AUDITIONING IS A SKILL. As you enter the professional world, it becomes part of your job.

Maybe you are new to the theatre scene and don’t know where to begin, or maybe you’re thinking about college auditions and they seem overwhelming. Though auditions can be nerve-wracking, the good news is that all actors can learn etiquette and preparation techniques that set them up for success.

BEFORE THE AUDITION

When auditioning, it’s important to understand that your work starts before you enter the audition room.

Do your homework
Research the company and find out for whom you’ll be auditioning. See what other shows they’ve directed or cast. You might discover you have something in common, such as previous work at the same theatre or the fact they went to the same college as your parents. Talking points like these can help them remember you following the audition.

Don’t forget to research the show. If possible, read the play or listen to a musical recording. Make sure you know the plot, characters, and, if it’s a musical, the score.

Prepare audition pieces
Read the audition notice carefully to ensure you prepare the correct material. Do you need to perform a monologue, specific production sides, or a song? You want to show the best version of yourself, so don’t throw something together the night before. You won’t feel confident if you scramble.

Audition songs and monologues should be age-appropriate, generally within a few years of your age. Unless specified in the casting notice, it’s best to avoid songs or monologues from the show for which you’re auditioning, though you can choose material in a similar style. You want to let directors decide the roles they see you playing in the production. Instead, choose material you love to perform and that you’ve spent time rehearsing. Avoid material with excessive cursing.

A Thespian gives it his all during his college audition at the 2018 International Thespian Festival.
A Thespian gives it his all during his college audition at the 2018 International Thespian Festival. Photo by Corey Rourke.

AUDITION DAY

Once the day of your audition arrives, follow these tips to make a good impression.

Arrive early
Remember: Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable. Arriving early shows you care. It also allows you time to find the location, relax, and collect yourself before you perform. Unless you face a true emergency, never cancel at the last minute or fail to show up without any notification. Directors remember actors who skip auditions.

Act like you’re always auditioning
Your audition begins the minute you arrive. You never know who is around. Maybe the stage manager is holding the door for you, or maybe you run into the choreographer in the hall. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings.

At the same time, be respectful of personal space, especially during dance calls. Make sure you’re not bumping into other dancers. Choreographers will want to see if you are in control physically. Finally, minimize your noise in holding rooms.

Be courteous
Throughout the entire audition process, you should be kind to everyone you meet. Don’t gossip about other auditionees, even if you hear others gossiping. Don’t speak poorly of other theatre companies or actors. The theatre community is very small, and news spreads fast. There’s a good chance the director will ask the holding room monitor or stage manager to report back if anyone was rude or unprofessional.

Dress your best
Dressing for an audition doesn’t mean you have to wear a dress and character shoes or black pants, a button-down shirt, and tie. It does mean you should look as though you’ve put some effort into your appearance for the day.

Choose something that makes you feel confident. A nice pair of jeans or khakis with a collared shirt or a dress or jumpsuit that’s comfortable are great options. Let your personality shine without wearing your favorite jeans with holes in the knees or your sneakers that really should be replaced.

You don’t need to dress like the character you want to play, but you can dress in the style of the show. For example, if you’re auditioning for Oklahoma!, you might wear jeans or a flannel shirt. You should not come in full costume.

Remember: Directors want to get to know you during your audition.
Remember: Directors want to get to know you during your audition. Photo from the 2019 International Thespian Festival by Susan Doremus.

Bring headshots and résumés
If you’re starting out, you don’t need to have a professional headshot, just a photo that looks like you against a neutral background. Avoid selfies or images where you’ve cropped out others. For college auditions, investing in professional headshots the summer before your senior year is a good idea.

Bring an artistic résumé for theatre, even if you just have a few shows on it. Your résumé should include a telephone number and a professional email address that’s easy to read and doesn’t feature a long string of numbers: yourname@email.com.

Carry extra copies of your headshot and résumé with you even if you provided them in advance or have submitted them to the same director or casting director before. Never assume your materials have been shared with the team in the room.

Greet your accompanist
If you’re singing, you will have time to speak with your accompanist just before your audition begins. Walk to the piano first, show the accompanist the cut you’ll be performing, quietly sing a few measures of your song in the tempo you’ve set, and thank them. Then, walk center stage and slate your piece.

Nail your slate
Slating gives you the chance to introduce yourself. It is a good idea to rehearse your slate with your audition piece. In general, you’ll want to slowly and clearly state your name, the piece or pieces you’ll be performing, and the shows they’re from. You should also know the playwright and composers in case you’re asked, but you don’t have to slate that information.

A very basic slate might sound like, “Hi. My name is Laura Enstall. I’ll be singing ‘Home’ from Beauty and the Beast.” Say your name loud and proud. And take your time. This is when directors get to see who you are, so smile and be friendly.

Be you
While it may sound cheesy, directors (and colleges) want to get to know you, not the person you think they want you to be. They want you to shine in your audition pieces, and that can’t happen if you’re trying to sing your song exactly how the performer on the cast recording sings it. The same rule applies if you are in a callback with other performers: Don’t try to perform the same side or song cut the same way the person before you performed it. Don’t be afraid to make a bold choice. Directors want to see what you bring to the character.

After the audition, offer a simple “thank you.” This is the time a director may ask you questions about conflicts or a previous role you’ve played. But if there aren’t any questions, it doesn’t mean you didn’t get the part. Before you exit, don’t forget to collect your music from the accompanist.

Auditioning is a learning process. It’s also a performance opportunity, so have fun. You won’t get cast every time, and that’s OK. You will always learn something. Grow to love auditions. Refine your skills, build your repertoire, and you’ll be surprised how much you grow as a performer.

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