Standing Tall in the Audition Room: Part Two – What I've Learned
Bridget Coyne Gabbe offers advice on factors you can control when heading in to read for a part.
Auditions…I could go on and on about my love/hate relationship with them. It's like standardized testing. Is that really the best judge of intelligence/talent? Better not be – at least in my case!
So many uncontrollable variables can get in the way of rocking an audition – even seemingly trifling matters like being a blonde when the casting director wants a brunette or looking like the person who just stole the director's cab.
I work at focusing on what I can control. For instance…
Prepare. I am obsessive about being prepared so I can walk in and nail the audition. One side, likely, but if I'm sent two or three? I do them all even if I'm told it's just side one. At the end of a recent audition the CD said, "Wow, you really prepared well for this." I did – though the part went to someone else. Still, I was thrilled that she noticed the nuances I brought to the character. That kind of feedback buttressed my confidence going into the next audition.
Start to finish. People say the audition begins the second you enter the room. I say it begins BEFORE you dive in to the scene. Did you see the Olympic synchronized swimmers entering the pool area? They were "performing" – like human marionettes – even as they mounted the stairs on dry ground before starting their routines in the pool. I try to start before I walk in too—at least by not letting the waiting room distractions get under my skin. I also try to finish strong with body language and an attitude that exudes confidence – expressing pleasure and appreciation at being part of the audition process.
Maintain peace of mind. I know – at least I've been told countless times – that the people on the other side of the table are hoping that I am the answer to their casting search. Go in calm, cool and collected…and reassuring. You want to make them believe that you are The One. Be appealing: an engaging smile and an enthusiastic, positive attitude are infectious. Make them want to be around you!
Listen to the reader. I've been in countless situations where the reader is, ahem, less than qualified. As someone who "feeds" off my fellow actors, this can jar me out of my zone. But don't let it. The CD can tell when you aren't really listening – fully tuning in – and, trust me, they won't blame it on the reader's lack of skill. Don't be thrown off. Use it. Are you fighting for something you want in your scene? Offset the reader's lack of responsiveness to fight for your character all the more.
Know your audience. Casting director Mark Saks, who works on shows like Person of Interest, says it's essential actors know what they are auditioning for. If you're going in for an audition for Blue Bloods (note: third reference to this show in my blogs…), and you've never seen an episode – get on it! Appreciating the quality of the show, understanding the work of the people behind it is important context that can inform your audition choices. Do your research. If there's a song mentioned in the side, and you've never heard it before – YouTube it!
Dress the part. I'm not saying put on a uniform with an apron and carry a tray if you're auditioning for the part of a waitress, but wear something that relates to the role -- implies it; for example, not a business suit. I used to go into every audition wearing my "audition uniform." Now I cater my outfits to what I believe the character would wear. I don't think I'm imagining that it's made a difference in the way I audition for the part – and the way CDs respond to me.
Go for the applause! That's right...perform like you're on stage and the house is filled to capacity. Be BIG. Give it every iota of everything you have. Even if you aren't quite right, be remembered. Leave them thinking, now that's someone I'd love to work with in the future.
Follow up. I used to think it was a major no-no to write a thank you note to the casting director, but I've actually been told otherwise of late. They appreciate the gesture. This doesn't mean saying, "Hey, how are you, did you decide if I got the part yet?" (And never say ‘hey!') A simple thanks for the opportunity to be seen goes a long way.
These are some of my pet controllables for auditioning. They don't guarantee I'll land the part, of course. But they do go a long way toward assuring that I've put my best self forward – and that's a triumph in itself.
If all else fails…fake it till ya make it.