How To Ace Your Auditions
Tips On How To Successfully Audition For A Theatre
By Artistic Director, Sean McCall
Every director out there probably has his/her own list of the do’s and don’ts of auditioning, and while everyone might not agree on every point, these are my top 10 things that I feel are the most important when you want to land a job.
#1 – Be on time. You’ll be expected to be on time for rehearsals and performances, so don’t start off on a bad foot. No one likes to see time being wasted. And if unforeseen circumstances mean you are running late, make sure you call.
#2 – Be kind and polite to everyone you encounter: the person answering the phone, the person signing you in, the other talent in the room. Directors want to work with the people who are pleasant to work with and that is often most noticed (and asked about) when it concerns how you behave to the people who don’t have the power to hire you.
#3 – Don’t wander or make unmotivated gestures. One sure way to spot a “rookie” is by how much they wander the stage, rock from side to side, or make arm movements that don’t seem connected to their body or the piece. Ground yourself. Movement is fine if it’s motivated and energized but otherwise keep the focus on your face/body not your feet and hands.
#4 – Show some range. Make sure your pieces, especially if you’re auditioning for a diverse season, show off different things. Obviously a comic piece shows you know how to play humor, but contrast it with something grounded and dramatic and you’ll definitely grab attention. Same thing vocally. The more you show shat you’re capable of, the more shows you might fit into. Don’t however choose musical pieces that are on the edge of your range. It’s too easy for stress or early mornings to make high notes that might sound good on another day, not sound good in an audition. Make sure whatever the circumstances you’re the notes in your piece are easy to hit every time.
#5 – Never use the director as the focus of your monologue/scene partner unless you ask them first. While there are a few directors that do like to be included for whatever reason, it seems like the majority do not. We’re trying to take notes, check things on your resume, and get an overall impression of you and your talent. If I become your scene partner, I feel like I can’t do my job without seeming rude. That’s why most of us prefer you choose a point somewhere out in house toward the middle/back and usually slightly to the side to make the focal point. Let us watch and evaluate.
#6 – Dress appropriately. You should look nice, but comfortable. It is a “job interview” and you want to make a good impression. Keep your outfit fairly neutral. You want people to be looking at your face, not your crazy print dress or tie. Directors are looking for all kinds of body shapes so don’t try to be something you’re not. Dress to flatter your own body type whatever that is. Ladies, if you’re sitting or knelling, make sure you plan accordingly with pants or a dress of adequate length.
#7 – Be prepared. Do a little homework. If it’s a season audition, know what the plays are and how you might best fit into them and tailor your audition to those strengths. Know your piece cold. And remember you should always have at least two pieces (a contemporary comic, and a contemporary dramatic) in your head for any time you’re asked. Beyond that, contrasting classical pieces are nice to have as well. And if you sing, a ballad and an up-tempo are must haves, and several short examples of different musical styles is also a real plus. Never do a piece in an audition that you haven’t done for other human beings several times. If you’re trying to remember the words, odds are you aren’t putting emotion and feeling behind them.
#8 – Follow Directions. Find out what the audition will consist of. It should be clearly stated in any audition listing. Is it prepared material? What kind. One monologue? Two? A song from the show? A song in the “style” of the show? And if there’s a time limit, make sure you know how long your pieces are running. Never do pieces that come within 5 or even 10 seconds of the limit. You want to give yourself some extra time so you you’re not guilty of #9.
#9 – Don’t rush. Nerves (and time constraints) can get the better of anyone from time to time. Don’t let them. The people who maintain my interest the most are the ones who take the moments within and at the end of their pieces and finish the acting beat. Be careful that you earn your moments but never cut something short because you’re racing to the next word on the page or your next piece.
#10 – Relax (as much as humanly possible). I know there are people who say they “love” auditioning and as an actor myself, I think they’re lying (or trying to convince themselves). If it’s really true for some actors, more power to you! Auditioning, in my book, is a stressful experience when you can feel your entire future boiling down to a couple of minutes. That kind of pressure can be crippling and detrimental to your audition. Find whatever you need to center yourself before you audition whether it’s a particular playlist on your ipod or a walk around the block before you go inside. Take a second to breath. Be yourself. And remember we as directors want you to be great. It makes our job a lot easier. We’re rooting for you.
Last but not least, remember that there are all kinds of reasons that actors don’t get jobs. It doesn’t always have to do with talent. Sometimes you’re just taller or shorter than the person who’s already been hired to play opposite you, or I need someone who plays an instrument, or any one of a dozen other things. Don’t get discouraged. Just keep at it. Sooner or later you’ll hear those magic words – “you got the job."