Most kids are always nervous about auditions. Some are nervous about speaking in public at all. Terry and I have spent many years developing an audition process that invites all kinds of kids while at the same time helps us to evaluate the top actors and singers in the school.
Yesterday we began a discussion of our upcoming theatre class auditions. Each kid that wants to be in an upper level theatre class must audition to prove his/her worth to the program. Even our seasoned seniors are required to audition to maintain our standards. Most kids that have made it through a Theatre I class have done monologues and a couple of auditions, but still may be intimidated by an upper level production class.
Also, at our school we allow incoming freshman who have had OAP experience at the junior high level to audition for a spot. We do this because the really special kids do not need to sit through an entire year of Theatre I when we can get them prepared for production, musicals, and OAP.
We like to do all sorts of auditions, and as a matter of fact we make it quite clear that kids are auditioning for us all the time, but for this particular one, we require them to prepare a monologue and sing a few bars from a given piece of music. We try to choose things that are not totally intimidating, but also help the cream rise to the top. For example, I may give them a dramatic monologue and then a fun, comedic musical theatre number that most anyone can handle.
We will be able to tell whether or not a kid can sing immediately. And let’s face it, for a small school musical, we can train MOST kids to handle a singing part…it may be just a small role or a chorus part….but they can do it. We want to be sure that they are able to handle straight plays and musicals for this production class. In our discussion of upcoming auditions, we spend quite a bit of time talking about the dos and don’ts. After years of watching kids sweat it out, start over, and just generally fumble through auditions, we have put together a few things for aspiring actors to remember.
To prepare everyone for this process, we ask the kids to work on their given monologues and incorporate as many of the following as possible. WE DO NOT want to hear a person reading memorized lines. Give us some eye contact, project your voice, and never use any negative prefacing to set up your audition. Show us what you’ve got!
It sounds simple but it takes practice. Walk onto the stage with your held head high. Be wary of shuffling feet. You don’t get sympathy points if you’re nervous, not feeling well, or having a bad day. Leave it outside the door. You are being sized up the minute you walk in, so practice good posture and body language before you arrive. And don’t forget to smile – that’s the lasting impression you want to leave. Introduce yourself and GO!!
Let it shine through. Don’t give one-word answers when having a conversation with the director. Ask questions! We are looking for smart, curious actors.
Make one. Memorize the material. Knowing the dialogue is important, but making a connection is what will make the scene natural and believable.
Know the character. Read the entire script beforehand if possible to pick-up as many clues as you can. We know about a character by the following:
- What he/she says about himself/herself
- What other characters say about him/her
- What the playwright or screenwriter says about him/her
Go underneath the dialogue. What does he/she want from the other characters? What is the character’s purpose in the scene/story?
What’s in the way of the character getting what he/she wants? Acting is what happens to you as you TRY to get your objective met, in spite of the obstacle.
Yelling isn’t the only way to show hatred or anger. Sometimes being quiet as you make your point is a powerful display of emotion. Playing opposites is a much more interesting choice than the obvious.
Acting means TO DO, not to talk. Find your actions and play them!
Feel the levels and dynamic in the scene. Don’t play one emotion. If the character is angry or tough, when might he/she show some vulnerability?
Find the love in the scene. Even nasty characters should be likeable on some level. Find a moment in the scene where that love can show through.
Through the years, Terry and I have modified this list of audition qualities, and we feel that this is a pretty good representation of what we are looking for in an actor. Feel free to try these things and adjust it to fit your style and your theatre program. Look for our next blog: Post-Audition: How We Cast A Show.
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