Audition Pep Talk 2: Dig for gold.
The worst crime that we can commit at an audition is to come totally unprepared. It would be both a waste of our time, and the production team’s. Do a bit of preparation and you can walk in there, feeling like you're about to experience the most fun kind of workshop imaginable, and you might give some new ideas to the director. They might even thank you by casting you!
Let's return to what we learned in Pep Talk 1, and that's the radical idea that we actors are not there to grovel or to claw our way to the top, but to assist the playwright and director. Stop for a moment and consider just what they’re trying to do. Out of nothing they are creating a new, distinct universe for an audience to experience. So, they’re looking for the right people who can help them create this universe.
You already do this. Acting itself is about creating something from nothing. You take black marks on a page, use Stanislavsky’s ‘What if I were this person?’ – then weave your mind, soul and body into this character to give birth to a distinct individual, who is existing right now in this moment.
So before your audition, take the time to dig for the kind of gold that will help you create this universe.
Read the play if you can. Try to get an idea of the Super-Objective of your character. In other words, what is their deep, core need that drives them, that they may not even be able to articulate, but that the playwright and director are trying to show through the character?
Research the director and try to learn what kind of universe they try to depict. Is it physical theatre, is it text-based? Is it grounded in reality, or are there elements of fantasy in their work. Are there certain social messages that they feel driven to say?
Daydream about your character. Even if you’re not given a script to study, fantasize what you might be feeling, seeing and doing in this imaginary world. This is where the actor’s common trait of obsessiveness helps. Rest your character in the back of your mind, and allow yourself to visit her from time to time, and ask:
What kind of personality do I have?
What just happened to me before this scene?
Where specifically am I right now?
What do I want from the other characters?
What am I trying to get them to do?
What am I afraid I might not get?
What secrets am I hiding?
Make these last two points extremely strong, so that you’re starving to get what you want from the other character. This will hook you into a relationship with your scene partner – but never share these secrets with the other actors.
The more ideas you come in with, the less self-conscious you’re going to be as a person and the easier you, as an artist, are going to naturally enter this wonderful new world. The director will notice this, and she might even ask you to help them create this new world.
Bryan Bounds is a US-born and UK-based professional actor, voice-over artist, director, teacher and founder of the American School of Acting.