It’s no secret that many actors would love to heal their relationship with cold readings. While this may seem like an impossible dream, the truth is that you can save your relationship by using the tools of your craft. With cold readings, your most important purpose is how not to get buried in the page and just read the lines. In digesting the material and making choices, time is of the essence.
How do you create a world around you and live moment to moment when you only have 10–15 minutes to peruse the scene? How do you make the best use of this time and avoid wearing your sides as a mask? Here are four steps you can take to improve your process, approach to, and relationship with cold readings.
1. Read everything on the page.
Yes, I mean everything. From the crossed out stuff at the top of your sides to the crossed out stuff at the end of your sides to the descriptions of whether it’s interior, exterior, daytime, or nighttime. Many times, the crossed out items can provide essential clues about the circumstances, what came before, and character relationships. As you read everything on the page, you should also be asking yourself all of the “W” questions (Who am I? What are the circumstances? Where am I? When is this taking place? Who am I talking to?) Answering these questions to the best of your ability will allow you to move to the next step.
2. Create a structure.
After answering your “W” questions, you can now step into your sensory imagination and create the character’s environment by imagining the place, relationship of who you are talking to, where they should be placed, etc. These are steps many actors abandon because they opt to waste precious minutes fixating on the lines. There is no doubt you’ll need to go down to the page and look at your lines in a cold reading, but if you have created your imaginary environment and have a sense for who you are talking to, your playing field expands beyond the page and you can connect more to your creativity as you come up and down off the paper. Also, your psychic energy is not putting as much emphasis on the lines on the page but is instead creating a give and take between your imaginary world and the words of the character.
3. Find your way to a sensation.
You will only be able to move and explore freely if you’re at ease and connected to your body. This holds true even if the scene has great urgency. What does it mean to find your way to a sensation? Different schools of thought may call it different things: the bottom of the character, the character’s need, the want, the objective. Whatever you choose to call it using whatever technique you use, connecting to the sensation of that need, objective, or want in your body is what allows you to find your freedom. How do you figure out the objective? The clue for it always lies somewhere at the end of the scene.
4. Treat it like a rehearsal.
There is nothing that jams our creativity more than feeling the need to be perfect, right, or make it all about pleasing the casting director. As with all auditions, the healthiest approach is to be open and willing to stay in the process of learning and discovery. Treating it like rehearsal frees up valuable energy to take risks, breathe in and out, maintain a connection to your artist, and enjoy being in the process of creating life as an actor.
*This post was originally published on April 23, 2018. It has since been updated.
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