Why Every Actor Should Be an Audition Reader

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Photo Source: Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to serve as a reader for a casting director who was working on a film in New York. Though I recognized some faces in the room, I was introduced to many actors with significant TV and film experience and the session ended up offering a new perspective on auditions. As someone who auditions regularly, I found the whole thing to be extremely enlightening and useful for my acting and auditioning, and highly encourage all actors to work as audition readers when given the chance. Here are my main takeaways from the session.

1. Champion your peers.
The reader’s sole purpose is to make eye contact, provide a smile, be open, and help navigate your peer through the scene. Strive for a bond the moment the artist walks through the door. When chemistry strikes, it can be a powerful tool as you aid the actor in nailing an audition and hopefully results in a booking. In a business that can be cold and highly competitive, this pairing invites full support of your peer.

2. Stay fresh with cold reads.
It never hurts to ask for the full script in advance as a reader, but the request isn’t always granted. I was sent the sides ahead of time but when a director is unfamiliar with an actor, they may ask them to try a different scene to see if the actor can adapt, which means as the reader, you’ll be getting a new scene, too. So be adaptable and poised. If you understand the dramatic objective of the piece, you will be free and spontaneous in the room. Specific scenes are carefully chosen to highlight each character’s arc and as a reader, you support this journey.

READ: How to Audition

3. Network with the creative team.
Working on a personal level with the creative team is invaluable; your role as a reader provides an opportunity to get to know the people in the room. Between auditions, engage in small talk about your favorite podcasts or hobbies or travel plans. You never know when you will spark a new friendship or professional collaboration over shared interests. But read the room! This is not the time to sell yourself with links to your reel. Ask the casting director beforehand who will be in the room and if they have any tips for best practices.

4. Keep your cool no matter who walks in.
Most performers, no matter their level of success, must audition. I saw Tony winners and sitcom stars on the list that day. While fangirling for an artist at a stage door is natural, you must always remain calm with a laser-like focus on the work as a reader. And if your favorite actor does come in, relish the notion that you shared a scene for a brief moment with your greatest inspiration.

5. The art form is subjective.
Not everyone on the creative team is going to agree all the time. Some actors read for multiple roles, changing their shirt or combing their hair differently to shift gears into another character. Their flexibility in such a short time helped me gain immense respect for my peers. Beyond the level of industry-savvy and talent, external factors like looks, prior working relationship, and a finite amount of roles ultimately drive the team to a final decision. In the end, the notion that “it isn’t always about you” became crystal clear as a reader who witnessed the creative team piece together their brand new cast.

*This post was originally published on Aug. 15, 2018. It has since been updated.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Mara Jill Herman
Mara Jill Herman is an actor, writer, and teaching artist. In 2012, she co-authored “So You Wanna Be A Superstar? The Ultimate Audition Guide” (Running Press Kids). She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association and frequently performs with America’s Sweethearts, the all-female vintage trio.
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