How to do well at audition
Preparation, in a word. Whatever time you have, you should do as much preparation for the audition as possible to give yourself the best chance in the room. If you say you have no time, sorry, you’re lying. You’ve got a week, a night before, a morning, a train journey, or even the 5 minutes before you go in, so you’ve always got some time, and you just have to make maximum use of the time you have available. Btw, if you have 5 minutes before you go into the audition, show up 35 minutes early and hey presto, you’ve got half an hour to prepare. Simples.
In doing your preparation, there’s a number of things you can do that suit your own preparation, but here are some of the things I do which I believe have helped me.
If you have time and it is requested or expected, learn the lines of the scene (some theatre companies ask that you don’t learn them, so decide for yourself on that one). Want to really impress them? Learn them perfect, go over them again and again and again until you know them like you know your own name, like you’re just about to do the 30th night of the show, and they’ll be impressed. You’ve not just given them the idea that you can prepare a scene, but that you’re reliable, are a serious actor, and have taken the time to do it. Also if they redirect you, if you know your lines so well that you’ll have an infinitely easier time in taking the direction, and it’ll become more of a rehearsal rather than an audition. You’ll play, you’ll experiment, you’ll try pauses/moments, and then they’ll go ‘jeez, the last guy just had his head in the page all the time, look at this guy, he’s ready to go on right now!’
Do your work on the script. Analyse it like you would in a rehearsal, every detail, moment, word. This will also help you get the lines down, but will enlighten the character more for you and show what you can bring them. In essence, treat it not like an audition, treat it as if you are going to put it on stage. Don’t try and get the job, it usually doesn’t work, but show them what you’ve got in terms of preparation, character choices, analysis, opinions, all that stuff. It’ll stand you in much better stead, and you’ll feel better about it in that you did everything you could have done, as opposed to ‘I should have tried to get the job more!’ Take the pressure off yourself. But do not be too ridged about it. You should be flexible, open, and able to go against everything you’ve prepared to do it in a completely different way if they tell you too.
Ask questions and show thoughts and opinions. It’ll show that you’re interested. If they ask if you’ve had any thoughts on the play and you haven’t, lie! I did this the other day in a recall audition – I wanted to be honest because I liked them so much, but it wouldn’t have helped. So I had a thought there and then, said I’ve had some new thoughts about it, and told them that. We sat there and discussed the work for five minutes, instead of them saying ‘Oh. Well lets get it over with then.’
Read the script. Just read it, no excuses. Twice if there’s time, three times if there’s time. They will probably ask, and therefore you will say ‘Yes, I’ve been over three times actually’. They will then most likely say ‘Wow, great! The amount of people who don’t even read it…’ Then you will stand there and gloat because it’s just taken you up a few notches. Besides, it will enlighten the character more, and will very likely inform the scene you’re reading in the audition.
If you can, show some additional knowledge of the play/subject. Say if it’s a play set in WW2, do some reading/research around the subject or around that specific area/topic/country etc. It shows you have surrounding knowledge, and you become more of a rounded, intelligent collaborator rather than just a hired hand. But then you were anyway, weren’t you?
Try to demonstration some knowledge of the themes of the play as well. The theme is arguably the most important aspect of a piece, as it’s the thing the audience is to pick up on, so if you know about that, it shows a much wider knowledge of the piece, and again you become more of a collaborator in getting that message across with the director.
Try to relax. Try to; not, RELAX!, because you probably won’t ever be totally relaxed in an audition room. But calm yourself down, tell yourself - and know it - that you have done all you can, and just go in there and enjoy it. If you’re calm, it shows you’re on it, shows you know what you’re doing, and it’ll free yourself up to be at your best.
Get there early. Simple. Again you’ll be relaxed, if there’s any extra work they’ve given you to prepare on the day you’ll have time to do it, and if you want to make additional notes on top of the ones you’ve already got, you can do that too. Sometimes I find the notes I make just before I go in are much better than the ones I’ve been thinking about for a week.
When you get in, walk straight into the room with confidence. I swear I knew I got a job once 3 seconds after walking into the room. Be polite, and professional but try to get it across that you’re also the guy that can/would do anything. Know your stuff, but break the rules at some point. Many parts have been won this way.
When you’re in there though and just talking, don’t stray away from the character you’re playing too much. If the character is charming and confident, it’s not going to help you if you’re fidgeting, not giving eye contact, not standing still, and vice-versa.
At the end, get out of there. Don’t hang around – unless they’re talking to you for ages and seem to want to keep you there, then hang around all you want! But when they dismiss you, it’s time to go. Sometimes they just want you to shut up and leave because they’ve just cast you in the role and don’t need to see any more. It’s happened to me and many others, so if they’re strangely abrupt, don’t worry.
And finally, once you walk out, let it go and think about what’s next. There’s nothing you can do now, so stop worrying about it and checking for an email you know hasn’t arrived. If you’ve given it your best then shut up and be happy, because it’s just a matter now of the height of the other person, eye colour, stupid stuff that you can’t control. If you did well and they didn’t cast you that time, you will be remembered and they will want you back to see you for something else. Doing well at an audition is not necessarily getting the job, it might be getting the next one, or the one after that or the one after that. So do your work, get there early and show them what you’ve got. I think that’s doing well.