So, compiled here, are the “Secret Lessons for Auditions” that I posted on Facebook last December plus an extra one to make it an even five.
Many times I’ve been asked how necessary it is to come back for the second day of open auditions. The boilerplate answer is, “Not at all necessary.” This is because we recognize that you have a real life and a real job. We even tell ourselves that it isn’t an issue, and we make an honest attempt to remember the day one festivities as well as the day two hijinks.
The real answer is, “Hell, yes!” Unless you’re absolutely certain you nailed it on day one, you want to come back for day two. Even if you did nail it, someone who comes in on day two may have the right chemistry with one of the others, and you do not want to be passed over because Iggy Kroenberg made a kinda cute couple with Juliet, but you weren’t there to look better.
Auditions start the minute the director walks in the door. We watch everything. Maybe in professional theatre there’s some separation between your performance and the person, but down here in the cheap seats we’re looking at who we’re casting as much as what.
We don’t have the time or the energy in an average small-theatre production to deal with problem children, so, yes, we watch everyone like a hawk to see what issues they might present. No matter how many times the middle-aged accountant reading Stanley Kowalski to your Blanche screws it up, you go ahead and treat him like he’s on the money. Believe me, we know who the problem is.
Other things to watch out for in this same vein: Don’t get butthurt if you sense that the director is going in a direction that may not include you, and definitely don’t show your contempt for that direction by putting in an intentionally bad reading. We don’t all know each other, but most of us know enough others of us that word gets around.
Don’t audition to get a part. Audition to enjoy the raw experience of unrehearsed acting and the illimitable thrill of seeing others do the same.
Play it straight. Ignore the blocking. Spit out the words.
It doesn’t matter that you’re holding the worst script since the Dancehall stage allowed lonely dowagers to project their fantasies onto innocent actors. Play it straight! Even if the actor who read the side before you read King Lear as Jack Nicholson in Seven Easy Pieces to uproarious applause and laughter, PLAY IT STRAIGHT!! You’re not there to entertain the other auditioners, you’re there to show the director you can be trusted with a piece of his (her) stage.
By the same token, go ahead and ignore most of the blocking on the page. With the exception of entrances, exits, and actions absolutely necessary to the plot, he’s probably going to change all of it, anyway. We look for interpretation of character at these things, and clumsy, off-the-cuff pseudo-blocking with a piece of paper in your hand gets in the way.
Also, read ahead, have a good idea of what the next line is, and spit out the words. Don’t fret over the proper pronunciation of Aeschylus (Es-kill-us), just pick one that works for you and go on. Be clear; project. No one wants to waste pages of production notes reminding actors to speak up, and the audition stage is one place where we find out if that’s likely.
There are two times when it is appropriate to try out an accent during an audition: 1) if you were born to the accent and have trouble speaking without it, and 2) if the Director specifically requests it.
It doesn’t matter if the character description lists the character as a ridiculous French K-nig-et. If the director doesn’t ask you for the accent, don’t do it. Accents are difficult to do, and they take hours (years, really) to develop and a lot of concentration to maintain. Concentration that can generally be put to better use learning lines and blocking.
If you need further evidence that doing an accent (outside the cases above) is a bad idea, go watch Prince of Thieves a couple of times.
Know what you have on your plate for the entire run of the show. Most audition notices will include at least the production run of a show. Even if they don’t include the rehearsal run, you can usually back up your calendar by six-to-eight weeks and figure it out. Most directors will have at least a preliminary schedule available for perusal at auditions. A good director will have a detailed preliminary with objectives.
Look at the schedule provided and carefully compare it with your own schedule. If you can’t remember your personal schedule, write (or print) it out before you go to auditions. If you have a conflict tell the director.
I have cast actors knowing in advance that I would need someone to fill in for them for one or two shows. I have no problem with actors who encounter emergencies and surprise difficulties in their real lives. I have no love and no pity for people who knew they had a problem well in advance but chose not to speak up.