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  • Writer's pictureJeff Thomakos

7 Things to Think About Concerning General Auditions

Auditioning is hard

With our general auditions coming up, I thought it might be a good idea to go over some audition etiquette for everyone so that they can put their best foot forward. We want you to knock it out of the park when we see you! I have personally seen hundreds of auditions over the years, both great and terrible, and here are some thoughts as you prepare your audition.

1. Your Mindset


Many actors feel quite nervous about auditioning. They feel that the directors are there to evaluate them from all-powerful seats of judgement and that one mistake will doom their audition and how the director sees them forever. Many secretly fear that the director is there only to judge their mistakes and mark them off for each misstep. Worse, they think that it’s a competition between them and every other actor who comes in the door and that the role will only go to the best actor in the room.


None of this is true. First, no one wants you to succeed more than the people auditioning you. They want you to be “The One”, the perfect person for the role they are casting. Because if you are that person, then that means that their work is done and they can sleep well knowing that they’ve found you. 90% of good directing is good casting and we want you to be the perfect and obvious choice for the role. Second, this is not the Olympics and we are not judges. Auditions are not a competition, they are an exhibition. Often, the role will not go to the best actor, but the actor that most fits the vision that the director has for the character, how that actor in the ensemble, whether they fit in the costumes, etc. All you can do is your best work. Focus on what you can control.


2. Show Up


This might be the biggest mistake I see actors make. Look, we know things happen. Your car dies, you’re sick, heck, you just don’t feel like auditioning anymore. Any excuse is a valid excuse, but if you do need to cancel, then PLEASE contact us to let us know. A quick phone call or email can go a long way. Signing up and then not showing up is rude not only to the auditors, but also to other actors who may have only been able to attend during the slot you signed up for. If all the slots are full, then that’s even worse as you can imagine because you may have robbed someone of attending the audition at all. CANCEL IF YOU CAN'T COME!!! People think directors don’t pay attention to this kind of thing. I promise you, they do.


3. While You Wait

You should arrive about 15 minutes before your audition. If you arrive earlier than that the theatre may not have enough space to accommodate you (We certainly don’t). If you arrive later than that, you may not have enough time get yourself in the right headspace for your audition. Do not be too loud in the waiting area. Someone else is acting their guts out in the next room. Do not be rude or mean to ANYONE. Everyone is on the same side. We all want you to do your best. Remember that.


4. Your Piece(s)

I am not in the camp of only picking pieces you can theoretically get cast in. I’ve seen all kinds of casting choices in really great productions that might not make sense on paper, but turned out to be brilliant in production. If you are a woman who really wants to do a Hamlet monologue, then I say, DO IT! As long as you make it your own, show a relationship of want and need, and make dynamic and interesting choices, there is no real limit on what monologue you do or how you do it (with some exceptions which I’ll talk about in a second). One of the best auditions I ever saw was a young actor doing the “Now is the winter of our discontent” speech from Richard III comically. I will never forget this audition and, of course, he was cast (He was auditioning for a Shakespearean comedy). We want to see you do a piece you really love. Trust me, it comes across in your audition.


That being said, try not to pick pieces which are overly vulgar or extremely dark. It can be distracting and pull focus away from the most important thing (YOU). Also, please don’t pick monologues from famous movies or tv shows. On-camera actors have the benefit of multiple takes, a huge budget, flattering film angles, and underscoring that you simply don’t have. Also, no matter how good you are, you don’t want your performance being compared to Meryl Streep’s, believe me.


Most importantly, BE PREPARED. Don’t try to memorize the night before. Have a friend or partner watch your audition and give feedback. Make strong, dynamic choices based on want and need (I know I sound like a broken record). Read the whole play if you can to get some context and enrich your performance. This is your opportunity to perform, seize the frickin’ day.


5. Your Outfit

For a general audition, wear clothes that show off your best and truest self. If you’re not a shirt and tie guy, wear a nice t-shirt without logos or writing. Try not to wear anything too revealing or tight. Wear clothes that you can move around in and feel comfortable in. Over the years, I’ve seen various wardrobe malfunctions of many degrees of embarrassment for both auditioner and auditor. For example, once I saw an actress fall to the floor in a death scene and have her skirt fly up over her hips in the process. Everyone was mortified. Don’t be that person. Rehearse your audition in the actual outfit you plan on wearing and make sure that all your bits will be covered throughout.


6. Your Audition Itself

Time your pieces. Make sure that you will be well under time. Frankly, you don’t need to use the full time. Scientifically, first impressions are made within 4 seconds of someone seeing you for the first time. A decision on whether to call you back can be made within 15 seconds of an audition. Everything past that is logistical decisions. You don’t need to fill the entire audition slot needlessly.


Also, do not use your auditors as scene partners. We are there to see you perform, not to take part in the performance. If you use us as scene partners we will feel obligated to give you our complete focus (Remember, we want you to succeed!), but in the process we will feel unable to take notes during your performance. As a result, when we look back at our notes after the auditions, we may have forgotten what you did or how you did it. This might result in missing out on a callback. Pick a focal point somewhere other than the auditors (above their heads or slightly to the right or left). Create an imaginary scene partner and go for it. Acting is using your imagination in 4D. We need to see that you can do that.


7. If You Mess Up, Don’t Panic!


If you go up on your lines during a monologue, don’t apologize or panic. Try to find a spot where you can pick things up or start again. We know you’re nervous. Most of us have stood exactly where you’re standing. Try to pick things up with grace and move forward. Like I said earlier, most of our decisions have already been made at the 15 second mark, so if you got that far, you still have a shot. Don’t give up. Plow through it and forgive yourself. It happens to everyone at one point or another.


I could go on and on with many more tips and tricks, but for now, I’ll leave it at that. We can’t wait to see you at Generals. You’re going to do great!

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