Over the past year and a half, I’ve coached many students on their auditions. And as an Artistic Director, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on many auditions over the years as well. In this post, I’ve put together some thoughts about what I look for in a first audition.
It says so much about you—your level of commitment, your connection to the material, your desire to be part of your production. You don’t need to be off book—particularly at a first audition. But you must come prepared to the best of your ability, and come into the room with purpose—like you belong there.
If you’re going to ask questions on the material prior to your audition that’s fine, but make sure you have read the play or musical you are auditioning for. Nothing is less professional than asking a question that clearly shows you haven’t read the piece. I promise you it will not get you the job. (Personally, I would save questions for a callback situation rather than a first audition.)
Make specific, active choices.
I want to see you connect to the reader or your scene partner and have clarity when it comes to the relationships in the piece. If singing, don’t worry so much about sounding amazing. Connect to the song and use it to tell a story and connect to your scene partner. Treat your song as a monologue or a scene. (I personally prefer to see a person acting a song rather than a “park and bark” person who sounds amazing, but is not connected to the material enough to draw me in.)
Make us sit up and watch you.
Draw us in. Make us come to you, rather than hitting us over the head with the material. It’s much more interesting.
Easier said than done, right? How the hell do I do all of that, Stef, when I’m nervous as hell? Well…you are talking to someone who gets VERY nervous at musical auditions in particular. How do you avoid the shakes and getting in your head? The answer:
Think like your character and not like yourself.
Play your ACTION. Because actions don’t change—it doesn’t matter what kind of mood you’re in, what you ate for breakfast or what the room is giving you. If your action is “to make my scene partner smile and fall in love with me”, play that action! Concentrate on ONLY that and your nerves will calm. SEE the person you are speaking or singing to and connect with them. Will that make you forget that you’re auditioning and keep you totally calm? Probably not, but it’s much better than worrying about how you sound, the director’s credits, what the competition is sounding like, etc. Focus on what you can control and have fun.
It all comes back to preparation.
That’s not sexy I know. Hard work is hard work. Lines don’t learn themselves and you have to take the time to put in the work. I have two quotes above my desk:
“The more you do your homework, the more you’re free to be intuitive: but you’ve got to put the work in.”-Edward Norton
“Do the work and you have all the power.” -Something a close friend reminded me of.
It’s your job to be prepared and work hard. But also remember: you’re lucky to have the opportunity to do what you do. Being an actor is such an amazing job that and I consider myself very lucky every time I get the opportunity to either audition or be in show. Make sure you carry that in the room with you and TRY to have fun. 😉
Stef Tovar is the artistic director of Route 66 Theatre.