Theatre Auditions

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How To Audition
My Audition Goal
Kinds of Theatre Auditions
Theatre Audition Questions
Dressing for Theatre Auditions
Selecting Audition Monologues
Rehearsing the Audition
Performing the Audition
Singing Auditions
Sample Monologues
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Theatre Audition Performance

Your name and how you feel about your name is the one of the most important parts of the audition. 

Imagine that you are meeting someone for the first time.  The very first thing they say; the first thing you hear is their name:  and they mumble it and glance to the side as they say it.  What is your impression of this person?  In life, people often mumble their name because of some practiced false modesty; as if to apologize for who they are. 

In the theatre, we want to know who you are and who you are is two things: your name and the strength and confidence with which you say your name.  Be proud of who you are.  Love your name.  Be proud to share your name with people you meet; particularly

Should you look into the eyes of the directors or play the monologue over their heads. 

Who knows?  Try to find someone who has auditioned for these directors before and find out what the directors prefer.  When people audition for me, I prefer that they break the fourth wall and use me as the second character in the scene by looking me squarely in the eyes.  I can see instantly how comfortably and truthfully they can communicate.  I am the exception however.  Most directors prefer not to participate in your audition.  When in doubt, do not look the director in the eyes. 

Never never never perform your audition to a chair. 

How many times have I seen someone place an imaginary person in a chair then stand stage right or left of the chair talking to it.  As a character you are defined by what you do and by what is done to you by the other characters.  How much definition can an invisible character in an empty chair give you?  The empty chair is doing a more effective audition than you are.

Never never never audition to the cockroaches on the floor of the audition room. I must see your eyes to hear your thoughts.

When we are sad in life, we look down and hide from the world.  We retreat to cover our weakness, sadness, or sorrow.  On the stage we do just the opposite; we look to the lights for strengthen.  I can not see into your thoughts and heart unless I see your eyes.   

Starting the monologue with a silent, connected, thought process is a very effective choice.

The one minute monologue time limit compels many actors to race through their name and launch hurriedly into their monologue.  They hope to fill every last second of their allotment with the music of their “wonderful voices.”  A silence of a connected thought process that motivates the subsequent character action demonstrates great confidence and control.   

All movement must be extremely well planned and motivated and practiced to look extremely spontaneous. 

 Improvised blocking in an audition dooms the presentation.  Directors can sense when the blocking has not been carefully planned.  The presentation has a certain hysterical feeling to it; the individual movements are out of focus and out of proportion. 

When an actor improvises blocking, the sum of the movements do not add up to a unified paced physical picture of the monologues’ dramatic action.  Audiences (and directors) always believe what they see more than what they hear.  Knowing how effectively your blocking communicates the monologue, plan and rehearse your blocking extremely carefully.    

If you start your audition sitting down, you look like you didn't know what else to do.

Does this mean I should never start a monologue sitting down?  Yes.  That’s exactly what this means.  Let me very clear about this; never start a monologue sitting down.  Unless the character you are playing has no legs; but even then I would try to find a reason to start the monologue standing up.   Sitting down severely limits the possibilities for physical dramatic action.  Why limit anything in the audition? 

Sitting down drains your energy and the energy of the stage picture.  You ask, “after I start the monologue, then can I sit down?”  Why?  Are you too tired to stand?  If there isn’t enough action/cruciality/urgency/conflict in the monologue to require your character to stand, then perhaps you should look for a more interesting monologue.  Your body is arguably your most expressive acting tool for so many wonderful reasons.  As a director watching you audition, I need to see how effectively you use this tool to reveal character through action.  If you sit down, I learn nothing.  Sitting down means that you are acting from your neck up; nobody’s face is that interesting.

Never be afraid for the CHARACTER to take a pause.  Be terrified for the ACTOR to take a pause. 

I tell my actors, if you think: “boy, the audience is going to love this,” don’t do it!  Characters pause to actively decide what to do or say next; actors pause to show the audience that the character is deciding what to do or say next.  HUGE difference.  Don’t show me what the character is doing; just do what the character does.  As an audience member, I can only participate in character action.  Audiences are remarkably sophisticated.  Audiences don’t need or want “signals” from the actors to tell them what the characters are doing or feeling. 

Avoid generalizing. 

Avoid the one minute weep or the sixty second whine.  You can't play sadness.  You can't play sarcasm.  If you ARE sad.... what do you DO?  Action! Action! Action!  Don’t “show” emotion.  You don’t need to prove to me that you can cry on cue.    Watching someone try not to cry is infinitely more interesting than watching someone cry.

Let your gestures begin and end with the image for which you created the gesture.   

The line of the monologue read, “the town is over there.”  The young man dutifully pointed off stage left with his left hand.  The monologue continued.” And I just don’t understand why any large corporation would want to destroy the lives of some many people.”  And the young man’s hand still hung there pointing stage left, like a dead branch someone forgot to chop off.  I watched his arm.  How long it would hang there absolutely disconnected to his thoughts and actions fascinated me.   “Old people, young people, sick people… big corporations just don’t care.”  Then he suddenly looked left and seemed pleasantly surprised to rediscover his left appendage.  Then he dropped it meaninglessly to his side and continued his monologue. 

Didn’t really help though; I had long since stopped watching.  Gestures give physical shape to actions; the specific need or goal of the action determines the shape, form, quality, rate of each gesture.  One gesture “doesn’t fit all.”  When the same gesture transcends many ideas, both the ideas and gestures generalize into ambiguity and become meaningless.  Again, plan your character’s physicality very carefully. 

Speed kills.

Talking and moving too fast blurs the actions.  Give yourself time to complete each action; really listen and see reaction, give yourself even more time to think about how to react to the reaction, then execute the next action completely and follow through to see if your action accomplished what you hoped.  Also rushing your lines makes you seem inexperienced and unprepared.    

Pacing back and forth makes us dizzy. 

All movement has destination.  It has a reason for beginning and for ending and for beginning again.  Pacing continuously from SR to SL throughout the monologue because “you want to show that the character is nervous” is not an effective blocking choice.

When I see kind of movement, I assume that I am watching the nervous indecisive inexperienced actor move; not seeing a character execute carefully selected physical actions.

Don't beat words for emphasis.  One breath; one thought. 

Only actors try to make every word communicate the whole idea.  Beating words makes you look like you are acting.  Trouble is: beating words "feels" like you are injecting energy into the line.  You aren't.  Beating words generalizing the ideas and flattens any hope for vocal variety. 

Never let it show that you made a mistake. 

Everyone makes mistakes.  Forget about it and move forward.  If you beat yourself for making a mistake you will continue making more mistakes.  If you make mistakes because you are under rehearsed or ill prepared then you deserve all the blame and shame that you feel. 

Auditions for TV/film and auditions for theatre are NOT the same. 

What is appropriate for one is completely inappropriate for the other.  Learn the difference.  Don't carry TV/Film acting technique onto a proscenium stage, or bring proscenium vocal projection into the studio.

Avoid upstage gestures.

Why turn away from the audience or directors?  Upstage gestures close you off to the audience.  We need to see your face to see how you feel about the image you are describing.

Smiling is always a great idea. 

Smiling demonstrates great confidence, fills you with energy, and invites people to watch you.  Smiling disarms the tension of the audition situation.     

Avoid using aspirations for idea transitions.

Remember when you were about five years old and you found the matches and all you really wanted to do was sing church hymns around the campfire in your sandbox?  And afterwards, your father stood in the ashes, in silence, shaking his head, exhaling his disappointment on you?  That long drawn out exhale was an aspiration.  In life we use them often.  Onstage, we strive to avoid them.

Aspirations release the energy we should be using to start the next action.  Aspirations trap the performer in a predictable vocal rhythm.  Aspirations make your voice breathy.  Aspirations rarely seek reactions.  Aspirations make your vocal ideas redundant.  Actors aspirate; characters don’t.   

The trouble is that actors love to aspirate.  Aspirations feel so appropriate.  And we have all grown up watching actors on television aspirate their ideas right into the camera; the camera becomes almost another character.  But live theatre is not television.  Aspirations may be very appropriate for television/film acting but not for the cause/effect sequence of character actions/dramatic action.

Doing the same gesture with both hands or arms simultaneously cancels out what either arm would say individually. 

Use economy in your movements.  Less is more.  Fewer distinct actions communicate more effectively to the audience.

Bending at the waist to strengthen your objective or idea only serves to weaken the objective, idea, and you. 

Unconsciously, performers bend forward to reinforce or strengthen their ideas.  This posture however weakens the ideas.  Also bending at the waist “uncenters” your energy, introduces tensions, limits your gestures, removes your balance, and violates your vocal support.  It also makes you look young and inexperienced.

If you don’t enjoy and absolute love being on stage.... why are you auditioning?

How often have I watched nervous actors pace erratically in the holding room, run to the restroom, sweat, and contort into odd body positions as they try to wring the excess tension from their bodies.  As the time for their audition approaches, their personal anxiety skyrockets; they look like they’re about to marched to the firing squad.

Using imaginary props is a gamble.

Again, characters are defined by what they do and by what is done to them.  How much definition can an imaginary prop give you?  More important, when you mime a prop, your body lies to your mind.  You remind yourself that you are acting.  The audition is only fifty three seconds.  Isn’t there some creative way to avoid using an imaginary prop?

How about that pose with your hands glued to the hips; makes the men look like cowboys and the women look like hookers.

Young performer put their hands on their hips when they don't know where else to put them.  Hands should be at your side; relaxed!

The quick looks from SR to SL, as if you are sharing a secret; are not effective movement choices.

These quick looks happen too fast.  We can see that the character is not really looking.  Instead we see an actor pretending that the character is looking.  Usually by this time however, we have stopped looking. 

If you are treating the audience like a second character and asking “rhetoric questions”, you must give us time to “think” our answer back to you or we can not participate in the conflict.

Don’t rush the conclusion.  Say thank you  (and mean it) and repeat your name… proudly! 

Don't start walking off before you are done talking!  It makes you look insecure.  You own this space.

Do what you do best FIRST. 

Don’t save the best for last.  We may have stopped watching long time ago.

Avoid the "sprinter stance"for the audition.

Work for the neutral acting position or the unique stance of the character.

Throwing furniture in the audition that does not belong to you is an ineffective physical choice.

Respect the stage, the building, and the furniture.  It demonstrates that you respect other people.

Avoid gestures that indicate self.

Try to avoid gesturing to yourself; pointing to yourself by touching your chest.