Auditions are Scary but They Don’t Have to Be: Part II of a Series on Amateur Theater Acting
by Neil Battinelli
Welcome back to my series on getting involved in community theater. Last week we talked about how to get started and choosing a show to audition for. Now’s the time to start preparing. The audition is probably the scariest part of the process. You’re going to meet people you don’t know, perform for them knowing full well that it’s their job to literally judge you, and then you have to wait to find out if they liked you enough to invite you back to read for them again.
I won’t sugar coat it for you… auditioning sucks.
But, we’ll get through this together, dear reader. I promise. And imagine this—what if you get a part? OH JOY! RAPTURE! YOU’VE DONE IT!
Ahem…I’m getting ahead of myself.
Where were we?
Ah, yes, as I mentioned in my previous article, you should have a copy of the script by either purchasing it or borrowing it from your local library and you’ve also chosen a character you want to audition for. Pick a character that sounds most like you and is close to your age, if at all possible.
Instructions will be in the audition notice letting you know what sort of audition they’re holding. Typically, it’s one of these two types:
Audition Type 1: Show Up and Read
This kind of audition is where all they’re asking for is that you come to the audition and read from the script. They’ll have sections of the script photocopied for each role available and ask you to read from them. The photocopies are known as “sides” and they’re usually sections of the play where it displays each characters’ strengths. For example, if the character is brave, the side will highlight a part in the play where he/she is exceptionally brave. If it is a comical character, then it might be a section of the show where a good comedic actor would be needed. You get the idea.
My advice to you is to come in as early as you can, get the sides and then go off somewhere that is quiet and read them over until you feel comfortable with them. They’re usually about one or two pages long.
Now if you really want to impress the casting director, you should go in with guns blazing and try something I did once. Keep in mind that this should be reserved for roles that you just HAVE to have. In last week’s article I talked about my own experience with The Pillowman. After I decided that I had to have the part of Michal, I contacted the director of that show three months before the audition date, introduced myself, and asked her if she had sides picked out for Michal. She did. She sent them to me and I committed those sides to memory. When an actor finally memorizes all their lines during the rehearsal process, it’s called “being off-book” and I went in to the audition off-book. Impressive, right?
Audition Type 2: Monologue
Sometimes you might be asked to come in with a 1-2 minute long monologue. This could be a bit tougher of an audition for newcomers to community theatre. With experience, you’ll become more exposed to monologues in the shows that you do or in the scripts that you pick up. Or, you can start researching different monologues. Watch some YouTube videos of other actors’ audition tapes to get some ideas.
When you do find a monologue you love—learn it, put it in a book for safe keeping, and keep in your pocket (which is what I like to call, being able to perform a monologue at a moment’s notice. In case you’re wondering—I have two monologues in my pocket).
Keep in mind that community theatre is far more forgiving than professional theater when it comes to auditions. The audition notice might call for a prepared monologue but it’s not always necessary. If you don’t have one prepared, don’t worry! They will probably have sides ready for you to read.
Audition Type 3: The Callback
I know I said there are two types of auditions, but I had to include this one… so, zip it. After you audition for the first time, you might be asked to come back another day to read again. This is called “a callback”. Callbacks are what every actor wants. This means you’re good enough for casting but now they want to see how you interact with other cast members. Do you have chemistry with the leading man? Do you look like siblings? Maybe you’re not right for the lead but the perfect funny supporting character?
Callbacks are a good thing. I do not, however, want you to think that just because you got a callback that it means you’ve been cast. It does mean that you’re one step closer.
Here are my top five audition tips to keep in mind:
1. Plan to Stay
If the audition call time says “from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.”, plan to be there from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. You may have to audition multiple times or there might be a ton of people trying out. Don’t be that guy that walks in and says, “I need to leave early so can I go now?”. No one likes that guy.
2. Be Friendly, but not too Friendly
Don’t give them your life story. Don’t tell them about the traffic you had to go through to get there. Introduce yourself, tell them what role you’re auditioning for, take a breath and begin your audition. When you’re finished, say, “thank you”.
3. Be Respectful
You might find yourself in an auditioning room with a bunch of other actors. You might see people you know which is great, but know that people are trying to get a part and are probably focused on the sides they were given or going over their monologue in their head. Try and keep the volume down.
4. Know Your Conflicts
When you first arrive, you will probably be asked to fill out an audition form which asks your name, contact info, role you’re trying out for and list of conflicts. We all understand emergencies happen but if you have a conflict that you already know about that will happen during rehearsal—WRITE IT DOWN! WRITE THEM ALL DOWN! Conflicts won’t prevent you from getting a role, I promise. It’s just that making a rehearsal schedule around any group of people with lives outside of Pleasantville’s local production of Fiddler on the Roof is hard enough without you failing to show at rehearsal because you had tickets to see Britney Spears one weekend and totally forgot about it. I don’t know if it’s Britney Spears, I have no idea who’s cool anymore. I’m old. And bitter. Just don’t come up with surprise conflicts. Not cool, maaan, not cool.
5. Listen to the Director
If you read through the sides once and then the director asks you to try it again but this time do it slightly different—make sure you take that direction. Directors want to work with actors that are flexible and not afraid to try different things. I’ve seen directors complain about actors who will perform something once, receive direction to try something different and then perform the piece exactly the same as they had before. Don’t do that.
Auditioning is hard. Remember that professional actors go on hundreds of auditions and receive almost as many rejections. If you don’t get the part, please don’t take it to heart. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you didn’t have the talent. Maybe you didn’t have the right look. Maybe there would be too much of an age difference between romantic leads. Maybe you needed to look related to all the actors involved and it wasn’t believable. There are so many factors to consider when casting a show and almost all of them are beyond your control. Go into your audition with the mindset that you’re going to give it your all and if they don’t want you, then it’s on to the next audition. Don’t give up. Keep going, and eventually you will be cast. I promise.
Let’s think positively and imagine that you get the part! Come back next week where we will talk about the rehearsal process. Parting is such sweet sorrow. ‘Til next week, dear reader!