We all know the nerves and excitement before an opening night, but well before an actor even gets there he or she will have to face other challenges. The first one is the always threatening audition. To go successfully through such a demanding psychological and artistic experience requires to being properly prepared.
Your agent, a director, a casting assistant or a colleague have called you: there’s an audition for a play and they want you. You’re happy and then panic. Will they like you? What are you expected to do? Will your work meet their standards? Will they like it? When speaking of auditions there’re two main approaches to consider: the psychological, often dismissed, and the artistic which also involves the practical and professional requirements of any audition.
An actor wouldn’t be an actor if he or she hadn’t some kind of inner unconscious wound that makes them crave for an audience that will like and approve them with applause. Continuously playing like a ghost in the heart of every actor, this scene speeds at the time of an audition. Primarily and unconsciously, an actor doesn’t see the audition as the place where his or her work will be judged but where he or she will judged and approved, and also compared to stage siblings. This personal feeling is the first thing an actor needs to address and acknowledge in order to get rid of it, if possible for ever. An audition is not about the person, or her appearance, or her place in a family or the world, but about her work, her professionalism, and her talent.
Don’t waste time basking in doubt about whether you’ll succeed at the audition or not. Concentrate in preparing your work. What will lead you to ultimately survive and thrive as an actor is your continuous work and professional improvement. This includes auditions, now part of the craft. See every audition as part of a long endless chain of presentations. Great actors also audition: no one is spared. Great actors are also rejected. Rejection doesn’t mean the person is worthless but that she’s not a fit to what the director, author or producers have in mind. You can’t control their mind. Accepting these facts will ease your soul and free you for what matters: getting ready to perform at your best in the short time of an audition. A last psychological tip: it always helps to know those who want to see you perform. Some research on the director and producers’ background will give you social and artistic confidence. As a professional, you belong into the same artistic world. That inner sense of kinship goes a long way. You’ll walk into the stage as someone able to do a family job.
There’re many kinds of auditions. You may have been previously handed a new play and a part with a specific scene to prepare. A classic or contemporary play and a part may have been pointed out leaving you the freedom to choose the scene. Or you just may be on your own to select the play, the scene and the part. You can also be asked to just cold read one or more scenes from a play once you arrive into the room.
a) You have been asked to prepare something specific. In this case, you only need to follow the guidelines and try to artistically adapt the best you know and can to the role assigned. Read and understand the whole play, not just your part.
b) Freedom of choice in the scenes allows you to pick the parts and scenes that suit you the best because of age, type and temper. This will show not only your artistic taste but also your self-knowledge. A bad choice may make you look unprofessional or out of reality. When in doubt, it’s always useful to ask a second opinion from colleagues, professors or previous directors.
c) Cold read: you may be surprised but you shouldn’t be scared. You know this may happen so you need to practice at home reading aloud different parts in different plays. You don’t need to overplay, just read in a calm tone showing that you understand what you’re reading and not trying to be emotional because no one will expect you to fully perform. What will be judged is the sound and color of your voice, your poise and professionalism when asked to face an unexpected task, and your connection with the text.
In every case but the improvised cold read, you’ll have enough time before the audition to get acquainted with the plays, scenes or parts, doing any necessary research and preparing your artistic work with your usual technique. Work in your most comfortable zone, an audition is not the right time to experiment but to show your best, what you know that works. Don’t expect the day of the audition to have much time to get into the mood. You need your inner cues immediately available. Work on them and be ready to mimic emotion on the spur of the moment if genuine emotions fail.
Choose the appropriate clothes you’ll wear. Don’t try to come up with a full costume, but with something that helps you to define your character. You need to feel comfortable. If your scene is not a monologue but involves a partner, rehearse alone but get someone to read the partner lines just like the reader will do during the audition.
All auditions are identical in one point: in the room, facing the empty place assigned as your stage, the producer, director, casting assistant and perhaps other relevant members of the project will be sitting behind a table, sometimes in a row of chairs or, if in the theater, on stage or in the stalls. They are not the enemy. They love actors and they need them. They’re waiting to enjoy your performance, hoping that they will see good, well-prepared work and, if possible, talent.
As soon as you entered, you’ve already showed to them your professionalism being punctual and handing to the casting assistant a CV-Resume with your picture, email, telephone and address so that you can be later properly identified during the selection process and reached if needed.
Now, you’re prepared and ready to start. A piece of advice: if you happen to be sick, don’t say it. If you couldn’t memorize all of the text for whatever reason, just keep the pages in your hand to make sure you follow the text as it is. If you’ve prepared more than one scene, don’t expect others to choose. Be ready on the spot to choose the one you feel better about. Before starting, connect not only with your character, but with the onlookers. Their energy will become yours and you’ll feel more confident, supported by their interest. Begin to play the part you’ve prepared so thoroughly, let yourself go and enjoy. This is all you’ve to do now. No more, no less.
Two more tips: once started don’t stop or, worse, start all over again; just fight your way through any mistake, showing your utmost professionalism. If directed, follow directions. Be malleable and trustful in the hands of the director.
Give all you have. This is your time to show and shine!
The audition is over. You’ll be thanked, you’ll graciously thank the audience as well, you will be dismissed, and you’ll leave. Of course, you’ll be thinking on what may have gone wrong and whether you’ll be called back or not. You just don’t know. Producers will choose you or not; you may be asked for a second audition or a rehearsal; you may never hear from them again. Whatever happens, it’s not your call now. You work is done.