It’s September and the leaves on the cherry tree at the bottom of the garden have started to brown and drop lazily. Kids are back at school for the new term and the beginning of a new school year and castings and auditions are, at long last, starting to pick up.
I still get nervous auditioning even if it’s just for an advert where all I have to do is stand, say my name and show my hands and profile to the camera (not dissimilar to prison mugshots)!
Some auditions are much more enjoyable than others but even if it has gone well, I still walk away from auditions thinking that I could have done sooo much better.
If I was to offer any advice about auditions, the following would be my top 5 tips:
1) Don’t turn up late. It doesn’t matter if all the trains/buses/tubes/traffic conspired against you that day because it will still reflect badly on you. Be prepared to take 2-3 trains earlier or set off with plenty of time to spare in order for you to get there early. That way, you’re not going to arrive stressed and out-of-breath. And if they want you to read a scene, you’ve got time to sit and prepare.
2) Preparation is key. Nerves inevitably play a part so to keep you confident and showing the best of yourself, prepare well what they ask you to do; whether that’s a song, speech or a reading. At the same time, be prepared to let go of all your prep work if a director wants to play around with a scene or direct you away from any acting choices you’ve made. They want to know whether you’re open to their suggestions so listen carefully to what they’re asking you to do and go with it.
3) If you do have to read a scene, try and be as familiar with the text as possible. It’s great if an actor can look up from the page when saying a line. The director/casting director can see your eyes and your emotional range much more if your face isn’t buried behind a page. Read the play in its entirety if you can get a copy of it. That way, if a director asks you what you thought of the play, you can give them an opinion and it looks as if you’re interested in the work. Think about what you’d say if they ask you what you thought of the play or part you’re up for. It’s amazing how that simple question can sometimes catch you out and you start blathering on like an idiot. (Or maybe that’s just me?!) A friend of mine attends auditions with a bound copy of the play complete with highlighted text and notes pencilled in the margin. Immediately a director gets a sense that this person really wants the job and has done some preparation and has thought about the role.
4) Go in with the view that, for however long the audition lasts, you are going to be working with a director on a role. In that brief bit of time, the part is yours, so look on it as a chance to do some acting work with a director. It will help keep your mind on the work and hopefully make you less nervous. Even if you don’t go on to play the part in the full production, for those 10 mins or so, that part is yours, so hold that thought in your mind and enjoy the chance to act.
5) Always have, from memory, a monologue you know well and can perform if they suddenly ask you to. Even if you were just there to read, it could be that, after reading well, the director is undecided as to whether you’d be more suitable or another actor. He/She might want to see what more you can do to help them decide and they’re more likely to give it to the person who can show them a good monologue than the actor who goes blank and can’t recall any speeches to mind.
RECOMMENDED READING – There are professional directors, casting directors and other industry bods who audition actors all the time and have come up with some useful books which will give you an insight into the casting process and any do’s and don’t’s. I’ve found the following to be incredibly useful:
Audition – Michael Shurtleff (particularly worth a read for anecdotes about Barbara Streisand who probably broke every rule to do with auditions but got away with it because she was so freakin’ talented!)
Secrets From the Casting Couch – Nancy Bishop
The Director’s Craft – Katie Mitchell
Does anyone else have some good recommendations?