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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.