If I have learned nothing else from the countless numbers of auditions that I have attended, it is what NOT to do. A little harsh, right? Not really. I like to think of my failed attempts at auditions as a learning experience. A way to correct myself and to ensure that I will never make the, what would be an appropriate word be, STUPID mistake of bringing an actual weapon to an audition. (Deep Sigh) I’m sure you’re dying to hear that one. No fear, unfortunately, the only way to explain my “Dont’s,” my Holy Grail, of auditions is to use my embarrassments as examples. Hopefully, in this way, you will be so mortified by my failures that you will never desire to make the same mistakes as I have. I plan to scare these “Dont’s” into you. So, without further ado, here are some helpful tips that I have gained over the years, in no particular order, that I pray will help you at your next hopefully successful audition:
1) NEVER upset the Monitor. You don’t know who she/he is. For all you know the person who is the monitor could be the best friend of the Director, an Intern, or perhaps even the Assistant Director. It happens. And as most of us have experienced, these Monitors, or at least the ones that I have encountered, are never in a particularly good mood, especially at Musical Theatre auditions. So, the last thing that you want to do is make a bad impression on this person. They WILL remember your face and they WILL tell the director or the casting panel not to cast you because you rubbed them the wrong way. True story: A girl I graduated college with went with me to an audition at The Looking Glass Theatre, a company in NY. Now, this audition was actually a call back and we had to re-audition with material that the director gave us. Basically, to me, and to my friend, this was a shoe in. That was until she decided to bad mouth the audition within earshot of the monitor. She had gone outside on the steps and was chatting on her phone telling the person on the other end that she thought that the audition had went fine and that if she wasn’t hired that the director didn’t know what real talent was. Needless to say, the monitor informed the whole room that my friend, no matter how talented, was definately not going to be getting a part now or never in the future with their theatre company. In essence, keep whatever you want to say until you get safely home and have locked yourself in your bathroom.
2) NEVER stop if you mess up. This is the oldest rule in the book. If you fuddle a line, crack on a note, or just completely blank during your monologue, KEEP GOING! For god sakes, do not stop, do not apologize, and DO NOT
ask to start over! You have 30 seconds, if that, to impress and amaze your “judges” and the last thing you want to do is leave them with the impression that if you got in a bind on stage, you wouldn’t know how to recover. Not to also mention, that they have 50 people after you that they need to see and that you are basically wasting their time by asking to start over and apologizing about your pitch. Time is money and as far as they are concerned you are costing them and are causing them to stay later than they have to. Instead, if you mess up, smile and make sure those last four bars you sing are the most fabulous and awe-inspiring bars that you have ever sang. And if you blank, make something up until you can find your footing again. Actually, you should think of this as an advantage. You can say whatever you want and have it be truthful just because of the fact that you are actually having to find what it is that you need to say. Unfortunately for me, I forgot these basic principles at an audition that I recently attended. The monologue, I thought, I did great. The song, not so much. Not only did I crack, which took me by surprise, but I stopped, apologized and began to talk about the horrible weather. What did I get, a blank stare and a “Thank you, have a nice day.” Which brings me to my next point:
3) NEVER come unprepared to an audition. Know what musical the song you are singing came from. Do know who composed and wrote the lyrics to the song. And please, please, know who the author and the name of the play that you are doing a monologue from is. Why am I mentioning these basic points that every actor is told if they go to acting school? Because, they are the easiest points to forget. As I experienced at the for-mentioned audition, not only did I break one cardinal rule, I broke two. Since I decided to prepare the night before, I had forgotten to take note of not only the composer/lyricist/name of musical, but also the author/name of the play I had chosen my monologue from. Big mistake. Because, what is the first question that your auditioner usually asks you? What song/monologue are you doing and where are they from. Panic. Unbelievable, heart stopping Panic. And what’s worse, I had to apologize, again, for not remembering what my material was from. A good way to avoid this whole prepare at the last moment syndrome? Keep a book of monologues that you know work best for you and review them weekly. That way, when you find out about an audition you are not scrambling at the last minute and are perfectly relaxed, confident, and calm. Don’t be like me. 🙂
4) Avoid at ALL COST “Pause Syndrome.” (I know, this looks weird because I didn’t start with NEVER!) “Pause Syndrome.” A horrible disease that will eat away at a brilliant monologue. No matter how great the actor, this will inevitably never make, but always break. If you remember NOTHING from this blabber of writing, please, please, remember this. Just because you pause, does not make a monologue more dramatic. In fact, it makes it awkward and very hard to watch. It is almost like watching a fish try and breathe out of water. Slow, painful, and ending in disappointment. If you think about it, how many times have you paused when you reflected? Took a beat, yes, thought something through, but never paused and searched with concern for your next moment. Remember, in an audition time is not on your side. If you pause every other sentence in a one minute monologue, you will drag it on to almost two minutes and would have lost any impact that would have been essential for the success of your monologue. You don’t want to make someone fall asleep in your monologue to do you?
5) NEVER make your “moment before” obvious. The casting director, or whomever, does NOT want to witness your “moment before.” No matter what any acting teacher tells you, do not drop your head, find your moment, and then begin your monologue when you are ready. You should be ready before you even step into that room and you should know your monologue so well that at the drop of a hat you can recite it with conviction. They don’t have time for you to find your character and remember what is happening at that certain time in the play when your monologue comes in. They are ready to see something that will amaze them and by you keeping them waiting, you will only bore and frustrate them. (Also, a nice little add in too, which I’m sure no one ever does anymore, but it is worth mentioning. NEVER say “End” when you are done with a monologue. No explanation necessary) A harsh lesson to learn, but as it happened at my first audition, I went it, presented myself, gave the music and cue to the pianist and dropped my head in preparation. Before I could even get my head up to start singing, I heard “Sweetie, I don’t have all day. I need you to hurry up.” I froze. I didn’t know what to do. I was so embarrassed and all I wanted to do was grab my music and run! Luckily, yes luckily, the pianist started playing before I got the chance to cry! Unfortunately any “acting” or preparation I had done went completely out of the window seeing as I just wanted to get out of that room as fast as possible. Amazing how 16 bars could ever feel like an eternity.
6) NEVER move the chair. Yes, I know it’s odd to think. But, if there is a chair in the middle of the room, use it. Believe it or not, it is there for a reason. As I recently learned from Bobby Holder of Actor’s Project, NYC, the chair is there for the panel to see how well the actor interacts with props. They want to see what you can do when given an object to interact with. Removing it completely from the space would be like an insult essentially and I assume that would be the last thing that you would want to do. Besides, it can almost be like a comfort blanket to you. It gives you something to lean on, to sit it, to circle and contort to your needs. The chair grounds you. It gives your body something to do. I don’t know about you, but I need something like that at an audition. I’m nervous enough just being at an audition that it would be nice that when I actually did my monologue to have something to put all the nervous energy into. At least then, I would know what in the world to do with my hands! Oh and just a little side note, NEVER take your shoes off. I did that once and had to have a five minute discussion with the director as to why it was unwise for me to do that. Well, actually I wouldn’t say it was a discussion, more like a lecture. Needless to say, I didn’t get that part.
7) NEVER dress casually for an audition. This may just be my thing, but I find it interesting that people dress for an audition like they are hanging out with their friends on a casual Friday night. In my opinion, you should dress like you are going for a job interview. You want to look your best. And this may just be my frame of mind since my mom ALWAYS told me that you should dress up for job interviews, but I think unless the audition calls for casual dress, you should NEVER go to an audition in jeans. I don’t care if they appeared in Fashion Week, they shouldn’t be worn to an audition. It would just appear to send the wrong message. You want to say, “I’m professional. I’m reliable,” not, “I want to be you Best Friend” or “You wanna go get some pizza?” Would you cast you if you came dressed to an audition in skinny jeans and a t-shirt?
8) NEVER look directly at your auditioning panel. This is something that EVERY actor should know. Always look right above the heads of the panel at a point that is eye level with you and that you can focus on. Reason being that you WILL make the panel uncomfortable and they will probably look away from you and not pay attention to what you are doing. The whole audition would be a loss just because you used an actual person to be in the scene with you. I have been told to start over and to not look at someone when I was doing a monologue. It’s not the best feeling in the world and it completely takes you out of the moment.
9) NEVER think you didn’t get a part due to lack of talent. Never assume that you bonked a job because you think that you are not talented. A lot of times this is not the case. There are a lot of things that go into deciding who it is that gets certain parts. It may be that while you were great, you just didn’t physically fit the part of the character and no matter how much that seems unfair, there is nothing you can do about it. I had a gig not go to me once only because I looked younger than the character the writer had envisioned. Also, this may sound funny, but it has happened that I have not gotten a part because the girl that I was up against for a certain gig was the director’s niece and no matter how talented I was, it would go to her. My acting teacher also told me an interesting story that when he was sitting in on an audition with a director friend of his, he saw a girl that was amazingly talented and would of been perfect for his friends play, but he didn’t hire her because she reminded him of his ex-wife. You just NEVER know.
10) NEVER bring a weapon to an audition. I know! This sounds absolutely ridiculous and I’m sure you’re thinking, “Who would do something this STUPID?” Ummm…that would be me and till this day stands as the worst thing that I have ever experienced at an audition. Not only was it embarrassing but it was completely demoralizing and I am still mentally scarred from it. Okay, so before I even start in with this juicy gossip that I have purposely waited until the end to give you, let me just say that I was told by certain teachers in college that if you use a weapon, use a weapon (within reason), don’t substitute. So, going in with this knowledge that was told to me by professors, I took a retractable knife to an audition. Mind you that I wasn’t actually going to wave this thing around, but I just needed to flash it for shock. I go in, say my name/monologue, sit down, and begin. The first few lines went by fine. I was in it. I felt sure. I was totally going to nail it. And then it happens. I get to the part where murderess character shows her weapon to her victim and the unspeakable happens. The casting director lets out a horrifying scream. A scream so profound that I drop my prop and sit back in fear in my chair. I have never seen a person get up out of their chair and against the wall as fast as this woman did. Apparently she had a phobia of knives. Some of the things she said to me I cannot even repeat in this. Let’s just say it was along the lines of, “I can’t believe you brought a weapon to an audition! How stupid can you be?! Don’t you know that bringing a weapon is a liability? If anyone gets hurt it’s not only on you but our company? What would possess you to do such a thing! How dare you!” I’m completely speechless. I don’t know what to say. Never in a million years would I think that this would be someone’s reaction. As I was taught, what I did was fine, not something that would cause a woman to say that she should call the cops on me. Of course, I had to get the most overdramatic person that ever existed to be the casting director. It ends with me being told to leave and to not come back until I had learned appropriate auditioning etiquette. This still haunts me. I don’t think I will ever live this experience down.