By John Tomlinson
Auditions. The word alone brings a simultaneous joy and fear to those who know. However, even those who know the actor’s perspective may not know the other half of the story. I thought it may be useful to share some audition tips. I will share the most useful tips for the people reading this in our small rural local community theatre group here in Lake County, CA. OK. Let’s get ready to auditioooooooooooooon!!!!!
Do everything you can to be ready for an audition. Most of our auditions locally use sides, or scenes from a play. Other auditions may even call for a monologue. Make sure to get a copy of the material and familiarize yourself with the character you are reading. Reading the entire play will give you the best idea of the complete story of that character, and what the scene means in the bigger picture.
Practice as many times as possible before the audition. If possible, many actors will visit the place where the audition is being held before the audition date. It can help the process of visualizing success when we know that actual space we plan to occupy in the future. Visualizing success before an event is known to lessen feelings of anxiety. Because, nerves.
First of all, anxiety is an issue for every actor at auditions. Every. Single. Actor. We all know this, performers, directors and casting people included. Rather than succumb to this, or even worse, tell the casting group how nervous you are, try to gain control of your nerves. Take some time to get yourself focused. Take some deep breaths. Lean into the natural tension created by this situation. Let it create a wave of excitement that drives you into a sharper focus. Directors appreciate focused energy. What better way to show this than as your first impression?
Entering into the room
Speaking of first impressions, the moment you walk into the room yours begins. Now for our group at LCTC, most of the time we know each other, so it is not literally a first impression. Let’s face it, when casting locally, masking the surprise is hard when someone we don’t know walks through the door for an audition. I have even heard a fellow casting peron gasp once or twice when someone new walks in. Still, whether the actor is familiar or not, we look for signs of how well a person fits into a role right away. Come in with your game face, give a hello, and go to your spot to start your work.
Where to stand
I know, I know, “go to your spot” sounds like dog training. But where to locate yourself in the room is important so I had to get your attention. Think of this: the room becomes yours, philosophically, once you enter. I see that mindset as crucial to succeeding in auditions. Take a position in the center of the play space, which should be evident from how the room is set up. You don’t have to stay there, (we will explore that more later) but use this as a starting point.
Now, also think about sharing the space as well. Start at least 6 feet back from the audition table. If you stand too close to the audition panel we can not see all of you, and, honestly, it’s a bit awkward. On that note, we want to watch your scene, not be in it. Breaking the fourth wall by making eye contact with the panelists, or even worse using them as part of the scene, is also awkward and should be avoided.
Be free and explore, create.
Before you cry foul at all of the limitations here, let me now encourage your sense of autonomy and freedom. Move! Use the space. Don’t let your character show up only to grow roots into the floor and barely move their arms at certain planned moments. Finding a physical connection to the script helps us see the possibilities of your version of a character. It also puts those pesky nerves we talked about earlier at rest so you can function more fluidly.
Don’t just wander around without purpose. When you are practicing before the audition, find things in the script that move you. Literally. Where are the moments of emotional connection most evident to you in the scene? That is likely a good moment to move. Experiment with moving at different times, in different ways, and monitor how you feel about the different moves. Use the physical movements which work best to shape your performance.
We want you to win
If anything, I hope to give you one key piece of insight. We want you to get the role. We want every next person that walks in the room to be the one, like Neo in the Matrix. We come looking for a solution to our casting issues, and we always hope for good news. We want you to succeed. I often find this comforting. I am not going before a group of people that are waiting for me to finish and leave. Rather, they were looking for me to be, well, what they were looking for. This makes me feel more welcome, which gets me in a ready mood.
Let it go and then let it go
So there you are in the middle of the play space; poised, prepared, not looking me in the eye. What now? Now it is time to cut loose! Let all of your preparation shine through and knock our socks off! You built this performance, practiced many times, and visualized success. You held all of that in until now. Now, let it go! Put everything you prepared out there into play. WHEW! And then, let it go.
This work is exhausting. You did it. Say thank you. Wait for your cue from the panel to know if they want to discuss anything more, or if you are finished. And then depart. Walk away and leave this behind for now. Don’t spend time second-guessing, wondering what if, or entertaining any of the many troubling thoughts one can find after an audition. Instead, go do something entertaining for yourself. Or go get some ice cream, or chili cheese fries, or an ice cold beverage. Get a massage or mani-pedi. Hang out with some friends. Rejoice. It was a big day. Be nice to yourself. You deserve it.
John Tomlinson is a member of Lake County Theatre Company. He has directed several shows, most recently Oklahoma!, Chicago, and the Taming of the Shrew. As the Program Director for Shakespeare at the Lake, he has directed five Shakespeare at the Lake performances. John teaches Theatre Arts and Film at Mendocino College Lake Center and Woodland Community College, Lake County Campus.
Lake County Theatre Company