Auditioning is hard. Putting yourself on the line for the chance at a role can be scary. Walking out onto a stage alone in front of a dark room or a panel of directors can be unnerving. Part of that is the fact that you just don’t know what to expect and / or what the director is looking for. That’s just the way it is, but you can help yourself by memorizing and avoiding these common auditioning traps.
Things Not to Do at an Audition
Do Not… approach auditions for musicals like you would for a spot on The Voice: Musicals are about regular people living their lives and the songs are either their thoughts or conversations. While it can sometimes be beautiful, first and foremost it is about bringing forth a character that moves the story forward. Be real. Don’t show us your inner opera singer. Instead, show us a person who is struggling or celebrating with the subject matter of the song.
Do Not… choose a song or monologue from the musical or play you are auditioning for unless specifically told to do so by the directors: Look for audition pieces that show you have the ability to play the type of character that you are hoping for, but from another show. Often that means another piece by the same writer or composer. That said, it is the style and character type that is important.
Do Not… show up in costume: It’s unprofessional. It also will not help the director see you in that character regardless of how much you think it will.
Do Not… wear clothing you cannot move freely in: You need to be able to move. Wear comfortable, flexible clothing that will allow you to stretch and bend, dance, or run without limiting you and without ‘wardrobe malfunctions’.
Do Not… wear flip flops or any kind of clunky shoe. You cannot go on stage in bare feet. You need shoes. Dance shoes are best, but a good athletic shoe will usually work as well.
Do Not… forget your headshot: It doesn’t matter if the director is your Aunt or Uncle, theatre etiquette demands you bring a headshot. Showing up without one tells the director that you expect special treatment and that is just not something the director can afford to give anyone.
Do Not… fail to fill out your audition form completely and to the best of your ability: If there is something that you don’t know, find someone who is not busy to help you. This is a matter of respect and if you show the directors disrespect on the form, they will assume you will not be reliable in the cast. That’s just the way it works.
Do Not… change your look between auditions and call backs: As a matter of fact, if at all possible, wear the same clothes you did at the audition (or at least the same color scheme and style). We know, in many places that would be considered gross. But… in the theatre, it is not only acceptable, it is preferred. The reality is the director often remembers “that girl in the blue top” more than names or faces.
Do Not… make excuses: If you are sick, we can tell. If you have been “super busy” at school and haven’t had time to practice your monologue…..well, that probably means you will continue to be super busy, and you probably won’t have time to dedicate to rehearsing the show.
Do Not… forget to tell us if there is a role you will not accept: Enough said.
Do Not… forget that it is illegal to alter lines and scripts: Instead, be diligent about researching roles. If you are cast in a role that has lines or actions you don’t want to or are not allowed to do or say…there isn’t anything the directors can change so be aware of the demands of each role and list any you cannot accept on your audition form.
Do Not… be afraid to help other auditioning actors: When you assist somebody else you show that you are team player and willing to put your own ego aside.
Do Not… apologize: If you make a mistake or lose your lines during your monologue we probably won’t know, unless you tell us by apologizing. Just improvise through, or end it with no one the wiser.
Do Not… end with a look or word that indicates you thought you did badly: The last thing you want to do is put that idea into the director’s head. Besides, even if you did, you might have stumbled onto some aspect of the character the director is looking for and ending with a look of disgust breaks that magic and could well lose you the role you just backed into.
Do Not… ask, should I stand or is it okay to sit? The actor’s role is to portray the character in that character’s current situation. That means, it is up to you to decide whether you sit or stand unless the director has already instructed otherwise.
Do Not… be afraid to take chances when you cold read: Even if you don’t do it the way we want, if you take risks we know you are willing to do the same with a character down the road.
Do Not… tell the directors “I can’t”: Especially when they give you a direction during cold reading. No matter how silly or difficult the direction seems. Often we are trying to see how well you follow directions and how willing you are to try difficult things. If you are not sure about it, ask a question, but do not say “I can’t”. Try.
Six Unlikely Ways to Improve Your Audition Chances in the Theatre
Looking for a way to improve your chances of winning that choice role? Of course. It’s natural to have a role that you would really like to play. Whether it’s King Lear from Shakespeare’s play of the same name, or Lady Bracknell from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, The Witch from Into the Woods, or Mayor Shinn for The Music Man, we all have a role that resonates with us – one that we really want the opportunity to play.
The problem is that auditioning is hard. Auditioning is an art itself. Whether you audition for a play or a musical, the stress and tension of the auditioning process along with all the intangibles that we can’t control make the process difficult to say the least.
There is no way to guarantee that you will get the role you want. As noted above there are too many factors that you can’t control in the auditioning process. But there are things you can do to improve your skills as a performer that will help you. Some of those things are obvious:
Like…Take Acting, Voice, or Dance Classes – Duh!
We won’t talk about the painfully obvious options. If you aren’t taking acting, voice, and dance classes… start. Now. Wherever you can. Whenever you can. You need to learn to break down a character and make it your own just like you need to learn total control of your body, even if you never plan to audition for a dance or singing role! So, again, find acting, voice, and dancing classes and get started.
Instead this page will focus on things you might overlook that will help build your skills and potentially translate into better auditioning success.
Read Dr. Seuss – Aloud: There is perhaps no better tool to develop your diction and enunciation than to practice reading the writings of Dr. Seuss out loud. If you can read through the works of Dr. Seuss quickly, clearly, expressively, and loudly without getting tongue tied you will be able to be understood on stage – and that will set you apart from less eloquent actors.
Memorize a minimum of three audition pieces and Keep Them Fresh: The goal here is to find at least three monologues that you can perform extremely well and keep them ready to use when an audition comes up so that you aren’t scrambling at the last minute trying to find ‘the perfect piece’.
If you choose one piece from a classical writer such as Shakespeare, one that is comedic, and one that is dramatic and polish those three, always looking for new meaning in the text or a new way of interpreting or expressing the meaning you will audition much better than one constantly looking for a new audition piece.
Remember, Every Time You are On Stage, You Are Auditioning: Directors are always looking for actors they can trust to work hard and be ‘off book’ on time, for actors who are looking for ways to add depth to their character, for actors, singers, and dancers who show up early for practice and give every performance all the strength and focus they have – directors need actors like that. So any performer who makes that their mindset and commits themselves to doing that will always have a better shot with the directors than one who is not as diligent. Remember, every time you are on stage (performance, rehearsal, just helping out, or even just in the same room as a director) you are auditioning, whether anyone is thinking about it or not.
Play a Sport on a Competitive Level: This benefits singers, dancers, and actors in a lot of ways. Obviously, sports require excellent physical conditioning. Contrary to popular opinion, so does the stage. The better shape you are in, the better body control you will have and the better breath control you will have – meaning you will be better able to speak as the director needs you to, or keep up with the dance, or sing with the power the song demands. Likewise sports, just as the theatre does, requires individuals to focus on the task at hand without allowing the fact that there is an audience to distract them (and to be an active player rather than an audience member).
Take Voice Lessons: Now I know what you are thinking – this is in the “Duh!” category. You’re right – and yet so many people neglect this one (giving you an opportunity to set yourself apart). You see, actors can benefit from voice lessons as much as singers can. To learn to use the various registers that we all have, to learn to breathe properly and in doing so have enough lung power to make that entire speech. So, even if you have no desire to sing in the next production of Annie or The Wizard of Oz, taking voice lessons will enhance your chances when you audition – and you just might discover a talent you never knew you had.
Research the Show and Role: But do it by reading. No one wants to see your impression of Barbara Striesand, or Idina Menzel’s performance in the role you are portraying in your audition. Instead they want to see how you can make that role unique. So get to know the show and role and the put yourself in that role. It’s called acting.
This list is not exhaustive. There are lots more things you can do to improve your chances when you audition for a play or musical. Take up running and lift weights. Take a class that teaches you to study literature. Study psychology. In fact, anything you do that helps you learn to control your body, have stronger breath support, understand why people do what they do will help. It’s just that the things listed above will help you improve your chances in auditions for a play or musical quicker than most.