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Twelve Commandments Of Auditioning

NOTE: The opinions expressed within this article belong solely to the Author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Elmwood Playhouse itself or its governing body or volunteers.

From “Ask The Directors” Audition Technique Workshop

Originally presented at Elmwood Playhouse on November 2009 by Michael Edan, Derek Tarson and Larry Wilbur.

Preparing For The Audition

  1. If the audition notice says to be familiar with the script then be familiar with the script!
  2. Read the scene beforehand to avoid misinterpreting the punctuation.
  3. Make the extra effort to dress appropriate for the play and/or character. (If you’re auditioning for Blanche DuBois don’t wear tattered jeans.) However, don’t create and wear a full costume. Something that “suggests” the character may help the director see you that way.
  4. Think of verbs and use them! Two key things when looking over a scene: What is “the key moment” in the scene that you want to make prominent, that seems to resonate for you as “important” or “telling”; and then to think in terms of verbs. Depending on the length of the scene you’re reading, come up with 3 or 4 verbs that propel your intention and action. Example: To “demand” someone stays in a room is different than to “convince” them to stay. Both have their respective value and both are specific.

Reading A Scene At An Audition

  1. If the character should have a dialect or accent, ask the director if he or she wants you do that dialect or accent and follow that direction. Don’t use a dialect or an accent otherwise. It is one more obstacle for you and could detract from the characterization you want the director to see.
  2. Don’t speak to the floor, the chairs, or the sides of the thrust. Also, don’t speak so softly that you can’t be heard.
  3. Don’t spend excessive time arranging furniture. But moving one or two chairs to help create the scene is perfectly acceptable. (For instance, if the scene clearly indicates the character should be sitting, it’s imprudent to do the scene standing up—and it shows that you’re taking ownership of the stage, and can signal a director that you might be a stubborn person to work with.)
  4. Don’t rush through it to get it over with!
  5. Go with a director’s suggestion to try something a certain way, and commit to exploring how to bring that intention or quality into your reading [even when it goes against your concept of how that character would behave]. NEVER say to a director at an audition “I don’t see the character that way” unless you don’t care about getting cast. A director might make a suggestion to primarily see how you take and execute direction [sometimes purposefully against the seemingly obvious intent of the scene].
  6. If you make a flub of some kind, or what you interpret as a flub, don’t apologize. Auditioning is challenging enough without beating yourself up. Own the seeming mistake with what works “for you”. Often it’s a missed line, so just continue to move forward, or if it’s important enough for you, request that you’d like to go back to that line. It shows a director you can handle pressure with confidence.
  7. Be aware of your body position and body language. Outside of the obvious things [like not walking in front of another actor while they are talking, or turning your back on the director for long periods of time] be attentive to where you are in space in relation to another character(s). You want to make any movements you make count for something. Does your character within the context of the scene want to be close to another character for whatever reason [then risk moving closer]; do they want to be further away for whatever reason [then move further away]; are they “holding their ground emotionally or psychologically” [then hold your ground and your position]. One way that nervousness expresses itself is with actors moving aimlessly. Avoid this pitfall. When possible, be aware of body language as well. If sitting, how would the character sit? Might they have any kind of unconscious gesture?

Leaving The Audition

  1. Never leave the audition with a negative feeling. Even if a director does not seem to express gratitude for your auditioning [and they should] let yourself show an attitude of gratitude for being heard. Even if not cast you never know how or when that director will remember you for a future show, or recommend you to another director.

Every audition adds to your experience. Relax and enjoy.

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