So... Let's talk about auditions
Spring is just around the corner, which means that auditions for summer theatre programs are coming up! (Stay tuned for our own Starlit Voice Summer Theatre Programs, with details to be announced within the next few weeks!)
Whether you’re auditioning for a summer production or simply for a summer class, auditions can be daunting, especially if you haven’t done too many of them before. So we here are Starlit are here to help break down the audition process!
Types of Auditions
Auditions can be classified into two broad categories: 1) prepared auditions and 2) cold reads.
In a prepared audition, you will be asked to prepare a dramatic text or song in advance, and present it to the school or production director during your scheduled audition slot. Typically, this is performed from memory. For non-musical theatre productions, the text will often be a monologue The director may give you a specific monologue or song to prepare in advance, or they may ask you to choose your own monologue or song, giving guidance on time limits and style. For example, you may be asked to present a comedic Shakespearean monologue no longer than 2 minutes for a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For a production of The Sound of Music, you may be asked to prepare a 16-bar cut of a classical Broadway song.
In a cold read, the material you will present in the audition will be material that you have not seen before. You will be asked to arrive early to your audition slot, and given a script upon your arrival. You will then up until your time slot to make character choices and rehearse your text. Directors will most likely not expect you remember the text. (No-one could have a memory that quick!) Cold reads are most commonly found in auditions for non-musical productions. For musical-theatre dance auditions, the choreographer will also do a “cold read”, teaching you a set of steps on the day of the audition and asking you to perform them.
If you are auditioning for a part in a summer production, you may also get asked to participate in a callback. Callbacks are when you are asked to perform cold reads of scenes with other potential actors, and help directors to figure out which groups of actors have the best chemistry and fit for particular roles.
Another question you may have is, how do I know when there is an audition?
Well, at school or various other training institutes, it’s easy. Often there will be a notice on the board just outside of the drama department. But it when it comes to productions and films outside of your school, it gets a slightly more complicated.
It varies from place to place and country to country, but, in general, the first thing you want to do is find yourself an agent. Agents are people who make sure that artists, actors and performers in general, are well represented and also well informed of any potential auditions that may be going on. Think of them as middle men who help you find the right role.
Usually agents will send you two kinds of auditions, 1) A request casting and 2) An open casting.
A request casting is where a director, casting director or producer has perused your agent’s list of actors and they have specifically picked you to audition for a certain role. These auditions are great as the directors and casting directors and producers have a specific picture in mind for the person who should play a certain role and if you are requested to come to an audition, that means you are what they are looking for. These types of auditions usually involve no more than a handful of people and, in general, are great fun as they leave a little more room to really show your talent. We’ve already moved past the point of looks, now is the time to show how talented you are.
The second type of audition is the open casting or “cattle call” as some refer to it. This type of casting is an event where everyone is invited. The producers aren’t looking for someone in particular and they hope to find the right actor for the job at this kind of casting. These are not always the ideal kind of audition as usually there are many, many people going through the process over a period of days, if not weeks. This means you have to work so much harder to get noticed in a sea of faces and often times you do not really get to show off your acting skills as the producers and directors will dismiss someone very quickly if they do not have the right look. Don’t be disheartened though. as mentioned, those in charge don’t really know what they’re looking for, so you may just be the one to make up their minds!
In this day and age though, you will more often than not find auditions posted on social media. Finding an audition might just be as easy as joining the right groups and pages.
Tips and Resources for Auditioning
We all know that auditions can be nerve-wracking experiences, so here are just some of our tips for delivering a confident and compelling performance in the audition room:
- When performing a monologue or song, pick a point above the director’s head to be your “audience”. Often times, directors may be writing as you audition, so in order not to be distracted by their writing, deliver you audition material to an imagined audience in the room.
- For prepared auditions, start memorizing early! If you find memorizing tricky, try and break down your monologue or song into manageable chunks, and work on memorizing a bit each day.
- If you are doing a cold read, don’t forget to look up often! You will be reading from a piece of paper with a script on, so be careful that your face doesn’t get lost by looking down all the time! If you feel confident enough, you can even memorize one or two of the most impactful lines, so that you can deliver them without having to move your eyes to the page.
- Remember: showing a willingness to receive and incorporate feedback and suggestions is just as important as your performance. Sometimes, a director might ask you to perform your audition a second time—this is a great way to show that you are a flexible actor who is willing to take risks! Directors at summer theatre schools are often more interested in looking for potential, rather than a finished product.
For further reading on auditions, check out these books:
- Audition, by Michael Shurtleff
- Auditioning: An Actor-Friendly Guide, by Joanna Merlin
- The Monologue Audition: A Practical Guide for Actors, by Karen Kohlhaas
- Musical Theatre Auditions and Casting, by Neil Rutherford
We hope this has been helpful for you soon-to-be summer theatre students! Keep an eye out on our website and Facebook page for announcements about our own Starlit Voice Summer Theatre programs!