DENNIS COURTNEY'S AUDITION DOs and DONTs
Auditions are about a lot of things. How good you are? Sure. How well you fit the show, the character, and the other cast members? That's a given. But auditions are also a great deal about who you are. Auditions are about having 3-5 minutes in a room to show someone what you would bring to the rehearsal process and, ultimately, the stage. This is, of course, broken down into how you deliver a monologue, a cold reading, a song, or a dance. How you can interpret, express and deliver text, a song or a dance combination is a huge part of the audition process - everyone knows that. The other very important part is showing your personality, who you are, how you are to work with, and what it will be like spending time with you. Believe me, your personality matters! The biggest thing I tell actors going into an audition is: Be like your headshot- YOU ON A GOOD DAY. You have to be the person the director and others will want to see every day during the rehearsal and performance process. The personality you project is the basis for your audition. It includes the clothes you wear, the way you introduce your material and your ability to answer questions. Even the materials you choose to perform can be revealing. But remember, please, personality is not some alien persona affected for the occasion — it is just the simple use of the characteristics that make you distinctive as a performer and a human being. Preparing for auditions is, then, essential. If all you get is 3-5 minutes to land a job, being prepared is not just a good idea, it is necessary. I love actors, I love the way they think, I love what they bring to the table and I love to see them succeed. I want actors to get jobs, and if I can help that happen, that's great. This list isn’t about how to be a good actor. Become a good actor requires continual study, dedication, passion and life and work experience. By the time you choose to audition, you should already know how to express a wide range of acting skill and emotion in your movement, voice, face, etc. No, this list is about how to best demonstrate your professionalism. Before the audition: Choosing Audition Monologues and Songs: Monologues: • In selecting a monologue, DO pick material that reflects your strengths as a performer, suits your age and demonstrates the image you wish to create. Differentiate between monologues that have literary value (good pieces of writing) and those that are dramatic (they play well for you). Opt for the pieces that are dramatic and play well. • DO select a piece that allows you to make strong active acting choices. • DO, of course, read the entire play before attempting to perform the monologue. • DO NOT select pieces that attempt to shock with their use of bad language or obscene physical action. Auditors are never shocked but often bored! Present the material naturally, and remember that you are using the words of others in order to sell yourself. Through your choice of material and your performance behavior, show yourself to be a person of taste, confidence, sincerity and sensitivity. • DO NOT choose material that berates the audience. • DO NOT perform material written for a character significantly younger or older than you are and avoid pieces written in dialect (unless required by the casting people). We want to hear your voice at your age expressing emotion or making us laugh. • DO use a chair if you’d like, but no large props or costumes. • DO have both a classical and a contemporary monologue ready. Ideally, you should have serious and comic monologues for both classical and contemporary. Songs: • DO NOT present a choreographed routine. Dance skills are evaluated at the dance audition. DO, however, approach the material with a free body and move whenever appropriate. Body movement should be relaxed (not casual) and should not "illustrate" or “indicate” the lyrics (pointing at your head then at your watch on the words "I know now.") • DO select material suitable for your age and life experience. Don’t attempt phony voices and mannerisms. These characterizations may have won you acclaim in the high-school play, but in professional theatre they will be seen as absurd. Remember, we want to see who you are. • DO beware of choices that are difficult to perform under stressful conditions. Many of the patter songs ("Another Hundred People," "Giants in the Sky") are notoriously difficult and require careful coordination between pianist and singer. These songs are hard to perform without adequate rehearsal and under the naturally competitive circumstances of an audition. • DO NOT imitate your favorite actors. BE YOU! At The Audition Space: • DO warm-up: Doesn’t matter if your playing sports, dancing, acting, etc., you always need to warm-up before a performance. Getting ready for your monologue/singing/dancing audition is no different. Do some stretches, mental preparation and vocal exercises. Get your mind and body ready to perform. • DO keep yourself “in the zone”: Chatting with other people or staring into space will not help you at all. Take this part very seriously. This can make or break your audition experience. • DO look professional: This might seem obvious, but some obviously don’t see it that way. This is a job, and you’re going on an interview. You need to look professional. Doesn’t matter if the audition is for a small regional theatre or a big Broadway show or the next blockbuster movie, you must present yourself as someone that takes his or her profession very seriously. DO pay attention to your personal appearance. Look your best. Dress casually but neatly in clothes that allow freedom of movement and are flattering to your physique. I suggest two "outfits"—one for the dance audition and one for the song and monologue. DO NOT wear clothes or accessories that will distract from your audition. • DO NOT give those auditioning you a reason to discount your ability before you have a chance to present it. Now, it’s not just attire you have to worry about. Not showing up or showing up late, crumpled resumes or headshots, and handwritten resumes are all unacceptable in any occupation. If you think they are, stop reading now and search tirelessly for a new line of work. • DO treat the monitor with respect. Very often, this person is associated with the production. . If you seem to have "attitude," are a "diva" or possess an ego the size of Manhattan, the monitor will find a way to report this to the casting people. During the Audition: • DO be aware of how you behave from the moment you arrive at the audition to the moment you leave. Show that you are well prepared. When you enter the room, be pleasant and confident. • If required to slate, DO say your name clearly and, if asked questions, answer directly, honestly and to the point. • DO NOT treat the accompanist with disrespect. • DO NOT waste time getting started with fumbling, arranging a chair, not having music ready, etc. • If singing, DO bring sheet music in the correct key and with all cuts or repetitions clearly marked. DO place your music in a binder and ideally cover sheets with non-glare plastic covers for the benefit of the accompanist. DO speak clearly to the pianist and set the tempo by singing a few phrases while gently tapping tempo on your own chest. This is preferable to snapping your fingers or yelling "Faster," "Too fast," or "Slow Down" in the middle of your song. • DO NOT sing a cappella! • DO NOT sing if you can't. The same applies at the dance audition; it will only hurt your audition. • DO NOT rush through your monologue to get it over with. • DO remember to project your voice in relationship to the size of the room. • DO take time to shift and re-focus between audition pieces. • DO NOT hide your face during your audition. Don’t play in complete profile or turn your back on the casting people during your song. • DO NOT turn the director or others at the casting table into your acting partner. • DO stay in character and learn to control your nerves: When performing your monologue, song or dance it is important to remember why you are there and what you are doing. You cannot let nerves, emotion or anything in the room or your personal life interfere with that brief time you have to audition. Stay in character, no matter what. As an actor, you should know the character inside and out as well as your lines, and that is exactly what the casting people should see. Everyone is nervous to some degree, but you still have to deliver a strong audition. If you can’t learn to set aside your feelings, control your nerves and act, than you will not have successful auditions. An actor is a master of emotion. The first emotion you need to tame is your own nervousness. Breathe deeply and try to relax. • DO NOT outstay your welcome or argue if you are cut off in mid-monologue or song. Don’t lie or be evasive about your acting, singing or dancing experience. "Well, I can move!" ranks as the most often heard evasion in answer to a question about previous dance training. • DO thank those auditioning you when you are finished and leave the room with the same confidence and professionalism with which you entered. Leave with dignity. DO NOT apologize for your mistakes. DO NOT start dumping your reasons, excuses, personal problems, life tribulations or anything else that you think might justify what you did or did not do during your audition. They will call you if they’re interested. • DO something to reward yourself after a good audition. .