Outside of drunken philosophising, coffee-shop complaining and late night rumination, auditioning is how actors spend most of their time. This is a skill; something that can be refined with experience and hard work. We all have to go through a fair few clunky auditions before we start feeling comfortable, but, however familiar it becomes, you will never quite shake those pre-audition nerves. If you do, please would you write out the ‘how to’ guide and send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org! For me, the best way to battle nerves is with preparation, so here are some thoughts on how to prepare for an audition.
My advice isn’t particularly unique or profound. It is simply a rehashed guide of some essential elements that I have learnt so far in my career. We can so often lose clarity and common-sense when acting and performing, so here are some of my rather obvious, but important, thoughts on how to get ready for an audition.
Read the play!
To understand the monologue that you are to perform, you have to understand the perspective from which it was written. Reading the play is non-negotiable. You are leaving yourself open to a lot of critique from any cognizant director if you perform a monologue without any understanding of the play from which it came. You are also likely to make erroneous character choices that, regardless of their brilliance, may not resemble the character that you are trying to portray.
Read the play backwards
If the first point didn’t inspire you, hopefully this will. Read the play as many times as you can bear. Be a detective and try to learn as much about the character as possible. You will be asked about your character, so the more prepared you are, the better. Be able to discuss the play and your character. Have an opinion! Opinions are important.
Learn your piece backwards
Whether you are performing a self-test, monologue, theatre scene or poem, be completely familiar with the work. Under the stress and the inevitable nerves, you will feel that it is easy to muddle your lines unless you are completely solid in rehearsals.
Don’t just learn the lines!
Every actor has his or her own technique. Find something you love or that you think works and make sure you use it. Don’t just think you can learn the lines and wing it. My article called ‘How to Act’ has some ideas, if you don’t already have an acting toolbox to draw from.
Practice your piece a number of ways
Directors are always looking for how well actors take direction, so be able to perform your piece many different ways, showing alternative emphasis or emotions. Workshop your audition with a friend and get them to ask you to perform it in a variety of ways. You never know what the director wants, so the more adaptable you can be, the better.
Dress in something comfortable and appropriate
Especially when auditioning for the screen, wear something that hints at the character. Don’t go in dressed in the full attire of your character, but, for example, if you are auditioning to play a businessman, wear a shirt, trousers and nice shoes; look the part.
Warm up before auditioning
Warming up is really important. It gets you physically and vocally prepared, but also gets you focused. Don’t get too caught up in chatting to other actors or stressing about the audition. Do a solid warm up, and go in there and do your best.
At the end of the day, do what works for you, but my advice is to do as much as possible, so that you can be open to direction and free to play in the room. If you go to an audition unprepared, it will be known and it will only reflect badly on you. This is your craft, so put in the work! I guarantee you will have more fun if you are well prepared.