Audition fees are unfortunately something that will forever remain within the theatre industry. At grassroot level the money received from audition fees often is aimed at covering the cost of venue hire, which isn’t something particularly hard to swallow.
With am-dram theatre groups at times struggling to make ends meet, it does seem reasonable for them to try covering as much up front cost prior to show week. If the group are paying any of the creative team, again any profit gleamed could go towards such costs and also pays for practitioners time.
At a professional level, audition fees do also exist for those wishing to further their qualifications through drama schools. As read recently in The Stage publication, Labour’s Acting Up report highlighted the high costs associated with attending auditions to gain entry into said schools, even before additional costs such as transport and accommodation are considered.
The report found that whilst costs were lower for early bird applicants, those applying later on met a heavy price for their delay. RADA’s audition charge leapt from £46 to £86 and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School went from £45 to £65. With many budding performers auditioning for numerous stage schools to increase their chances, overall costs for attending could easily go over £500, without any guarantee of success.
A simple way to rectify this would be to use a UCAS system where any fees are regulated or possibly subsidised to ensure those from working class backgrounds are priced out of auditioning. In an industry where class has often been a talking point over the past few years especially, it lies on those in charge to ensure their gates are open for all, not just those with the finances to get there.
Back to a local level, the question remains whether audition fees for performers wishing to join a cast is a barrier or whether the overall show fee is more so. The standard cost of audition fees locally appears to be around £5-10 (for those charging one) and in the balance of the show fee cost, often ranging from £20-£60, the cost is relatively minor in comparison.
The mindset seems to be that people don’t want to part with hard earned money without a high chance of success, therefore reducing risk. Comparing this mindset with those auditioning for drama schools, it seems that those seeking a professional path are more open to risk than those at an am-dram level. It may well be that someone doing it as a hobby doesn’t want to fork out unnecessarily without a guarantee of success. What may offset this is for the audition fee to be taken off the overall show fee cost (a practice quite common in several groups) or to be returned if the people is unsuccessful, however the latter doesn’t hold up as they have still made use of the venue itself and the audition panel’s time.
The audition fee at am-dram level does tie into a point of whether success is likely. For those with many shows under their belt it may seem more likely due to their experience gained, along with an understanding of how theatre shows are put together. For the budding performers taking their first tentative steps into theatre, especially those who may never have attended an audition before, they have nothing (aside from possible praise at school or from friends) to go by. It would surely be a tragedy for audition fees to create a block, however minor to those just starting out or from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The question of whether the local scene is doing enough to engage with the wider community and encourage new people to get involved is best left to a separate article. But the question remains of what can be done locally to keep those barriers down, if they even exist? Perhaps audition fees should just be discarded and the cost of venue hire etc. be taken on the chin by said theatre groups who if in a position to stage a show, must surely be able to take a £40-£60 hit in budget in the hopes of garnering new talent.
Have you ever been put off by audition fees when considering participating in a show or has anyone you known not applied for drama schools due to the application fees imposed? Should local theatre groups in the county do more to engage with the community at large to get new talent involved? Let us know your thoughts, opinions and suggestions on the above.
Chris Lynch is the Artistic Director of C&D Productions and an avid supporter of local and regional theatre, working with groups across the East Midlands since 2011. He has directed 16 theatre shows and had performed in over 25 productions prior to starting C&D. Chris can be found on Twitter and on Facebook. If you’re an actor, director or creative then he’s pleased to hear from you and is always open to offers to direct theatre locally.