The Do’s and Don’t’s of Auditions: How to handle the toughest part of the process
February 24, 2016
Filed under Curtain Call
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With auditions for “Godspell,” the spring musical, coming up, auditions are something on many student thespians’ minds. As an actress, I have attended many successful and not-so-successful auditions. The thing is, no matter how many shows I am in and how many I audition for, the word “audition” will always strike fear in my heart and in the hearts of many fellow actors and actresses. As terrifying as this process is, you can ace your audition by following a few simple do’s and don’t’s as you prepare and when you audition.
DO always have a headshot and resume ready for auditions, even when you don’t have one coming up soon. It’s always best to be prepared, and you never know when an unexpected opportunity might pop up.
DON’T use an outdated headshot or resume. Outdated headshots will give the directors an incorrect view of how old you are and what you look like, while outdated resumes will not show the full extent of your experience.
DO research the show before you audition. Try to watch the show, either a performance, bootleg or movie version, before your audition. If you are unable to do any of these, try to get a copy of the script to peruse (directors will sometimes let you borrow a script if you email them and ask) or, if this is also unavailable, look up a synopsis of the show, listen to the soundtrack if it is a musical and look up characters to figure out what role is right for you.
DON’T audition for a character that you can’t play. Choosing what character you want to audition for is one of the biggest choices that you make when preparing for an audition, so you want to make sure you make a good decision. For instance, if you’re a 15 year old, don’t audition for a character who is 29. Or, if you’re a bass and the role’s vocal range is tenor, don’t audition for it. Choose a character who is close to your age, your gender, your vocal range and hopefully shares some personality traits with you or is relatable to you in some way.
DO choose an appropriate audition piece. If you are going into a monologue audition for a dramatic play like “Gruesome Playground Injuries,” don’t come in with a monologue from a comedy like “The 39 Steps.” Likewise, if you are auditioning for a Shakespearean play, don’t prepare a really modern piece. Additionally, if you are doing a 16-bar musical theater audition, use a piece that has a similar sound and style to other pieces in the show, preferably one that is similar to the songs your character sings. If you are preparing for a cold reading audition, where the director gives you a chunk of the script to read without time to look it over or memorize it, familiarize yourself with the scenes that will be used in the audition, or, if the director has not given you the specific scenes, be sure you’ve at least read over the script and all of your character’s scenes.
DON’T use a piece from the show you are auditioning for (unless you’re doing cold reading or the director has specifically told you to use pieces from the show). The directors have a very specific vision for each character and they want to see your potential and ability, not you trying to insert yourself into a role in the show. Chances are, you could be doing a great job portraying your interpretation of the character, but the director may interpret the character in a different way and cut you off immediately since he or she can’t see you in that role the way you’re playing it while they may have seen a better representation of what you can do if you’d used a different piece.
DO practice your piece as much as possible. If you haven’t prepared, it definitely shows and the directors may take that as a sign that you aren’t ready to take on the commitment of being in a show, which takes a lot of time, effort and preparation.
DON’T force anything. If you feel like a line in your monologue is out of place and you are having to force it, cut that line. If there’s a note in your 16-bar piece that feels strained, pick a different 16-bar cut that doesn’t have that note. If you include blocking in your piece, make sure it feels natural and instinctive. If you try to force anything in your piece, it will be apparent and may make directors think you are uncomfortable onstage or do not have the stage presence needed for the show. However, if you move confidently and naturally onstage, directors are much more likely to see your potential.
DO choose a nice outfit ahead of time. For an audition, you definitely want to dress to impress. Don’t go over the top and buy a prom dress or anything, but definitely try to dress a little nicer than you would on an everyday basis. Also, try to wear something that suggests the character you’re auditioning for without it being a full-on costume. For instance, if you were auditioning for Anne in “Anne of Green Gables,” you might wear your hair in braids or wear a floral dress that is more of a colonial style. Also, be sure to bring extra clothes if there is a dance portion.
DON’T wear a costume or anything inappropriate. Wearing something that suggests the character is good since it will help the directors see you in that role, but wearing a costume to an audition is just distracting and over-the-top. Also, the directors will be judging based on talent and how well the auditioners fit the role, not on who shows the most skin. Wearing a flashy outfit can make a bad impression on directors, even if the character you’re auditioning for would wear something like that. It’s best to dress nicely and conservatively so you’ll be sure not to offend anyone.
THE DAY OF…
DO get plenty of rest. Being well-rested will help you feel more calm and prepared, not to mention rest tends to make people perform better anyway.
DON’T drink caffeine or eat any dairy products. Caffeine can dehydrate your voice, which is important in all auditions, whether you’re singing or not. Vocal quality and enunciation is still important for actors who don’t do any singing. Dairy products can create gunk in the back of your throat, which will affect the sound of your voice.
DO be courteous to others who are auditioning. Being on your phone or doing other things while someone else is auditioning in front of you is rude and unprofessional, and directors will take note of this.
DON’T let others in the audition get to you. The only person you need to focus on is yourself. Don’t get intimidated by the people who go before you; that will only lead to more nerves. Also, if you’re going to a theater you haven’t performed at before, don’t be scared if everyone seems to know each other. Chances are, if you do well, you’ll know people at your next audition, too.
DO slate your piece. When you get up to the stage, remember to start by slating, or introducing, yourself and your piece. A basic slate format would say something like: “Hi, my name is ___ and I will be performing a monologue from ___ by ___. I will be portraying the role of ___.” The same goes for singing auditions. Introduce yourself and your song selection.
DON’T try to chat with the directors. While you want to appear friendly, chatting with the directors too much takes up their time and the time of the other auditioners after you, so it can often be considered rude or bad etiquette to be overly friendly.
DO relax and breathe. A lot of the time, when people get nervous, they tend to speed up their breathing and even hyperventilate. However, in both acting and singing, breath support is very important. Try your best to relax and always remember to take deep, filling breaths when singing or delivering lines.
DON’T let your nerves get the best of you. Easier said than done, I know; this is one that I still really struggle with. But nerves inhibit your performance ability and really can only hinder you. If you’ve prepared for this moment and done everything you can to make your audition exceptional, you have no reason to be nervous. Just go up there and show them what you’ve got.
DO ask questions if you have them. A lot of the time, auditioners are nervous to ask questions in this setting, but directors are open to hearing your questions and want you to have a good audition, although it may not seem like it at times. Asking questions you have about the director’s vision for a certain character or about the script shows that you have familiarized yourself with the show, which leaves a good impression with the directors. This rule also applies in dance auditions. If you are confused about a certain part of the choreography or need to run it again, ask. It may seem intimidating, but it will help you to do a better job.
DO try not to beat yourself up for any mistakes you made. This is not at all productive. Instead, ask yourself why you made those mistakes and how you can prevent yourself from making them in the future.
DON’T panic if you don’t get a callback. Just because you didn’t get a callback doesn’t mean you didn’t get in. Often directors will only call back people they are considering for leads or only call back people for roles they aren’t yet decided on.
DO audition again. This is the cycle of life. Auditions are a huge part of theater and unfortunately, they aren’t going anywhere. So, you have to learn to do well in an audition situation and the only way to do that is to gain more experience. No matter what happens in an audition, it is always a valuable experience.
DON’T freak out if you don’t get in. I have been rejected more times than I can count on basises that had nothing to do with my talent. I have been told that I was too short for a role, that my complexion was too dark for a role, that I’m too skinny for a role and that I’m “just not a right fit” for that particular show or role. There’s a good chance you didn’t get rejected purely based on talent. The decision probably had to do with how you look, what piece you chose and how you compare physically with other cast members. Don’t let a rejection get you down. Go out there and try again until you find the right show and the right director. Auditions are a pain, but if you make it through enough of them, the rewards can far outweigh the pain of auditioning.