The word “Audition” can strike fear into the heart of even the most seasoned actor. And still, young actors need to audition for school shows, theatre programs, even colleges.
I know the feeling. I have done countless auditions, from high school productions through a theatre MFA, in the Midwest, Virginia, and New York. And what I’ve learned is that nothing can guarantee you a role. The best you can hope for is to feel good about giving a great audition. Below are my top five tips to help you do that…
5 Tips for Nailing Your Audition
OWN YOUR ARTISTRY. A lesson I didn’t really learn until I was auditioning for graduate schools was that no one could take ownership of my artistry except me. I spent so many of my theatrical years (beginning in 5th grade) trying to meet the expectations of my instructors and directors. In my own defense, that is completely normal from a developmental standpoint. I was learning. I was being taught. I was trying new things. But I was missing a key element that I didn’t fully comprehend until I was at a call back weekend in Colorado, auditioning for an amazing MFA program. The missing piece was this: it was equally if not more important for ME to like my performance choices as it was for the adjudicator to. I remember workshopping my monologues with one of the professors and each time I finished I would look to him, waiting for approval. Was that good? Was that what he was looking for? Did I correctly understand his direction? Each time I looked to him, I found a colleague looking back at me without judgement. At one point, I actually voiced the questions, “Was that good? Is that what you were looking for? Did you like it?” He countered with a life-changing question that set my mind reeling: “Did YOU like it?”
That wonderful, patient, kind professor handed my artistry back to me on a silver platter. I walked away from that weekend with the astounding realization that I was an artist! I had a ton to offer! I knew I was good and I liked what I brought to the table. THAT stance allows for freedom of creative expression and exploration in a whole new way. Although I didn’t end up attending that MFA program in Colorado, what I took away added a richness to my education that served me well in all the next steps.
FILTER OUT THE VOICES. The wonderful thing about acting is that it’s subjective. It’s YOU, using the best of YOUR uniqueness and layering onto that the quirks and emotional layers of the character. You have to start with you. The Authentic You. Not the You You Think People Want to See. The difference is subtle but important. It takes a lot of practice and vulnerability—at least 10,000 hours. And yet, theatre is a collaborative effort, a team sport. So while YOU are the one who needs to like your performance, it always helps to solicit the advice of a select few trusted people. Your theatre teacher, your acting coach, your friends, your parents, etc., can help inform your artistic choices. However, keep the number to less than a handful—maybe 3 at the most. There are exceptions: a renowned artist comes into town and you have the opportunity to get coaching…you see what I mean. What you’re trying to avoid is being coached all over the spectrum, right up until the moment of your audition. This will leave you sputtering and flailing, wishing you knew which choices felt best.
Parents, trust your young actor’s instincts. You are the experts guiding their scholastic and artistic endeavors. Moreover, you are the financial backers making all of it possible! Your kids want to please you (for the most part). Help them limit the white noise and hone in on the 1-3 voices that count the most. And definitely, make sure their own voice is on that list.
START STRONG. One of the big questions I get is, “which piece do I start with? The dramatic or the comedic?” My advice: lead with your BEST piece. The piece that you perform with excellence, feel is your strongest—that you like the most. An educational experience should be very forgiving. But even though you’re not auditioning for a Broadway show, you have only about 90 seconds to grab the auditors’ attention and make a first impression. So make it your best first impression.
That way, you feel the most confident—you’ve brought your A-Game when the audition panel is most tuned in to you—and you can put a big fat check on your list of “NAILED IT” items.
KEEP IT SIMPLE. There is a great temptation to pick audition pieces that are excessively showy. They have lots of movement, emotional levels, address more than one off-stage person, and so on. While all of this can be impressive, know your limits. It’s only impressive if executed with precision and confidence. It would be better to choose a simpler, slower-paced, less “impressive” piece that shows your best range of emotion and subtextual levels than to perform a complex piece that makes the auditors’ scratch their heads and say, “I didn’t get all of what happened there.” Your acting teacher should be able to recommend pieces that are right for you. Find pieces that draw you in and excite you, but remember: those complex pieces might need to spend time on your “in progress” list until they’re ready for your performance repertoire. When is a piece ready? Your acting teacher or coach can help with that, too.
HAVE FUN. No, really… have a ton of fun. If you’re not having fun, people are going to question whether or not you’ll be pleasant to work with. That could affect their casting decisions. (Eek!) So let your inner sunshine and joy radiate through your work. If being on stage and screen makes you feel fully alive, show it! And don’t worry, having nerves is different than not having fun. Most audition panels are able to tell the difference. And everyone on that panel wants to see you succeed! Think about it… wouldn’t they rather write positive notes than negative ones on their clipboards? Wouldn’t they rather see you shine than flame out? They WANT to consider you. They WANT to find the best actors for the roles they are casting. They WANT to see YOU having the time of your life.
For more information on our MAY-JUNE class schedule, Spring Break Film Camp and Seussical JR. Summer Theatre Camp, visit richtheatre.org
Lynn Richards is the Founder/CEO of Rich Theatre. She’s been on stage since 5th grade when Ms. Cote cast her as Juliet’s Nanny in her class performance of Romeo & Juliet. She later joined a semi-professional song & dance troupe and performed in school shows before earning a Theatre Arts major in undergrad and an MFA in Acting in graduate school. Lynn spent some time in NYC and now resides in Virginia Beach, VA with husband and co-Founder Jason Richards and their three sons.