10 Audition Tips for Actors.

Sitting on the other side of the table is something that every actor should do.  It’s incredibly educational and inspirational, because frankly, you realize that while there are lots and lots of people that call themselves actors, there are a much smaller group of Actors (and talent is only a small part of that definition, by the by).

Since so few Actors get a chance to sit where Producers and Directors sit, here are my 10 tips on how to have a better audition experience.

  1. Always bring a picture and resume. I don’t care if you have an Agent, a Manager, and a Momma Rose-style “mom-ager” who all promised to send it over.  You’re the one that won’t be remembered if you don’t have one.  A P&R is more than an American Express card.  It’s like a pair of shoes.  You wouldn’t leave home without shoes, would you?
  2. Haven’t memorized the material?  Don’t pretend you have. If you have sides, try to memorize them.  But if you can’t, it’s ok.  We’d rather hear the material as written with the papers in your hand than hear you make up stuff just to prove that you tried (and failed) to memorize the material (remind me to tell you about the time an actor added a few lines to a Tony Award winning playwright’s monologue to kill time while he tried to get back on track).
  3. Don’t make excuses.  I don’t want to hear that you have a cold, or that you have bed-head, or that your printer is broken.  Do your best.
  4. If I ask you to make a choice, make one.  I commonly ask the people auditioning for me to choose between two monologues, or I ask them to give me three song choices from their book and then I say, “which would you like to do?”  I want to learn what YOU are attracted to, and I also want to see you make a choice.  Don’t say, “It doesn’t matter.  What do you want?”  Actors have to make strong clear choices when developing characters.  I want to see that side of you in everything you do.
  5. Make your first 15 seconds count.  When you meet someone for the first time, don’t you make a lot of suppositions?  We do too.
  6. Be the 3 Cs.  Be comfortable, charismatic and confident.  Actors have to command attention.  They have to be the most interesting people in a 1000 seat theater.  Be someone that we want to get to know.  If you can do that as yourself, I know you’ll also be able to do that in a character.
  7. Don’t take the last audition times of the day.  Casting is not an easy process, and at the end of the day, a creative team is grumpy, tired and wants to go home.  The early actor gets the part.  (Another reason to be scheduled early?  You don’t have the rest of the day of actors to be compared to. I’m much more likely to call someone back that I see early because I have no idea what the rest of the day will bring.)
  8. Let us know where to find you.  Even if you have an agent, put an email address where you can be reached directly on your resume (For safety reasons, I’d suggest a separate email just for this purpose).  This way, if you ever leave your agent, or if your agent doesn’t get back to the casting director right away, interested parties have a way of at least sending you an inquiry. You don’t have to respond. Pix and Resumes sit in files for years.  You always want some piece of contact information to be accurate so someone can find you fast.
  9. Don’t start over.  Screw up?  Fight through it.  And it probably wasn’t as bad as you thought.  You’re more sensitive to it than we are.  An old voice teacher of mine used to say, “If you put a microphone on the inside of a Mercedes engine, you’d hear all sorts of sputtering and spitting, but from the outside, you’d hear nothing but purrrrrrrrr.”
  10. Always audition.  The best way to master auditioning is just like everything else.  Do it over and over.  You’ll get numb to the nerves.  You’ll be able to be yourself.  And you’ll get free practice!  I used to go to dance calls, because learning a dance combination at an audition is a free dance class (and I needed them).  Actors who get to work on sides with directors at an audition get a free coaching.

Remember, we want you to be great.  We’re pulling for you more than you can ever imagine.

Because a great audition, means a great cast, which means we’re one step closer to a great show.

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Comments
  • Art says:

    Great list.
    I would add this little note for actors:
    Always remember that the people you are auditioning for WANT YOU TO BE GOOD. They are on your team. They are not, as a default position, hoping you will screw up. They would love it if you would clearly be the ONE.
    Ken, the only one on the list I would have to think twice about is the Don’t Start Over. I don’t have a problem if, a couple of seconds in, somebody gets muddled and asks me politely, “Would it be O.K. if I started again.” On the other hand, if a person is a good way into the piece, I do get a little annoyed with that request.

  • Tara says:

    Great tips, Ken. And randomly, that’s a picture of my school’s rehearsal hall. (Temple University!) I definitely did a double take and called my roommate over to confirm I wasn’t seeing things.

  • Tanya says:

    Thanks for that! I’m auditioning for drama schools in the new year and there were some useful tips in there =)

  • Geoff Short says:

    Thanks for the list Ken. Always great advice. As a director (who just went through auditions this week) I would add that there is also etiquette in regard to an audtioner’s interaction with the accompanist (in the case of a musical audition). That person can be a singer’s best friend or worst enemy. They are not just “hired help” or someone that doesn’t deserve the same respect given the director. In some cases the accompanist is the Music Director of the show and as such – a vital decision maker. Look the accompanist in the eye, smile and greet them politely and enthusiastically. Make the accompanist’s job as easy as possible by having your music neatly marked and organized. In many cases the accompanist may be sight reading the pioece for the very first time – don’t make matters worse by handing them crumpled pages with scribbles and falling on the floor. After greeting the director, ask for a moment to speak with the accompanist to advise them of tempo, key changes, start and stop points, etc. If the accompanist should make a mistake or not play the piece exactly as you’d like, do not throw them a confused or annoyed glance…the show must go on and a professional performer can roll with the punches and fight through a song. Many unexpected things can and usually do happen in live theater and how one reacts to these little unexpected audition moments can also say a lot about how an actor will perform. Thanks again.
    Geoff

  • Michael Reed says:

    These tips are very useful, thank you.
    I think one of the more important things is making a strong choice. It doesn’t matter if the choice is wrong…just make it and stick with it. Make it a strong choice…don’t waver, don’t pussy-foot around it…nail it. Let them give you direction AFTER they’ve seen what you had in mind.
    A lot of the times, auditors are looking for whether you ‘get’ the script…whether you ‘get’ the character and the scene. So try and see the big picture and the driving wants…
    Break many legs guys and gals.
    http://www.myspace.com/m1chaelreed
    Michael Reed
    Actor

  • Marcus says:

    Some really great tips here, especially the “actors have to command attention”… One of the things I know too well!

  • eli says:

    i am agent for axtras players ,
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  • R. Vasquez says:

    Auditioning is stressful and nerve-wracking but can be a fun time. Unfortunately, not every person behind the table is as giving as you Ken. For example, auditioning for Telsey casting agents is hell on earth. It’s really hard to be comfortable and charming when you have people who appear to hate their jobs staring back at you. I’m not suggesting that everyone smile and be happy but I wish the people behind the table would give the same respect back to the actors. It’s annoying to go to a call and see everyone walk out of the room with the same reaction. I’m a little tired of everyone treating actors like they’re the bottom of the Totem Pole in this business when, in fact, we’re just as important as the creative team. Thank you for the tips. They’ve very helpful.

    • Cheryl Newman says:

      I have to agree. I was at a call-back for a “Friends-type” TV show at Columbia Pictures. The two producers treated me as if I was a piece of furniture and discussed their likes and dislikes about me, in front of me. One really liked me and the other didn’t. I was one of 12 people brought back (six women and six men) after an open call with more than 600 women alone. The one who didn’t like me had a favorite he wanted and I was the favorite of the one who did. Obviously, my acting skills were up to par and it was an internal argument between the two. During their argument, I soon felt like less-than furniture as the one producer who wanted his pick to get the job picked out every negative aspect of me he could come up with, namely that my size 34-C breast weren’t large enough–nothing about my acting ability.

  • Barbara says:

    I’m a big fan of this article:
    http://www.holdonlog.com/pages/AN-FEELINGS-0710.html
    And since you didn’t point out that the audition doesn’t end when you leave I wanted to share it.
    I’ve alos pointed a lot of actor buddies to this article that goes nicely with what to do after that is also part of our job
    http://www.holdonlog.com/pages/AN-CDthankyou.html
    These articles have appeared in the PerformerNation newsletter. You can get it at http://www.performernation.com.
    So far it’s free!

  • Austin Dance says:

    I completely agree with all of you tips, especially the last one! the only way to get comfortable with auditions is to just go for them!

  • George Michael(India) says:

    Being in the theatre for more than 45 years ,all the tips what my dear Mr.Ken gave , I have no authority nor rich enough to contradict the blessed son of Broadway ,because his tummy is ever full and there will never be a starvation for him throughout his life !No doubt people think always that acting skill is an extraordinary skill one posses right from birth .It is all a bull shit as long as India is concerned .To witness a good audition from any individual is look for an individual who would have gone through a situation of extreme poverty and would have even starved many days for a single meal.Yes!I have already quoted ,”A real artist is equal to a tiger”,I do not care what you people think , Yes !I do not care even what Mr.Ken thinks about me ( Probably he will have no time to read this stuff of mine )Yes!My Message is very very clear , ” Those Of you who have enough for their survival ,Please,keep away from theatre, because you will no doubt Corrupt this noble art at the same time deprive another soul.My experience with your so called American people recently is one of an unerasable .Want to know more about this experience well email me >cjgeorgemichael@hotmail.com <

    God Bless ,
    C.J. George Michael .

  • Broadway Joe says:

    Thanks for the tips, now allow me to offer you producers the same:

    1) DON’T have actors memorize 30 pages of dialogue and music then only ask us to do one-tenth of the material at the call. Auditions are HARD work, and yours is not the only appointment of our week. This habit by producers and creative staff is EPIDEMIC at casting calls. No actor likes it, in fact, it’s a running joke among us. If you wish quality work, limit the sides to those that will actually be read. You won’t regret it, and audition quality will dramatically rise.

    2) DON’T make us wait in the hall for 30-120 minutes past our scheduled audition time because you have calls to make, or socializing to do in the audition room. If you start to run late, HURRY UP and get back on time, reschedule us for another time, or at least apologize profusely and understand that such a long waiting period can make an actor’s audition performance go totally flat. Yes, we’ll wait for you (are you offering us a choice?), but you’ll never, ever get us near our best if we wallow in the halls for eons.

    3.) STOP hiring accompanists who can’t play the piano, and readers who pause before every sentence while constantly getting lost in the text. And unless it’s a gay play, NEVER force an actor to play a love scene with someone who is of the same sex. C’mon!

    4.) DON’T text, talk, or look out the window, or generally ignore actors while we are working. You wouldn’t like it, and neither do we.

    5.) DO have at least a smidgen of compassion for the plight of the auditioning actor, whose laugh lines you so rarely laugh at, and whose is being placed in a room that is the “antithesis” of the dramatic acting process. It ain’t easy to read with readers, or sing and dance in unfamiliar surroundings, under such pressure and in such adverse conditions.

    6.) DON’T make actors feel worse than they already do after giving a poor audition. It happens and besides, good auditioners aren’t always the best performers come the day, and you know it.

    7.) DON’T force Broadway seasoned pros with long resumes to do repeated calls for a show when they are beyond qualified, and NEVER audition us for your “workshops.” Instead, do like you used to do, call us and ask if we would be so kind as to work for you for nothing or little money.

    8.) STOP making this highly flawed and agonizing process called “auditioning” harder than it already is. If you wish to see us at our best (and without doubt you do), follow at least a few of the above suggestions and give your productions a far better chance at casting your show to its best advantage by seeing us at our best.

    Thank you,

    Moi!

    • Philip says:

      Thank you Broadway Joe

    • Michael says:

      Just a question, I am a piano player. I have not done any job auditions yet, but I have started playing in a nursing home. I’ve played 1930s and 1940s songs. The elderly residents loved me and wouldn’t stop complimenting my playing. But a couple of the staff members at the home seemed so unimpressed. This woman that worked there, who was being very chatty and friendly with others, did not compliment my playing or say anything, not on her own will. I had to ask her how my playing was, and then replied an unenthused “good”. I’ve been treated coldly before, but I didn’t think I would get that after being heard playing the piano, and I’m pretty accomplished. I got raving complements from other people there. Do you think I am letting that bother me too much? Because after working so hard on the piano to get good, wouldn’t you be hurt too when seeing someone react so snobby and unimpressed, especially if that person was being so friendly to everyone else?

  • Beth Urech says:

    What about piercings? I am mentoring a talented young actor who has a lip ring piercing. I would advise Emma to remove it forever but certainly for auditions; however, I am eager to learn your advice.

  • testdomain says:

    If you need to do it, people may as well still do it.

  • Ahsoka says:

    Great advice. I have an audition this week and this really helps. Thank you for this.

  • Joshua Marcks says:

    Hi! My Name is Joshua Marcks. The first show I ever saw was Les Mis at the Queen’s Theater. Can’t wait for it to come back!

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  • Pauline Heath says:

    I am interested in acting. I don’t know the first thing about getting in, but this post give me some insights. Really helps, thanks. I have also read an article like this here http://goo.gl/GUgNmd. Try to check it guys, for additional tips.

  • These are really helpful tips! I hope I could apply all these tips listed above since I’ve been planning to get into acting. Anyway, I will share a lists of an updated acting auditions here http://www.exploretalent.com/acting-auditions-chicago cause this will also be helpful to all aspiring actors. Good luck for the auditions guys don’t forget to apply the tips!

  • Thanks for the abundance tips!
    But the most important thing here is the fact that the aspiring actors audition not for the others wants but it is because it is his/her dream and that they believe that they could do it!.
    But I also found an article informing that there are types of acting classes we need to know about here: https://www.exploretalent.com/articles/10-types-of-acting-classes-you-need-to-know-about/
    Hope this will help your viewers.

  • James says:

    Really best tips, i have a community of artists and i will tell to my friends and fans about this article.
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  • I love the suggestion to be comfortable, charismatic, and confident. When I go to auditions, I go in with stress and worries that I won’t be good. As soon as I hit that stage, I let everything kind of fade away. I take what I have practiced and I put my whole heart into it. Auditions can be terrifying but as long as you are doing it because you love it and you have worked hard to get it right, you will be amazing. Consistent and crazy should also be added to those C’s. Being ready before hand will give you a better chance of doing well. Plus, being crazy enough to just let go makes your acting that much better.

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  • Varun Mishra says:

    Great Post! A great audition, means a great cast, which means you’re one step closer to a great show. If you are looking for latest casting calls you can log on to auditionfox.com.

  • khalid hussain says:

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  • Deedee Lewis says:

    This is a great compilation list for those interested in theater auditions. I agree that if you mess up a line you shouldn’t start over and just keep going. I know when my niece was auditioning for one of the school plays, she auditioned for a singing part and she did mess up a little bit but kept going. When you continue acting despite the error you have made, it shows confidence in the face of something that could have been really difficult.

  • I agree, I feel like in any work field you should do your best. Although, I could also see how acting could be a difficult work field to be in. My daughter has been asking me if I’d take her to auditions, but I just haven’t had time. I’m wondering if there could even be some professional training that I could get for her.

  • Bobby Saint says:

    I couldn’t agree more when you mentioned bringing a picture and resume every time you will be going to an audition. It is important to always update your resume and only put the necessary information. Also, make sure that your picture looks professional. You certainly would like to make a good impression during your interview. If I were to audition for a play, I would make sure to keep this into account. Thanks.

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