Audition tips: waking from an actor’s nightmare

Most actors know the scene. You’re on stage. It’s a full house. You can’t remember any of the lines. And sometimes you’re naked.

Wake up. It’s just a bad dream. Or it’s a good time to learn improv.

Then there’s the other nightmare. For some actors, that’s the audition.

Why are auditions so scary? After all, it’s usually a very short scene in front of just a few people. And if you get the part, you’ll be acting in front of a whole crowd of them.

And you’ll be dressed, right?

At any acting audition, you might be reading from the script. Or, you’ll be asked to prepare a monologue (or two) in advance. One thing is common to both experiences. You’ll feel better if you’ve done the homework.

In this YouTube video, acting instructor Lisa Hamilton from Sante Fe University offers some helpful (and calming) tips for actors preparing to audition.

Another part of the prep work is knowing the show. And not just one role. Have a good understanding of all the characters in your playing range. If you can’t get a script, Google it. You’ll discover useful information from a publisher or theatre critic somewhere.

If it’s a new script, that might not work. So ask your auditioners in advance for sides, summaries or casting outlines.

There are many different approaches and styles of acting, and everyone has a go-to process for approaching a role. But the best-prepared actors keep more than one tool in their toolkits.

“Acting is illusion, as much illusion as magic is, and not so much a matter of being real.” Sir Laurence Olivier

Rely on your method acting and Meisner exercises to help you prepare and put you ‘in the moment.’ But a little technique also goes a long way, especially at an audition.

Here’s the technique

Michael Shurtleff wrote the book on how to give a great audition. And his advice has endured the test of time.

Shurtleff’s book Audition (see, I told you he wrote it) offers practical tools for actors who want to stand out from the crowd. His insights on ‘playing opposites’ and ‘making discoveries’ are particularly valuable.

Check out Shurtleff’s 12 guideposts, summarized by Acting Studio Chicago. And here’s a handy cheat sheet from the University of Texas.

Above all, remember to breathe. Once the prep work is done, you can relax and let it happen. Keep in mind that you love to act. And everyone is on your side.

Break a leg!


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