January 23, 2023
Can you sing?
Can you act?
Can you dance? (A little bit counts!)
Can you connect with your audience in a meaningful manner?
The ability DESIRE to connect with our guests in a meaningful way easily is the most important part of being a successful performer at Dollywood. Many of us have seen shows at other theme parks, theaters, coffee houses, breweries, and performing arts centers to name a few, so what separates Dollywood's performers from the rest? That is what Dollywood's Entertainment Team endeavors to discover during a quite laborious auditions process at various times throughout the year. Specifically, we start looking at candidates in September, spend a good amount of time dedicated to this search during January and February when our theme park is closed, and continue through March. The Entertainment Team considers about 2500 candidates for our Dollywood shows—these candidates are seen either in person, virtually, via email or through online submissions. That's a LOT of hay, so how do we find the proverbial needle in the haystack? This may be the most important thing we do during the course of the year.
Talent is key. We're looking for the ability to sing, speak clearly, create and maintain a character, improvise during the thick of the action, move with grace and technique, and “sell” an emotion or a feeling through physical and emotional tools. This is what we evaluate during the audition process.
When is a potential performer available? Some are in college, and only can work in the summer. Some are preparing to graduate and aren't available until June. A lot of performers have other jobs and other commitments—the entertainment world, perhaps more than any other, is a “gig” based business. When is the next run of shows or the next coffee house performance date? Any performer who is successful for any length of time knows that one has to hustle to get gigs. How do we make all of those variables work for Dollywood? It can be quite the puzzle.
Is the performer someone who can get along with others? Theater (and show business in general) depends on the ability of the ensemble to work together and create a successful performance. Each person has a function that is equally intrinsic to the other. The bass player is just as important as the costume dresser. The lead vocalist is just as important as the follow-spot operator. The sound tech is just as important as the stage manager. This may even be a more important evaluation because of the numbers of shows and lengthy runs of Dollywood's performances. Having one person in a dressing room for five months who isn't a good fit with others can lead to a show that isn't the best it can be.
This is the big one. Is the performer able to speak to the heart and soul of the audience? This may be accomplished using eye contact, a certain warble in the voice, a specific movement or a simple conversation in between shows. How do guests FEEL after experiencing a stage show or a character interaction? Does it make them feel as if they've had a meaningful experience? Do they feel changed or different? Is the guest able to look at a situation in another way? Do they feel good? Is it something the guest wants to experience again? The first two assets may be discerned via email, looking at a resume or having a phone conversation. The last two aren't as easily decided that way. This is why Dollywood's in-person auditions are of the utmost importance. Our Entertainment leaders are amazingly adept at evaluating harmoniousness and connectivity by experiencing personal interactions with potential performers. The team has to ask the right questions, see the person in a challenging situation (like learning a movement combination) and observe them interacting with others. This can be a challenging task—especially in light of the numbers of auditionees presented to the team.
There are a lot of folks who are interested in having Dollywood on their resume, because It looks great. Our company is very well-known certainly because of our Dreamer-In-Chief, Dolly Parton, but Dollywood also is known for being a great place to work. Out of the performers who want Dollywood to be on their resume, how many have all four of the above skills and abilities? How many are willing to do more than just send in a resume and headshot? How many want to only become famous or get a record deal? How many genuinely want to do something special during their performance careers? How many really, really, REALLY care about the guests' experience? This is the task of Dollywood Auditions. Learn more on our auditions page- dollywood.com/jobs/auditions
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All Blogs Entertainment Behind the Scenes