Your First Audition (Part II)

This blog is a continuation of the topic brought up by a new actor’s question: “What should I expect at an audition?  How should I prepare?

We all have to start somewhere, right?  And many of us started our acting experience by working on plays in school or community theater.  I did theater is college and community theater before grad school and moving out into the professional world.  So, I know what it is like.  In the first part of this article I talked about musical auditions.  Now I will talk about straight plays.

Please note that in my blogs I refer to actors who audition as “auditionees” and directors, casting directors or producers who hold auditions as “auditioners.”

If it is a non-musical play, they may have asked for a prepared monologue.  The auditioners should state this in their announcement.  If you are preparing a monologue to audition with, don’t leave it till the night before to work on.  In your nerves, you will forget it.  Bring a copy of it with you, in case you need to refer to it.  Have it handy, but do not have it in you hand as you perform.  That will make the director think that you can’t learn lines.  As far as what monologue to pick, I will discuss that in another blog entry.

If the notice does audition note does not state that they want a monologue, chances are they will have people read from the script for the audition.  This is called a “cold reading.” If possible, try to read the play beforehand so you have an idea of the story and characters.  If it is a published play, it might be in your local library or you might get information about it online.  The auditioners will give you a page or two from the script.  This is called a “side.”  Try to get there early so you can get familiar with “the side.”  Don’t worry, you will not be expected to memorize it.  You will be expected to understand it to a certain extent.  If you don’t, it’s okay to ask questions.

Now, on to what to expect. When you first arrive, look for a desk where people are being signed up on a list.  The assistant signing people up may be able to answer questions about the play, if he’s not too busy.  Ask him where you should wait until it’s your turn, then find a quiet corner to study the script.  Make sure you can still hear when your name is called. Expect to be there a long time.  Try not to have other appointments scheduled causing you to make time demands to the assistant.  You will come off as a diva.

Now, we come to a big difference between professional and community/college theater.  In professional theater you wait in one room and audition in another.  You audition one at a time, or possibly in pairs.  You don’t see what the other auditionees did.

However, in many college and community theaters they have one auditorium and they make everybody sit in it.  I suppose they do this for convenience sake, but it is a terrible idea.  Everyone auditioning is nervous.  To sit and watch other people doing the same thing as you are about to do only serves to make each person twice as nervous.  Plus, then the actors start copying each other, which only serves stifle their own instincts.

Let me take a moment now to plead to directors of college and community theaters to stop this practice.  It hinders the casting process instead of helping.  Actors, if you find yourself in this situation I suggest the following.  Nicely explain to the stage-manager or assistant that you have a cold and don’t want to be rude by coughing in someone else’s audition, so you will wait on the other side of the door.  Make sure he has your name so he will know to come and get you when it is you turn.

Once it is your turn, be ready and willing to do whatever is asked of you.  If they ask you to do it again, but differently, don’t be discouraged.  This does not mean that you were wrong the first time.  I could just mean that the director wants to see a different side of you or if you can take direction.  And if she asks you to do something wacky like kick off your shoes or crawl on the floor, do it.  She may be testing your willingness to be part of the team

After you are done and been told you can leave, (they may just say “Thank you, next”) you can hang in the back of the auditorium to watch others audition.  That can be a very informative experience.  If, however, other auditionees are not waiting in the auditorium, then you must leave.  Whatever you do, do not wait around, hoping to get some feedback from the director.  It will mark you as an insecure beginner.  It might just lose you the part.

I’ll have more on these topics in future blog entries and my upcoming ebook “The Zen of Auditioning.”  Watch for them.

Break a leg!

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