Urgency. Stakes. Theatricality. Tactics. You’d think I’d be writing about these things first and foremost when it comes to auditions, but a recent experience “behind the table” begs a less, shall we say, sophisticated beginning.
When you go to an audition, dress your body attractively, as if you have respect for the process and the auditors. They can wear Hawaiian shirts or logo-tees and cutoffs. You can’t. Don’t wear noisy or clunky shoes, and don’t give yourself the excuse that you can walk quietly in them because if you’re really doing the work, that will be the last thing you’ll be thinking of. Wear shoes you can move around in easily and clothing that’s not restrictive. And take all the crap out of your pockets. Please?
If you’re auditioning for a period piece, do a little body research: know whether the character you’re up for would touch or be touched by another character within that society’s mores and strictures, and whether your character would risk touching even if taboo, and how your character might respond to a taboo touch. Think about how the character would move in the clothing of the era (see why I talk about shoes?), what a corset or frock coat or bound feet would do to movement and posture. If dialect might be necessary, brush up*. If you have a script ahead of time, do your homework, look up any words you’re even a bit unsure of as to meaning or pronunciation. Make them welcome in your mouth.
When you enter the room, have taken off your glasses. If you’re that blind, wear contacts or at least invest in a rimless pair. If you need cheaters to read a scene, leave them off until the last moment, and why not get the most naked, unobtrusive cheaters you can find, rimless or in a color that disappears into your skin. Auditors need a sense of what you’ll look like opening night, not just in a rehearsal room.
Smile. Seriously, smile. Greet the auditors, waiting ’til you have their attention – they may be conferring or studying your resume. If there is no monitor to announce your name, introduce yourself. Maybe there is a monitor, and the monitor mumbles, maybe mispronounces your name – do NOT correct them, just introduce yourself. Other people may be in the room, and they’ll want to know who you are, even if you know the director well. The other people may have as much power as the director or more but that notwithstanding, don’t you want to show your best self? Artistic staff aren’t just looking for someone who’s terrific when “on,” they’re looking at people they’ll chat with in rehearsal breaks and perhaps drink with after a show.
In this, as in so many cases in professional life, follow the dictum of the great Joe Foust by asking yourself, “What would a person do?” Not an actor, not a character, an honest-to-goodness person.
If you’ve brought stuff into the room with you, consolidate it, don’t have your keys in one hand, pages in the other, purse or briefcase on your shoulder. Leave your coat outside. Put your stuff down as quickly and as far out of sight of the auditors as possible and when you leave the room, don’t go digging into a bag for those keys until you’ve completed your exit. An audition is a performance, and how you mind the ancillary details shows the auditors far more than your monologue or reading, sometimes.
Have you noticed that all of the suggestions so far minimize distractions? and give the auditors clear access to your instrument aka body? Good.
If you’re giving a monologue, tell the auditor(s) the title of the play, the playwright, and the name of the character. If they ask about the play, maybe which act your audition material is from or where it premiered, know the answer. Yes, this is body, aka, brain. Be animated and engaging. You’re shy? But are you shy onstage? If so, maybe another profession would be useful.
Whether you’re giving a monologue or reading a scene, know where the urgency is. You’re auditioning for theater, not television or film, you’re auditioning for the place where your body will be in the same space as the audience’s bodies. This means that they’ll react to physicality, they’ll react viscerally if your body works in service of the play. So the auditor(s) need to know that you know how to do that.
Know not only your character’s objective but also what’s at stake for them, and how that is affected and can transform within the scene. Make bold choices – even if the director disagrees with a choice, she or he will appreciate that you know enough to make one. Find as many tactics as you can to explore in support of that choice. Caveat, if you’re going to cross, there needs to be a reason tied to your objective. Do. Not. Wander.
Act with your whole self, not just your eyes and mouth. Yes. If the script says he kisses her feet, get to the floor. If it says she collides with him, do it – the actor you’re reading with can see the same stage directions as you and if they’re flummoxed by your bravery, use it. If you have information about the moment before, if the character has just woken up or eaten or had sex, let your body inform what comes next (and I’m not just talking about auditions, here).
If asked to read the same audition scene again, listen carefully to direction or adjustments and ask for clarification if you need it. Please don’t just say “yes, I get it” – if you’ve said that and then not fully explored the adjustment, that’s worse than having said nothing. Auditors need to know whether they communicate successfully with you and frankly, vice versa. Remember, ears are body, too. So listen to the director the way an actor listens onstage, not the way you may or may not listen in life.
If you’re asked to read the same scene again but not given an adjustment/direction, take another tack, try a different approach, don’t just redo what you did before only bigger or more intense – find a different way to physicalize, and I don’t mean coming from stage left instead of stage right, find different tactics, play with a different objective, and Use. Your. Body. If your adjustment is to be less cerebral, permitting emotion is certainly important but the antithesis of cerebral isn’t emotional. It’s physical.
Use your body, your whole body, and everything else you can get your hands on (as it were). There’s a big difference between theater and other media, but one that’s gotten lost in recent years. Bring it back. Act. Always consider the body.
Always consider the body.
Always consider the body.
*gratis hint: to work dialect successfully, use it in everyday speech or reading aloud, so that it becomes second-nature. if you use it only on lines, it will become line-readings in a trice.
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