Auditions: Part One (Pre-Audition)

Posted by A Quiet Man with a Loud Voice | Labels: , , , | Posted On Monday, August 17, 2009 at 3:32 PM

I hate auditions.

I'm not one of those people that gets nervous before auditions, I just hate them.

I don't know if words can fully express the amount of loathing I have for auditions, but I'm going to attempt to explain as best as I can.

For non-theatre readers -- there are three kinds of auditions: cattle calls, monologues, and cold reads.

1. Cattle calls are horrible for your self-esteem. Just the name itself will give you an idea of how awful these types of auditions are. They are generally used for major productions (we're talking theaters with a million-plus dollar budget) and for film/television. What happens is this: You and about ten other people walk into a room and line up. The director/casting director/whoever looks you over and decides if you're good looking enough to be in their Beverly Hills 90210 ripoff and sends 99% of the people home.

2. Most theatre productions in the big cities rely on monologues. Monologues are the bane of actors everywhere. A good deal of your free time is spent reading hundreds of plays in search of that elusive monologue. A good monologue is something close to your type, close to the play you're auditioning for, and not over-done. Since most auditions require two contrasting monologues, you've got to hunt down TWO of them. A comedy and a drama. Good luck finding a funny comedy monologue that isn't a stand up routine. God forbid you do a monologue some other guy did not more than ten minutes ago. I've never seen a director more annoyed as when seven people did Puck's "If we shadows have offended..." speech for a production of Midsummer Night's Dream.

Protip: Never, never, NEVER, use a monologue from the show that you are are auditioning for. If you're auditioning for Hamlet don't use a speech from Hamlet. If you're auditioning for Boy's Life, don't use a speech from Boy's Life. Actually, don't ever use a speech from either of those plays they are both horribly overdone.

The reason most theaters require monologues as auditions is because they regularly get over 100 potential actors and have to weed that down to about twenty for the callbacks. It's a matter of time. If you fuck up ONE of your two monologues, you won't be asked back for callbacks. If you fuck up both, there's a good chance that theater will never ask you to audition for anything again.

3. Cold reads are my favorite type of auditions. You're given the script and put onstage to read directly from it. You'll either read with the assistant director or you'll read with fellow acting wannabe. Cold reads are most often used as part of the callback process. The director has more time during the callbacks to ask you to read the part a variety of ways, to see how well you adapt to his instructions and how versatile of an actor you are.

The major problem with callbacks is who you end up paired to.

I'm of the belief that acting is all about reacting. If you're paired with someone who is completely flat and unemotional - you don't have anything to play off of, and thus suck. If you're paired with an idiot that doesn't understand the play - you are given crap to play off of, and thus suck. But if you get paired with someone talented -- your audition is going to be all the better for it.

The good part about callbacks and theaters with enough time to audition with cold reads is that you are often given multiple chances to read different roles with different partners. But it all depends on who your partner is. It helps your own chances tremendously if you've acquired a copy of the script beforehand. That way cold reads aren't quite... as cold. If you can, ALWAYS read the play beforehand. That way you're not stumbling over lines.

If you're like me and OCD about plays - here is how you prepare for cold reads:

First you read the play from cover to cover so you know what its about. If the play is based on an old play, you read that play too. For Every Man, Woman, and Child is based on a medieval morality play entitled Everyman, so I read both of them. I had read Everyman several times in college, but it didn't hurt to brush up.

After reading the play, you read it again -- looking at the characters that most interest you. You read it at least once-per-character. After you've read it the second (or third or fourth) time, you start doing research. You read reviews of past productions to see how other actors tackled the roles. You read scholarly works on the play. You read alternative versions of the play. You read playwright's notes. You read whatever you can get your hands on.

And then, if the play you're auditioning for had an older play it was based on, you read all the crap on THAT play you can get your hands on. And then you badger your former professors (especially if one of them is the director) with the most inane questions you can think of. Because annoying the director before the show is always a good idea.

Thankfully, Dr. Nadon and Dr. Robinson were both good sports about my incessant babbling.

Then you read the play again.

And then you audition.

Not everyone is as obsessive as I am, and that's fine. Most people just read the play and do research after they are cast -- but I like to be obnoxiously prepared. You should read the play at least once, if you can. If it's a new work, you're just S.O.L..

I'm slightly worried about the auditions -- not because I think I'll suck or anything (although that's a very real possibility) -- but because the show requires a cast of 16-20 people, half of which are deaf. The show is supposed to be done half in sign language and half in verbal speech.

I'm hearing impaired. And as far as I know, I'm the only 'hearing-impaired' actor in the Youngstown-Warren area. If there are others, I haven't met them. I don't even know more than three people who can sign fluently, and I only know one deaf person. My worry stems from the fact that I do not know if there will actually be enough deaf actors in the show. And if there are, I have no idea how experienced they will be.

I've never considered myself a part of the 'deaf' community, though I have a 64% loss in both ears. I forget how many decibels of loss it is, but a loss greater than 90 decibels is considered 'deaf', and I believe I'm fairly close to that mark. I'll look up my loss later in the process to satisfy my own curiosity.

Anyways, auditions for For Every Man, Woman, and Child are tonight and tomorrow. I'll be attending both auditions even though actors are really only expected to attend one. Depending on how it goes I'll either post an entry tonight with details on how it went or I'll combine both auditions into a single post and put up an entry tomorrow night.

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