“Unless you are an enormous name, you never stop auditioning”.

Richard E. Grant

A Few Notes on Auditions

Not many people actually like auditioning but it is an unavoidable fact of life for all but a few privileged performers.

However, it really doesn’t have to be such a painful experience if one applies a few basic, common sense rules and maintains a sense of perspective.

Auditioning is in many ways a ‘numbers’ game; sometimes you have to do a lot before you are successful. If you are just starting out and you are successful quickly, then it is understandable to think that getting a job is pretty straightforward. If it takes you much longer, then it can be very dispiriting.

It is then also easy to take that sense of disappointment with you into the next audition. It is remarkable how many actors walk into an audition with an invisible but still all too obvious sign above their heads saying ‘Don’t hire me’. It is imperative that you let go of previous disappointments and enter every audition in a positive state of mind.

One of the most simple things that you can do is avoid casting for them. By this I mean, don’t decide beforehand whether you are suitable and which role they are going to cast you in. Let the panel make the decision. They may surprise you.

There are numerous books on auditioning so rather than repeating many of the obvious suggestions, I offer a few recommendations that are often missing.

1. Be Punctual but Not Too Early
... not unless you are prepared to go in as soon as you arrive.

You know (I hope) that it is important to be on time but you may not be aware that if you turn up too early and they are also running ahead, you may find yourself asked to go in possibly before you are ready. If you thought to yourself “I’ll get there 15 minutes early so I can warm up/go through my song or speech/have a coffee” you could end up in front of the panel earlier than you anticipated. This can actually be a good thing as it can stop you winding yourself up but it can also put you off your stride if you haven’t had time to get in the right frame of mind.

If you find yourself with a few minutes to spare, go for a walk, focus, breathe and walk in well on time but when you are ready.

2. Treat everyone you meet politely and respectfully no matter how menial their job may appear. 

Apart from simple common decency, you never know who they are or what their relationship to the panel may be. Production teams often ask someone junior to observe how the actors conduct themselves in the waiting room and then feed it back to them. Inconsiderate, high-handed behaviour towards those perceived to be not as far up the food chain is not going to increase your chances of being cast.

3. Watch out for the ‘game players’
There are some people who are experts at undermining the confidence of others they see as competition. From not so subtle comments on what you are wearing, to repeated observations about how good everyone else is, how well they know certain members of the auditioning panel or how often they have worked with them before. These are classic strategies from very insecure actors. Don’t let it affect your confidence.

Ignore it, stay focussed and remember your best answer is always to audition as well as you can.

4. Give the panel what they want.
Such an obvious one but an audition is not an exam. They are actively looking to cast you so listen carefully and give them what they ask for. ‘No’ is not a response to a request to march on the spot while whistling Everything’s Coming Up Roses. Or even ‘Why?” Give it a go even if it appears irrational or absurd. Often it is about attitude and a willingness to play and take direction.

5. Auditions aren’t always fair.
Sometimes, you are just not ‘right’. This is tough especially when you have auditioned well and know that you could play the part. Sometimes there isn’t even a clear explanation as to why you didn’t get it. That’s just the way it is. Be pleased that you did a good audition because the chances are that if you acquitted yourself professionally and with good grace they will remember you and call you back for something else in the future.

6. Be interested if not enthusiastic about the job, the play, the role.
You don’t have to fake this but do express a genuine interest in what is being cast. And if you can, find out something about it beforehand. If it’s classic play or musical, something that is already published or currently in production, then you simply must have read it beforehand or tried to see it.

7. Go to sight-reading lessons.
Almost all auditions these days involve sight-reading. This is a skill that can and must be learnt. Too many young actors mistake sight-reading for a test of fluency and then forget that they also have to act at the same time. Have lessons from some who really knows what they are doing and who can give you clear guidance on how to practise productively. And then do it.

8. But don’t forget to learn monologues.
While monologues may not be requested as often, it is essential that you learn new monologues regularly. It will help maintain your text and voice skills as well as making you prepared for those occasions when you will need to pull one out. Don’t be caught out by leaving it until the last minute.

There is much more to be said about the art and skill of auditioning well but these are some of the less acknowledged but no less important finer details.

And remember:
“With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable”. Thomas Fowell Buxton

© Anne-Marie Speed May 2014