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These days the once frowned upon “Meet and Greet” is becoming standard practice in an actor’s routine.  This is a “pay to play” session where an actor will pay a certain amount of money to meet a casting director or agent.  It usually consists of either doing a monologue or reading a scene with a reader followed by a “chat” with the industry professional.  All this within 5-7 minutes depending on the venue.  

I think the “Meet and Greet” is one of the byproducts of the internet and electronic submissions which have glutted the marketplace.  It must be overwhelming for a casting director to sit in front of screens upon screens filled with thumbnail sized headshot photos in order to make their selections.  Agents try to get through with phone and email pushes but the layers of barricades are thick.  So even we, the agents, are urging our clients to invest in these “Meet and Greets” hoping for a synchronized recognition which will lead to audition appointments.

Agents also frequent these sessions which is what I’d like to address here.  Every actor wants an agent and many actors, no matter where they are in their careers, think they’re ready for an agent.  This is a misnomer which I will address at another time.  For now, I want to steer you in correct directions so you make the most of your 5 minutes and ace these Meet and Greets.

Three aspects which I feel are crucial to your success in these sessions are the following: Appearance, Material and Attitude.

Let’s start with appearance.  These are general meetings.  You’re not auditioning for a particular character so you don’t have to dress the part.  Someone said once that when meeting an agent an actor should dress for a first date.  I suppose that’s applicable.  First dates these days are meeting for coffee or a drink, not going to the prom.  Cleanliness, tidiness, with a touch of personality will do.  No matter how you try to run away from the truth, first impressions are important.  The way you appear (i.e. dress, look, etc.) to me in one of these meetings (in my mind) is the way you will dress to meet a casting director.  So if I see you’re wearing ill-fitting jeans and a stained sweater I’m going to wonder...

Party dresses and suits are not required.  However we don’t mind if you “dress” for the occasion which usually means you put some thought and attention to it.  In fact we appreciate it.  Also, if you’re meeting a casting director who works in TV or film it would make sense to appear “camera ready” (gals—that means hair and makeup) so they see you’re savvy for the medium. 

When you enter the room, make an entrance.  It’s your time; you paid for it.  Don’t shuffle in apologetically.  Walk with your head up, go straight to the CD or agent, hand him/her your picture and resume (always attached) and initiate the connection.  Time is of the essence and you will want to get to the “play” part of the session quickly so you have time for the chat which usually comes after.  

Let’s move on to the material.  This is extremely important.  You must have material that you enjoy performing and that suits your type, talent and what you do best.  If comedy is your thing, do something funny.  If you are serious, do something dramatic. If you do it all, pick your best and then if you’re asked to do a second piece top that!  Keep your monologues short, no longer than 2 minutes and make sure there’s a journey with a beginning, middle and end.  If Shakespeare is what you do and that’s all you do and all you’re interested in doing, then you should do that.  However, for the most part, in these small room venues that can sometimes be no larger than an office, I would suggest you stay away from classical material or anything too theatrical. Simple and sincere works best and allows us to see “you” and what you do with material.  It allows us to start imagining how we could submit or cast you.

If you choose to audition with a scene or a casting director has given you a scene to prepare and perform, make the most of the moment to show your listening skills.  Make strong choices, build a strong relationship with your partner’s character.  Start and end the scene with strong actions and drive a strong intention with urgency and meaning that is personal to you.  Michael Shurtleff’s book, “Audition,” is still the Bible for preparing auditions.  Use it!  And if an agent or casting director gives you an adjustment, take it.  This is a test to see your skill and experience in working with a director and also if you are obstinate in your choices or flexible in the collaborative process.

Lastly, let’s talk about attitude.  This is crucial and ties in with first impressions. Industry professionals are humans too.  We want to enjoy our time with you.  A pleasant light touch even if you tend to be Gloomy Gus works well.  Some attitudes to avoid: desperation, victim, overly pumped.  If you sincerely value yourself as a performer it will show and we will take notice.  Come to play and we will play along.  

Good luck!

—Margaret Emory

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