So much acting advice is centred around finding agent representation and forming relationships with casting directors. But what about when you’re actually in the audition room?
Agents and casting directors aren’t the ones who decide whether you get the job or not. That power lies with the creative team and, more specifically, the director.
The director is looking for the best actors for their project. And that doesn’t just mean the most talented performers. They need to put together a cast of actors who can work well and create together. And you need to show that you can be one of those people.
We asked six theatre directors working in UK theatre to share their top tips for actors when they’re in the audition room.
“If an actor arrives unprepared, it gives off the impression that they aren’t particularly interested in the work or in the panel they are meeting,” says freelance director and Theatre6 founder Kate McGregor. “It also suggests a lack of respect for the process.”
Preparation also allows you to come in with opinions and ideas about the project.
“The chat at the beginning is as important as the reading,” emphasises Charlie Westenra, a director specialising in new writing. “We want to hear how you related to the play or a character, or what made you laugh... Knowing that we’d have someone in the rehearsal room who’s connected to the story is important.”
Make a bold choice
Auditions by nature can feel intimidating, but they are the time to be ambitious. As fringe director and writer Josh Hinds advises, “Whether it’s a song or a scene, it’s good to push yourself as it lets us see your abilities and you may even surprise yourself.”
You can increase your confidence in your choices by asking questions.
“I always ask actors: ‘Do you have any questions?’” McGregor explains. “By asking a couple of specific questions... you can start to give yourself a steer as to what they might be interested in seeing from you.”
Ultimately, you have to trust your instincts. As Westenra states: “As long as you can justify the choice, and know it’s rooted in truth, be bold.”
Be open to the room
Theatre is about collaboration, and this extends to the audition room.
“I am a big fan of the ‘yes, lets!’ approach to rehearsal.” says Matthew Xia, artistic director of The Actors Touring Company. “This means we just try it, whatever it may be... when there is a rather blunt ‘no’ it indicates a lack of trust.”
For Andy Barry, a director currently working with The Elders Company at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, openness starts with listening. “I’ve been in some auditions where people clearly aren’t listening – to the questions, the answers, the words of the script...as listening is such a crucial part of good acting, I worry if people don’t appear to have a natural ability to listen.”
It’s also important to remember that the panel isn’t trying to trick you. “We are willing you to be right for the job,” says Emma Gersch, co-founder and artistic director of Moving Stories. “Tell yourself before you walk into the room that we are on your side.”
Bringing a positive attitude into the room is key. And this extends to your interactions with other auditionees. Hinds explains: “Even if you are up for the same role, it is good practice to be as friendly and supportive as possible. It’s not just about working with people in the future. It’s also about ensuring that everyone feels comfortable whilst they are auditioning.”
For Xia, having a positive relationship with your acting craft also comes across in the room: “This is about developing a healthy relationship with performance... I see people who make performing their sole purpose for existing, and when this isn’t happening at the frequency they would like it can become very demoralising and dispiriting. I think it can reveal itself in auditions as desperation, which is never the best place to be operating from, psychologically.”
Be yourself and have fun
Auditions are a two-way street – the panel also wants to meet you.
“I like to get a sense of the individual,” explains Barry. “Do I want to spend four or five weeks in a room with you? How will you connect to the rest of the team? What will you bring? There are no ‘right’ answers to any of these questions, it’s just about being yourself and conveying authenticity.”
“Don’t try and be the version of yourself that you ‘think’ the panel want to see,” adds Gersch. “Just be you. Authenticity is key. Be ready to talk truthfully about your experiences, opinions and ideas.”
It also helps to try and enjoy your audition.
“Take the pressure off yourself,” encourages Westenra. “Rather than thinking: “I have to get this job” or second-guessing what the panel are looking for, see it as an opportunity to perform, to meet and introduce yourself to new people or to read a new play.”
As a performer, it’s easy to go into auditions thinking you need to impress. But everyone in the room wants the same thing you do: to make great theatre with creative, talented, wonderful people. Directors want to work with actors who are curious, open and playful. So, take a deep breath, bring in some ideas, and be ready to
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