There are lots of different approaches to auditioning, but here’s some food for thought on auditions, inspired by Caryn West.
1) Develop sensitivity to different types of material. Shakespeare and David Hare write very differently. I believe that you do not need to massively alter your technique from genre to genre, but you do need to get a feel for different types of material. Developing sensitivity to different types of writing can be done in advance, by simply reading different types of scripts (including television, radio and film scripts too). If you’re a committed actor, you’ll find the time.
2) Auditioning and Cold-Reading are two separate skills. Auditioning usually takes the shape of monologues, whereas cold-reading means being handed a script on the day (sometimes a little in advance), and being asked to read. Even if the director is a novice and doesn’t respect or realise the difference, you should know it.
3) Actors are storytellers; you need to focus on the story. The simple fact is that drama is conflict in action. This conflict in action creates a story that keeps an audience captivated. One of the biggest problems of Method acting and other self-centred acting techniques is that they take the emphasis away from the telling of a story, to delight and enthrall an audience, and place it on the actor’s selfish character creation journey. In your monologue tell the story, everything else is secondary.
4) Pick strong audition monologues. Strong audition monologues are vital. Whether your auditioning for drama school or for a job, you need to pick something that really shows off your best acting attributes. For this reason, don’t pick a comedy if you’re auditioning for a drama. BUT, always prepare a second choice, something contrasting to your first selection. The amazing Karen Kohlhaas (director, acting teacher and monologue coach in the US) believes you should know 20 monologues. Her students are very successful. Do you have that kind of commitment to your craft? Could you learn 5 instead?
5) Be prepared to talk about the role, the speech/scene and the play. This means you should read the play carefully, try to research it a little and make sure you understand the scene or speech. Learning to break a scene or speech down is a vital skill. If you need help, approach an acting coach.
6) When you go to an audition, dress basic, not too many patterns, bright or dark colours. Avoid white, but simple colours work well. Nevertheless, a single piece of idiosyncratic dress will help them identify you. However, if you’re going to play a business person, you may wish to dress this way to help you. Never for a Drama School audition though. Never wear a hat. Try to wear something similar (if not the same clothes) for your call back.
7) Always arrive earlier, about ten to fifteen minutes. They may be running ahead. Not too early, you’ll make the others nervous.
Mark Westbrook is a professional acting coach, based in Glasgow, Scotland.