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AUDITIONS – LOVE THEM OR LOATHE THEM?

AUDITIONS – LOVE THEM OR LOATHE THEM?

by Matthew Malthouse

To most people when they think of auditions, they think of X-Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. No matter what level you perform at, auditions are part of an actor’s life – the school nativity, part-time drama group, local amateur dramatics society or even West End professional, one thing that remains consistent throughout is auditioning.
Whether you love or hate them, thrive under the pressure, or crumble every time, the reality is, auditions will always exist for actors.
According to Wikipedia: ‘Audition’ is rooted in the Latin verb ‘audire’, meaning ‘to hear’, and was first used in the late 16th Century to refer to the power or sense of hearing. … It wasn’t until late 19th Century that the noun ‘audition’ began being used for an entertainer’s trial performance.


I love the description ‘trial performance’ it conjures up the image of proving yourself to a jury, which is exactly how an audition can sometimes feel!

What is an audition?
If you are reading this, I imagine you are very familiar with auditions. If you have never had to audition… lucky you!
The format of auditions remains exactly the same no matter what level you are at.
They tend to follow this pattern:

  • Wait outside audition room pacing nervously.
  • Walking in the room – it suddenly feels the length of a football pitch.
  • Couple of minutes of awkward nervous chat.
  • Three to five minutes performing your songs, scenes or monologues – at this point your own internal monologue is going haywire. Clogging your brain with a series of unhelpful
    thoughts.
  • Awkward goodbye and long walk to exit.
  • Spend the next few days agonising over what you should or could have done better.

Sound familiar? The problem with auditions is there is no real alternative to them. Many directors and casting directors have expressed that they feel auditions sometimes don’t get the best out of actors, but they just don’t have another viable alternative. I say viable with caution as that word can be triggering to actors… remember Fatima?


Self-tapes have become more and more popular for professional actors and drama schools. They are great as a first round as they allow casting directors to see more actors and save money on room-hire costs, meaning more people get the opportunity to audition even if it is remotely.

Don’t know what a self-tape is? Here is a tutorial I did to make a professional looking self-tape…

A lot of professional actors prefer self-tape auditions because you get the chance to re-do them if you aren’t happy with how you perform.

The majority of the time you will still be required to have an in-person audition to secure the job/part/ role or a place at drama school.

An in-person audition gives the creative team/panel a chance to see what your working relationship would be like and how you respond to direction and notes. This is especially important in drama school auditions where they will be working with you for three years.

Why are auditions important?
Auditions allow every actor an equal opportunity to secure a role. We all get our five mins to show what we would do with the part, or in a college audition situation we get five mins to showcase what skills we have to offer.
Yes, in drama groups or amateur societies, often, it turns out that the same people get all the best roles, but having an audition process means that occasionally someone gets cast in a part you would never expect. Without holding an audition this wouldn’t be possible.
So how do you get more comfortable and confident with auditions?

Here are my… ‘Top-5 Audition Tips’

Preparation

When it comes to auditions at any level I believe the the old saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin and used by the army: “failing to prepare is preparing to fail” is key.
You can never do too much preparation before your audition. What that preparation would need to include, depends on the situation.
If you are auditioning for a role you should do some general research:

  • Composer
  • Lyricist
  • Writer
  • Previous productions

Next, you want to read the full script. Too many actors at every level make the mistake of only reading the section of the production that they have to perform for their auditions.
Take the time to source and read the full play. It will contain all the information you need about your character.
I can’t emphasis this point enough – read the full script!
The script will give you an idea of the style of the piece and the time period it is set in. You want to be looking for things like your characters:

  • Age
  • Job
  • Relationships
  • Social Class
  • Accent
  • Upbringing
  • Interests

This information will influence your physicality and the way you talk to others in the scene.
Everything the writer believes is important for your character will be in the writing.
It is essential to note where in the play your scene takes place and how it fits within the story arch. This will guide you to what the main objective of the scene is.
Whatever action has happened just before a scene can sometimes be the biggest influence to your characters mood, energy and motivation.
For classic plays like Shakespeare, reading the play can often be arduous, time-consuming work or, with some old musicals, finding a copy of the script can be difficult. In these situations you could watch a movie version – but be warned don’t copy the acting. You have to create your own character for a memorable performance.

Drama school audition preparation
Each college has their own audition specifications. Make sure you double-check that the pieces you choose match those requirements. Some colleges can be very specific – a play written post-1990 by a British playwright for example. If you are planning on auditioning for multiple colleges I would recommend you source all the requirements from the various schools before picking your monologues so you can use the same piece at multiple auditions.
I would also recommend doing some research on the college. Recent graduates, full-time teaching faculty, course content. Most of this information is available from their websites. Often you will be asked about this at the interview stage.
Don’t overlook the audition interview, it can be the deciding factor on whether you get a place or not. Knowing information about the college and teachers will convey the image of a professional, conscientious applicant.
I can’t overstate the importance of preparation. It is often the difference between failure and success.

Ignore the panel

The panel can be unbelievably distracting during your audition. If they start talking to each other as you perform, your internal monologue will start going crazy.
“They look bored”, “they hate me”, “I am rubbish” … (Very rarely does your internal monologue give you praise.)
Don’t worry. If the panel starts to talk, it is normally a good thing – they are discussing where they think you would fit within the production or they could be saying they like your energy and are seeing if the others panellists agree.
Panels don’t need to talk if they aren’t interested as there is nothing to discuss. Or if they have time on their side they will discuss you once you leave the room. You really never can tell, so don’t look into what you think the panel are thinking.
My top tip is to place your focus and eyeline just above the panels heads. That will mean they will be in softer focus and less distracting.

Stay present in the room

It can be easy to become distracted in the room. Your mind can start to wander thinking “that bit wasn’t very good” or “maybe I need to do a gesture.”
If you find these thoughts flying around your head you aren’t present in the moment.
The more you concentrate on the words and story of the monologue/song you are performing, the more you will stay in the moment. This will lead to a more engaging truthful performance.
To help get into character or in ‘the zone’ take your time before you start. Auditions can be nerve wracking which leads to a surge of adrenaline and increased heart rate. This can cause you to rush and get over excited. Take a few breaths and a moment to get into character before you start. Taking ten secs to prepare will feel like an eternity to you in the room but the panel won’t notice.
Be brave and take that time as it can make a big difference.
Think about it as a performance

Auditions are a chance to perform. We act because we like to escape and play characters. Most of us start to act because above all it is fun and enjoyable. If you treat auditions as a chance to enjoy acting and performing, the pressure on them immediately decreases.
Acting and art is subjective. What someone thinks about your performance is down to their personal taste. How many times do you love an actor, singer or band and a friend isn’t as impressed?
The panel are the same. You can’t change their individual preferences. You can only show them your ability, show them what you would do with the role and let them decide.
Brian Cranston from Breaking Bad famously said of auditions: “You aren’t going there to get a job. You are going to present what you do.”…

Always remember the audition panel is on your side. Brilliant performers are wanted in their shows or drama schools. Don’t be scared or intimidated by them. They want you to do well.

Forget about it!

Once the audition is over you can’t change it. Don’t beat yourself up over what went wrong or the silly thing you said. It is done and you can’t go back.
Allow yourself time to be upset but don’t wallow for a sustained period of time.
When enough time has passed think about what you could have done better. Be objective and make those changes before any future auditions.
The more you audition, the less alien the situation becomes. With time they may even become enjoyable.

Need more Audition help?

Matt Malthouse is founder of Chiron Audition Prep… which has a goal to provide a programme that would have “benefited us when we auditioned for drama school.”

Before auditioning many students need to take extra tuition to prepare. If you need any help with an upcoming drama school audition Chiron Audition Prep offers 4 x Online courses: Acting, Singing, Dance and Musical theatre.

All courses have been designed after discussions with some of UK’s top drama schools to guarantee courses only contain the most relevant up to date audition specific content.

Head over to chironauditionprep.com to find out more and sign up to receive a free audition guide.

Amateur Theatre Audition Workout

Amateur Theatre Audition Workout

By Richard James

It’s a common refrain that local drama groups are finding it increasingly hard to recruit actors. However, in today’s digital age, there’s an increasing number of tools available to help you do just that. Social media is proving an unstoppable force, and one that can be easily exploited. It’s easy enough to set up a Facebook page for your group, or even a page for a specific production listing the rehearsal and performance dates, the location you use for rehearsal and the required cast.

Does your group have an internet presence? Keeping a clear and simple website up to date is a useful way of attracting interest, and it needn’t cost a fortune. Again, keep the information specific. In all this new media, try not to forget the old. It is worth considering giving as much publicity to your auditions as to your production; putting posters up around your town or village to advertise your search for a cast or arranging an interview with a local newspaper.

Treat your auditions as a statement of intent; not just a way of casting your play, but as an opportunity to show the assembled auditionees just how you wish to proceed with your rehearsals. Will you be starting each rehearsal with a gentle physical and vocal warm up? If so, then start your audition the same way. If nothing else, it’s a great way of breaking the ice. Will your audition consist solely of a sit-down read-through of the play, or would you rather see your cast on their feet? If the latter, then this is the perfect opportunity to showcase how you will work with them as a director. Above all, remember, they are auditioning you as much as you them; you must enthuse them with your ideas about the play, and convince them that they will want to spend their time in your company twice a week. Try to reward enthusiasm as much as talent. It often takes a lot for someone to try something new like this so, if possible, give them something in return!

It can be useful to isolate certain scenes in the script and give them to groups of auditionees to work on for, say, twenty minutes or so. Each group can then present the scene to the rest of the room. Using this technique gives the director a chance to see how certain people work together within the group, whilst giving an opportunity to assess the level of ‘stage craft’ they possess. Provided you have the luxury of numbers, try different combinations of actors in different roles to see which works best. If you really want to stretch an actor, encourage them to play ‘against type’ i.e.: play the opposite to what comes naturally to them. It often leads to some interesting results – not least for the actor themselves. Remember, any production is a collaborative effort, and there’s no reason why this can’t begin in the audition room.

Since training at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Richard James’ twenty-plus years in the business has seen him appear in films alongside Helena Bonham Carter and Burt Reynolds as well as numerous TV shows.
His vast experience also extends to theatre where he recently toured the UK in David Walliams’ Awful Auntie, which directly followed Richard’s onstage involvement in Birmingham Stage Company’s previous adaptation of David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny.

www.richardjamesonline.com

LAMDA SLASHES AUDITION FEES (Your News)

LAMDA SLASHES AUDITION FEES (Your News)

By Francesca Hoare

LAMDA slashes first round audition fees, widening access to drama school training

London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art has announced its new audition process and audition fee structure, which will see the cost of first round auditions slashed for all applicants.
This is the first initiative under the leadership of acclaimed theatre director Sarah Frankcom as she takes up the helm as Director of LAMDA. Applications are open now, via LAMDA’s website: ww2.lamda.ac.uk

A new simplified process comes into immediate effect for UK and EU applicants for LAMDA’s acting courses. A £12 administration fee will drastically cut the upfront cost of auditioning by 75%. A remaining fee, would then only be payable by candidates invited back for a full-day recall audition, ensuring that those who benefit the most from the process pay a more proportionate amount.

LAMDA Director, Sarah Frankcom, said: “This is about removing the barriers to finding the best talent across the country for our acting schools. It is all about creating greater opportunity. For too long we have talked about removing barriers to students from challenging and low-income backgrounds, but the cost of the first audition for these aspiring actors has too easily been a barrier to them seeking their chance to audition. LAMDA wants to demonstrate the importance to the industry of slashing the cost of that vital first audition.”

The Rt Hon. Shaun Woodward, Chair of LAMDA Trustees, and the former Labour Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said: “This is all about giving real opportunity to students across the UK. We were set the challenge of how to respond to concerns that ‘the cost of having a go’ was ‘discouraging to would be actors from poorer backgrounds.’ So today we meet that challenge. We want to play our part in removing barriers to young people getting the chance to have their first audition. From the experience of my former constituency of St Helens, I am certain that expensive fees for a first audition really do prevent students from these tougher backgrounds taking the chance on that first audition. This decision by Sarah and our Board is a vital next step and hopefully LAMDA’s lead will encourage more of the industry to act accordingly. We must put our noble ambition for greater access into practice. Slashing first audition fees is about giving the break to opportunity.”

Benedict Cumberbatch CBE and President of LAMDA added: “I am so excited to see that Sarah’s first step as the new Director of LAMDA has been to open up the doors to greater opportunity for students from the toughest backgrounds. We need to make sure that training for the stage, film and television is opened up and that we take down barriers to young people with enormous talent and potential who might have been put off by a first audition fee that was unaffordable.”

LAMDA will continue to hold first auditions regionally, visiting eleven cities across the UK, Ireland and France, with regular dates in London. Audition places will be capped at 4,200 and will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

LAMDA will maintain its system of UK audition fee waivers and travel bursaries. Financial support will continue to be available at both stages for candidates applying via LAMDA’s Access and Widening Participation programme.

For further information on funding available, course details and applications visit ww2.lamda.ac.uk.

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