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How to Audition from the Director's Point of View - Preparing

Updated on December 13, 2016

How many articles on auditioning can offer you advice from both sides of the stage?

This one can.

For most of my theatrical life, I've suffered the tribulations of an actor. However, the past few years have led me into playwriting and directing, which poses unique challenges. In fact, right now, I'm hip-deep in the auditioning process for my new play Helltown Buffet, as both playwright and director.

Though this hub offers perspectives from both sides of the audition table, it concentrates on usually-rare advice from the director side rather than from the more common actor side.

Read the audition notice carefully.

Nothing annoys me more than having actors ask questions that are clearly answered in the audition notice. My notices typically contain everything you need to know: play title, the roles, the date and time, and the location. It tells me that they're careless and who wants careless actors in the play.

But if any of that information is missing from the notice, I'm grateful if an actor lets me know ASAP, so I can change the notice. I also don't mind answering questions that aren't in the notice such as parking and salary (see below).

Make sure you meet the requirements for the part.

Don't audition for a young, white, female role with a Southern accent if you're a tall Asian male who can only do a British accent: you're not going to get it no matter how good an actor you are. If a part says non-union, don't audition for it if you're a member of Actor's Equity. (Although it's okay, if you're a member of other unions such as SAG or AFTRA.)

One foolish actor auditioned for me under a different name, even though I told him over the phone that he couldn't because he was union and the role wasn't. He gave a great audition so I cast him. About a week into rehearsals, I discovered his deception while doing casual research on the Internet. I chewed him out for wasting both our times for a week and for preventing me from hiring a qualified non-union actor. Then I fired him. He'll never work for me again.

Clarify the salary structure beforehand, if that's important to you.

Theater is very much a labor of love, so salary is rarely posted on notices and requires some detective work to ferret out. As a general rule, non-union theater, community theater, or venues under 100 seats will pay you nothing or next to nothing. Even larger, professional, union theaters won't pay you enough to survive. (All the professional stage actors I know have second jobs.)

You can always ask about the salary. That's usually information I'll give individually mostly because I don't want to go through the disappointment of finding the right actor only to discover that the salary is too low for him to do the play.

Research the theater, the play, and the director on the Internet.

Most theaters, playwrights, and directors have a webpage or two that can be Googled. (In my case, you can easily look up Rude Guerrilla Theater, Helltown Buffet, or Aurelio Locsin.) Reading these websites can offer you such insight as styles of plays done at the theater, what plays the author has written, and the experience of the directors. Actors who do this homework always impress me because it shows they go the extra mile for their roles.

Be sure to also look for reviews related to previous productions of the play, at the theater, or by the director. This will round out your knowledge of the play and its characters, which can only help your audition.

Read the script.

The only way you're going to know about the play or your character is to read the script. That ensures that you play your character with the correct motives and with the correct style. It's fairly obvious to me during auditions if you haven't read the script:

  • Your style of acting may have nothing to do with the play, such as playing a drama when the play's a comedy.
  • Or your motive for a character in a scene is wrong, such as when you treat a heavy life-or-death moment as a light romance.

Scripts are usually available in your public library, university library, or at your local bookstores. Unproduced scripts can frequently be emailed to you by the playwright or the theater (and this will be clearly stated in the audition notice.) Finally, many classic plays, such as those by Shakespeare, can be downloaded for free from the Internet.

Prepare properly.

If the notice asks for a monologue:

  • Prepare one that's appropriate to the play: such as a comedic monologue for a comedy, or a Shakespeare monologue for a Shakespeare play.
  • Unless otherwise stated, use a one-minute monologue that is NOT from the same play that's being auditioned. I may have an idea of how a monologue from the play should be played, and if your version of the monologue doesn't match my idea, you may not get the part.

I typically use cold readings from the scriptin my auditions: you'll be reading from a piece of the play:

  • Don't memorize pieces, unless you're prepared to do the entire play. Otherwise, you'll waste time memorizing sections that I may not even use for the audition.
  • But be prepared to do any part of the script by reading the entire script.

Bring the right tools.

You must bring two important marketing tools to the audition:

  • Headshotto remind me of what you look like, especially when dozens of characters compete for the same role. If you can't afford a headshot, take a digital picture of yourself, convert it to black and white, and print this picture at the front of your resume.
  • Resume to tell me about your acting background. While I normally rely on your audition itself to judge your abilities, your resume clues me into whether you're leading man/woman material, your dependability, and whether you've worked with other directors whom I can ask about you.

Make sure that both these tools are accurate.

  • Your headshot needs to approximate your current look. This is primarily a problem with female actors whose headshots look younger, thinner, and sexier than they really are, and whose hairstyles and colors are different.
  • Your resume needs to show the parts, plays, theaters, and directors you've worked with. Don't exaggerate. I can tell if you boast about a featured role in "The Dark Night" when all you did was background extra #42 in a ten-second scene. And don't claim to have worked with a director or teacher. I can easily confirm that with the person, especially if he or she is already a friend of mine (which is very likely in the small world of theater.)

Dress the actor, not the part.

Wear something neat, clean, and comfortable. This is not a modeling audition. You want me to remember your acting abilities and not how loud and gaudy your shirt is. It's fine if you want to wear something that suggests the part: if the role is that of a muscular gym hunk, wear something that shows off your body; if it's that of a wealth matron, wear something dressier (but no heels).

If you can't decide, wear the standard audition uniform: black top, black pants or mid-length skirt, and black sensible shoes.

Check out traffic conditions and the parking situation before you head for the audition.

It won't help you to arrive five minutes before the audition, if it takes you 15 minutes to find parking. (I may even lock the theater doors after a certain time.) There's just no excuse for arriving late, given all the Internet resources that can help you:

  • Before leaving for the audition, check out an up-to-date traffic report. (Most cities will have them on the Internet.) For Los Angeles, the report is on http://www.sigalert.com/.
  • You can also check the theater location and its surroundings in photographic 3D using Google Maps or Local Live: a downtown, storefront theater may only offer parking through meters or through expensive parking structures, while a large, surburban theater might have loads of free parking.

Be sure and check out the next part of this article How to Audition from the Director's Point of View - At The Theater.


© Copyright 2011 by Aurelio Locsin.

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