by Marc Sanders
Having performed, directed, produced and written for Carrollwood Players since 1993, I can honestly say that auditioning for the latest up and coming play has never been a familiar experience for me.The fact is, what I’ve experienced before with past auditions is not necessarily going to work to my advantage the next time around. Different plays, different directors, different actors and different factors at hand. Every director that helms a theatre’s mainstage production has a different way of seeking out the right actors for the roles that are available.
When I enter an audition, I always want the best person for the part to get cast, but I also focus on the best way for me to show the director what I can offer. When I’m the director, I’m also looking for the best that the actors can show me in the short period of time he/she has for a cold reading.
So let’s assume you are interested in auditioning for your local community theatre. Here are some strategies that might work to your advantage:
Relax and be yourself. I know. Easier said than done, but consider that most directors are not just looking at simply your capability to learn and deliver lines effectively. We want to work with people who are enthusiastic to put on a great show and get along with people. If we see that your heart is not in it right from moment we meet you, you are already doing yourself a disservice. Don’t be shy. Be outgoing. Get energized. Fret not and have fun.
Check your calendar before you come to auditions. If you know you are the maid of honor or best man at your sister’s wedding during performance time then this is not the show for you. If your name is Meryl Streep or Tom Hanks, it just does not matter. We, and you, cannot expect you to physically be in two places at once. So come to auditions with a list of your schedule conflicts. If you have a pulse, you likely have commitments elsewhere with family, work, friends, etc. Make sure the director knows about those commitments before you accept the role. If this one play does not work for your schedule, fret not. There’ll be other shows.
What should I wear? Well if you know nothing about the show you are reading for ahead of time, a good strategy is to dress comfortably. You probably don’t have to wear your tuxedo or bridal gown. However, if you do have an idea of what the part is, you could be doing yourself a favor by dressing according to the subject matter of the show/character. For example, if you were auditioning for Felix the neat freak in Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, you might not want to wear your ripped jeans and Nine Inch Nails t-shirt. On the contrary, if you have your heart set on Oscar the slob, that outfit might work to your advantage. A good actor has to be a good judge of character. So before you head out to the audition, take a look at yourself in the mirror.
“I’ve just been given a sheet of paper with lines I have never read before. How am I going to make this work?” Welcome to a cold read audition, the standard operating procedure at most community theatre auditions (though some directors do ask for prepared monologues.) As a director, I’m more interested in your actions, instincts, facial expressions and the way you carry yourself on stage, than how well you read. You just lost your place in the script? Fret not! I’m not worried if you lost your place in your reading, because when show time arrives, you won’t have a script in your hand to lose your place in. You’ll have prepared and memorized your lines by then. Just take a deep breath, ask the other actors on stage to help you find your place again, stay focused and carry on.
Look at the other actors around you. See what they are bringing to the table. Unlike many professional, equity theatres, most auditions at Carrollwood Players and other community theatres are not private. You are reading in front of all of the other actors. That is not something to get intimidated over. Fret not! Use that to your advantage. During the audition, you might see an actor reading for the same role and he/she just tried something that you think you might be able to pull off. If you get the opportunity, go for it. I actually think this got me the part one time. A close friend of mine and I auditioned for the same role. He went up there first and suddenly I see him running from one side of the stage to another in a frenzy. I thought it was brilliant. It never occurred to me to do that for the role. When it was my turn, I tried it out and the rest was history. On the contrary, you also might see an actor try something that didn’t seem right. This might tell you to avoid that technique. Bottom line, don’t take a nap or check your iPhone when you are at auditions waiting for your name to be called. See what the other actors are doing. Pay attention to their delivery and their movements. This is one time where it is okay to look at someone else’s “test paper.”
Be fearless. You cannot be afraid to make a fool of yourself. In one show, you might have to be on your hands and knees barking like a dog. A musical might require you to do a solo number – ACAPELLA! If you want to audition for anything, then you can not hide under a shell. You have to be willing to PROJECT YOUR VOICE. You have to be willing to maybe jump up and down on a sofa or speak in an English accent. If your accent is just not right yet or you tripped on stage, fret not! We just want to be sure you are willing to do what it takes. A nude scene? Fret not. Community theatres are not likely to be crossing that line. However, some roles do require appearing in your undergarments and/or kissing someone other than your significant other. If that’s a problem for you, you guessed it – fret not. Just tell us you are not comfortable doing that. We’ll respect your boundaries, but tell us at the audition. Two weeks before show time is not the time to inform us of that. If I tell you at auditions, could that mean I might not get the part? It might. It might not. We might be able to work something out. Again, fret not. There are always other shows and other roles.
So you have been called to the stage. Now pay attention to your positions. I mean pay attention to your body. In theatre, it is important to face forward. You might be looking really good in those jeans tonight but that is not going to get you the role. You have to perform with your face first and foremost. So make sure the director can always see your face or at least your profile. Use what objects are available to you, if any. For example, if there is a chair, you might find an appropriate time to sit on it, lie on it, stand on it, etc.
Don’t keep your nose in the script the whole time. If the other person reading with you has a sizable monologue, that isn’t the time for you to turn off your character and just wait for your next line. Stay alert and react to who is speaking to you. Acting is not just about delivering lines. It’s also about your perception and reaction. Use your face and your body to react to the other person on stage. Try to commit to memory the other actors last 5 or 6 words so you can listen for your cue and bring the script back up to read your lines again. (You lost your place when that time comes? Fret not. See item #3.) But when you are not speaking…try to hold your script at your side and focus on the other actors auditioning with you. That will only enhance your cold read.
Be courteous. You might run into some friends you have not seen in a while and you want to catch up. Wait for the break or for when the auditions are over. Keep your conversations to a minimum and avoid talking over others that are on stage. (Remember, item #4!!!! Pay attention to the other actors!!!!) Also, stay off the cell phone and away from texting. Whether it’s a performance or an audition, theatre folk tend not to care for the habitual texter. You would want the other actors to have respect for you. Make sure to give it back in return.
Know what you are getting into. So the director wants to offer you a role. Before you accept you will check your calendar one more time. You’ll also be accepting the responsibility to arrive at your scheduled rehearsals and call times on time. And you’ll be looking at some late nights of rehearsals. Finally and most importantly, you will accept the responsibility to have your lines memorized. Accepting a role is a very flattering and encouraging feeling. Be aware that your cast and crew are depending on you to do your part. If you can’t memorize your lines because the role is too large or you have too many commitments outside of rehearsals, then fret not. There will be other roles in other shows with not as much dialogue to memorize, and again there will be other shows that are more in line with your schedule later on. Don’t paint yourself into a corner. You might not see it, but your cast and crew will be really frustrated if you are not coming prepared to rehearsals while they are. Know the responsibilities and commitments that come with accepting a part and ask yourself if are up to the challenge.
I didn’t get the part. FRET NOT!!!! It happens to every actor. You might not be the right age, the right size, the right color, the right sex, the right breed of animal. I promise you this. You will not get every part you audition for. So, even before you ride out to the theatre for the audition, make sure you don’t set yourself up for disappointment. What is important is to never, ever, ever give up. If you want to do this, then you are likely right for the stage. The one way you will never get cast, is if you never try again. So keep on trying and fret not, there is always another audition.
Lastly, HAVE FUN!!!! Right from the start at auditions, have an absolute blast!!!! We folk in community theatre are not doing this for the money. If we were, we’d be waiting tables in New York, Chicago or L.A. and squeezing in 5 auditions a day. We are doing this, and we hope you want to do this, to just have fun and enjoy ourselves; to enjoy working on a great project with new and old friends and to earn our audience’s applause; that’s the real paycheck. When you come to auditions and rehearsals and performances, the most beneficial thing you can do for yourself is to just liberate yourself of your daily trials and tribulations. Fret not about all those things. You’ll worry about them later. Just open yourself up to a new experience each and every time you audition, rehearse and perform. As you watch the other actors, be open minded, and when you see how much fun they are having and how passionate they are around you, follow suit! It’s a complete compendium of wonderful feelings that only gets contagious if you allow it to.
So fret not any longer, and go to www.carrollwoodplayers.org to check out the latest upcoming auditions. We can’t wait to see you on stage.