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Auditions: How to lose the part

Six ways actors blow auditions in community theatre

If you’ve ever auditioned for a play before (and even if you haven’t), you probably know there are never any guarantees.  The casting mix, ages, look, feel, fit, etc., all come into play, and you don’t have any control over how the director perceives these things.  But there are ways to almost assure you won’t get a part.  Here are six of them:

  1. Be late — If you’ve never auditioned for a particular director, being late is no way to impress him (or her).  Even if you know the director, it’s a bad idea. I’ve had actors breeze in 30 minutes late and expect to get as fair reading for the part of their choice.  The problem is, 30 minutes into auditions, the director may already have read two or three key scenes, and like it or not, is already forming opinions about casting from the folks who showed up on time.  If you must be late, sometimes you can call and let the director know, or plan to come to an alternate audition date when you can be on time.
  2. Be unfamiliar with the play— Most of the time, community theatres are performing plays and musicals that have been professionally staged then released for amateur production after the first runs are over.  If you’ve never seen the show, it’s usually possible to find reviews and articles about it. Scripts for established plays are usually available from places like Samuel French or even  Librettos for musicals are harder to find, but most of the time there’s an original cast recording available that you can buy or borrow from a library.  Movies based on plays may give you an idea of the originals, but they’re often unreliable, because many plays and musicals are altered considerably for the big screen.  Some theatres will let you stop by to read or review a script ahead of time.
  3. Speak too softly — In community theatre especially, volume can make up for a lot of other shortcomings.  When you’re not loud enough to be heard from the director’s seat, you’ll seem timid and unsure of yourself.  Even if you don’t express the character perfectly, having good volume translates into confidence and presence. This doesn’t mean you shout every line; it means project.  Experienced actors do this without thinking, but amateurs, especially newcomers, often don’t.  Good projection (along with proper diction) will put you ahead of at least thirty percent of audition newbies.
  4. Don’t take direction from the director — In auditions, a director may ask you to change something about your reading.  She might ask you to play a little angrier or sadder, to pick up the pacing, etc.  It’s not a criticism when the director does this.  She probably sees something she likes but wants to know if you can take the character in particular direction.  Try your best to do so.  You may surprise yourself with a new interpretation, and the director will see that you’re able to take direction and work with him.
  5. Bring a distraction— Unless it’s a really large casting call/audition and you expect to be waiting for long stretches , plan to focus on the auditions, NOT on your phone, video game, book, or other distraction.  First of all, if you can watch others audition, it will give you a better idea of what the director(s) are looking for (some directors audition people individually, so this may not be an issue).  Second, if you’re not paying attention to the process, directors will wonder if  that’s how you’ll be in rehearsals.Other people can be distractions as well.  Avoid bringing children — they’re a distraction not just for you, but for others as well.  And remember, an audition isn’t a date.  I’ve passed on actors who seemed more interested in a tag-along girlfriend than the business at hand.
  6. Have a reputation for being difficult to work with —  By the time you show up at an audition, it’s too late to do anything about your reputation.  So it’s important that you develop good relationships in every cast and theatre you work with.  Directors talk to each other about “problem” actors, so don’t be one.

This is not an exhaustive list. Drop us a note to tell us YOUR auditioning no-nos.