Guide to Preparing for an Audition

Actors may perform for the love of the art, but most have yet to learn the art of loving the audition. I have lost count of how many actors have told me how they dread the experience. “I love performing, “they will say, “I just don’t audition well.” The first thing I always remind performers is that the audition, IS a performance. Actors allow themselves to get caught up in wanting the job so bad, that the intimidation factor of being in front of 1-3 people sitting behind a table leaves them like deer caught in the headlights. And yet, truth be told, during the audition, its most likely the smallest audience they will ever perform for. Alas, I can admit with eyes cast the ground; I too, was once one of these lost performers who knew not what they knew not. But alas, I know now! Read on….

The first step is learning to change your perspective. Start by viewing the audition as a 1 minute performance in front of a small, but attentive crowd. Make it about the performance and not about “can I get the job,” and you will begin to get out of your own way. The audition is a 60 second show. Now I might point out that the best way to feel confident about your 60 second show, is to love, yes I said love your audience piece.

Sitting on the sidelines I have listened as many an actor has complained that they hated their audition piece but it’s all they could find, or they had no time to prepare. It took everything I had to not to walk up to them and say, “Go home now, don’t bother, save yourself the trouble.”

Tell me this; would you go on stage to perform Othello unprepared? Would you walk on stage unenthusiastic or unsure of yourself? I am hoping your answer to those questions is a big fat ‘NO.” (And if it’s not NO, then stop reading now, you are not ready to be dedicated to your craft.) With that said, you must find or create an audition piece you are truly excited about “performing.” Yes we have all seen the “100 monologues for Woman,” or the “10 new monologues they have never heard,” book. The truth is, odds are pretty good they WiLL have heard them all. The next piece of advice I share with actors, is learning to find or create an original monologue for their audition performance.

If you are a gifted writer, then the monologue you seek may be right under your nose. A brainstorming session with a fellow thespian can really get the old creative juices flowing. Some of my best pieces for auditions were born out of brainstorming over the phone. Your monologue, of course, will need to reflect the show you are auditioning for, but there is no reason you can not create a tailor made monologue to go. I once wrote a terrific piece for a Disney audition. I took, “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and tailor wrote it in “Disneyesque.” I got the call back.

If this is not a route for you and writing it is not your thing, do not panic. Your mission now will be to seek out a monologue where very few have gone to seek before.

Know your local bookstore ten minutes away? Or the library down the street? Prepare to spend some time at them. In the end, you will be glad you did. There are a ton of secret resources that can be transformed into monologues. Year ago, I found my first stash in the book, “Everything I needed to know I learned in Kindergarten.” A series of short but entertaining stories leant themselves well for being transformed. I chose two, and tested them out at a number of auditions. The response was always favorable, they always asked me where the piece was from and I got called back. Check the best seller list, autobiographies, self help; you never know where the muse will descend or what you might find. Finding something you connect with, something that excites you, will make for an exciting audition performance. You can cut here and trim there, and before you know it, have a solid audition piece.

So now you are confident and ready for the big day. Or are you? Let’s talk a minute about headshots and resumes. Yes, you need them.

These are tools of the trade that help you sell your wares. And your “wares,” are your talent, you. Granted they won’t get you the job, but, a resume will help those behind the table see an outline of your work, intrigue them enough to ask questions and of course, the photo (which should look like you and not a glamour shot), will help them remember who you are.

Headshots……how do you get a good one? Start by interviewing photographers, do not schedule a photo session if you are unable to see the photographers work. ahead of time. Do you like what you see? If not, keep looking. You also want to feel comfortable with your photographer. Your comfort will make for a much better headshot.

I worked for a short time as a casting assistant with a casting director, I saw some of the best and worst headshots you could imagine.

One of the number one mistakes people make is going with a headshot that is for lack of better description, “glammed up”…….it does not even look like person handing it to you. Not so good. Remember during your photo shoot, you want to look like “you.” Make sure your make-up artist is aware of this before the day of shooting.

When you get your proof sheet back, spend some time getting opinions from as many people in the industry as you can before settling on a final decision.

Resumes: Don’t lie; tell the truth regardless of if you feel like you have no experience. List acting, singing and dance classes, list any shows in Community Theater, and on camera workshops. List your college degree, even if it’s unrelated. List special skills (i.e.- you surf, rollerblade, dive, speak French, juggle, etc.) All these things can make for what I call, “conversation triggers.” Before our after your audition, something on the resume might spark them to ask you questions about what they see, giving your more time to impress them and let them see who you are.

I remember an audition, when I was a casting assistant, where the actor’s resume said he was a graduate of Clown College, seriously. Needless to say that lead to quite a conversation with the Casting team. This was someone they would remember. He got a call back. Get the idea?

Let’s presume by now you have a killer audition performance piece you love, you are ready to nail it, you have your headshot and resume ready to go, and then……you walk in the door. Remember, your audition starts from the moment your feet touch the floor. They are watching you from that moment so be “on.” Confident and secure, no time for showing insecurities now. Here is another mistake actors make during an audition: they walk in flashing insecurity, they look unorganized, and unprepared. And here is the best one, yet I have actually seen actors apologize for the piece they are about to do. Stop it, don’t do it. You have to walk through that door confident, secure, excited about the 60 second performance you are about to do. Believe, yes, believe they are lucky to be catching you on such a good day, you are on today!!! Get the picture?

Learn to love the art of auditioning and you will begin to relax and really showcase what you can do. Remember to think of it as a 60 second show. Perhaps the shortest you will ever perform, but with preparation and know how it can get you the proverbial standing ovation…… “getting cast.”

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