So, you’ve thought long and hard about whether you really want to enter this crazy world of uncertainty and fun, you’ve chosen the training course that’s right for you, you’ve done your preparation and found a set of speeches and songs that you want to perform at audition. What else do you need to do?
Top tip #4 Practice
There is no substitute for practice. Get to know your speeches so well that you can rhyme them off without thinking (although you never want to look as though that’s what you’re doing!). This is particularly true for Shakespeare. Audition panels hear the same speeches performed year after year, so if your rendition is inaccurate and rhythm is off, they will spot it straight away. Practise in front of the mirror, on your way to the bus stop, in front of long-suffering friends. If you have trouble learning lines it can help to write out the speech longhand. It can also help to ‘stand the speech up’ and assign particular movements to particular phrases.
Top tip #5 Practice some more
Seriously. Try some different ways of saying the speech. Bore yourself with it. You won’t regret this when your mind goes blank, your mouth is dry and your knees are literally knocking.
Top tip #6 Read the whole play
It sounds obvious, but I’ve met lots of people who have found speeches on the internet, or in a book of audition monologues, and never made the effort to find the original play or read it! Reading the whole text will help you understand what is happening for your character in the wider context of the play. Occasionally audition panels will also ask you a question about the play and why you’ve chosen it. It’s embarrassing and rather insulting to them to reveal that you haven’t actually bothered to read it! Also, if you don’t like reading plays, or you can’t be bothered, then you maybe need to revisit top tip #1 and ask yourself whether this is the right career for you.
Top tip #7 Keep your skills up
There are lots of different performing courses out there, many of them very specialised, but the reality of the jobbing actor’s life is that the more skills you have, the more employable you are. You may not be applying for a musical theatre course, but if you can sing and dance, then that’s a good thing to have on your CV. Similarly, any talent you have may make you more attractive to cast, so keep up any skills that you have (circus skills, gymnastics, foreign languages, musical instruments, etc.).
Top tip #8 Stay cool
On the day of the audition give yourself plenty of time to get to the school. Particularly if you have to travel across a large city like London you need to plan ahead so there’s no last minute panic. Wear something comfortable that you will be able to move in (often audition days include a movement workshop) but be reasonably smart. Once you’re in the room with all the other prospective students remember that everyone is probably feeling just as sick as you are, but people show it in different ways! Keep breathing, drink plenty of water (it’s a good idea to do this the day before too so your voice is well-hydrated) and, if you can, enjoy the experience.
Remember that the people on the panel are looking for people to give places to. The panel will be looking for potential as much as polish. Walk into the room with confidence and give it your best shot.
If you’re asked to perform your speeches in front of other candidates watch how other people perform and listen out for speeches that you might be able to do in the future. If the panel wants to direct you, be open and listen carefully to what you’re being asked to do then try and respond as well as you can. Sometimes you might be stopped early – that’s not necessarily a bad sign – they may have seen enough to know that they want you.
Top tip #9 Don’t take rejection personally
Don’t expect to know that you’re in on the day. Sometimes a school will take some time to decide who gets in based on everyone they see. Sometimes you might be invited back for a recall. Sometimes you’re not what they are looking for and you will be asked not to stay on for the rest of the day. If this is the case, try not to view rejection as something personal, or a mark of utter failure.
There are all sorts of reasons why you might have been rejected – there may be a similar actor to you who has already been given a place, the panel may feel that you need more life experience so that you can make the most of the place or they may want to test you to see if you’re persistent. They may just think you’re not good enough yet. As an actor. Not as a human being.
Persistence is often the key to getting work so take on board any feedback you get and use it to propel you into the next audition. There is no point in feeling bitter or angry. Disappointment is natural, but see this as an opportunity to prove the panel wrong by honing your skills and trying again next year.
Top top #10 Perform for the audience of one
The acting industry is full of people who are striving to find their identity through applause, perfectionism and climbing over everyone else. Don’t be that person. There’s a brilliant book by Rory Noland called Heart of the Artist that I always recommend to fellow artists who love Jesus and want to be the most excellent performer they can be. In it, there’s a quote I love from The Divine Comedy:
It is because you focus on the prize
of worldly goods, which every sharing lessens
that Envy pumps the bellows for your sighs.
But if, in true love for the Highest Sphere,
your longing were turned upward, then your hearts
would never be consumed by such a fear;
for the more there are there, who say “ours” – not “mine” –
by that much is richer, and the brighter
within that cloister burns the Love Divine
Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy
If you’d like some more help with the auditioning process, please get in touch, and if there are any other top tips you might have for other budding performers, why not connect with others through our social media. Let’s be the ‘more there are there, who say “ours” – not “mine”‘ and help each other out!