This post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.
Auditions… like all 12 films in the Friday the 13th series they can send chills down your spine. At worst they are a necessary evil; at best they are a chance to perform (albeit briefly). In reality, they are a means to an end that, like Jason, show no sign of going away. So love ‘em or hate ‘em you need to embrace and master them. In The 5 Audition Tips You Absolutely Want to Know! (And a Few Bonus Tips As Well), I focused primarily on how to think about auditions in general, so that you can face them over and over again with a healthy attitude and positive self-esteem. What follows are more tips with more specificity.
#1. Make a choice. Play an action, not a mood.
Few things grab an auditor’s attention more intently than watching an actor who knows how to make strong choices and then commits to them utterly, particularly if the choices are compelling, interesting, and high stakes. Conversely, few things are more off-putting than watching an actor struggle to convey a general mood or impersonate how real people behave, which is exactly what happens when you approach an audition not with a clear idea of what your character is trying to achieve but rather with a vague sense of what your character is feeling. Look, in life people don’t simply choose to walk around with a particular emotion on their sleeve. No sane person thinks to himself, “I will be angry when I come in for dinner,” and then translates that to a general display of what anger sometimes looks and sounds like: stomping feet, snarling lips, booming voice. Emotions are always the result of our doing… or not. They are by-products, not end-products, an honest response to the fruitless or successful attempt to achieve something. And so regardless whether emotions are displayed, they can only be arrived at by pursuing an action.
Bonus tip: At the audition you need not be concerned with making the “right” choice, meaning the one that corresponds to the director’s vision of the story. In fact, you may end up giving the director new insight into the role, which can be very invigorating. As long as you demonstrate that you can make and play choices that serve the text, a smart director will know that s/he will be able to lead you to the desired choice in the rehearsal process.
#2. Choose monologues that have clear outward action. Avoid reminiscing.
One of the most difficult and artificial aspects of auditioning with monologues is speaking to someone who is not physically present in the room. Part of that challenge is convincing the auditors that you are doing more than just aiming your energy at a spot on the wall; part of that challenge is convincing yourself. Your only shot at doing either of those things is to select a monologue that is highly charged with an intention aimed at another character in the script. Only then will you be able to ground yourself in action that demonstrates your ability to make choices and transcend self-consciousness by having a more imperative, outward target for your energy. Memory pieces keep you inward. Action pieces facilitate your ability to transform the spot on the wall into a vivid recipient of the objectives you have created for the piece. (For more insight, read Making Friends with Monologues.)
Bonus tip: Memorize, memorize, memorize! You may think this is self-evident – I certainly did – but I assure you I have had the unfortunate experience of sitting at the casting table while actors auditioned with monologue cheat sheets. Singularly unimpressive!
#3. If you are asked an open-ended question during an on-camera audition, keep talking.
Not every audition comes with text. Take, for example, an audition for a television commercial using voiceover only. You get in front of the camera, and the only other person in the room asks you to slate, after which s/he asks you to talk about the last role you played. You think that you should just repeat the facts on your resume, so you do, and then you are dismissed, agog that that was it. But if all the casting people care about is how you look on camera, then they have seen all they need to see. That is why you should have used the opportunity to show how comfortable you are on camera, how readily you can speak with ease, how interesting your facial expressions are to watch, and how pleasant you are to be around. I am not suggesting you blather on and on, but you may only have one chance to shine, and so you should seize it. Trust me, if they want you to stop speaking they will let you know.
#4. Always take your cue from the auditors.
Obviously this is literally true, but it is true figuratively as well, and it is those implicit cues that nervous actors can fail to pick up on much to their own detriment. (In fact, tip #4 is a perfect example. The tip is a good one, but if eyes are glazing over, stop speaking!) I have auditioned actors who began their monologues while I was still writing notes from the previous audition, actors who insisted on shaking my hand despite clear signals that I had no wish to do that myself, actors who were aloof when I was friendly and vice versa. I know these people were nervous; I am an actor too. But when you miss the signals the auditors are putting out, you probably also miss showing them that you are someone they will want to work with.
#5. Be delightful… to everyone!
This one is pure common sense. (And good advice to live by too!) Auditions are the actor’s job interview, and the goal is very much the same: to demonstrate that you can get the job done well, professionally, and delightfully. So avoid being rude. The security guard might just be the producer’s nephew, the reader, the playwright’s daughter. Keep your secrets secret, your insecurities to yourself, and your frustrations capped until you are far away and can share them with your trusted confidante.
Auditions really needn’t be like a trip on Crystal Lake. Stay focused on the parts of the task you can control, use the tips outlined above, and be in touch if you need some coaching on your own. Break a leg! ~ Cie