Whether it be a cold-read or a callback, a workshop or an improvised commercial audition, it’s rare that you get much time to work with a scene partner before an audition. Usually you’ll hear your name called and to your response they say, “Great you’re paired with (insert a name you don’t know) and you guys will be next.”
“Finally,” you think, “I get the opportunity to show off all my work…but I’m going to do it with a total stranger.” Yikes! That’s a lot of pressure. So here are a few ways to go from concerned to connected!
Say hi. Wow, it sounds so obvious, but I can’t tell you how many auditions I have been to where a fellow actor is so focused on knowing their lines, that they don’t even acknowledge their scene partner until, they are speaking their lines in front of casting. How often have you performed in a play or film with someone you’ve never spoken to before? I bet the answer is never. So break the ice. Be the person who walks up with a warm smile and says hello! It is almost always appreciated.
Share. Treat your new scene partner as if you are meeting them at a friend’s party. It’s always best to feel comfortable with someone as a person before taking on another character. Learn something about them. Find something in common. Whether it be a neighborhood or a favorite band, you’re likely to find something in common. We often don’t trust strangers, but we love our friends. If you know something about each other, you are no longer strangers, you are on your way to friendship. We trust our friends, and trust is so very important to good scene work.
Ask. If the scene calls for an intimate moment like kissing or even just holding hands, (any action that enters your partner’s personal space), ask if he or she is comfortable with it. You don’t have to make it more serious than it is, but by asking permission you continue to build that important trust. By showing that you are respectful of your partner’s personal space, you are letting them know that they can trust you with it and more.
Listen. You’ve done a lot of preparation, now let it go and listen. When you read through the scene, don’t have a set plan. You already have chosen the direction you are going, but listen to your partner and react accordingly. The magic of a scene doesn’t come from the hours of preparation; the magic comes from that spark that occurs when two people connect.
This is true for whether you have a really prepared partner or a less than prepared partner. Listen and react to whatever is offered. The work you have done will allow you to make strong choices. Even a weaker partner will breathe new life into your choices.
We are very lucky to be in a business that allows us to meet so many people and offers the opportunity to build great relationships. All we have to do to flourish is be open, have fun, and say hi!
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