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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Theatre For Thought, April 19, 2011

A Few Words on Auditioning
Auditioning is sort of like me hiring a lawyer after watching the way she washes my car. 
joel fishbane

Winter is turning into spring which means it’s audition season in Montreal. Look to your left and you’ll see a fellow auditioning for the Fringe Festival; over on your right is a girl gearing up for her audition for Concordia Theatre. Centaur is already making audition calls and before long BTW and Geordie will do the same. So perhaps it’s a good time to discuss the Audition, the actor’s version of the job interview. Most people go on relatively few job interviews; most actors go on them their entire lives. 

Everyone hates auditions, including the people who run them. Unfortunately, in four thousand years, no one has come up with a better system. For theatre schools it’s a necessary evil; for directors, it’s a last resort. Directors will always prefer hiring people they know and, barring that, people whose work they’ve seen. This is because auditions are a terrible indication of a person’s talent and everyone knows it. 

Auditions have nothing to do with acting. 

Auditions have nothing to do with acting. Acting involves the development of a role in collaboration with numerous other artists – directors, designers, other actors - before going into performance. By contrast, an audition is a solitary act. It lacks the necessary elements: costumes, lights, sets, props, and, in the case of theatre, an audience. In asking you to audition, auditioners are calling you in to do something that has nothing to do with your job and then hiring you based on how well you do it. Which is sort of like me hiring a lawyer after watching the way she washes my car. 

If you’ve recently loaned Danny Boyle money or plan on being the next James Franco, then you probably don’t have to worry about auditions.

It’s important to remember that when you walk into an audition, nobody is waiting to see whether you know how to act. They already assume that you do. What they want to see is whether you are Right for the Part (or for their Theatre School). How do you prove you are Right for the Part? Sadly, this is a question with no answer. If you are auditioning for Hamlet, perhaps you can try to show you know a thing or two about being depressed in Denmark; but if you are auditioning for Theatre School, you’re not so lucky. 

If you’ve recently loaned Danny Boyle money or plan on being the next James Franco, then you probably don’t have to worry about auditions. But in case your career path isn’t following this trajectory, it might be good to remember the following things:

Read “Audition” by Michael Shurtleff. Although a little out of date, it remains one of the most informative books on acting and the art of auditioning. 

Always memorize your monologue / sides. Unless it’s a cold reading, never audition with script in hand. 
Never call the company you auditioned for to apologize for a bad audition, ask why you didn’t get the part, or insist you’d be perfect for the role. 

Never say you have a cold or a sore throat right before your audition. You’re an actor, aren’t you? Act like you’re the picture of health.

Always bring your picture / resume 

Once they’re ready for you to start your audition, never take more than four seconds to prepare or start your piece. Do those vocal warm ups outside. 

Never trash talk, even if the auditoners are doing it 

Try not to chew gum, eat food, smell bad or look like crap. 

Never audition when you’re unavailable for the show / movie / film. Yes, yes, it’s good to be seen. But at the end of the day, you’re wasting their time.

Always be ten minutes early and expect for the audition to be ten minutes late

Always feel free to ignore the advice of others, including me. 

In the end, the point of the audition is to sell yourself. So remember the principle rule of marketing: your job isn’t to sell the product, it’s to make the customer want to buy. Happy Auditioning!


  1. Great article Joel.

    Here are my two cents:
    Take a moment to break the ice, and appear human (without wasting my time). I need to know that you are a likeable person. So if you have a chance to take two seconds to make small talk and remind me that we are humans and not machines, that helps me want to cast you. Basically make me want to work with you, on a personal level as well as a professional level.

    And as Joel said memorize your monologue. But make sure to memorize it backwards and forwards, so that you could do it standing on your head without forgetting the lines.

  2. One of the people I follow on Twitter held auditions, chose an actor and he told her he was just doing it for the experience and was not really available. She lost her mind...if she ever gives his name out, you can bet that actor has had it. I suspect she is not being as discrete about his name in her non-Twitter life.


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