The Dos & Don’ts of Three Types of Auditions

Erin Fossa

While I wait to hear back from two pending auditions, let me just say… waiting is the worst. Can I get an amen?

I have been in a season of auditions lately which is bringing up many thoughts on the subject. Here are three different audition scenarios I’ve encountered and my Do’s and Don’ts for each.

1.    The Video Audition 

Because of my impeccable luck with scheduling, a recent audition landed on the one weekend my family and I planned to go to Disneyworld. I refused to miss either one. So they allowed me to submit a video audition. I’ve never recorded a video audition before, but I realized there are many do’s and don’ts that go along with it.

DON’T: You probably should not record a video audition on your phone in your living room, especially if you’re singing. Unless your phone is attached to a great camera or microphone, do not use it. The sound of a built in microphone is not what you want, and the acoustics in your living room (or bedroom, or den…) are most likely not great. 

DO: Go the extra mile for this type of audition. You want it to be as close to the real thing as possible. Contact a local state college or university. Find emails on their website for music department coordinators or, even better, the accompanist specifically and set up a time to meet. Take your computer or video camera to a music lab or classroom with a piano and record using the best external microphone you can get your hands on. Keep it short, introduce yourself just as you would in a live audition and state the part your are auditioning for. When you    submit your video, email it or upload it to Youtube and email the link (if the file is too large to e-mail). Include your resume and headshot and remember to PAY YOUR ACCOMPANIST. At least offer. They don’t work for tips. 

2.    The Director with an Agenda

Ever been to an audition where the director clearly has an agenda? You’re reading for a role but you can’t help but feel like the part is already cast and the director is simply humoring you? It’s not a good feeling. But it does happen, and unfortunately there is nothing you can do about it. 

DON’T: If the director already has someone in mind for the role, then the biggest “don’t” here is, don’t push them. You can try to change their mind, absolutely! Do your very best, but when the director says, “Thank you, I’ve seen enough”, it’s time to leave. When you get the sense that his or her mind is made up about you, chances are you’re not going to change it by reading again or singing another song. Understand that directors want who they want for their productions and it may or may not be you. Don’t embarrass yourself by pushing too hard.

DO: Come prepared to do your best. Do it. Then leave. Maybe next time, you’ll be on the director’s agenda. 

3.    The Botched Audition 

Okay, we’ve all been there. You get too excited, you forget your monologue or your music and all that comes out is garbage. You’re embarrassed, you’re anxious, and now that you’ve regurgitated your nerves, you’re ready to start over and do it right.

DON’T: I’m sorry to tell you this but… don’t. This is not the time to show your resilience. If you finish your crap audition and the panel simply smiles and says thank you, then say thank you back and leave. There are people behind you waiting for their slot and you don’t have the right to take double the time without being given permission. I’m sorry you botched the audition, but take heart in knowing that we’ve all done it and it’s part of playing the game. 
DO: However! There is one thing you CAN do! The only acceptable option for you when you botch an audition is this: you can try to wait around for a break in the action and ask the moderator if you can have a second chance. Ask the moderator because he or she will act as a middle-man between you and the directors, alleviating much of the awkwardness. Tell him or her that you know you can do better and would like to attempt another audition if possible. If there is extra time, the director(s) may allow you to try again and most likely, they’ll admire your resilience. But if the answer is no, then you’re just going to have to accept that. There is a different between resilience and stubbornness. Know the difference. Directors like resilience, they don’t like stubbornness. 

4. The Cold Read

Personally, I love cold read auditions. I hate choosing monologues and choosing songs, trying to fit my entire personality into 32 bars. I would rather have someone choose the material for me and take that step out of the process completely.    

DON’T:  So most importantly, don’t be afraid of cold reads! Half the work is already done for you! The next don’t is don’t forget you are auditioning. Don’t bury yourself in the text and forget to interact with others in the scene. Directors are looking for chemistry between actors and your ability to use the stage. 

DO: Make choices. The directors are going to be listening to the same sides read over and over again. You need to do something different with the material if you’re going to stand out. Create chemistry. Move. Slap someone! Let the text motivate you to make big choices and show the directors that you can give them something to work with. If the director gives you instructions then, by all means, listen. And play it how they instruct you. Show them you are direct-able. Trust me, they care more about those qualities then     your ability to get every word right on the page.