Few things strike fear into the hearts of actors the way cold readings do. A cold reading is one in which you have little, if any, time to read the script beforehand. This means you are making all your choices on the fly. It is a great exercise for learning how to immediately trust and act on your instincts. Still, it can be nerve-racking for the perfectionist who wants time to explore the nuances of the text and character and for the actor who does not read well or who deals with a learning disability.
If you have, say, dyslexia, you have no reason to be ashamed or to question your ability to excel in this field. One look at the long list of performers who are similarly afflicted should put your mind to rest: Tom Cruise, Keira Knightley, Danny Glover, and Billy Bob Thornton are just a few of the entertainment luminaries who reportedly share that boat with you. People with dyslexia and other such issues must work a little harder and ask for scripts beforehand. Should you be called upon to read something cold, explain your difficulty to the casting director, who most certainly will be understanding. Indeed, he or she must, thanks to anti-discrimination laws.
If you merely dislike cold readings, however, you have no excuses. Cold reading workshops should be a priority in your training, because these skills are so often necessary. If you can't afford a workshop, strengthen your skills by getting together with your friends to read scripts aloud. Learning to make choices by listening to your fellow actors is an asset you can use to create gold. An actor who has had much time beforehand may prepare a well-crafted stance on the scene, but how will he or she react when paired with another performer? Many casting directors appreciate cold readings because they know actors need to think on their feet on stage and screen.
Therefore, refrain from griping if the sides at an audition are suddenly changed. Nobody wants to hear about how hard you worked on what you were given in advance. Film and television scripts are updated on set frequently, and you need to prove you can go with the flow. Look at cold readings as challenges, and prepare yourself to rise to meet them.
Jaime Andrews can be reached at email@example.com.