.

Watch yourself.

Do you know what you look like through the eyes of others? Can you bear knowing the answers to that question? Sing your material in front of a mirror. A big one. Get used to your face. Contort it in weird ways. Play with it. Move your body and see what you see. Are you transmitting what you wish to be transmitting through your facial expression... your body expression? Video yourself. See what’s really there, not just what you think is there in your head. This level of awareness will up your game significantly.

Ask for honest feedback.

I have a few key people in my life I go to and ask them for feedback... honest feedback. Sometimes it’s an ego blow, but so worth it. It’s just an ego after all. Surround yourself with people who are going to be real with you and not just tell you how wonderful you are.

We want you to do well.

Guess what? Your auditors are people, too... people who grapple with insecurities and difficulties, just like you. It’s so very true! We’re all in this together, and it’s heartbreaking (yes, we do have hearts) for us when someone obviously doesn’t feel they’ve done well and turns it against themselves. Like the young man I met yesterday. He left the stage with his hands cupping his face, shaking his head dejectedly as he left the audition space. I wasn’t convinced he wouldn’t harm himself in some way after he’d gone. Please be kind to yourself. Learn from your experience, yes, and go at it again with new wisdom. Ideally, you can walk away from the audition and feel good about how it went down, whether or not you get the call. If not, perhaps it’s time to go outside and take a walk. Smell some flowers. Hang out with a loving friend. Be willing to never be in another show again. Yes, that’s right. Be willing to never be in another show again. Have a life outside of the theater that is at least as rewarding. Be balanced. Unless, however, you enjoy living in abject misery, then you should move to New York right away and play that game.

Give it a rest.

Fear not time off. If you feel the need to indulge in show after show, audition after audition... why? Just like people who talk all the time for fear of silence... what would happen... what would present in the empty space... if you just slowed down or, gasp, stopped. Even if only for a little while. Catch your breath. Let your talent lie fallow. Let your soul soil get rich again. Wait for that compelling and irrefutable yearning to create again. You will re-enter the arena with fresh perspective and more life experience under your belt, which makes everything infinitely better.

Good things come to those who wait.

Back in 2008 I was the pianist for a high school production of Into the Woods. I knew right away that I just had to play Witch. An opportunity to audition for that show arose several years later. I didn’t get the part. I ached about it and wrestled with impatience for another few years, and kept on holding the desire and the vision. Another opportunity did, magically, arise - six years later - and I played the part, with just the right people at just the right time. Breathe. Trust. Shake it off and go for another walk. This, or something better will come to pass.

Beth Noelle as Witch, 2014

Giving or taking.

It is very evident to me which auditionees and performers are about being of service and giving... to the music, to the composer, to the story, to the audience, to themselves. Just giving. And then there are those who are taking. If you feel insecure, you’re more likely to need external validation and unconsciously suck off your audience like a vampire. Get that shit handled. Repair any leaks in your love tank so that it can fill itself to overflowing so that you’ve got an abundance of love and grace to bestow upon yourself, your craft and your people.

Work on your personhood as much or more as you work your material.

If you get ridiculously nervous when you audition, something’s up. Work on that. If you’ve got an attitude (do you even know whether or not you’ve got one?), check it at the door. If you’re devastated when you don’t get a call back or that part at that place... why?!?! What meaning are you giving that? Know yourself. Wherever you feel disempowered, there’s your growing edge. Come see me.

Not Broadway?

So fucking what? So, yeah. You’re not on Broadway. Act. as. if. you. are. Every gig is significant. Every audition is a blessed opportunity to share your gift and your sweetest self. Carry yourself with dignity and respect and extend that generously to those you are fortunate enough to work with and who, in turn, are fortunate enough to, yes, work with you!

Now, go out and break a leg!