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Acting Audition for Drama School - 20 Essential Tips
Auditions - The Key to Success
I had my first acting audition at the tender age of ten years old, when I had to stand in front of the director, the producer and musical director and sing a song, followed by a piece of drama! Needless to say I was nervous, very nervous, but I got the part in the musical The King and I!
Since then I've been involved in drama at many levels - performing, directing and teaching - and have gained valuable insights into what works and what doesn't when it comes to standing up in front of a panel and impressing them.
The key to having a successful audition can be summed up in this high five:
- be prepared
- be your own person
- be positive
- be sure to showcase your talents
- be professional
Let's move on to the twenty tips that will make you a success.
1. Get Things In Order and Be Prepared!
I know, this is the boring bit! But stick with me and you'll come through. Common sense should tell you that if you want to impress the people you audition for you get to the audition hall in good time, with your resume(CV) complete and everything else you need with you.
The best way to be prepared is to make a list of the obvious some days or weeks before the actual audition. Write down and confirm -
- the location of the audition hall.
- the time of your audition.
- the audition itself - going for a special part?
- the paperwork you'll need including head shots.
- your transport, bus,train, taxi, plane?
Keep the list handy and double check a couple of days before you leave. If you're unsure of transport have a friend or loved one help you - artistic types can be daydreamy, don't forget about the basics!! Get there on time!!!
Preliminary auditions are often no more than 15 minutes long on average. Here are some examples from various schools and academies:
New School for Drama, New York
2 minute 2 person contemporary scene
1 minute classical
1 song of your choice.
The Guildhall, London
2 minutes verse by Shakespeare or Jacobean playwright.
2 minutes scene from modern play post 1956.
2 minutes contrasting piece or song.
2. What Sort Of Material Will You Audition With?
Most acting and drama auditions (for colleges, universities and academies) consist of 3 pieces -
a classical monologue, a modern monologue and another contrasting piece of your choice or a song.
Different institutions have different criteria: double check online or via email or phone. The blue box next door has some examples for you.
Usually there is a maximum time limit of 2 minutes for each piece so you'll have to pack in as much quality as you can.
- Remember, the auditors will have established an opinion about you within the first minute or so! Impact positively and keep the momentum going!!
The following website has a useful list of monologues for both men and women:
3. Be Clear About Your Audition Pieces
Monologue or dialogue? Popular or obscure song? Classical, Jacobean or modern? You'll find more information in the blue box opposite.
Most drama schools and other colleges, universities and academies have all audition requirements on their websites. If you're keen to study acting, singing or dance at higher levels then you should know what is expected from you for your initial audition.
Any doubts need to be cleared out the way as soon as possible. Contact the right people to find out!
Want To Be An Actor?
Many young people want to act but know little about how to start on a career path. This hub will give you lots of tips and advice on acting:
A List Of Universities and Academies Offering Drama and Performing Arts
The Actors Studio Pace University
American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco
Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh
Florida State Uni, Sarasota
Juillard, New York
Northwestern Uni,Evanston, Illinois
Guildhall School of Music and Drama,London
Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts
Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
University of West London
You can access more information on this website:
4. Practice, Practice and More Practice!
Practice makes perfect they say. And they're right. Going for a drama school audition? Musical part? Dance academy placement? Great. No matter which discipline you're involved in get some practice time under your belt! Practice in front of others - your friends, colleagues, family. Try to take it seriously and put yourself through a mock audition.
Knowing your stuff instils self-confidence. Lots of successful students say they found practice sessions invaluable. They learnt for themselves what worked and what didn't, so use the material you've chosen for rehearsals and when you're certain you've 'got it' relax and keep it alive inside.
Learning scripts and routines and acting lines is hard work but great fun. You may find this hub helpful:
5. Think Positive
Be positive! When you step out in front of the panel try and make them believe you're the only thing that matters at that time. Smile and if you think it appropriate a brief shake of the hand won't put them off. A professional attitude shows that you mean business and this will grab their attention. Be your natural self, but don't put on an act of forced friendliness.
When you start with your piece don't stare into the eyes of anyone on the panel, keep your focus out there, impersonal yet charged with energy.
Remember, the panel of 'judges' are looking to accept you so show them what you have, be dignified and let your talent do the talking.
Some agencies will give you a callback straightaway - they'll give you what's known as a side, a script, telling you what to do next.
If you don't get a side or a callback then they probably have gone for someone else during auditions. Don't worry. It doesn't mean you're no good! It just means you weren't quite what they were looking for or your material didn't suit their criteria.
Forget about it and move on to the next audition.
6. Be Original If You Want A Call Back!
If your audition is an open affair then you needn't worry about any specific material. But if you know the part you're going for you should do some research into the role and learn as much as you can about the character. Gather information, read books, watch videos then learn the dialogue/monologue you've lined up and throw yourself into that role.
Some schools and academies will give you a broad idea of what they want from you. Casting companies may give you exact information and criteria for the audition.
Look for original ways to express yourself as that character. Own the role and put your unique abilities into the audition.
The Singer And The Song
Remember to choose an original song, one that helps show off the sweeter side of your voice. Try to avoid popular melodies that everyone knows - from the bigger musicals such as Wicked, Les Miserables, Cats, Grease, Oz, Mamma Mia and so on - select a song that will open the eyes of the panel and really make them listen.
You can find audition songs here:
7. Play To Your Strengths
Your strongest material should be out there first, so begin with the piece you know you excel at. Give the panel every opportunity to accept you by impressing them from the outset. Don't let anything or anyone distract you from your goal. Connect with your material, don't hold back and put your emotional energy into every second.
Be careful not to overdo it. The casting director and other panel members will immediately know if your performance is forced so relax, think good things and give it your all.
8. Inspire Yourself To Overcome Nerves
It's natural to feel nervous before an audition. You'd be a machine if you didn't have the adrenalin pumping through your veins, putting you on edge. But you can use that energy and make it work for you and not against you. How?
Well, everyone has their own way of handling nervousness but I find that a definite process helps no end. You might even call it a ritual.
Go through some very mild exercises - gentle warm ups such as arm and shoulder stretches and hip movements. Follow this with some deep, controlled breathing which will calm you down and clear the path for the moment of truth. That initial positive stepping out.
Establish the habits of inspiration and stick with what works for you. If it's herbal tea and soft music then fine, if it's finding a quiet corner and pumping yourself up with a loud mantra great...... anything that inspires you to do good and great things.
9. Think Costume
If you're auditioning for a role in a Shakespeare play do you turn up in full Elizabethan costume? Feathered felt hat, linen shirt, fancy pants, leather boots and codpiece? The answer is no, you don't. You wear sensible loose clothing, smart yet casual. You could put on a linen shirt but keep the rest sensible.
White and bright clothes tend to overshadow things so keep to mild blues, pastels or darker subtle shades.
Only if the casting company specifically requests you to turn up in costume do you turn up in costume! Otherwise, keep it professional, natural and within reasonable taste.
10. Carry On If You Forget Your Lines!
This is most important. Don't think you're alone in this! Every actor and performer who has ever rehearsed and performed live has at some stage forgotten what comes next. It's called 'going up' on the text in some circles. The trick is to carry on regardless and not let an absence trouble you or the panel watching you.
Should you forget your next line or lyric try and smooth over the situation. Continue with the piece and see it through to the end. On rare occasions if you make a mistake they may ask you to re-start but don't rely on them. Use your initiative.The auditors will understand. They may be a little annoyed (at the loss of time) but they'll forgive and forget if you soldier on and make a good job of it.
If you know that you've blown it, learn from your mistakes and get ready for your next audition.
You may be asked to do a cold reading at your audition. This is where you're given a script or book you've never seen before and asked to read out loud from it! Don't worry, it's not that scary. Not if you practice beforehand by picking up any book or script at random and reading it out loud to others.
Make this 'cold reading rehearsal' part of your practice routine. Use both modern and classical texts.
11. Be Positive If Given A Cold Read
You may at some stage in your audition be handed a script and told to read a certain part. In most cases the panel will give you time to form an opinion about the character you'll be playing but it depends on the individuals. No matter what, treat this cold reading as a friend, not an enemy.
Reading from scratch is an opportunity for you to bring out fresh dialogue, unexpected gestures and variations on a theme of 'this is all new but I'm gonna have a whale of a time getting to know you!!'
12. Push Yourself And Get On The Panel's Short List
An audition gives you the chance to show off your talents and to effectively sell yourself. Remember, you may be the one person the panel are looking for so be sure to give them good reasons to short list you. This is your moment.
Push yourself even if you feel afraid or have an illness or nerves. Go through the barriers. Don't let a cold or minor bug deter you. Carry on through your material and don't give the panel any sob story! They've probably heard and seen it all before. What they want to experience is you and your relevant talent, nothing else.
13. Don't Let Others Distract You
You may have to spend some time in the waiting area, in a room where other would be talents are nervously going through their routines! A word of warning. Don't let others get in the way of your warm up schedule. Find a quiet corner, work through your rituals, habits, exercises and stay focused on your material.
If the company is running late try and remain calm. Stay relaxed and friendly but keep your emotional energies under wraps.
Sometimes there are hold ups. Use your time positively. Gather as much information as you can from experienced auditionists if you're a newcomer to the game!
14. Speak Clearly
Your goal is to convince the panel that you are the one for the role. The panel will be looking and listening for certain qualities and one of the most important is your speaking voice. If you've been practicing in front of friends and colleagues you will have worked out just what to do with your delivery. You may want to speak in your natural voice, with your usual accent at your usual volume. That's fine as long as your voice is clear and the words are easily understandable.
But, if you're confident enough to alter your accent then do it! For example, if you're from the USA and you're playing a Shakespearean role you may decide to speak in a British accent! It's a risk but it may work for you.
If you're not 100% sure you can pull it off stick to your own voice! Whatever you decide, enunciation is really important.
15. Keep The Faith If You Are Interrupted Or Stopped
Be aware that you may be stopped at any time during your audition! If one of the panel has a reason to cut you off in mid sentence or song then be assured that reason is a good one and can be used positively. Even if you think you were stopped because you got things wrong!
If this does happen you may be asked to start again - which is a good thing. Start over and do the same as you did before.
If you hear a collective 'thank you and goodbye' you can be almost certain that you were not high on their priority list!!
Don't let this get you down! Think about their decision, your material and the way you were performing it. Learn from this experience, feedback with friends and colleagues and take some positives into your next audition!
16. What To Do If You Are Last In The Queue
OK. So you've turned up on time, gone through all your pre-audition warm up and are ready to step out in front of those directors, casting gurus, production managers, talent spotters and anyone else on the panel.
You're the only one in the waiting room. It's 6pm. The panel have been there all day and have seen 49 would be actors, singers, dancers, performers. They're dog tired, baggy eyed and looking forward to packing up and heading home.
What's your approach to this inevitable scenario?
Are you going to say to yourself - What's the point in giving it my all? These guys won't be able to take it in, they're exhausted and suffering from audition fatigue!
No! Just the opposite. The panel will be delighted to learn that you are the final one of the day!! Go out there bristling with confidence and professionalism. Give them something to think about! They'll thank you for it.
17. Learn To Create A Scene Partner
In some scenes you may need to bounce off a partner, in which case you'll have to make up an invisible actor. Say you've chosen a monologue. You're in a room with one other person and parts of your speech are aimed at this second 'person'.
Practice gestures and pauses and different emotions but play them as if this created double has caused them.
18. Keep Your Distance
When out there performing you need to make sure you're not in the faces of those observing you! Stay a good 3 m (10feet) away from the auditors, that way they get to see and hear you at a sensible distance. Do not encroach on their viewing space as they'll want to see the whole you and won't take lightly to someone shouting in their ear at close up range!
19. Move With Freedom
Be sure to move freely during your audition, use gestures and actions to enhance your performance and help keep the nerves at bay! Don't let the panel see any signs of anxiety - unless it's a part of your routine!
Warm up before you go out so your muscles are ready for action, your voice fluent and strong and your senses fully focused.
You can find some simple yet useful warm up ideas here:
20. Respect The Writer
Your chosen material is the vehicle for your talent and hard work. If you're acting out a monologue, say a classical piece, show the panel you know just where to pause, sigh and gesture.
Same with a song. Respect the fact that it's an artist's creation and needs appropriate interpretation.
For you to succeed in your audition put your heart and soul into the performance and make sure you have sincere respect for the writer of the material you've chosen to perform.
Acting and Auditioning
With hard work and a little bit of blooming luck you'll be successful when it comes to your acting auditions. The trick is to learn from each one you're involved in. Learn from yourself, learn from others. What works, what doesn't.
In time, if you're prepared and have the drive and energy, you will nail that part, you will land the dream role. Be patient, don't get too down hearted if you don't get a comeback call. Persist. Have presence when you're out there in front of the panel.
As you progress you'll become more professional, less nervous and more tuned in. Keep at it, somewhere along the line you'll surprise yourself.
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© 2013 Andrew Spacey